Parramatta may get most of its attention for being Sydney’s soon-to-be second CBD but the history and culture of the suburb make it equally special. Located in the heart of Western Sydney, the lively suburb is now a cultural destination featuring a long list of excellent things to do and places to eat. Filled with heritage buildings and archaeological sites, the western counterpart to Sydney’s CBD also holds tremendous significance in Australian history. In fact, Parramatta is Australia’s second oldest settlement — Sydney being the first, by just 10 months.
Parramatta, New South Wales
Parramatta was founded as a British settlement in 1788, the same year as Sydney, as a western outlying farm colony in the city. It was initially named Rose Hill and later renamed to Parramatta, an aboriginal word meaning “head of waters.” In its formative years, it was considered to be of greater importance than Sydney due to its rich and fertile lands.
Today it’s home to many historic buildings, including Elizabeth Farm — Australia’s oldest surviving building, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Government House and the popular St John’s Cathedral. Head here for more historical experiences.
Best things to do in Parramatta
Heading west to Sydney’s second-biggest city? There are a variety of fun activities for adventure seekers, history buffs and culture vultures alike. Here are some of the best things to do in the suburb.
1. Take a walk down Parramatta Park
Parramatta Park is an 85-hectare lush green space and historic site in Western Sydney. It is of significant historical importance because this is where colonists were first able to successfully grow food to feed themselves. Today it’s a recreational hotspot filled with cosy cafes, that plays host to outdoor music events and free activities. Check out what’s on here.
2. Check out its excellent cafes
Some of the best coffee and brunch in Sydney can be found in Parramatta. From the tiny hole-in-the-wall Circa, an old local favourite to the incredibly Instagrammable Social Hideout, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Homage, Black Seed Eatery and Paper Plane Cafe are other spots serving first-rate brews. Find the full list here.
3. Watch a show at Riverside Theatre
A lovely walk along Parramatta River will lead you to Riverside, Western Sydney’s premier performing arts centre. Hosting around a thousand shows per year, theatre and music lovers will have plenty to choose from. Here are all the slick first-class theatrical performances playing at the intimate venue currently.
4. Enjoy a night out at Eat Street
Love food? There’s an entire street dedicated to food in the heart of Parramatta with plenty of fairy lights and outdoor seating. Choose from spicy South Asian cuisine to eclectic Mediterranean food and much more. Popular spots include Alex and Co, Bay Vista Dessert Bar and Holy Basil.
5. Go on a ghost tour
Remember the world heritage-listed Old Government House that we mentioned earlier? It’s one of the oldest surviving public buildings in Australia, and famous for its spooky candlelit ghost tours. Around the corner is also Parramatta Gaol, a Godforsaken spot that operated between 1798 and 2011 and today naturally makes for an ideal ghost tour venue. Book a spot here.
6. Catch a live game
Parramatta is the place to be for sports lovers with three major sports stadiums within 10 kilometres of each other. There’s the CommBank Stadium next to Parramatta Park, Accor Stadium, also known as Stadium Australia, at Sydney Olympic Park and the GIANTS Stadium at the Sydney Showgrounds. Learn more about what’s on here.
Learn more about Parramatta’s history on the City of Parramatta website.