The vibe Sleek, suntanned and laid back. Life in Sydney revolves around its world-famous waterfront. "We love the fact that we have the city and the beach in close proximity," says Heidi Middleton, a designer and co-owner of Sydney-based Sass & Bide.
Where to stay
Located near , a historic waterfront district, The Observatory Hotel feels like a posh private club. Take a dip in the indoor pool, which is famous for its domed ceiling lit with fibre optic stars, or splurge on the 90-minute La Prairie Pure Gold Radiance Treatment facial ($262) at the in-house spa.
Where to shop
Sydney is an eclectic mix of suburbs, each with its own distinct retail scene. With its glass roof and wrought-iron balconies, the 19th-century Strand Arcade in Sydney's central business district (or CBD, which is Aussie slang for "downtown") is a charming vestige of the British Empire. It houses upscale boutiques such as Alex Perry and Fleur Wood, as well has fashion-forward shops like The Graduate Store, where emerging designers like Karla Spetic and Michael Lo Sordo get their shot at fame. A 10-minute cab ride from the Strand takes you to the street-chic suburb of Darlinghurst/Surry Hills.
Look for vintage frocks at stores like Shag and Penny Arcade. Head south-east on Oxford Street to the trendy Paddington suburb, the site of flagship stores for Aussie cosmetics king Napoleon Perdis and jean queen Sass & Bide.
On Saturdays, elbow through the crowds at Paddington Markets, where you'll find everything from goat's-milk soap to wispy strapless dresses. Further southeast, the tree-lined streets of the uber-chic suburb of Woollahra are home to haute couture boutiques, including Lisa Ho and Akira. To mingle with the glitterati, hop in another cab for a 15-minute ride to Bondi Beach, where you can browse for glam caftans in Franks' boutique.
Where to dine and dance
• Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
The upscale restaurant - a glass cube jutting out over the water - is as well known for its sleek, chic clientele as for its excellent seafood. Nicole Kidman's family chose the glittering eatery for her 40th-birthday bash.
Tuck into the weekend breakfast tasting plate for two - corn fritters and eggs Benny are the highlights - before hitting Bondi Beach.
• Bistro Lilly
This place boasts a romantic yet unpretentious ambience and superb fusion of French and Asian cuisine.
Restaurant & Bar "The food is unbelievably delicious," says designer Spetic of this Surry Hills hot spot housed in a century-old warehouse. Hipsters nosh on Thai and Asian cuisine at huge communal tables and sip caipiroskas - the house blend of vodka, brown sugar and lime juice - at the bar.
• Ruby Rabbit & De Nom The Rolling Stones opened the top-floor VIP room, De Nom. Paris Hilton rang in New Year's Eve here. And Franks is the owner's roommate. This club is the place to see and be seen.