3 Great Hotels in Sydney

Hotels in Sydney are abundant. There are a million places to stay in all shapes, sizes and certainly classes of accommodation. There are also a lot of different areas of town to stay. Sydney is a massive metropolis with plenty of beaches, suburbs and of course downtown and Sydney Harbour to choose from. I’ve been to Sydney several times and I’ve stayed all over but to be honest my favorite hotels in Sydney are around the Harbour.
Sydney, Australia, Sydney Opera House
Hotels in Sydney Harbour are just full of life, full of energy and full of the best views in the southern hemisphere. They come in the guise of major international luxury brands and make no mistake, they are. However, if you dig a little deeper and move slightly off the harbor, you can find some real cool hotels that are different than what you’d expect. Here are 3 of my favorite hotels in Sydney Harbour and the immediate area.

Shangri-La Sydney

The Shangri-La hotel brand is one of my favorite International brands. It is most popular in Asia and has recently expanded into Paris in Europe and Toronto and Vancouver in North America. They also have plans for more western expansion coming soon.
Shangri-La Sydney, Shangri-La, Sydney, hotels
The Shangri-La Sydney is one of the best hotels in Sydney period. It is situated on the diagonal harbor corner from the Sydney Opera House for perfect views and if you’re lucky enough to have a front facing room you can have views of the Harbour Bridge as well.

Shangri-La Sydney is convenient to walk just about anywhere around the harbor and certainly in the Rocks neighborhood of Sydney. It is also just down the street from the entrance to the Bridge Climb Sydney; which I loved.
Shangri-La Sydney, Shangri-La, Sydney, hotels
Shangri-La Sydney also features a great bar and restaurant on the top floor. The bar is the perfect place in Sydney for happy hour or sunset drinks. In fact, I held a meet-up with some readers and fans in Sydney at that bar. It was a very fun evening.
Shangri-La Sydney, Shangri-La, Sydney, hotels
There is also a restaurant called Altitude; which is one of Sydney’s finest. I was privy to have a 10-course tasting menu and it was mind blowing good! Also, if it’s not the best view of any restaurant I’ve ever been to, it sure is close. The fiery sunset views of Sydney Harbour, Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are simply breathtaking.
Shangri-La Sydney, Shangri-La, Sydney, hotels
Mix all that with excellent rooms, great breakfast and a friendly staff and you’ve got yourself a world-class hotel from one of the top brands in the world in my book.

QT Sydney

The QT is a quirky little hotel about a 15-minute walk up into town from Sydney Harbour and even closer to Darling Harbour. The QT is in the mold of the new brand of hotels that combine the classic look of the neighborhood and/or the old building and blend a chic and trendy hotel, restaurant and bar into that space. This is my favorite kind of new and modern hotel. It is a hotel where you really don’t even have to leave if you don’t want to because they have everything in the small boutique space. It’s just a cool place to be.
QT Sydney, Sydney hotels, Sydney, hotels
The rooms at the QT are phenomenal. They are very unique and mine looked like something out of a burlesque show. That said, the bed was great and the bathroom was excellent.
QT Sydney, Sydney hotels, Sydney, hotels
The lobby of the QT was like a great room where it was really comfortable to hang out and chill. The furniture and décor were interesting and made you look twice at just about everything. There was also a small lounge with an honor bar for beer and drinks. I loved that about the QT.
QT Sydney, Sydney hotels, Sydney, hotels
As with any great modern boutique hotel, there is a great restaurant attached to the hotel called Gowings Bar and Grill. It was fantastic and is literally one of the best places to eat, see and be seen in all of Sydney. The beautiful people were out and they were dressed to kill.
QT Sydney, Sydney hotels, Sydney, hotels
The QT also, surprisingly, had a spa on the ground floor near a breakfast bar. I actually had a proper shave at the spa as it had been forever since I had had one of those and I was to do a live broadcast that night so I had to shave anyway. I recommend it highly.

Intercontinental Sydney

The Intercontinental Sydney is another classic hotel just off Sydney Harbour. It’s convenient location was excellent for walks to the harbor and also to grab a bus into other parts of Sydney. The small, basic rooms had views of either the harbor, botanical gardens or as mine had, back toward the city.

However, the rooftop executive lounge is where the real views were. Intercontinental Sydney is located on the exact opposite corner from the Shangri-La so the views are equal but opposite. However, the lounge views were tops at the Intercontinental.
Intercontinental Sydney, Intercontinental, Sydney, view
My only issue with the executive lounge at the Intercontinental was that I was literally scolded and made to change my outfit twice in the one day I stayed there. I wore flip flops to grab some snacks at about 6pm and apparently there is a rule that you cannot wear flip flops or thongs as the Aussies say, after 5pm. I literally had to go change into sneakers to grab a snack and a drink-it was really irritating.
Intercontinental Sydney, Intercontinental, Sydney, view
Then the following morning, I woke up a little late and wanted to grab a quick breakfast in the lounge before checking out. I put on my sneakers but I wore a baseball hat as I hadn’t showered yet and didn’t comb my hair. That’s generally the best thing about hats for guys. Anyway, when I got up there they forced me to take it off because it violated their dress code. They insisted they were an executive lounge and that I was undermining their executive-ness or something.
Intercontinental Sydney, Intercontinental, Sydney, view
Anyway, except for the attitude and elitism of the people working in the lounge, I found the staff to be very helpful from the desk clerks to the communications and public relations people. They were very accommodating helping me to set up for a Fox News broadcast from one of their rooftop conference rooms overlooking the harbor.

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  1. “They insisted they were an executive lounge and that I was undermining their executive-ness or something.”


    I’ve had a chance to read over your blog lately, and it’s been well worth the look. I appreciate the nuance you bring to writing about travel, and it’s interesting to get a different perspective from the usual backpacker type.

    I look forward to reading your stuff till I start my own travels.

  2. Well, I guess I know where we won’t be staying — who knew the Intercontinental was so stuffy. Aren’t they owned by Holiday Inn?

    You have an interesting travel style. I have never switched hotels during a city visit, but I’m not as into hotels as you are. Keep up the good reports.

  3. I can see the no thongs or ball caps at the executive lounge. I have always dressed for what I thought would be acceptable for the lounge in other hotels! Maybe easier for us girls as a cute pair of sandals, barely more than thongs, cut it as shoes! If I am going to the lounge, I do expect that it is geared towards the business set, otherwise I would head down to the lobby area. But then, it is Australia and thongs are pretty much standard footwear!

  4. Wow those places are about a million times more fancy than the backpacker hostel I stayed in in Sydney, think I missed out big time. Thanks for the insight though!

  5. Good picks Lee. I stay at the Shangri-La whenever I travel to Asia for business. A great chain for sure.

  6. Hey Lee, I was just reading about the coup in Central African Republic and came here to find you post on that crazy country. Did you write anything up on your visit to CAR — I don’t know anything about it? Cheers

    • Hey Len, that’s correct I never did a report on CAR. I haven’t written up every country as I didn’t start really focusing on this site til about 2 years ago. My CAR visit was brief because of flight cancellations but next time I am there I will write it up for sure. That coup is interesting and I will also be keeping an eye on it because I was planning on going back there later this year as part of a bigger African trip.

  7. I love Sydney! I can’t wait to go back and I definitely want to stay at one of these hotels!

  8. Hi Lee, my wife and I are heading to Australia from Canada for the first time next Spring. Will be touring around but also staying a few nights in Sydney. Will definitely check out these 3 hotels you mentioned. Look forward to reading your other posted articles on Australia!

  9. Hey
    We stayed at QT but had some issues to start off with but really enjoyed the room and the location!
    Another fantastic hotel is the Four Seasons! (views just as nice as the Shangri-la!)
    Never really thought on the Intercontinental

  10. Sydney Harbour YHA why stay anywhere else?

  11. Thanks for sharing! My wife and I have been considering a visit to Australia. We can’t decide whether to spend our travel money on staying in the nicest hotels or in making our money go a little further by staying in economical motels. Given the choice between the two, which would you recommend? Should we go all-out for a few days and stay in the nicest Sydney hotels? Or spend longer in Australia staying in cheaper options? Thanks!

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