Poets, soldiers and rock ‘n’ roll – the vibrant history of Kings Cross

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Throughout time, Kings Cross has been the place to go for Sydney's best nightlife.

Today, Kings Cross – just 2 km from Sydney's CBD and a few minutes walk from the Macleay Hotel – is well known for its vibrant nightlife.

The iconic Coca-Cola billboard – or as locals call it, the "Gateway to the Cross" – lets you know you've arrived in the precinct that is renowned not only for its bars, but for its cool cafes, parks and green spaces, and hip boutiques.

The Kings Cross we know today has been shaped by a colourful past. Here are some key facts from the history of "the Cross."

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Flat style housing makes way for culture 

Locals know that Kings Cross is synonymous with innovation, but did you know that the precinct was home to the first flats and apartments in Sydney?

The earliest known flat – similar to the apartment buildings we see today – was built right on Macleay Street in 1912. Flats continued to pop up in the neighbourhood and by 1926, a quarter of all flats in Sydney were built in the Cross.

Flats appealed to Europeans who came to Kings Cross at the end of WWI. Immigrants wanted to enjoy a lifestyle similar to what they had at home – that meant spending more time outside of one's residence in restaurants, cafes and the theatre.

We also have European immigrants to thank for all of the diverse cuisine in Kings Cross.

We also have European immigrants to thank for all of the diverse cuisine in Kings Cross. The area was foodie heaven before the term "foodie" even existed – boasting many speciality restaurants and food shops.

Rest and recreation

European Sydneysiders found the perfect customer base for their new bars and restaurants in the form of American troops during WWII and the Vietnam War. With the Garden Island naval base located nearby in Woolloomooloo, American soldiers loved to visit Kings Cross on leave for some much needed rest and recreation.

By 1972, 280,000 US servicemen had visited Sydney on leave. Just as today, there was always a good time to be had at the Cross, which boasted some of the best nightclubs and bars in the city. 

A cultural hub throughout time

Kings Cross has always asserted itself as more than a red light district. A true cultural hub, Kings Cross, has been the community of choice for Sydney artists, writers, performers and musicians throughout time.

Affordable flat-style housing and an active bar and restaurant scene made Kings Cross particularly attractive to writers and artists during the 1920s when other Sydney suburbs were still catering to families. Kings Cross' bohemian subculture provided great material for writers like famous Australian poet, Kenneth Slessor.

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Adapting with the times, Kings Cross was also home to some of the biggest musical and theatrical events in Australia during the 1960s and 70s. Where was the place to be? Surf City, a 5,000 seat venue in the Cross, welcomed rock 'n' roll with open arms, as did the Yellow House, a dedicated space for artists, that attracted the likes of Pink Floyd.

Kings Cross today

Kings Cross has hardly forgotten its past. From poets to soldiers – everyone who has walked Macleay Street, dined in its cafes, enjoyed a night out in its various bars or simply taken in the buzzing atmosphere, has made the Cross the place it is today.

Today, Kings Cross still boasts some of Sydney's best nightlife, shopping and arts and music venues, and the Macleay Hotel is close to it all!

If you want to explore the best of Potts Point and Kings Cross, check out our range of accommodation today.