Local's guide: Parramatta

  • Social Hideout
  • Riverside Theatre 
  • Old Government House
  • The Marsden Hotel

With nature and parks aplenty, a buzzing café and dining scene – as well as world-class shopping, Parramatta is bursting at the seams with activities to nourish your mind, body and soul.

Where to eat

For one of the best brekkies in town, claim a table on Circa Espresso's sunny terrace - or the lamp-lit, book-filled back room. While it may look like a tiny hole-in-the-wall café, it's full of knick-knacks and trinkets that echo libraries, museums and science labs past. But it's not the eclectic décor that people flock here for - it's the house blend coffee roasted by Five Senses and served double ristretto style. Dig into the French toast piled with fruits and soft meringue, the smashed avo with ricotta or if you're looking for something to hit the sweet spot, the legendary baked eggs with sujuk should do the trick. Toted for having some of the best smoothies in Parramatta, Social Hideout is the always buzzing brunch spot delivering quintessential brunch plates. Eggs benedict come as a standard here, but if you're after something with more inventive flavours then their z'atar poached eggs with beetroot hummus will have your name written all over it. For those with a sweet tooth, their cakeshakes and smoothies will prompt you to have an outer body experience.

Come lunch or dinner time, head to hybrid eatery-retail space Butter. Stay downstairs for fried chicken, champagne and hip-hop; head upstairs for sneakers, hoodies, caps, socks and bags. A short stroll from here and taking up residence right on Macquarie Street is Milky Lane. Flipping over 1,000 burgers a day and surrounded by a 12-metre mural of hip-hop heroes - Milky Lane has a menu that centres around six inventive burger creations, ranging from your regular cheeseburger to massive irrational meat stacks. Add that to a collection of classic arcade games daring you to dust off your coins, and your skills and you've got yourself a truly magical wonderland.

The Emporium Parramatta is a rustic fit-out that's a fitting backdrop to enjoy a night of fine wining and dining at one of the chicest spots in Parramatta. Whether you're seated indoors or outdoors, the provincial ambience and picturesque foliage will make you feel like you're at a Tuscan vineyard. After dinner, swing by Uncle Kurt's, a street art-plastered small bar hidden away in a car park. You'll feel like you've landed in that New York City movie you've always wanted to be in, throwing back cocktails, eating deli-style meats and bopping to the best RNB beats of all time. And if you're after a slice of downtown Cuba, then downtown Parramatta is where it's at. Coco Cubano brings the flashy Latino spirit with its lively tapas, cocktails and wine bar all in a quirky fitout. The Caribbean cuisine pays homage to Old Havana and rum is, of course, a staple on the drinks list.

What to do

Give your wallet a workout and head to Westfield Parramatta and peruse the 400-plus retail stores on offer. With some of Australia's most stylish and exclusive labels under one roof, you'll be sure to reach your retail therapy quota in one hit. Or if your budget is less Prada, and more popcorn - catch a movie at the adjoining Event Cinemas. What's more if you're an NRMA Member you can snap yourself up an adult ticket for just $13.50, all thanks to NRMA Blue. And if you're looking for something for the whole family to do, nothing screams fun like a good old fashioned game of tenpin bowling at Kicks Tenpin and Arcade. With its wicked neon-lit 7 lanes of bowling, and a range of excellent arcade games, you'll be sure to get your 80s and 90s nostalgia flowing. And if you want to get whisked away, then a night at the theatre should be on the cards. Parramatta's Riverside Theatre, on Church Street, has been serving up a diverse range of productions from both international and domestic theatre groups. From comedy nights, to high-brow Shakespeare plays, to the experimental pieces deriving from contemporary dance, Riverside Theatre is sure to provide your soul with the dose of culture that it's craving.

During the day, Parramatta's surprisingly bushy outdoors offer stacks of escapades. You'll be able to take in the scope of Parramatta's natural beauty on wheels, or by foot. The Parramatta River Cycle Way joins Parramatta Park to Sydney Olympic Park, with its riverfront pathway - it's perfect for a leisurely stroll or easy cycle. To immerse yourself in Indigenous culture, head to Parramatta Park, where the Burramatta Aboriginal Landscape Trail travels through terrain that's been regenerated to reflect its state before European arrival. Meanwhile, among Parramatta Lake's 73 hectares of bushland, you'll find the Arrunga Bardo Bush Food Garden, crowded with edible and medicinal plants. History buffs can head to the iconic Old Government House, the Boer War Memorial, or the Dairy Precinct for an insight into Australia's colonial past. Or if you're feeling particularly lazy at this point, bring a picnic blanket and relax under the trees.

Where to stay

Sitting in the centre of the bustling city of Parramatta is a sleek glass landmark dedicated to sophisticated and comfortable accommodation and entertainment - the Novotel. Long regarded as an urban haven of calm, where guests can enjoy warm, gracious service just steps from Parramatta's 'Eat Street'. Within this stylish and contemporary hotel are 194 beautifully designed rooms and suites filled with sophisticated furnishings, stylish colour palettes and tech-savvy amenities. For a more affordable option, book a room at the Mercure Sydney Parramatta, right near Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. You can count on a spacious peaceful room, plus there's a tennis court and an outdoor pool.

If you're looking for an indulgent escape, then look no further than The Marsden Hotel. Offering contemporary and flexible accommodation, the hotel is conveniently situated amongst world-class facilities, within a short stroll to culturally-diverse restaurants, nightlife and entertainment quarter. And if you're looking for a spot that isn't too far away, yet offers adventure aplenty, then go for a staycation at the PARKROYAL Parramatta. With a choice of studio rooms, as well as one and two bedroom self-contained apartments, each come with a private balcony and great views over the city. During your stay you'll find everything you need to relax and unwind right at your fingertips, from a modern gym and sparkling indoor pool, to undercover golf facilities and an onsite convenience store.

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And so much more with NRMA Blue for just $5 a month