New York has Brooklyn, and Singapore has Tiong Bahru. All major cities have it — that hipster neighbourhood which is home to the all the hip cafes, indie paraphernalia, and independent brands. Sydney’s happens to be in Newtown.
Newtown is mostly built along King Street, and shophouses that mostly maintain an old facade flanks the stretch. However, look closely and you’ll find that some of these historic exteriors are just preserved fronts, while a newer building is built behind it. This was one of the things done in an effort to preserve the architectural heritage of the neighbourhood.
But step into Newtown and you’ll immediately notice something else about it. It’s something that the other neighbourhoods in Sydney do not have that much of: an abundance of street art. Rather than being frowned upon, street artists are very much welcome in Newtown. In fact, they thrive there.
To make the most out of your mural art-viewing experience in Newtown, be sure to book a guided one with Culture Scouts Walking Tour. Thereon, a specialised guide will bring you around the neighbourhood and point out the different street artists that have left their mark on the walls.
You may notice that some of the murals are done on the exteriors of actual homes. Don’t be alarmed, for they are not vandalism. Thanks to the Inner West Council’s “Perfect Match” program, homeowners who want an outdoor mural can give their stamp of approval to matched artists, replacing unwanted graffiti with commissioned murals.
Stroll around Newtown long enough and you’ll be able to discern the difference between commissioned murals and vandalistic graffiti. The former tends to be more curated designs, whilst the latter is unsophisticated spray-painted remarks.
Coffee & craft beer culture
Like most hip neighbourhoods, coffee is the main sustenance of its artsy inhabitants. Black Star Pastry is perhaps the most Instagram-famous one, amassing more than 45 thousand posts on its watermelon cake. But if you’re hankering for some serious coffee, head on over to Brewtown Newtown, a huge warehouse cafe where they roast their own coffee on-site. Although they may be spread out around Australia, the Campos Coffee in Newtown is worth a visit as it’s the very first branch.
Craft beer is also big in Australia, and it’s no surprise that you can find it in abundance here. In fact, one of the breweries — Young Henry’s — is located right here in Newtown. If you prefer the vibes of a trendy bar, we’ll suggest heading to someplace more established: Uncle Hops at The Bank Hotel. This heritage building is an iconic landmark of Newtown and is also home to a Waywards: a live performance space. Other notable bars to visit include Corridor Bar and Kuleto’s Bar.
Like all artsy hubs, mass-produced brands are shunned. Independent boutiques dot the neighbourhood, selling clothes (new and vintage), accessories, and homewares. Hit up Maple Store for some serious denim pieces, Better Read Than Dead for books, and Milk & Thistle for a homegrown fashion brand.
Recycled vintage fashion is also a thing in Newtown — these are vintage clothes that have been remoulded and combined with other vintage pieces, creating an otherworldly, original piece. Uturn is the main store that does recycled fashion, and you can find them scattered around the neighbourhood.
Newtown is the perfect place to get a taste of the local indie culture. Don’t let its heavily-tattooed residents and graffitied walls scare you — dig deeper and you’ll find that the Aussie friendliness still runs deep, and everyone welcomes you with open arms. Just don’t take it upon yourself to leave your mark on the walls though — there are still rules for that.
(All images credited to Destination NSW)