Where to Stay in Sydney: Best Areas & Hotels, 2018
Sydney is all about the harbor. It's the heart and soul of this dazzling Down Under city and the setting for iconic attractions like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If it's your first visit to Sydney, you'll want to stay as close as possible to its sparkling harbor waters. Popular tourist attractions like the Royal Botanic Gardens, Darling Harbour, and Barangaroo cluster around its shores as well as many of the city's best neighborhoods and top hotels and restaurants. Less than 20 minutes from the city center, Bondi Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in Australia and makes a great base if you're seeking some sun, sand, and sea.
Sydney has an excellent public transportation network, so no matter where you stay, you can easily access all the top tourist attractions. Buses and trains run frequently between different areas in the city, and Circular Quay, near the Opera House, is the main departure point for ferries to popular tourist destinations like Manly and Taronga Zoo. Whether you're sightseeing, shopping, or visiting with the family, it's easy to find an area and hotel to suit your taste and budget in this glittering harbor city.
Where to Stay for Sightseeing
For first time visitors who want to see all the top sites, the area around the historic precinct in the CBD known as "The Rocks" makes a great base. Harbor views and heritage-listed buildings are the top draws here, and souvenir shops, art galleries, and courtyard cafes line the streets and cobbled lanes.
Right in the heart of The Rocks, a short stroll from the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, and Barangaroo, The Langham, Sydney is a standout luxury option with large, elegantly-appointed rooms overlooking the city or Darling Harbour. Unlike most of the other high-end Sydney hotels, pets are welcome here, and you can sign up for treatments at the spa or swim in the indoor pool under a unique star-spangled ceiling.
Like the name suggests, the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour is in a fabulous harborside location overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens and the harbor. Perfect for sightseeing groups, families, and extended stays, this great-value luxury option offers excellent service and roomy one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, laundry facilities, and balconies overlooking the harbor or gardens. When you're not seeing all the sights, you can relax at the indoor heated pool, spa, and sauna.
Near the Rocks, in an elegant Italianate sandstone building, the more affordable Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney is an easy stroll from the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. The rooms are clean and contemporary, and the hotel has an indoor pool and sauna.
If you're on a budget, BEST WESTERN PLUS Hotel Stellar offers bright, comfortable rooms a short walk from Hyde Park in the city center and about a 30-minute walk to the Opera House and less than 20 minutes to Darling Harbour.
Where to Stay for Luxury
In a spectacular location on the harbor foreshore, with multimillion-dollar views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House, Park Hyatt Sydney is one of the top hotels in Australia. The rooftop pool is a wonderful place to relax on a hot day, and high tea with harbor views in The Living Room is highly recommended.
Also in the Rocks, a short stroll from the Sydney Opera House, the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney and nearby Four Seasons Hotel Sydney are other luxury options in fantastic locations, and the delightfully quaint Sir Stamford at Circular Quay Sydney lies opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens. Its large rooms and welcoming staff make guests feel at home, and the kid-friendly high tea here is a treat.
For luxury digs near Darling Harbour with a down-to-earth price, The Darling delivers with five-star service, a convenient location, and stylish rooms and suites with marble bathrooms. You can also swim in the heated pool and enjoy pampering treatments at the spa.
Where to Stay for the Best Value
Budget hotels in central locations are hard to find in Sydney, but many mid-range hotels offer excellent value for money, with plenty of extras included in the rates. On historic Finger Wharf in harborside Woolloomooloo, the quirky Ovolo Woolloomooloo mixes bright modern decor with a heritage building, and drinks in the minibar are free. The hotel lies opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens and you can walk to the Sydney Opera House and the ferries of Circular Quay in less than 30 minutes. Near Darling Harbour, another great-value Ovolo property, Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour, blends bold decor with exposed brick walls and beams in a historic former wool store.
Right in the heart of the bustling CBD, near Hyde Park and Town Hall station, the Art Deco-style Primus Hotel Sydney welcomes guests in a sprawling lobby. It offers excellent value, with wonderful staff, a rooftop pool, spacious rooms, and comfortable beds.
If you venture a little further afield, you'll find budget-friendly rates and a hipster vibe at the boutique 57 Hotel in Surry Hills. The rooms are compact but clean and modern, and Wi-Fi, bottled water, and an express breakfast are included in the rates. Trendy restaurants and cafes, designer boutiques, and Central Station are only a short stroll away.
Where to Stay for Families
If your main aim is to show the kids a good time, Darling Harbour makes a convenient base, with plenty of family-friendly things to do, such as an IMAX theater, a zoo, museums, and an aquarium. A short walk from here, Meriton Serviced Apartments World Tower is Sydney's highest hotel and offers one- to three-bedroom suites with full kitchens and laundry facilities. Kids can splash around in the heated indoor pool.
With a spectacular harborside location and well-appointed one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, granite bathrooms, and laundry facilities, Quay West Suites Sydney is a top choice for families. The hotel has a gym, and the Roman-style heated indoor pool, outdoor sundeck, and 24th-floor recreation deck with views of the Sydney Opera House are a hit with kids and adults alike. Ask for a harbor-view room.
Right in the heart of the city, near the Pitt Street Mall, the mid-range The Grace Hotel Sydney occupies a distinctive Neo-Gothic building with Art Deco decor. The family rooms come with one king-sized bed and two single beds.
Where to Stay near the Beach
For backpackers and beach lovers alike, Bondi Beach, about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the CBD, is synonymous with the seaside Sydney lifestyle. A short hop from its golden shores, the Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach features bright modern apartments with kitchens and laundry facilities. You can also relax on sunloungers at the outdoor pool. Even closer to Bondi Beach, QT Bondi offers chic, contemporary studios and apartments with well-equipped kitchens and spa-like baths.
If you want to stay right near the beach and don't mind catching a ferry to the city, Manly makes a great base. A 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, Quest Manly, with large serviced apartments, is a short stroll to beautiful Manly Beach with fantastic surfing. It's also steps away from great shopping and restaurants at The Corso. All the rooms boast balconies, so you can soak up the sea views, and the ferry to Circular Quay in the city departs just across the road.
Where to Stay for Shopping
Pitt Street Shopping Mall is Sydney's shopping hub. Here, you'll find big department stores such as Myer and David Jones as well as Westfield Sydney, with more than 350 shops, including big-name chains like Zara and Gap. For high-end Australian designers and beautiful architecture, make sure you stroll through the Strand Arcade, off the Pitt Street Mall, and head over to the elegant Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Dating from 1898, the QVB has multiple levels of designer stores, and you can refuel at the fabulous high-tea here.
In a convenient location between the Queen Victoria Building and Pitt Street Mall, the chic and quirky QT Sydney, in the historic State Theatre and Gowings buildings, is an edgy boutique hotel with sultry lighting in its stylish rooms. Deep soaking tubs, super comfy beds, and fluffy black robes are welcome features. Also steps away from the Pitt Street Mall, the Swissotel Sydney has bright, modern rooms with large windows. It also has comfy beds to collapse into after a shopping marathon. The fantastic spa, friendly staff, and free buffet breakfasts (with honey from the hotel's own beehives) enhance the experience here.
A four-minute walk from the Pitt Street Mall, The Westin Sydney beautifully preserves the character of its historic building, where the impressive lobby and Heritage Rooms lie. Tower Rooms, with a more contemporary style, are in the attached 31-story tower, and all feature the chain's signature Heavenly® Bed for a comfy night's sleep after a hectic day of shopping. The heated pool, soaking tubs, and in-room massages also help soothe weary muscles.
For vintage clothing and cutting edge designer fashions, head to Surry Hills or Paddington, less than 15 minutes by taxi from the city center. If you want easy access to the edgy boutiques here and the popular Saturday Paddington markets, the boutique ADGE Apartment Hotel sits in a convenient location between both Paddington and Surry Hills. It offers stylish and spotlessly clean modern apartments with multi-hued carpet, wide balconies, and fully-equipped kitchenettes. Turndown is a treat, and fabulous restaurants, funky boutiques, and homey cafes are a short stroll away.
You can also shop for fashion, jewelry, accessories, and souvenirs at The Rocks Markets, held every Saturday and Sunday. See the Sightseeing section above for hotels handy to this popular tourist attraction.