Wherever you stay in Sydney it’s important to be as close to transport as possible because let’s face it, it’s not the most efficient city for getting around. Because of this, choosing to stay “in the CBD” still casts a wide net in potential sleeping points and surprisingly different experiences. The Circular Quay end feels the bustle of being right next to Sydney’s biggest attractions: the Bridge and the Opera House, while the Ultimo end feels a little more relaxed and reserved, especially as you approach Surry Hills or Camperdown.
Railway Square YHA is located at the Ultimo end of the city: away from the craziness of Circular Quay, but in my opinion, also more convenient, as it is right next door to Central Station. I had a 2 night stay there, as I was in town for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS). Although the festival was at Olympic Park, I wanted to be in the city but connected enough to transport to get out and back easily.
YHA are known for going above and beyond expectations. I’ve stayed at a few now and in my experience, the facilities are not just exemplary, but the site is often more than just a random building as well. Much like Sydney Harbour YHA, the YHA Railway Square is steeped in history dating back to the early 1900s.
The building is connected to Central Station and once served as the “Inwards Parcels Shed” for Australia Post. The parcels would arrive via tunnel direct from the Sydney Post Office, ready to be shipped around the country.
100 years after being built (1904-2004), the Inwards Parcel Shed became the Railway Square YHA. The replica carriage dorms sit at what they call “platform zero”, which was once in use at the station. If you look down between the dorms, you can see the tracks still there giving the carriages the genuine illusion of being on the tracks.
Close to Transport
When it comes to proximity to transport, you literally can’t get any closer than Railway Square YHA. 250 metres to Central’s departure hall, or mere inches from platform 1. And if you’re coming or going by bus, then Railway Square is practically at the front door.
I came by train and I strolled the short distance from Central, in behind the Adina Hotel, and through the doors of the former warehouse that houses the YHA Railway Square. The welcome was as friendly as they come and I was shown to my room: a private twin room in the far corner of the facility. (It was the top left window in the image below).
The room was very basic, but anything more would have been a waste. There was a bunk bed with a double on the bottom and a single on top. I was there on my own and planned on spending most of my time out in the city so this suited me perfectly.
The only decision I had to make was “do I want the top bunk experience or a whole double bed?!”
I actually asked if I could have a couple of friends crash with me after the beer festival and the receptionist said that would be no problem at all (as long as they sign in when they do). It would certainly be very “cosy” with 3 people in there, but if you’re good friends and just there to go out in Sydney and get on it then it’s perfect.
The bathroom was nearby so even though it didn’t have an ensuite, it was not far to walk when nature called or to take a shower.
On this matter, the YHA was fairly full the weekend I went. The bathrooms never felt crowded and there was never a queue.
Importantly, the showers had really good pressure, coverage and heat: features that are often lacking at hostels. To me, that’s a sign that the owner actually cares that you enjoy your stay. The bathroom had heated floors too I’m pretty sure, which was noticeable in a cool May weekend.
For those travelling with friends or wanting a cheaper option, there are plenty of dorms as well, of course. To keep with the station theme, some of the dorms have been fashioned into train carriages at Platform Zero; right next to platform 1 on the other side of the fence.
From the platform, it just looks like they’ve built a short building to look like carriages. But then as you walk through them, you notice that in between the two rows of carriages, the floor drops away to make them look like that are placed on the old tracks. It’s a very unique design and a fun novelty.
They are genuinely outside though, and while you might think being this close to the tracks would be noisy, the YHA staff actually told me that they built the carriages specifically to block out most noise. And besides, they are right next to the interstate tracks that are much quieter than the busy commuter trains.
At all hostels, you expect the rooms to be bare bones – that’s how you know they are keeping the prices affordable. Railway Square YHA is filled with common areas for those inevitable times when travelling you just need some downtime, but want to be somewhere more interesting that your bed.
There is a large lounge filled with couches near reception, which is right next to the kitchen, and the theatre. There is also no shortage of sitting spaces dotted around the property for when you might want to relax, but don’t want to be amongst the commotion of the large common area.
Then of course when the sun is out there is a deck with deck chairs with a view of the city.
There are fußball and pool tables to challenge your mates, and daily activities that’ll help you meet some people, get free food, and explore the city. These are all advertised on the blackboard next to reception.
The Good Vibes
Beyond the things to do and people to meet, Railway Square YHA has put in some real effort to make sure that the facility is not just a Plain Jane affair. If there’s a spare wall, they’ll whack on some artwork. There are photos of Australian landmarks everywhere, but a lot of the art is just painted straight onto the wall. It’s all pretty unique and will turn your head every time you walk by.
Fun stuff nearby
Being close to transport is great and all, but sometimes you just want to go for a wander. Central Station, and by extension Railway Square YHA, is right on the precipice of Surry Hills with quite a few good places for food, beers, and coffee:
- Keg and Brew is an old English style pub with timber furnishings, hanging glassware, and over 20 craft beers on tap.
- Royal Albert also has a great craft beer selection, but with slightly less character – great chats with the barman though in my experience.
- Single O and The Reservoir both have great coffee and breakfasts, and
- Chur is renowned in Sydney for doing great burgs.
For me, Sydney’s Railway Square YHA is all about the location. I loved being able to walk to Surry Hills, but I also loved getting the train back to Central Station after a big night out and not having to walk far to my bed.
You can’t ask for much more than that, but they offer it anyway.
I was a guest of Sydney Railway Square YHA, but of course all opinions are my own.
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