Kings Cross, otherwise known as 'the Cross', is the red-light district area of Sydney, Australia. Packed with sleaze and tackiness, it is a haven for weirdoes and those who are a little bit different, yet the vibrancy of the place is what attracts many tourists to what is now an exciting and brilliant place to see, and without a doubt the place to go for a lively (or naughty) night out.
~ A little bit of history~
In 1897, to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, the intersection of William Street, Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street was named Queens Cross. Then, in 1905, after much confusion with Queens Square, another area of Sydney, the city changed the name to Kings Cross after King Edward VII. In the 1960s, Kings Cross was known as the bohemian district providing much entertainment and accommodation as well as being the city's red-light district. It received its bad reputation with the arrival of many American servicemen causing crime and introducing heroin, the opening of an illegal casino and the residence of Abe Saffron, otherwise known as 'the boss of the Cross', known as a major figure in Australian organised crime.
~ Our stay ~
Not really knowing what Kings Cross was like beforehand, we decided to stay at a hostel here due to the fact that it seemed as if most of the backpacker's hostels were in this area, so it seemed like the best part of Sydney to stay in for backpackers and tourists on a budget.
We arrived into Kings Cross station and, having a map detailing directions to our hostel, we came up onto the street following it. It was early in the morning, about 9am I think, but what we were greeted with made it feel as if we had entered a different time zone and it should have been 9pm in the evening. Every single shop was open with people milling around everywhere and the entire street was really busy and buzzing. Prostitutes hung out of club doors displaying stockinged legs and corseted bodies underneath coats; beggars and junkies hung about on the street corner looking very worse for wear - the beggars asking every person who walked by if they could spare some change, and the junkies rambling to themselves or to anyone who would listen; and the police were already patrolling the streets for any signs of no-good behaviour. Obviously, our first impressions were not good at all. Who could blame us - it looked like we'd just walked into the most dangerous district in the whole of Australia! Plus, being backpackers doesn't help, as we'd make prime victims carrying our whole entire livelihood around on our backs.
However, as they say, don't judge a book by its cover.
In total we stayed in our hostel in Kings Cross for 11 nights and I can positively say that this is the best area to stay in in Sydney if you're on a budget, exploring the city or, most importantly, want to have some fun.
After a couple of days, we got used to the negative parts of the place. The prostitutes faded into their doorways, the beggars faded into their spot sitting on the street and the junkies...well they're just the junkies. These are the ones that people will probably try to avoid the most as most of them look homeless (whether they are I'm not sure) with dirty and smelly clothes, and many of them are also quite strange with problems such as talking to themselves, violently fighting with each other and shouting out at random people in the street. However, you soon realise that they don't interact with, shall we say, 'normal' people. They keep themselves to themselves and generally you'll only find the junkies socialising with the other junkies. They don't come near you and tend to ignore you. The most you'll get out of one is some of their daily ramblings but, more often than not, you'll find they're just rambling and not really speaking to you or anyone in particular at all. Walking past them at night in a quiet road or square I didn't find myself looking around and checking to make sure I was safe. I felt safe here despite all of this. One thing that really touched me was that, after being in an internet café for a couple of hours and speaking to my mum on MSN for quite a while, I left the internet café really upset as I was missing my family a lot. I walked back to the hostel with tears falling down my face and red blotchy eyes and, as I walked past the group of junkies sitting in their usual place, one of them (the loudest and most violent one I might add) walked past me and, smiling at me with a concerned look on her face, asked if I was OK. Now, I know it doesn't seem like much but, coming from someone who I would have previously avoided, and in my upset state, it meant a lot to me that someone who has nothing much in life, cared and showed me some compassion. She didn't show any recognition towards me whenever I saw her again after, but the fact that she had in the first place, made me feel a lot more positive towards her and those like her.
~ In the Cross ~
Kings Cross is made up mainly of the one main road and this road contains everything you could possibly need. It is jam-packed full of every single food and take away joint that you can imagine all with cheap prices - kebab, pizza, McDonalds, Indian, Chinese, laid back pubs, quaint cafes and slightly more upmarket restaurants. There are also many shops including a huge supermarket, bottle shops, internet cafes, souvenir shops and newsagents and a popular one for any English tourist is the English sweetie shop selling typical English products such as Monster Munch, Marmite, Robinsons, KitKat and English penny sweets, to make you feel at home and offer you those pleasures that you're missing. The district is also littered with many exciting places to spend your evenings ranging from strip clubs, bars and nightclubs and these are usually brimming with people every night of the week.
Some of the more popular things to see in Kings Cross are:
- The famous Coca Cola sign - the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere, having stood in its place above the intersection of William Street and Darlinghurst Road since 1974.
- The beautiful El Alamein Fountain - a war memorial to the soldiers who died in World War II at the battles at El Alamein in Egypt. The fountain can be found at the entrance to the Fitzroy Gardens where there are also small weekend markets.
- Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is also held nearby every February where you can witness over 200 'Dykes on Bikes' leading the parade.
~ Location ~
Kings Cross is located to the east of Sydney's CBD between Elizabeth Bay and Darlinghurst. It's a short stroll from here to Sydney's Royal Botanical Gardens (about 10 minutes) and walking through the Gardens will bring you to the Opera House, Sydney Harbour and the Bridge, and the CBD. It will also take you around 20 to 30 minutes to walk to Darling Harbour from Kings Cross. There are also many bus routes you can take which mostly pass through the Cross, including the bus to the popular Bondi Beach. For even more entertainment and nightlife, 5 minutes away, Darlinghurst is the city's gay district and here you can find many gay bars and clubs which are brilliant for a night of fun and entertainment.
~ Summary ~
If staying in Sydney, if you're not a 5* luxury hotel sort of person, then Kings Cross is definitely the place to be, especially for backpackers and those on a budget, with great accommodation, cheap food and lots of fun. Even if you don't fancy staying in the area, a visit should definitely be on your itinerary. You'll be whipped up into an array of people, trendy nightlife and sleazy culture that you can't fail to enjoy and the Cross will be a place that you definitely won't forget!
Australia has a naughty side! A naugty 'capital'.
Yes, the ockers have a small part of their massive country where you won't get a culture shock, more likely a sex shock - so be warned.
Sydney's Kings Cross is not for the faint hearted - or those with ''phobes'' about gays, homosexuals, lesbians or homeless down-and-outs. I've visited several times over the past 20 years and have learned not to be shocked by anything I see, hear or smell there.
Now, naughty of me to paint too rude a picture - Kings Cross is alive, day or night, Drag queens amuse from doorways with obviously welcoming banter, touts try to lure you in to all sorts of different sexy shows, adult sex shops cater for obvious needs - this is why it has become such a popular tourist attraction.
And, just to add some balance to the story - you can buy a T Shirt.... some of them even have a clean theme! If you don't see what you like, they will make one for you. And, let's not forget the souviners of everything Australian. For those staying self-catering there are supermarkets, chemist shop and camera and film stores. How's that for adding a clean aspect to this review?
It's not very big but what you experience there is really BIG!
The strip shows leave nothing to the imagination - I haven't actually been but the men in our party went and apparently had a ''entertaining'', sexy evening!!!
In front of shop door-ways there are ''ladies of the night'' - day or night who seem to be trained at the same apprenticeship school because the catch cry from most of them is ........ ''How about it mate!''
Now, I do know this first hand because on my first visit there I was in the company of my husband, two children under 8 years old and my middle aged parents.
We were only on the 'Cross' ten minutes (at round 2.30 in the afternoon) when a rather skimpily-clad 'lady' in a really short, purple crochet skirt (she must have run out of wool) sidled up to my DAD, in front of us all, and said the worn out aforementioned phrase to my FATHER!!!! We were shocked, but my younger, handsomer husband seemed rather pipped she'd not asked him. He gave her a short shift, more out of pique that he had been overlooked, I think!
Since that time Kings Cross has become the venue for the annual ''Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras'' and every year it's shown on television: I've observed through that medium that it is getting bigger and better every year, not to forget sexier and more erotic, so as you can imagine, it attracts many thousands to Kings Cross.
I've read articles which seem to indicate that the New South Wales police have a handle on the ''sexy side'' and drug problems of Kings Cross. As a tourist, if you're just walking through, there's not much 'danger' in my opinion.
The closest I've become to feeling uncomfortable was when I was staying on Kings Cross a few years ago with my son. We were out early in the morning (around 7am) to take a day tour into the Hunter Valley wine area.
As we walked along the footpath we saw a man pretending to be a dog on the footpath...yapping and whining. As we walked by he tried to nip my ankles and I have to admit I was a bit spooked out. Glad my son was with me!
You will have got the picture now that Kings Cross is Sydney's Red Light District. It is not too rude though, you go there knowing it is going to be heavily focused on sex.
Round the Clock entertainment comes in many forms, adult shops abound and while the sexy side is overt, you can do other things while strolling along.
I love sitting around the El Alamein fountain, there's a square where I indulge in my people-watching passion - it's easy to do here under this beautiful ''dandelion flower'' fountain.
Nearby is my favourite Kings Cross restaurant - Bourbon and Beefsteak. I took our family when my son was 5 years old. We loved it, generous portions and neat cocktails. I took my son again, on his 21st birthday and it was just as good.
Bourbon and Beefsteak was opened during the time of the Vietnam War, to entertain troops from the United States of America, on their holiday breaks from war.
If you visit El Alamein fountain at the weekends there is a neat craft fair which also has second hand stalls.
Kings Cross is definitely worth a visit when in Sydney - don't go there if ''hopeless-down-and-outs'' upset you as they scrounge in the rubbish bins and sleep alongside their only possessions packed into a wrecked old baby pram.
Don't go there if the seamier side of sex offends you - because you may well be a tad upset.
I really enjoy going to Kings Cross, I like the vibrancy, the colour, sounds, sites and 'glamour' openly on show, seen from trendy cafes, or just strolling along the street. It's all a bit of a giggle and it's something to 'rave' about when in Sydney.
OH, just thought, I wouldn't book a hotel on Kings Cross again, the revelling didn't cease in the Irish Bar underneath us until 6am in the morning!
Stay at nearby Potts Point is a good idea; you are near the 'Cross' but not on it. You can soak up the atmosphere, but still get a good nights sleep.
Be brave - hang out on Kings Cross and take home the memories.