Literary City Guide | Sydney, Australia
Tour Guide: Lianne Tan
Lianne Tan is a 20-year-old law and arts student studying in Sydney. Her food blog Words & Cake is a hobby that combines two of her favorite things: writing and food. In between writing, baking and dusty law textbooks, she reads (basically anything in sight), drinks lots of coffee and chats to her cat. (Photos by Lianne Tan)
Relationship to Sydney: 5 year resident
Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Donna Tartt
Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Jamie Oliver
Writing soundtrack: Avicii
Pen or Pencil: Pen! With purple ink too, if possible.
Coffee or Tea: Multiple cups of both.
Paperback or Hardback: Paperback. Only because it’ll be less bulky in my bag.
Gould’s Book Arcade. This place is secondhand (i.e. cheap!) and is literally packed with books old and new; if you have the time to browse you’ll discover practically everything here.
Better Read than Dead. Besides the fantastic name, this place has some great book selections in every genre, plus super helpful staff.
Kinokuniya. I know this is an international chain, however there is just one in Sydney, located at the heart of the city and one of my favorite places to go for its massive book selections (plus, the café attached to it has great coffee and excellent cheesecake!).
Gertrude & Alice. Named after Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, I’m not sure whether to put this place under coffee shop or bookstore because it’s both, with tables and stools squashed between shelves, you can settle in a corner or a comfy chair and read all day with a coffee or better yet, their signature chai tea.
NSW State Library. One of the landmark libraries in Sydney with an old fashioned columned entranceway; a good place to study.
Stanton Library. About ten minutes walk from the North Sydney train station, this library reminds me of my library in high school. It’s understated and small, but I love it for its coziness and comfort.
Surry Hills Library. By contrast, this is a pretty new library that has amazing architecture. A bonus is that it’s surrounded by small cafes and espresso bars.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Stanton Library. This library hosts a weekly writers talk for both local and international writers, who also answer questions about their latest work.
Better Read than Dead. This bookstore will occasionally do author events and readings as well, though it’s better to check on their website first.
Sydney Writers' Festival. This is held in May every year and is a week-long festival that includes numerous activities for writers, talks, seminars and panels by authors (both children and adult literature). If the weather is good, the view is gorgeous as well.
Sydney Writers’ Walk. Surrounding Circular Quay, this is like the walk of fame for local and (the odd) international writers. It’s also where most of the writer’s quotes on Sydney on this page came from.
Flour & Stone. It looks small from the outside but I reckon this place has some of the best lamb pies in Sydney, in addition to good coffee.
Single Origin. Arguably the best coffee in town can be found here, either takeaway or at their coffee bar.
Detour Espresso Bar. I have a soft spot for this place because it is right around the corner from my old school, and my friends and I would come here during our lunch breaks. Their coffee has never disappointed.
A PROPER MEAL
Billy Kwong. It’s on the pricey side, but the food is well worth it and all freshly prepared. If you go, chances are you’ll also get to meet their head chef Kylie Kwong who will occasionally come out and chat to customers.
El Bulli. If you’re a fan of Spanish food and tapas then this restaurant is a must-visit. Also has the best sangria.
Mamak. This place is amazing for lunch; fast, cheap and deliciously authentic.
Adriano Zumbo. If you’ve seen Masterchef Australia, you’ll have heard of Zumbo – worth a visit if only just to try his iconic macarons.
Bourke St Bakery. This place is well known to locals, and if you come early in the morning there’s usually a long line that stretches well out the door. Try a ginger brulee tart to go with your coffee, I promise you won’t regret it.
Lindt Café. One of the very first places I visited when I first came here, and it’s a lovely introduction to the city. Hot chocolate is a must-try.
Black Star Pastry. Black Star has some of the most unique cakes I’ve ever tried, especially their signature strawberry watermelon cake (with actual watermelon inside!).