Where to Stay in Sydney: Best Areas & Hotels

Written by Karen Hastings
Updated Mar 29, 2021
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Sydney is all about the harbor. It's the heart and soul of this dazzling city Down Under, and it's also 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 Sydney 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 best beaches in Sydney 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 things to see and do. 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 places to stay in Sydney to suit your taste and budget, from 5-star hotels and last-minute hotels to budget Sydney accommodation for backpackers.

Where to Stay in Sydney for Sightseeing

Photo Source: Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour
Photo Source: Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour

For first-time visitors, the area around the historic precinct in the CBD (Central Business District) 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 cafés line the streets and cobbled lanes.

Right in the heart of The Rocks but on a quiet street, The Langham, Sydney is a standout luxury option. It's only a short stroll from the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, and Barangaroo. You won't be short on space here. The large, elegantly-appointed rooms feature Juliet balconies or spacious terraces with city or Western Harbour views. Pillow menus are a welcome perk. Unlike many of the other high-end Sydney hotels, pets are welcome here.

Feel like some pampering? You can sign up for holistic treatments at the Langham's spa, or swan about in the indoor pool under a dazzling 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. Each comes with a full kitchen, laundry facilities, and balconies overlooking the harbor or gardens. When you're not touring the city, 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 wondering where to stay in Sydney's CBD on a budget, BEST WESTERN PLUS Hotel Stellar offers bright, comfortable rooms a short stroll from Hyde Park. It's also about a 30-minute walk to the Opera House and less than 20 minutes to Darling Harbour.

Where to Stay in Sydney for Luxury

Photo Source: Park Hyatt
Photo Source: Park Hyatt

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 best hotels in Sydney. The rooftop pool is a wonderful place to relax on a hot day, and the luxuriously appointed rooms come with floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to private balconies where you can soak up all the views.

Need help making a dinner reservation? Take advantage of the Park Hyatt's 24-hour butler service. High tea overlooking the harbor is also highly recommended.

Also in the Rocks, a short stroll from the Sydney Opera House, the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is another excellent 5-star hotel in Sydney in a fantastic location. Attentive service, comfy beds, and beautiful views keep guests coming back. If you're wondering where to stay in Sydney for a one night splurge, this is a great choice.

In a historic 1897 building, opposite the Royal Botanic Gardens, the delightfully quaint Sir Stamford at Circular Quay Sydney exudes old-world charm. Persian rugs, hand-cut chandeliers, and antique furniture grace the large rooms here, and the welcoming staff make guests feel at home. The kid-friendly high tea 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. Swim in the heated outdoor pool and enjoy pampering treatments at the spa.

Where to Stay in Sydney: Mid-Range

Darling Harbour

On historic Finger Wharf in harborside Woolloomooloo, the quirky Ovolo Woolloomooloo mixes bright modern decor with a heritage building. Free goodie bags with tasty snacks are a special perk. 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. It occupies 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.

Where to Stay in Sydney on a Budget

Strolling along Sydney's waterfront

Budget hotels are rare in Sydney, but some Sydney hotels offer lower rates with plenty of perks included.

If you venture a little farther from the CBD, 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. Wi-Fi, bottled water, and an express breakfast are included in the rates. Wondering what's nearby? A short stroll from the hotel, you'll find trendy restaurants and cafés; designer boutiques; and Central Station, a major transportation hub.

Are you traveling on the cheap with a backpacker budget? Wake Up! Sydney offers super low rates for mixed or all-female dorm rooms, and they also offer private rooms with or without ensuites. It's located in the heart of the CBD - the best area to stay for backpackers due to the ease of catching public transport.

Where to Stay in Sydney for Families

Photo Source: The Sebel Quay West Suites Sydney
Photo Source: The Sebel Quay West Suites Sydney

Darling Harbour makes a great base for families. You'll find plenty of family-friendly attractions here, including 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 extra-large one- to three-bedroom suites with full kitchens and laundry facilities. Kids can splash around in the heated indoor pool.

Animal-loving families should book a stay at Wildlife Retreat at Taronga. Like the name suggests, this unique new hotel sits within Taronga Zoo with views out to the wildlife. Gaze out at koalas in the trees right outside your window, or watch wallabies hopping around below. The Family Escape package includes an afternoon tour of the Australian native wildlife habitat, a zoo night walk, breakfast, and more. Best of all, your stay supports Taronga's wildlife conservation programs.

The Sebel Quay West Suites Sydney is another top choice for families. With a spectacular harborside location, the hotel offers well-appointed one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, granite bathrooms, and laundry facilities. 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.

Where to Stay in Sydney near the Beach

Bondi 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 sun loungers 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. The ferry to Circular Quay in the city departs just across the road.

Where to Stay in Sydney for Shopping

Queen Victoria Building

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.

A four-minute walk from the Pitt Street Mall, The Fullerton Hotel 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. Deep soaking tubs in the bathrooms help soothe weary muscles after a busy day shopping.

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) elevate the experience here.

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 cafés 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.

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