I’m going to steal a little bit from the Sydney.com.au site, I like their description of The Rocks:
The Rocks is one of the most-visited parts of Sydney. It is not hard to see why. Nestled at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on the western shores of Sydney Cove, The Rocks is the foundation place of Sydney and Australia, and of enormous historical significance. It is often described as “Sydney’s outdoors museum”.
When I was in Sydney, this is the neighborhood I stayed in and I loved it. Although it is a touristy area, it has a certain atmosphere, you can feel the history seeping out of the old (or new, but built to look old) buildings. As one of the first areas of Sydney to be developed, it is rich in history, every street you go down could bring a new surprise.
I may be overdramatizing it. But, when you walk through a fake doorway, down some stairs and through a weird tunnel in a building and find an oompah band/pair outside the german restaurant, you know you’re somewhere interesting. The old hotels, restaurants, shops and markets all make this place a great place to walk around when visiting. I always felt safe walking the streets of this area. This is a bit ironic given the areas reputation in its early days.
The area is also prime for visitors because it is very central in the city – Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge, Downtown, Cruise Terminal, Botanical Gardens, and Darling Harbor are all an easy walking distance away. Ok, assuming you’re in decent shape, they are all in walking distance. Either way, it’s not far from a majority of the sites in Sydney, and being near the Circular Quay transportation hub, everything else is nearby too.
I did have one issue with The Rocks… It’s VERY hilly and you’ll often find yourself climbing stairs in weird locations. I don’t mind some stairs, but after 6 days of climbing the stairs every time I went to my hostel, my legs were TIRED. In spite of my poor legs, I would absolutely stay in this area again!