The Best Of: Budget Sydney

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The Independent Travel

Sydney is cosmopolitan, fun and has beautiful beaches and people, good surf, inner-city bush land, great restaurants, shopping, culture and, of course, arguably the best harbour in the world. And you can buy serious style on a budget and not feel as if you are missing out. The pound still buys you a lot of Aussie dollars. Frequently playing big roles in the movies - the forthcoming blockbuster Superman Returns is the latest to be filmed there - Sydney is widescreen photogenic, making humble holiday snaps spectacular.

Best hotel

Slap bang in the heart of hip Darlinghurst, The Chelsea (00 61 2 9380 5994; www.chelseaguesthouse.com) is a swanky chic guesthouse option offering doubles from £61 per night, including tax. Pensione (00 61 2 9265 8888; www.pensione.com.au) is the cream of the budget boutique crop. Doubles from £50, including tax. Big On Elizabeth (00 61 2 9281 6030; www.bigonelizabeth.com) in Surry Hills (Sydney's Soho) is a hostel-cum-guesthouse offering dorms and doubles that pack a swish punch. Doubles from £42 per night, including tax.

Best restaurant

Swinging by the bottle shop before dinner is a great way of making savings - Sydney is the capital of Bring Your Own. Phamish, 354 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst, serves superb Vietnamese cuisine in smart red surroundings. No booking, so arrive early to bag a table. Don't miss the duck with banana blossom salad. About £8.50 per head without wine. Also in Darlo, at 433 Liverpool Street, is the ever-popular bills (00 61 2 9360 9631), famous for its Sydney breakfast and brunch. Relish the ricotta hotcakes and savour the buttery scrambled eggs on toast. Most dishes cost around £4. At 226a Glenmore Road, Paddington, expect a riot of tastes at the similarly quirkily-named ... and the dish ran away with the spoon (00 61 2 9361 6131), a great deli/diner for eating in or picnic fare.

Best cultural attraction

Forgo tours of Sydney Opera House (00 61 2 92507111; www.sydneyoperahouse.com); the outside is infinitely more interesting than the interior. The Art Gallery of New South Wales ( www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au) has a comprehensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century Oz art. Overcome with gay abandon? Join the hysterical Sydney By Diva tour (00 61 2 9360 5557; www.sydneybydiva.com.au) on a Sunday evening. For £28, spend three hours touring the sights with a celebrity drag queen.

Best shopping

Try the Chinatown discount stores or the Direct Factory Outlets by Olympic Park. Better still, get something you can brag about back home. From £21 you can learn to surf at Manly Surf School (00 61 2 9977 6977; www.manlysurf school.com) or don a blue overall and mount the Harbour Bridge for £70 (00 61 2 8274 7777; www.bridgeclimb.com).

Best sightseeing

If you can't face climbing Harbour Bridge, just walk across. Watch the bodies beautiful at Bondi, which has undergone a renaissance. Go first thing and catch the bootcampers, the city slickers who work out their bodies in the surf at dawn, followed later by the surfin' dudes. Sydney is best seen from the water, so hop on the Manly Ferry at Circular Quay and enjoy the fantastic views along with the commuters. A £6 day-tripper ticket gives unlimited transport all day on all ferries, trains and buses. Tickets from Circular Quay kiosk and on buses.

Best nightspot

Shake your booty around Oxford Street, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, and you are bound to find something to your taste. Check local street press for nightly listings and promotions but hot favourites include ARQ, 16 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst (00 61 2 9380 8700), with its 24-hour licence, and Hopetoun, 416 Bourke Street, Surry Hills (00 61 2 9361 5257) for live music seven nights a week. There are free music events across the city in January as part of the Sydney Festival (00 61 2 8248 6500; www.sydneyfestival.org.au).

How to get there

Travelbag (0870-814 6545; www.travelbag.co.uk) offers a five-night room-only break at the Southern Cross Suites from £778 per person, including return flights with Emirates from Gatwick.

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