Wondering where to live in Sydney? We talk all about the best places to live in Sydney in this post. This includes cheap rent in Sydney, apartments for rent in Sydney, as well as rooms to rent in Sydney.
We personally started off in the Southern Suburbs near Hurstville (to be near Steve’s family) and ended up in the Lower North Shore. One thing I can definitely admit is renting in Sydney isn’t cheap.
We’re not going to talk about where to buy a house in Sydney because you’ll be looking at living further out because of the astronomical prices. The average house price in Sydney is apparently just under $1 million dollars. You can read more about Sydney house costs here.
Use this more like a first timers guide on where to live in Sydney. We try to mention the best suburbs in Sydney and how they could be comparable (very loosely) to somewhere in London, just so you can have an idea of what to expect.
Make sure you familiarise yourself before deciding on where to live in Sydney. This guide is coming from what we’ve experienced so we hope we can be of help to your search in finding your new Sydney home!
Table of Contents
Firstly, how many people live in Sydney?
There’s currently 5 million people living in Sydney and 25 million in the whole of Australia. That means 20% of the Australian population are living right in Sydney.
How to rent in Sydney
Firstly you’ll need to familiarise yourself with Domain. It’s a rental and buying real estate website and the biggest one in Australia. This is THE site to go on to find your dream home.
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You might not be surprised to hear that a lot of people end up finding flatmates in Sydney because rent is so high.
Although you might be a bit over the idea of sharing a flat, this could work out in the long run because you could find much better quality housing than a 1 bed shoebox.
We recommend going onto Flatmates, Flatmate Finders and Share Houses to find your perfect shared accommodation in Sydney.
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How to rent in Sydney tips
Before you find your perfect Sydney home, you’ll need to know that actually securing a place isn’t easy. I know in England it goes on a first come, first served basis. In Sydney it’s not like that at all.
Competition will be tough
There seems to be people looking to rent in Sydney all year round so you’ll going to literally need to have everything ready to hand over to the real estate agent as soon as you’ve seen the place.
Unfortunately there aren’t any ‘oh let’s go and have a think about it’ options in Sydney.
You will have to make your decision fast and you’ll need to do the following below with every property you have your heart set on.
What’s an open inspection?
Ask the real estate if you can have a private inspection of the property before the open inspection takes place. In Sydney they tend to hold these ‘open inspections’ for rentals and buyers which means you have to turn up along with the masses to view the place all together which usually takes place on a Saturday morning.
I have been to open inspections and seen a good 50 other people there. Open Inspections can be in the middle of the day during the week when you are supposed to be at work. If you want that property, make time to see the viewing and ask work for some time off.
View the property before the open inspection
Try and take the time to go and view the outside of the property before you see it, so you can get a feel for the place, street and area. You’ll pretty much know straight away if you like the surroundings.
Sometimes we’ve been to an area and thought it was OK, but when we visited the property at the time of the inspection, we felt like we had wasted our time because it just didn’t feel right.
Get the forms ready
You are going to have to print off all application forms and make sure you have your ID points ready (each real estate will differ with what they want from you).
ID points generally have to amount to 100 meaning you’ll need passport, drivers licence etc scanned and printed already.
Take all completed forms and ID to the viewing, ready to hand over to the real estate as soon as you are ready to commit to the property.
Get your charm on
A big tip is to be friendly to the Real Estate (estate agent for the Brits reading this). We have talked to loads of them asking what it is that makes them choose someone to rent with and the answers always were: dress smart (no thongs or shorts for the guys), be friendly and make sure you are the tenants that would make life easy for them.
When you are up against 50 other people who also put their applications in for the same place, you are going to want to make sure the Real Estate remembers you. I always made a b-line for them and built up a good rapport so they would remember me as the friendly woman who wouldn’t be a nightmare.
Check Domain every single day
Check Domain literally everyday. New properties come up all the time (for renting, more come up from Wednesday onwards for the Saturday inspection) and can be leased almost immediately, so your little gem could be hiding in there waiting for you. You’ll more than likely feel like this house hunting dilemma has become a full time job. Trust me, it can take ages!
Also, try and line up as many viewings as you can each Saturday. We had to make itineraries to dash between as many open inspections as possible.
Be very careful of mould in Sydney houses
You also need to be very careful of mould in Sydney houses. There’s an awful lot found in homes in Sydney due to the tropical weather and badly built housing. You’ll be able to notice it as soon as you enter the house so make sure you stick to your gut instinct. The real estate agent will try and fob it off by saying the smell will be gone by the time you move in etc. It won’t.
This was our box we lived in Cammeray but the light was actually fantastic.
Another tip with this problem is light in Sydney homes. It can be hard to find a house with natural light because houses were built to keep you cool over here so natural light is a hard one to find. If the place is dark even when you view it at 10am on a Saturday morning, it won’t get any better than that.
Chances of mould being present will be high, especially if the flat is on a ground floor. I’m currently living in a tiny house but we picked it because it has the most incredible natural light running throughout the place. This is a rare find from what I’ve seen in Sydney and I’ve looked at a lot of places.
Don’t expect English quality housing in Sydney
If you’re coming from UK, you’ll also notice the quality of Sydney housing isn’t as good as it is back home. Don’t expect double glazed windows, central heating or insulation. It doesn’t exist!
Also, it’s really tricky to know what the weather is like outside in Winter. It’s always warmer outside than indoors. This is a fact! Fortunately, this means housing is great for summer and definitely keeps you cool.
A good one bed property will be anywhere from $550-$700 (give or take) per week in Sydney CBD (town centre), so that includes Bondi, Surry Hills, Paddington, Balmain, Kirribilli etc. You only pay for electricity over here so there’s no TAX, water bills, gas (in most properties) or TV licence to consider.
Richest suburbs in Sydney
If you’re wondering what are the richest suburbs in Sydney, the number 1 that always makes it to the top of the list is Point Piper located in the Eastern Suburbs. It will set you back a cool $12.5 million for a home in Point Piper which sits on Sydney Harbour. You can read more about the top 10 richest Sydney suburbs here.
Personally, when looking in the Eastern Suburbs, I always found the beach areas of Bondi and Bronte to be really expensive as you don’t get a lot for your money (trust me we searched and searched). Also, I’ve found housing to be pretty bad and run down on that side of town, maybe because it’s just so in demand that the property owners don’t need to look after them as much. Who knows?!
I do remember a friend paying over $1000 a week to have a beach view in Bronte for a very small one bed apartment five years ago. How much it would be worth now, I don’t know but I remember back then that seemed an awful lot to pay a week.
Cheapest Suburbs in Sydney
If you’re wondering what are the cheapest suburbs in Sydney, turns out the cheapest suburb in Sydney to buy is Tregear in Western Sydney. It will set you back $437,734 for a home here. The most affordable Sydney homes tend to sit in the Blacktown area, Western Sydney.
The further you head away from the beach, the more affordable Sydney accommodation tends to be. This doesn’t mean the areas get worse, if living up in the Blue Mountains is your thing, you could live in a beautiful area away from the city. But you’ll need to expect to commute a good few hours a day to work.
Sydney Suburbs to live in
We’ve split the suburbs into a Sydney suburbs list so it’s easier to understand where all of the places we mention are located.
The Eastern Suburbs in Sydney basically means all of the main tourist beaches near to the city which include: Bondi Beach, Clovelly, Coogee, Tamarama, Bronte Beach and the popular and usually cheaper option of Bondi Junction as it’s close to the train station.
In my personal opinion Eastern Suburbs really has that ‘I feel like I’m on holiday’ vibe whenever I visit and the scenery is just out of this world with view after view of the beach.
Bondi Beach at sunset
You’ll see EVERYONE exercising in Eastern Suburbs which is great if that’s your kind of thing. Everyone wears their gym gear all weekend with of course a full face of make up on and their hair done. Gym gear on the weekend is a given in most of Sydney for some reason.
Coogee has a more chilled out if not a bit more of a relaxed vibe, and Bronte has more of a local vibe. Maroubra has more family vibe which feels way more chilled out than the movie set feel of Bondi.
The one thing I really like about the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney is it certainly makes you want to be a lot more healthier as there is just THAT buzz in the air.
Bondi is also our go to suburb for Sydney cafes. There are a lot of awesome healthy cafes in the Bondi area that would take quite a while to work your way through.
Living in Eastern Suburbs downsides
The major downside about living in Bondi or any of the rest of the Eastern Suburbs is transport. For some reason, Sydney transport never built a train line down to any of the beaches in the Eastern Suburbs so most people take the bus to and from work.
Bondi Junction is the main hub of the Eastern Suburbs with a good Westfield shopping mall and train line into the city.
Bondi Junction suburb is actually a very popular choice amongst Irish backpackers in Sydney. I went into an Irish bar near to the station once called The Tea Gardens, and I kid you not… I honestly felt like I had been transported to Ireland. Every single person was Irish from the bar staff, the people drinking, even the doormen, it was weird!
Bronte rock pool is one of the best swimming spots in Sydney!
If you are going to live by the beach then expect to get a bus to Bondi Junction (around 20mins in rush hour) and a train from there into town (around 15 mins). That’s actually not that long but buses are unpredictable and traffic is horrendous in Sydney so expect to probably double that time on occasion.
Read Our Bondi Beach Guides
If you’re interested in learning more about Bondi, check out our guides below!
There’s always a bit of a divide when it comes to Manly and Bondi. If you’re wondering whether to live in Bondi or Manly, just to let you know both offer up completely different vibes.
Personally I find Bondi offers up literally more space. Manly can feel so overwhelmingly busy during the Summer as the tourists flock there on the famous Manly boat, but Bondi has more space to sit up on the grassy areas and is a bigger beach.
Even though Manly might be crazy busy (and of course so is Bondi), it also offers up quite a relaxed vibe. It’s not nearly as pretentious as Bondi. Firstly you won’t see the muscle Mary’s working out next to the beach at an outside gym in Manly.
Drone shot of Manly Beach
Manly also seems more like a little holiday town where the main street is pedestrianised and everyone walks around in bare feet. Although there’s not nearly as many eating options, it still packs a punch and has some great options for all. We really love the walk down to Shelly Beach on the ocean front to The Boathouse. Here you’ll find some of the best food in Sydney (read our review here).
The one time I’ve actually been out drinking in Manly recently and everywhere pretty much closed by 12am on a Friday night so if you’re into the partying vibe, definitely head to Bondi.
Although both Manly and Bondi are popular places for British expats, especially backpackers, I’d personally live in Bondi if I was looking for a party vibe. If I was looking for somewhere relaxed next to the beach, I’d head to Manly.
Because Manly is much further away than a lot of the city suburbs, a lot of people who live in Manly actually never venture further out. Whilst it might offer up the best commute in the world, the Manly ferry takes about 30 minutes or around 20 minutes on the fast ferry to Circular Quay which pulls in next to Sydney Opera House. Sounds all romantic right?
Just be careful you don’t try to catch the ferry on one of these days below. A rarity but it does happen! If it is awful weather, you’ll have to catch the bus into the city. You might not have heard of Military Road yet, but it will become a dread in no time.
A good tip about living in Manly is you can get a ferry over to Watson’s Bay in the Eastern Suburbs making it much easier to get over to that side of town. Why there isn’t a boat going between Manly and Bondi is beyond me. They are just opposite sides of the heads on the outskirts of Sydney Harbour.
Balmoral Beach is a gorgeous family beach in Sydney that’s a proper local gem. You won’t find any tourists here and it’s the perfect place to live if you’re after somewhere clean and more on the upper scale of decent suburbs.
A bus to get into the city will take you around 30-40 minutes.
The Lower North Shore
At Lavender Bay in Lower North Shore.
As I mentioned earlier on, we moved to South Sydney near to Hurstville when we first came to Sydney to be near Steve’s family. After about six months we moved to the Lower North Shore and ended up in Kirribilli, Neutral Bay and then Cammeray.
Although every time we moved, we looked at other areas like Marrickville and the Eastern Suburbs, we never found anywhere that had better quality housing for our budget.
I think the reason why we stayed in the area is because a lot of people assume living on the Harbour will be really expensive. Turns out it’s not as expensive as you think. We paid $475 for a one bed right opposite Sydney Opera House. It was tiny but as far as the location goes, it doesn’t get much better.
The suburbs we lived in are far from ‘happening’ areas but I liked the quietness and the fact that I got to live right on the Harbour as well.
The Lower North Shore in Sydney is a great location because it feels like you’re not in the city but yet you’re literally just a stone’s throw away. If you get the train from Milson’s Point, the next station is Wynyard Station which takes just a couple of minutes.
Wendy’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay. Read more about our top secret gardens in Sydney here.
There are so many options to get into the city from Milson’s Point – you can catch the ferry, get the train, cycle or run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As far as commuting options go in Sydney, it doesn’t get much better.
Kirribilli was our favourite suburb which really reminded me of living in a village, something like back home but the weekly harbour fireworks became really annoying. You’ll be able to hear a lot of noise on the Harbour on weekends, from boat parties to all sorts. Noise on the water travels far.
We tried to move to Lavender Bay which we absolutely love and looked at A LOT of apartments but they were all too small. Personally we’d move there or to McMahon’s Point if we could choose. Just be careful with Lavender Bay, the noise from Luna Park can echo really far so choose your apartment wisely.
Crows Nest nearby has some great dining options, North Sydney has your local supermarkets and further down the road is Chatswood, your local Westfield. We found North Sydney to be a bit local Canary Wharf. It’s the sort of place you’d work in, not live in as it’s a ghost town on the weekend.
Read Our Kirribilli Guides
If you’re keen to read more about Kirribilli and Lower North Shore, check out our guides!
So you want to be right in the heart of the city? Our top picks for living right in the heart of Sydney CBD are Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, Paddington, Balmain and Glebe.
Surry Hills & Darlinghurst
Surry Hills & Darlinghurst are great areas to rent in Sydney for the city professionals. For those that want to be close to work and feel like they are living in the city, then Surry Hills is for you. You’ll find loads of restaurants, cool ‘secret’ bars and much more that you won’t run out of places to explore if bars and food is your kind of thing.
The only thing about Surry Hills is that I have heard there’s a bit of a damp issue in a lot of housing there. But, I’d put it on your list to check out regardless.
We love Darlinghurst. Located just a bit further up from Surry Hills, Darlinghurst offers up some awesome cul-de-sacs and brilliant little housing areas. Honestly, we’ve found some proper little gorgeous streets in this area that we would snap up in a heart beat. Go check out Cat Alley and you’ll see what we mean.
Where to live in Paddington
Further down from Surry Hills & Darlinghurst is Paddington, a gorgeous village vibe that I’d be surprised if every person in Sydney wouldn’t want to live there. To me it has all of the London vibes of Hampstead where I used to live with designer stores and beautiful pubs. Make sure you go to The Lord Dudley, our personal favourite British pub in Sydney. You can even stand outside with your pint. To me this is gold dust!
Renting in Glebe
To us Glebe is like the nicer version of Newtown. Mind you we love Newtown for having vibrancy and individuality in Sydney but Glebe is like a sort of nicer version of it. With it’s main road of Glebe Point Road, you’ll find door to door restaurants and shops to spend a day exploring. We recommend you go and visit on the weekend when Glebe Markets are on at the school.
For us, Glebe is the sort of area we would have looked at moving to in Sydney as we like somewhere that’s a bit different with an alternative and art vibe.
Glebe is also really easy to get into the city. You can jump on the bus and be at Central within 10 minutes.
Renting in Sydney’s Balmain
I remember an old boss moved to Balmain because he said it was the one suburb that had the familiarity of an English town. I must admit, he’s right. I love the sort of high street vibe going on with the shops and love how close it is to the city.
Balmain is the sort of place that’s great for families or for older middle class couples (I’m talking in the 30’s+ bracket). It is also home to the most pubs per square km in Sydney but don’t expect Balmain to be a banging party vibe, it’s actually very quiet.
Balmain has a few options for getting into the city, you can either take a ferry or catch the bus.
4. Where to rent in Inner Western Sydney Suburbs
Sydney’s Inner West is a popular area to rent in Sydney because it’s more affordable than a lot of suburbs. We love this area because it’s a bit more arty and more alternative than other generic areas in Sydney.
Where to rent in Redfern
What was once known as one of the roughest areas in Sydney, we love Redfern as it’s just one stop on the train to Central, it has an awesome main street with so many cool and hidden bars and you’ll find more alternative types living there. Honestly, check out the nightlife sometime, you’ll be just as surprised as we were!
Renting in Newtown
Newtown to us is a bit like the Shoreditch of Sydney. Take that comment VERY loosely as what we mean is it’s more of a hip area to live in.
You’ll find loads of antique shops, quirky shops, quirky people and a breath of fresh air. There are some great pubs, there’s a good nightlife scene and it’s easy to get into town by jumping on the train for 10 minutes to Central. Easy!
Make sure you check out The Courthouse Hotel for it’s good beer garden and Earl’s Juke Joint (a Butcher’s shop turned secret bar). We also love Lentil As Anything, a pay what you want vegan restaurant. It’s brilliant if you’re low on cash and you get two courses plus copious amounts of chai.
Marrickville is the hip part of Sydney at the moment. There’s some great weekend farmer’s markets to explore, awesome cafes and restaurants and hidden bars in warehouses to find. It’s got a strong Asian influence but it’s become more popular with the hipsters in recent years.
5. Where to live in South Sydney
South Sydney tends to get a bit of a bad rep but there are some beautiful areas to consider, especially in the Como area and further South to Cronulla.
To me, Cronulla is like the epitome of a proper Aussie beach town. The main focus is the RSL and this is the sort of suburb you'll only find locals living here. The beaches are stunning and you'll be able to find something quite cheap as it takes about one hour on the train to the city. It's actually on the same line as the Bondi train so you could always head over there for a change of scenery one day!
The great thing about Cronulla is it's a stones throw away from the world's second oldest National Park, The Royal National Park.
Even if you decide this area isn't for you, make sure you go and visit The Royal National Park. It is absolutely incredible!!
After what's been a very long post, I thought it would be best to write a quick summary so it can help you with understanding where to look when you move to Sydney.
There are loads of ferry commutes that all pull into the harbour at Circular Quay. These are the places to consider;
Eastern Suburbs - You can get a boat from Rose Bay but you'll need to either drive or catch a bus to there.
Balmain - 10 minute boat ride
Manly - 30 minute express boat right down the harbour
Neutral Bay, Kirribilli - 10 mins right to circular quay
Most expensive and cheapest area to live in Sydney
The most expensive suburb is Point Piper (located near Bondi) where houses fetch a good $30 million each. Nearby suburbs Vaucluse, Double Bay and Rose Bay are all well to do suburbs.
For the cheapest Sydney suburb, as I said before, the further out West you go, the cheaper it will be. There are plenty of house shares on Gumtree, Flatshare.com or flatmates.com.au if you fancy making it cheaper to live in a nice area.
Best Sydney suburb closest to the city?
If you are looking for convenience to live near your job in the city then the best suburbs to live in have to be Surry Hills for the entertainment, cafes and bar culture. Kirribilli is great for the quietness, harbour views and only one stop on the train to the city which takes a whole five minutes. And, Balmain is only a 10 minute bus ride to the city.
Are there any unsafe areas to rent in Sydney?
Sydney really isn't dangerous at all so there's no need to worry about your safety. Redfern is renowned for being a bit on the dodgy side although we have never felt that at all and it's a great place to explore.
Personally I would definitely walk the streets of Sydney alone at night and not feel threatened in the slightest.
As always, never put yourself in danger and be careful no matter where you are in the world.
Best place to rent in Sydney for single people
We recommend living in the Eastern Suburbs, preferably Bondi. There are a lot of younger expats living in that area. You'll find mostly British and Irish over that way and it's great for those on a Working Holiday Visa.
Think of this as the Clapham Common of Sydney.
By this I mean it's where everyone lives when they first come to Sydney. It's also full of healthy Instagrammers and expect lots of people who will out do each other with their plastic surgery! But, it has a fantastic vibe, and really makes you feel like you are on a constant holiday. Expect to be paying more for rent though.
Best places to rent in Sydney for couples
Any of the suburbs mentioned in this post! I think Balmain is a great spot if you are over 30 as there are more couples around that age living there, it's quite quiet with a great big selection on pubs.
Balmain is like the Islington of Sydney, it's a really nice area, clean and quiet.
We also recommend checking out Paddington as well which is one of our favourite suburbs and right in the heart of the city. Just don't expect it to be cheap to rent in this Sydney suburb.
Best places to rent in Sydney for families
For families we recommend the best places to live in Sydney include the following; Leichhardt, Balmain, Coogee, Maroubra and Manly.
Best Sydney suburbs for partying
If you're looking to find somewhere to live in Sydney that's great for partying, then we recommend the following suburbs; Surry Hills, Newtown and Bondi.
Best Sydney suburbs for healthy living?
We definitely recommend living by the beach if you want to immerse yourself into Sydney's infectious healthy living lifestyle.
Best Sydney suburbs for trendy alternative vibe?
If you're looking for a place to live in Sydney which is more on the trendy side, we recommend Newtown and Marrickville. Think of these areas to be a bit like the East End of London, such as Shoreditch or Dalston.
Best affordable Sydney suburbs to live in close to the city?
We found (surprisingly) the Lower North Shore is one of the best places to live in Sydney for a one bed flat in terms of value for money and in close proximity to Sydney CBD.
You'll get a flat that has both a decent kitchen and bathroom which is something that can be hard to find in Sydney. (We did warn you Sydney housing isn't the best). Housing is cheaper and you can get a harbour view for not as much as other suburbs. I lived in a place right on the harbour that had 2 bedrooms and a garden for $600. That is a rarity in Sydney.
This area reminds me a bit of Hampstead in London which is where I used to live. Think of it as being just a nice area that's a bit more well to do than some others in Sydney.
No partying really happens here but you'll be just a stones throw from the action. I did look over in the Eastern Suburbs and Inner West a couple of times but we just couldn't find anything decent for the money we wanted to pay.
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