You'd think Sydney would be overflowing with cool accommodation options, but for whatever reason, the harbourside city has for decades been the land that hip hotels forgot. Our accommodation alphabet is missing a W, and there's no Ace up our sleeve either. But thanks to a handful of relatively recent openings, there are a few hotels whose hospitality is just as popular with locals as with those visiting town. While we don't have as many accommodation giants, the chains we do have more than pull their weight. From five-star luxury to boutique cuteness, here's our edit of Sydney's best hotels.
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The best hotels in Sydney
This 590-room five-star beauty is Sydney’s first luxury hotel built in the CBD since 1999. The high-rise sits next to the International Convention Centre. There are three bars, including a Champagne bar with an impressive selection of wine by the glass, and an onsite French restaurant called Atelier, which transforms into a decadent breakfast buffet each morning.
Time Out tip: You’ll want to spend some time in the infinity pool, which juts out dramatically over Darling Harbour and has its own bar for waterside cocktails.
Every detail in the Paramount House Hotel has been carefully considered, meticulously placed and kept affectionately local. The 29-bedroom hotel straddles the former Australian HQ of Paramount Picture Studios and its former film storage warehouse; the latter is where you’ll the timber floored, terrazzo-tiled guest rooms (some with chic Japanese timber bathtubs).
Time Out tip: Head upstairs to the newly opened rooftop gym, Paramount Recreation Club.
The Old Clare Hotel is full of ghosts – not the Stephen King kind, but the ghosts of parties past. If you listen closely you can probably hear echoes of Brit pop reverb off the mottled yellow tiles. But a whole new era has begun at the old Carlton Brewery site: now stands a vintage-styled cocktail bar beneath a slick boutique hotel, complete with rooftop pool.
Time Out tip: Nearby you’ll find five-star restaurants, a three storey warehouse of contemporary Chinese art, and a beautiful, modern cinema complex.
The Ovolo Woolloomooloo occupies the front half of the heritage-listed Finger Wharf, which means you’ve got waterside wow-factor, knockout vistas and some of Sydney’s best dining at your fingertips. That’s a pretty tempting proposition in and of itself. Plus, you get to stay in the world’s largest wooden building, according to Guinness World Records, which is a big tick for history buffs and fans of heritage-listed architecture.
Time Out tip: There’s an indoor pool on the premises, but don’t waste the warm weather months swimming inside. The 50-metre, eight-lane Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool is only a short stroll away.
In Sydney, waking up to the sound of waves crashing at the beach is a luxury reserved for the rich, but at the harbourside hotel in Watsons Bay anyone willing to splash out on one of the waterfront rooms can enjoy a slice of that eastern suburbs life (even if it’s only for a day). The 31-room hotel was renovated in 2013, but its roots as a pitstop by the beach date back to the 19th century when it was called the Palace Hotel.
Time Out tip: Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel is five minutes’ walk from the turquoise waters and golden sands of Camp Cove. Take a book, or your snorkel gear, and get to know the locals gathered by the beach kiosk.
It packs 200 individualised rooms, a day spa, men’s barber, two bars, a café and restaurant into the heritage-listed Gowings building – and still feels boutique rather than behemoth. They’ve themed the place around the full-service men’s department stores of the ’50s and ’60s, from vintage American barbershop chairs to the Hammam-inspired steam room.
Time Out tip: You’ll find some of the CBD’s best bars, including Baxter Inn, Duke of Clarence and Lobo Plantation just a few blocks from the hotel.
Yes, it's in a casino and it's in Pyrmont, but don't hold that against the Darling, which is all about contemporary design and the latest in-room technology. It's in prime position near Sydney Harbour and has panoramic views of the city skyline, plus the Darling offers four different kind of suite – Penthouse, Stellar, Adored, and Jewel.
Time Out tip: Just downstairs from the Darling, in the same complex you’ll find Sokyo Japanese restaurant, where chef Chase Kojima serves up some of the best sushi and sashimi in the city.
Our CBD is not like Melbourne’s. There you expect the laneways to be teeming with small bars and boutique hotels for a double dose of whimsy when you’re staying in the heart of the city. In Sydney it’s a different story, which is why it’s surprising that they’ve managed to create such an intimate feel at the new West Hotel Sydney, a boutique accommodation project from Hilton down amongst Barangaroo’s new towers.
Time Out tip: There’s a beautiful roof top bar at Barangaroo House that is extremely popular with the locals.
Talk about a breakfast of champions. Shangri-la Sydney’s aptly named Horizon Club Lounge up on levels 30-36 is where Horizon Club guests can partake of an Asian, continental or whatever-you-like brekky buffet to views of Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. Ferries and cruise ships putter around below you like toys in a bathtub, and the view extends from the Blue Mountains in the west to the heads and the Pacific Ocean in the east.
Time Out tip: The Shangri-la Hotel Sydney is perfectly located for access to the historical area of the Rocks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, visiting the Sydney Opera House, and ferries to Taronga Zoo and Manly.
Money might not buy you a lifetime of happiness, but it will certainly achieve it in the short term if you use it to book a weekend escape at Jonah’s at Whale Beach, about an hour’s drive north from central Sydney. This luxurious boutique hotel is a famous romantic getaway for Sydneysiders who want to soak their troubles away in a spa bath that has sightlines out to the ocean.
Time Out tip: Plan your stay between April and mid-December for the best chances of seeing whales as they migrate up and down the coast.
In its previous iterations, it hosted US presidents, our own Prime Ministers (Bob Hawke famously ran through the area in budgie smugglers), Princess Diana and, sadly, Michael Hutchence on the last night of his life. Now after a major facelift in 2015, the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay is back at its best. There are 140 rooms and suites –all decorated in a contemporary, tasteful style that wouldn’t offend you, or your grandmother.
Time Out tip: Walk along New South Head Road to the Murray Rose Pool, a harbour beach and large swimming enclosure that’s ripe for a dip any time of year.
Housed in an ex-woolstore built in 1888, Ovolo’s Darling Harbour outpost works carefully with its heritage features. A brightly coloured painting by Sydney-based artist Jasper Knight has been digitised and used as wallpaper throughout the hotel, adding splashes of yellow and red to the old school brickwork. Thanks to 19th-century thick walls, the rooms are whisper-quiet and equipped with iPads and Apple TV.
Time Out tip: If you’re in town for a convention at the ICC, the Ovolo is the most “boutique” choice within easy walking distance.
While Sydney’s Inner West is an alluring destination for its nightlife, shopping and dining, it doesn’t offer many hotels. Close to the action of King Street, Newtown, the Collectionist is an art gallery of hotel rooms – sitting more in the pop art world than old masters – with the added quirk of essentially renting your artwork by the night.
Time Out tip: It’s only a two-minute walk to Acre Eatery, which has a garden terrace open from 8am daily and lunch and dinner menus in the main restaurant. You’ll also find Camperdown Commons in the same location – an urban farm that has kitchen gardens, Saturday markets and outdoor yoga classes.
If you’re wondering why so many boutique hotels in Sydney are built in old woolsheds, it’s because colonial Australia was built on a sheep’s back. Renovated in 2016, the hotel offers the “full Sydney” view. The decor is Hamptons holiday house, with a touch of global nomad – in the form of woven hangings and ikat print cushions.
Time Out tip: Walsh Bay is the centre of Sydney’s mainstage theatre precinct. Sydney Theatre Company is 20 minutes on foot from the Opera House.
If you’ve always fancied owning a place by the beach, the Adina Apartment Hotel comes pretty close to living that dream. Fill up your fruit bowl with juicy berries from Harris Farm Markets downstairs; grab a coffee from the Nine around the corner; and pick up a bunch of native flowers from the Farmers Markets, and you’ll pass as a local in no time. Each apartment is so well equipped that you could host a dinner party and pretend it’s your own address.
Time Out tip: When saltwater is the only cure, Bondi Beach and Icebergs pool are are short walk away.
Since opening in 1990, the Park Hyatt has played host to a steady stream of celebrities, heads of state and international jetsetters with money to burn. The carpets are so plush you’ll want to roll around on them like a dog – and the rooms are quiet to the point they feel hermetically sealed. The biggest selling point here (beyond the deluxe rooms) is the heated rooftop pool.
Time Out tip: The Park Hyatt’s minimally named bar the Bar makes some of the best cocktails you can find by the water; and definitely the best club sandwich.
Taking up residence on Campbell Parade just metres back from one of the world’s most famous beaches, QT Bondi feels more like owning a hip apartment than staying at stock standard hotel. You’ll find long, rectangular rooms kitted out with glossy surf magazines, thongs and beach bags (available to purchase), a decent-sized kitchenette and a spacious balcony.
Above the many dumpling houses of Chinatown and just across the road from the energetic bustle of Paddy’s Market is the world’s first astrology hotel. The heritage building has been primped with sweet pastel touches that complement the industrial bare brick, scattered with minimal Scandinavian-style furniture and original Jodi Clark prints. Plus, you get a charming city guide according to your star sign.
Time Out tip: Who needs room service when you’re staying in the centre of one of Sydney’s great Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine districts? Grab some dim sum to go from nearby Emperor’s Bakery and eat it in a posh hotel bed.
Newtown and Enmore are incredibly popular neighbourhoods with Sydneysiders; the area is outside Sydney’s lockout zone. Urban Newtown, which sits on Enmore Road right near the fork of the neighbourhood’s other main drag King Street, opened in late 2014, and it brings the Inner West-vibes inside with corkboard and bare concrete finishes and graffiti-inspired art on the walls. Even the mini-bar is stocked with beer from local craft brewery Young Henrys.
Time Out tip: The Urban is by far the most convenient hotel to the Enmore Theatre – one of Sydney’s most-loved live music and comedy venues.
Relaxation isn’t a word most people associate with airports, but as you watch planes cross the tarmac from the retro-chic eighth floor bar of this hotel, you might start to wonder where all your travel stress comes from. The Citadines Connect Sydney Airport is one of the newest hotels near Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport, and it’s a brilliant place to stay if you need quick access to the terminals.
Time Out tip: Perch yourself at the bar that overlooks the runway and pretend you’re Don Draper on very important business.
At their Broadway hotel you’ll find slightly larger than standard rooms and kitchen or kitchenette facilities in almost every room. Decor is a little livelier than the polite hotel standards: the warehouse renovation has kept its exposed beams and added Scandi-style furnishings and brightly coloured art. You’ll also get free, fast Wi-Fi, access to Lekker rental bikes and plenty of health-conscious eating options at breakfast.
Time Out tip: Veriu is under five minutes walk from one of our favourite Sydney venues, the Lansdowne. Head there for a $10 weekday lunch special, or catch a live band and eat slices of Detroit-style pizza in the evenings.
What’s not to love about a heritage-listed Victorian mansion that’s been painted pink? The Medusa is located in the middle of Sydney’s queerest neighbourhood Darlinghurst, and it embodies a sense of urban chic that’s very much in line with its surroundings. All rooms have luxe touches like Aesop toiletries and fluffy bathrobes, plus a kitchenette, cable TV and a stereo.