Extensive, excellent food scene and pretty buildings are offset by a mix of price, infrastructure and noise issues.

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Summary: One of the more interesting suburbs in Sydney, Petersham represents the point where both the charming and gritty/trendy aspects of the Inner West collide. It’s a suburb in which rounding any corner presents something that’s at least intriguing – if not always pretty – from its eclectic mix of architectural styles that are often beautiful, to its several excellent dining and amenity strips, to its occasional back alleys dotted with graffiti and bags of smelly rubbish.

It’s also a suburb which both benefits from, and is a victim of, its highly convenient location relative to Sydney city – one which offers a great commute and easy access to numerous other eclectic suburbs nearby, but also makes it a frequently noisy and busy place to be on multiple levels. It’s overall very well-equipped and a great place to visit to drink and dine, but its high prices, popularity, noise issues and proximity to major roads combine to put a bit of a damper on what is otherwise an extremely character-rich part of Sydney.

Suburb Ratings:

Public Transport

Affordability (Rental)

Affordability (Buying)

Things to See/Do


Pet Friendliness

Key stats

Region: Inner West

Population: 8,500

Postcode: 2049

Ethnic Breakdown: English 22.4%, Australian 17.7%, Irish 11.1%, Scottish 7.1%, Italian 3.8%

Time to CBD (Public Transport): 15 minutes

Time to CBD (Driving): 15 minutes

Nearest Train Station: Petersham

Highlights/attractions: Exceptional dining scene, pubs & hotels, interesting architecture

Ideal for: Young professionals, professionals, small families

A suburb that’s in many ways truly top-heavy – in that its positives are really, really positive, while a handful of glaring negatives manage to drag it down – Petersham is a mixed bag in terms of lifestyle.

Yet it’s also still one of the more interesting and entertaining suburbs Sydney has to offer, and a place that is worth visiting multiple times even should you decide that its lifestyle doesn’t happen to be for you.

Petersham suburb review

It’s hard to deny that there are certain aspects of Petersham that range anywhere from “cool” to “beautiful” on the upper end of the scale, while it scores major points for convenience as well.

These combine with one of the most diverse and enjoyable dining scenes in the city to make for a combo of benefits that may outweigh its cons for those who don’t mind dealing with a suburb that’s always “buzzing” – in both good and bad ways.

Petersham Sydney

Petersham’s location is going to be its obvious main selling point as a start for many. The suburb lies in a prime, central position nearly smack-bang in the hub area of Sydney’s Inner West, and only a handful of kilometres south-west of the Sydney CBD.

With two of the city’s main arterial streets splitting (and fringing) Petersham in Parramatta and New Canterbury Roads coupled with a (historic, heritage) train station that sees a frequent helping of services into the CBD, its connectivity is exceptional.

Petersham Traffic

With a 10 minute trip into Central one way and even Parramatta just over 30 minutes in the opposite direction, those who can subsist on a steady diet of rail will be spoiled here.

Its bus services are likewise incredibly frequent, with both major roads offering easy access to other nearby hubs, and trips to hotspots like Newtown within a 10-ish minute trip as well.

Like many of the suburbs in the Inner West, Petersham’s first key main flaw is traffic, and its road situation in general.

The sheer volume of cars both of its major roads (Parramatta Road in particular) see on a daily basis has rapidly become more than they should realistically be handling, while the back streets within Petersham are narrow and difficult in terms of both finding and accessing parking as well.

Petersham streets

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This is compounded even more by the quantity of buses that have to navigate the area; they’re not only noisy, but trying to share the roads with them isn’t pleasant either.

Add in the fact that almost everyone knows how bad Parramatta Road is and tries to use the back streets as a “shortcut”, and you’ve got a situation where what should be quiet slices of residential and park areas having their atmospheres spoiled by noise, fumes, and general bustle.

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Noise is a central theme in Petersham when it comes to its downsides. This isn’t only from street level, either; the suburb cops a lot of the airport’s flight path – particularly on the south side – with the noise from planes both frequent and louder than you’d ideally want.

Petersham terraces

“Getting used to it” can only go so far; it’s not quite Leichhardt levels here but there’s not much difference in total. Add these to the fact it’s wrapped around by the aforementioned main roads, and it’s hard to find a slice of Petersham that doesn’t have to deal with noise to some degree.

The noise extends to the suburb at street level as well. Much of this is a result of its popularity; Petersham is a cool place to hang out for multiple reasons, and for multiple demographics, so almost all of its main “attractions” are busy all throughout the day – parks, restaurants, cafes, even the footpaths in general.

Petersham cafes

It’s also a highly dog-centric suburb, with seemingly every second person walking their furry friend. That’s great for dog-lovers (guilty), but it’s also easy to see how the frequent nightly barking is another layer of sound that those with sensitive ears may not want to deal with.

It’s not hard to see why people are drawn to visiting Petersham, however. This is a slice of Sydney that’s home to one of the densest and most varied collections of high-quality dining and cafes within what’s really a relatively small area.

Petersham dining

Unlike other suburbs, Petersham’s amenities aren’t simply concentrated to a single, small strip, either. It’s dotted with a handful of charming, solo-standing cafes throughout in addition to its bigger hubs along the likes of Brighton and Audley Streets, not to mention the massive array of larger-scale services and amenities that line Parramatta Road on the suburb’s northern fringe.

The sheer array of both oldschool, authentic cuisines and more modern, trendy affairs here is exceptional, with a restaurant to cater for almost all tastes and budget levels.

Again, the popularity of some of these can be an issue, with queues not uncommon and the more popular joints sometimes hard to get a table – a testament to their quality, sure, but a little frustrating at times too.

Petersham shops

Petersham’s particularly renowned for both its Portuguese and Greek cuisines, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg; fish and chip joints, Asian restaurants, and a handful of cool local back-street cafes make for what’s simply a great spot to eat – or drink.

And drink in Petersham, you can. Its historic aspect provides the backdrop for multiple cool pubs of varying styles and sizes, depending on how rough-and-ready – or raunchy – you like things (or not).

Petersham oxford tavern

From Norton’s and the Petersham Inn up north to the Oxford Tavern and Public House down south – not to mention the cool White Cockatoo Hotel right next to the station, it’s home to one of the best pub scenes in the city (apologies, Balmain).

Petersham Pubs

Even those who like things a little more subdued are catered for with the Petersham Bowling Club and Petersham RSL providing a solid mix of beers, pizzas, music, and overall laid-back and friendly vibes.

Petersham Bowls Club

All of these add yet more vibrancy and variety to Petersham’s social scene, although they also contribute a little in their own way to the occasional bit of drunken shenanigans crime-wise.

Petersham RSL

The amenity scene that runs along Parramatta Road is more on the “warehouse/outlet” side of retail, and is mostly a mix between spots such as auto dealers, gyms, take out-type restaurants and other mixed and boutique specialty stores.

It’s a very decent array of businesses, although it’s a little lacking in terms of your necessary daily staples.

Petersham stores

The go-to for groceries in Petersham are its Mayfair Fresh (fruit and veg, mixed other staples) and Foodworks (mostly just basics) that are both fairly small; it’s not home to one of the bigger brands or a more robust overall supermarket, which can be a bit of an inconvenience.

Coles over in Leichhardt or Stanmore’s IGA provide other options within walking or driving distance depending on where in the suburb you live.

Petersham Groceries

Elsewhere, Petersham’s streetscape is highly varied, with wild swings that range from the incredibly pretty and high-end, to a little grotty.

It’s a fairly good balance between an oldschool, heritage layout while still providing decent tree cover; it’s not the greenest suburb in the world, but it’s still solidly leafy, and its quantity of pretty Jacaranda trees help add more character to the proceedings.

Petersham jacarandas

Multiple streets in Petersham boast charming, heritage terrace and freestanding homes built in the Victorian style, many of which date back to the 1800s.

These range from narrow, single-level affairs to tri-level blocks which straddle their hills and run substantially back, granting a deceptive amount of living space compared to how they may look from the front.

Petersham older homes

There’s such an eclectic mix of styles and facades here due to their creative owners that it’s certainly one of the more enjoyable suburbs of Sydney simply to explore.

Almost every home has a touch of its own personality, be that an innovatively-designed front garden, interesting combination of paint colours, or just the raw turret-and-arch style of the architecture itself.

Petersham temple

It’s also home to a number of distinctive landmarks that provide more touches of historic charm. Buildings like its Town Hall, its Masonic Temple, its handful of churches, and various other architectural constructs provide personality while still sitting alongside a decent range of relatively bland yet functional apartments.

The Eversleigh Estate on Coronation Ave is one of the most obvious examples, with both its manicured gardens and mundane apartment blocks summing up the suburb’s contrasts in a single block.

Petersham estate

In terms of major parks and green spaces, Petersham is a bit of a one-trick-pony, but it’s a pretty damn good trick. Petersham Park is one of the better standalone parks in inner Sydney with its well-kept lawns, roomy oval, historic gates, decent playground equipment and charming gazebo again making for a nice mix.

Petersham Park

It’s, again, frequently crowded though; not exactly the spot for a peaceful picnic, and one your kids may have to wait for their turn on the swings for a while.

It’s also your only real choice for greenery on the suburb’s north side – the lesser-known Maundrell Park is smaller, but makes for a better alternative if you’re after a bit more quiet while still offering a playground and small-scale picnic facilities.

Maundrell Park Petersham

For those with kids, Petersham’s fairly well-equipped for families, although it ranks more on the “good” than “great” side. It’s home to a couple of early childcare centres/preschools for those with younger children, and both standard public as well selective school types in the historic Fort Street High School up on – you guessed it – Fort Street.

With plenty of additional options nearby in the likes of Lewisham, Leichhardt, Stanmore and more, there’s a pretty decent selection of educational options depending on how much you’re looking to spend.

This extends to mature students as well; Petersham’s home to a TAFE campus on Crystal Street that’s more “compressed” vertically over multiple levels than spread out.

Petersham TAFE

Petersham’s back streets can be a bit grotty in places, in typical Inner West style. There’s fairly frequent graffiti – and not just the talented type like on the facade of the Papa’s Table cafe – along with the odd bag of dumped rubbish and open dumpster with its signature ibis rummaging through.

It’s mostly a flat and walkable suburb, with only the occasional street sloping uphill.

Petersham graffiti

They’re generally fairly safe too, with Petersham clocking in slightly above average in the crime rankings.

Its 0.10% per capita crime ranking puts it right around middle of the pack among all of Sydney’s suburbs – it’s prone to the occasional break-in and auto crime, while its handful of pubs contribute somewhat as well.

It’s certainly not a major thing; it just often feels out of place given how upmarket many other aspects of the suburb are. Petersham’s home to a pretty good range of housing types, although it leans terrace-heavy.

It’s more prone to high density living immediately to the south side of the station, with new upcoming apartment builds underway set to add more diversity (and people) to its housing scene.

Petersham construction

Several, truly grand manor houses on enormous corner blocks by Inner West standards intermingle with mid-rise units and charming Victorian homes to form a scene that can be pretty expensive to purchase into for those after a freestanding home.

Petersham mansions

Median house prices for Petersham currently sit around the $1.5 million mark, but that’s definitely skewing more towards the smaller end of the scale of what’s realistically obtainable here.

It’s a little problematic given there’s options a little cheaper not too far away, and you likely won’t get off-street parking for the price of admission.

“This is a slice of Sydney that’s home to one of the densest and most varied collections of high-quality dining and cafes within what’s really a relatively small area.”

On the contrary, due to many of its units being older, Petersham can actually be fairly reasonable to rent for those content with a bit more minimal apartment living.

Petersham units

It’s pretty good value for renters considering how close it is to the city, with a median rental price of $460 per week in return for all the associated connectivity benefits it offers. Likewise, buying an older apartment here seems a pretty safe bet moving forward.

The Verdict

Petersham’s conclusion is one of the more difficult summaries we’ve had to cover, as it’s somewhere we – personally – visit frequently and always enjoy being in. Yet in a similar vein to the likes of Leichhardt, its being marred by several unavoidable flaws makes it hard to fully endorse as a place to live in overall when there are other, more balanced options not too far away.

We simply can’t in good conscience recommend living in Petersham over somewhere reasonably nearby (such as, say, Croydon) where you can pay a cheaper price, receive less aircraft noise and traffic issues, and yet still jump on the train and take advantage of Petersham’s excellent dining scene in less than 10 minutes.

It will suit you if you simply must have cool things to do right on your doorstep; there’s certainly an appeal here for those who want to be among the thick of things and have an ability to block out other noise. It’s got a very solid social scene in general, and people are constantly out and mingling with their kids, dogs, or other people their own age, so it’s easy to see an appeal there as well.

Likewise, for those who don’t need to rely on a car, the quality of living immediately goes up a few points given its great public transport connections.

However, for the price, its noise issues, traffic and general cramped feel – unless you’re willing to pony up millions of dollars – Petersham feels a little expensive for what you’re getting in return. In all, we’d call it a better alternative for younger people than Newtown while still offering the chance to visit the rest of the Inner West in short order.

If you don’t like things continually lively, then there are many better options – even just within the Inner West – as a place to settle.

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