What to See and Do at Kings Cross, Sydney

Located to the east of Sydney City’s Central Business District, Kings Cross promises visitors a riot of colour and culture. Known locally as ‘The Cross’, it doubles up as Sydney’s red-light district, with a lengthy history in music, performance, and theatre.

After World War II, the area was heavily influenced by the returning troops who were heading back from the Garden Island naval base. Today, Kings Cross offers a host of activities and attractions, including lively bars, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. As well as offering cultural attractions during the day, the area bursts into life at night, bringing a whole other side of the city to visitors.

Things to See in Kings Cross

While you’re in the area, there are a number of attractions you can see and a number of things to do.

El Alamein Fountain

This fountain sits pretty at the entrance to the Fitzroy Gardens. It was erected to commemorate soldiers of the Australian Imperial Forces 9th Division who died during the battles in El Alamein, Egypt in 1942. The importance of these battles is that it played a leading part in changing the fate of World War II. Designed and built by architect Robert Woodward, it boasts a dandelion structure which has gone on to be the base for many other fountain statues around the world. The direction of the fountain is ever changing due to its unique shape, meaning that while most days the water sprays downwards, on windier days you might find that the fountain is switched off to control the spray of water leading out onto the footpath.

The Fire Station

At the point where Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street meet, you’ll find the Fire Station, an impressive piece of architecture designed by Walter Liberty Vernon. It was built back in 1920 and continues to show off the Federation Free Style. While some historic fire brigades around Australia have now been converted into housing flats, firemen still use the Darlinghurst Fire Station building.

The Fire Station

Kings Cross Railway Station

This popular underground railway station is one of the most used in Australia. It brings together tracks that span the entirety of Sydney and further afield. It has impressive origins in that it was one of the largest rail projects undertaken after World War II. The underground railway is reminiscent of the 1970s with its original layout seen throughout the station. It’s listed as a state heritage area and continues to be one of the busiest railway stations in the country.

Kings Cross Railway Station

The Les Girls Building

Now known more popularly as the Empire Hotel, this building stands on the edge of Darlinghurst Road and Roslyn Street in the very heart of Kings Cross. Up until 1993, the building housed the world-famous Les Girls drag queen show. Afterwards, it became the home of alternative cabaret, including the incredibly popular Sunday nightclub The Tender Trap. Today, it boasts an incredible design, retaining many of its 1960s features to give guests a trip down memory lane.

Elizabeth Bay House

The tale of the owners of the Elizabeth Bay House is one that rings a familiar bell. It follows the path of many immigrants who settled in the area in the 1800’s. The settlers were given access to the land by the Governor on one condition; that a grand house must be constructed on the leafy streets valued at more than $1,000 dollars- a hefty sum back then. So, a colonial secretary in 1835, the wealthy Alexander Macleay, begins his creation of the grand, illustrious Elizabeth Bay House. It originally sat surrounded by an extravagant 22-hectare garden and can now be visited by guests on guided tours, just a 7-minute walk away from Kings Cross station.

Old Fitzroy Hotel

Tucked away in a hidden corner of Woolloomooloo sits the Old Fitzroy Hotel, first constructed in 1860. Its closeness to the harbour meant that at one point in time the pub saw many burly sailors come and go through its dark interior. The location of the hotel has a tumultuous history, and this pub is at the cornerstone of social interactions in the neighbourhood, a meeting place for locals to come and play darts, as well as drink some of the great variety of beers there. If ever you find yourself in the area, head to the Old Fitzroy Hotel for a glance down memory lane at Australia’s only pub that also doubles as a theatre.

Harry’s Café de Wheels

And then there’s Harry’s. This humble pie and mushy pea shop had its origins in 1939 when Harry Edwards opens a café that soon becomes an integral part of the Woollomooloo area. Throughout its rich history, the café has been visited by famous Hollywood actors such as Kevin Costner and Russel Crowe, Frank Sinatra and the KFC icon himself; Colonel Sanders. This must visit café is now protected by the National Trust and with franchises all over Sydney, so make your way to Harry’s for a meal that’s unapologetically and gloriously Australian.

Piccolo Bar

Since the 1950’s Piccolo Bar has been a neighbourhood gem that boasts the title of being King Cross’ oldest café. The new owners who took over from founder Vittorio Bianchi have a desire to stay true to the early days of the café where it operated 24 hours and served up coffee and great homemade food. With movie memorabilia plastered over the walls, the café couldn’t be in better hands with the present owners having been regular customers of Piccolo Bar over 20 years ago, a fact that makes Vittorio Bianchi extremely happy.

If you’re looking to explore the quirky side of Sydney, Kings Cross is the place to go. Along with its plethora of international restaurants, lively bars, and nightclubs, it boasts some exceptional pieces of architecture that hark back to the city’s vibrant and rich history and showcase another side to the area.

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