The Top Hotels in Sydney

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Highlights
Hotels
176 Cumberland St, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
Towering over the tin roofs of the historic Rocks district, the Shangri-La Hotel has helped set the standard for Sydney hospitality, not to mention harbor views. Alongside the Asian influences, personal attention, and secret scent (it’s not just the cascading floral arrangements) that Shangri-La is known for, the Sydney hotel also incorporates earthen Aussie tones and a host of foodie surprises—ranging from an award-winning deconstructed carrot cake to a 36th-floor restaurant with 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling vistas. In 2014, all the premium suites and the Horizon Club Lounge were spruced up with pops of turquoise to complement the color palette of cream, gold, and dark wood. Behind the scenes, the Shangri-La has worked hard to become more sustainable and socially conscious; initiatives include adding energy-efficient and water-saving fixtures, producing much of its food in-house, and donating money to local charities such as OzHarvest.
6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo Sydney, Australia
Formerly Blue Sydney.

Carefully constructed around support beams and pipes from a 100-year-old wheat and wool wharf, this hotel offers a beautiful mix of old and new that juts out into the Woolloomooloo harbor. The Heritage Level is where you’ll find original wooden pier pilings, metal wheels, and conveyor belts that date to 1910, but classic touches such as early-20th-century photographs of Sydney are scattered throughout the property. Goose down bedding, plush furnishings, walk-in showers, and in-room iPads make modern travelers feel right at home, and the bar that runs the length of the central atrium—hanging Swarovski crystals shine pink and purple in the evening candlelight—often hosts fashion shows and cocktail events. Most rooms have sliding glass doors that take advantage of the hotel’s over-water location between the Royal Botanic Gardens and Rushcutters Bay; they open to either the city skyline or the Potts Point naval base. Maritime history buffs should book the latter and check out the site on the wharf from which sailors boarded ships for Gallipoli.
7 Hickson Rd, The Rocks NSW 2000, Australia
The award for most prized piece of Sydney real estate must go to the Park Hyatt. The hotel is tucked directly beneath the Harbour Bridge, and many rooms showcase head-on views of the Sydney Opera House, perfectly framed in floor-to-ceiling windows and doors. In 2011, the Park Hyatt was layered with sandstone and marble to reflect the local Rocks neighborhood, which was built from sandstone in the Georgian period. Carvings, sculptures, paintings, and photographs by eight renowned Australian artists—including Robert Billington and Bruce Armstrong—further connect guests with the hotel’s setting. Travelers get what they pay for here; every room, no matter the price, comes with a balcony, butler, and harbor views from the tub. Guests also have access to the coveted rooftop pool deck—where a sunset cocktail is highly recommended. The Park Hyatt is unbeatable for New Year’s Eve, the Vivid Sydney festival, or really any time of the year.
Hotels
5 Bridge St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Opened in time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Establishment is a pioneering 31-room boutique hotel housed in an 1890s steel plant near the modern-day stock exchange building downtown. Managed by the hospitality group Merivale—which started as a fashion house specializing in fascinator hats and mini skirts—the hotel is popular among brand executives who book the 328-square-foot Loft Penthouse for product launches and photo shoots. Rooms feature wood furnishings, swinging metal doors, animal hides, and suedelike daybeds as well as such amenities as Apple TV, Bose surround sound, and Lululemon yoga mats. Bathrooms are particularly luxurious here, with marble floors, freestanding tubs, Bulgari products, and tall windows that open up to Sydney’s bustling business district. The best part about the Establishment, though, is the internal access it offers to some of the city’s hottest bars and restaurants, which are housed within the same complex as the hotel. And after enjoying live music and a few stiff cocktails at the speakeasy Palmer & Co, guests are welcomed to bed with Sleep Tight tea and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
139 Murray St, Pyrmont NSW 2009, Australia
Formerly the 1888 Hotel.
What used to be a wool shed in the middle of a sheep farming area is now a youthful hotel that celebrates the Pyrmont district’s heritage while featuring the full suite of modern amenities. Opened in 2013, the hotel is an extravaganza of wool, which is found in the felted black lampshades attached to old pulleys in the lobby, in the lower wall panels in the hallways, and as carpeting throughout the building. The old Wool Brokers Arms is visible across the street from the heritage rooms on the west side of the hotel. Modern and cheeky touches also abound at this boutique property, known as the world’s first Instagram hotel. There’s an empty “Selfie Frame” hanging amid mismatched furniture in the lobby, and guests with at least 10,000 Instagram followers are offered a free night’s stay. (Mere Instagram mortals have a chance to win, too, by using the hashtag #1888hotel to be entered into a monthly photo contest.) 1888 is also a leader in sustainability; the hotel preserved the building’s original ironbark beams and built desks from recycled floorboards. The minibar is more conscious than usual, too, stocked with Alter Eco chocolates, Charlie’s juices, coconut water, and fresh milk. The best things about 1888 are the little surprises. Even the hotel’s name has a double meaning: 1888 was the year the building was constructed but was also the year that the Kodak camera debuted.
267 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst Sydney, Australia
Owned by Terry Kaljo—a former model and founder of the Contemporary Hotels collection of upscale rental homes and villas—the Medusa Boutique Hotel offers 18 unique accommodations in Darlinghurst, an eclectic area and the epicenter of Sydney’s gay community. The 19th-century home is filled with wacky touches, from red Alice in Wonderland–style carpeting that runs up the grand staircase to pastel-pink walls studded with maple leaves in the entryway. The midcentury-modern rooms—with their retro primary colors, geometric patterns, and vintage chaises longues—attract fashion, media, and design professionals looking to get beneath the surface of one of Sydney’s liveliest neighborhoods. But there’s still the opportunity to relax, as guests can settle in next to the fireplace in the lobby to read the newspaper, enjoy a complimentary pastry, or make new friends. Longtime staff members offer the kind of local knowledge and personal attention that keeps guests coming back.
11 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay NSW 2000, Australia
You can hear water lapping beneath the floorboards of this boutique hotel, inhabiting a 1912 pier just west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is where ferry passengers used to wait to cross the harbor before the bridge was built. A hotel was first constructed in 1999, taking care to preserve the original pier pilings and steel support beams, incorporating them into hallways and guestrooms. Today, Pier One is a 189-room beauty that’s part of Marriot’s Autograph collection of unique properties. Co-owner Ruth Magid put extra love into the 18 sunny suites, which she designed like waterfront apartments. Some feature modern globe lights juxtaposed against the original wood-beam rafters, as well as brass sink basins, twin rain showers with side jets, and egg-shaped tubs. Two balcony suites take guests eye-to-eye with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Hotels
34 Harrington St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Chiseled from a sandstone-and-brick wool factory on the site of Sydney’s first hospital, the Harbour Rocks Hotel is one of the most historic accommodations in the Rocks—and maybe the most haunted. Hotel staff say part of the building, named Scarlett’s Cottages after a well-known lady of the night, is watched over by Eric, a man who once lived here and who still searches for Scarlett in the labyrinthine corridors after she swore her love to him and then disappeared. Ghosts aside, the hotel’s 59 rooms are peaceful, with high ceilings, Georgian arched windows, brick walls painted dark gray, Old West–style textiles, and wool carpeting that recalls the building’s former life. The place is filled with fun artifacts, too, from the ancient luggage lift to old maps and letters framed on the walls. The early-20th-century history that pervades the building is also found in every direction outside its doors.
89-113 Kent St Sydney, Australia
A longtime favorite among royalty, rock stars, actors, and visiting dignitaries, the Langham hotel completed a $30 million renovation in December 2014. London-based GA Designs was charged with retaining the hotel’s stately character—check out the original fireplace transplanted from the Sydney’s beloved Elizabeth Bay House—while creating a sun-drenched new look dressed in white, amber, and silver. The new design also maximizes the property’s Darling Harbour views, most notably in the opulent lobby, whose Calcutta marble floor and gold-leaf paneling are reminiscent of a high-end spa. What hasn’t changed is the Langham’s superlative customer service. Guests can request a chartered yacht or helicopter to get to their show or meeting, and arrange a private picnic, tennis match, sunset Harbour Bridge climb, or tour of the hotel’s display of Sidney Nolan paintings (Australia’s largest private collection of his work). There’s even a discreet entrance and in-room check-in for guests who want maximum privacy, as well as an unpacking service for travelers eager to feel at home right away.
Hotels
1 Kensington St, Chippendale NSW 2008, Australia
The cornerstone of the Kensington Street Precinct, at the heart of the funky Chippendale neighborhood, the Old Clare is the storied pub she used to be and so much more. Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects built a glass-and-steel walkway between the former Clare Hotel and the neighboring Carlton United Brewery building, both dating to the early 20th century, to create a 62-room boutique hotel that simultaneously feels historic and edgy. Original wood panels and brick walls blend seamlessly into spotted gum floors and nude-colored walls, exemplifying the creative reuse that pervades the Chippendale suburb, an inner-city district of galleries and cafés situated at the crossroads of Glebe, Redfern, Surry Hills, Chinatown, and the Central Business District. The design echoes other landmark Sydney restorations by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer such as the Paddington Reservoir Gardens and Carriageworks, an arts complex located just down the road. The Old Clare also brings two more standout restaurants to Chippendale, including the first Australian venture by Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton. Whether guests soak in the egg-shaped tub in their loft room, take a sunrise yoga class on the rooftop pool deck, or sip a “Ginny Hendricks,” a watermelon-dill concoction with bitters and Hendrick’s gin, at the midcentury-modern bar, they’ll have a story to tell. The Old Clare is a tale that keeps getting better.
83 High View Rd, Pretty Beach NSW 2257, Australia
The name hints at the experience, but it doesn’t quite do it justice. Pretty Beach House is not just pretty; it’s stunning. Nestled into a seven-and-a-half-acre swath of semitropical Bouddi National Park, roughly a 90-minute drive or 20-minute seaplane ride from the Harbor City, Pretty Beach House is an intimate retreat immersed in nature. Four distinctive accommodations, from the copper-sheathed, wood-beamed Bayview to the two-level Retreat pavilion that’s nothing less than its name suggests, encourage guests to disconnect, soak in their bathtubs or outdoor plunge pools, and spin a record from the in-room vinyl collection. That is, if they’re not already out exploring the wild landscapes. Owners Brian and Karina Berry, who run the beloved Bells at Killcare retreat nearby, know a thing or two about hospitality, farm-to-table restaurants, and experiences that offer a sense of place. Every evening at Pretty Beach House, guests witness a traditional welcome ceremony by a member of the Darkinjung Aboriginal tribe, who might share some of the indigenous culture that steeps the land. Afterward, a luxury Italian dinner is served inside the main house—which is crafted from local mud bricks, hand-cut sandstone, and rail pylons from the 1880s. Original works by Australian artists such as Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, and John Olsen frame floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, the peninsula’s peaks and waterways beckon guests out the next day—to hike, kayak, or ride the resort’s yacht to get closer to land and sea.
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