Is Sydney the most beautiful city in the world?
I think it is however you can have a very different experience based on your location. Where to stay in Sydney is the primary question you should ask yourself.
In this post I am trying to answer all the questions giving a direction based on what you would like to see and be part of.
I feel Sydney as my second home, when is not the first one LOL I just love it. And not only for the beautiful bay, the amazing beaches, the awesome weather, the incredible nightlife and I could add so much more…..but also for the hidden corners and the many things to do.
If you are in a hurry, just jump straight to the 8 Macro areas summary and from there you can go deeper in the info.
Having a short stay in Sydney, 2-3 days, or a long one, 3-7 day, can take you to decide in a different ways. In my case, if I have a short stay my preference goes to an area, and an hotel, close to public transportation. If it’s longer I may choose an area with more “local” feeling
If you are coming to the capital of New South Wale for the first time you may want all the interesting sites to visit close to you. Otherwise the best place in Sydney can be in an area close to the beach or the coolest cafes and restaurants
Sydney is spread on such a vast area that you can easily get lost. Planning and booking your hotels in advance will help immensely, especially when you have decided the best area to stay. For the evening and the events I suggest to look at the website Broadsheet.com. It’s the reference site for any local.
There is so much choice. Let’s see a quick summary
The transportation system is not probably something Sydney is famous for, especially considering the size of the city (5 million people).
There is a small metro ring with 7 stations in the CBD and that is it. From almost any of these stations you can catch a train to the outskirts of Sydney.
Sometime to reach a place, even as famous as Bondi, you need to catch a train and change to a bus paying two tickets. It has to be said that the transportation cost is low, when compared to other Australian cities as Melbourne.
The bus network is actually very good although it may be intimidating for people visiting Sydney for the first time. Bus stops are not always clearly marked. The bus does not provide the name of the next stop and this may be an issue for someone.
My advice here is to run Google Map and follow where you are. The alternative is to go the old way, seat close to the driver and ask him/her. They are usually super nice and very entertaining. I always have lots of fun
Ferries are probably the best and quickest way of transportation. Very reliable and punctual. A place like Mainly may look far away however it is just 15 minutes by fast ferry.
You may want to check how well is served the area (more on it later), when you look for a place to stay in Sydney. Here you can find few maps and timetables of the transportation system.
This is where the First Fleet, captained by Arthur Phillip, sailed into the harbour in 1788 declaring the area a British colony of New South Wales.
The convicts pitched their tents in what is today known as The Rocks, right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while the governor and the other officials went on the eastern side of the bay, where today you can experience the Botanical Garden.
This is where you can see the biggest attractions of the city: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
It’s all very close to the Circular Quay train/metro/ferry station. It is a mandatory stop for any visit in Sydney.
Wondering around The Rocks is an experience by itself. Most of the buildings are there since the 18/19th century. You can almost smell the history, beside experiencing some amazing viewpoints as from the The Glenmore Hotel rooftop, just unique.
Why staying at The Rocks or in the Sydney CBD?
If you are on a business trip and your office is in the city centre than the CBD is really an easy option.
If you have just 1-3 days and you want to visit all you can in Sydney than the CBD is most definitely a good area to stay being well connected with any destination and attraction you think of.
In saying that, the CBD is not an amazing place for restaurants, bars and cafes. Only 10-15 years ago it was deserted after office time and in the weekend. Today the choice is there, especially in The Rocks area and in Chinatown, however it is not comparable with other districts.
The Primus Hotel is situated in one of the most beautiful buildings in Sydney. Location and great service.
The excellent quality of this hotel goes down to the details as the top class soaps and creams, the Nespresso machine in the room and a rooftop with the pool and bar. Close to Town Hall station
The Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour is nested between the Botanical Garden and Circular Quay with view to the Harbour Bridge. Hard to beat.
It offers a swimming pool and a spa bath. It’s just 5 minutes walking from the train station and 10 minutes from The Rock and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Windows everywhere that allow a great view to either sides of the building. The Q-Dining offers modern Australian cuisine together with an extensive wine selection. The bar, Hacienda Sydney, takes inspiration from Cuba and offers a great selection of cocktails that you can enjoy watching the Harbour Bridge
The Park Hyatt hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in Sydney with the best view right in front of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the city. Just marvellous.
It’s expensive but worth the price. Save on other hotels to spend at least one night here, especially is this is possibly the only occasion you are going to visit Sydney
You will remember the swimming pool on top for many years to come, if not forever
The Hotel Palisade is located in Millers Point, just behind The Rocks and the Observatory Hill Park. It is in an historical building and it is indeed a beautiful arty/boutique accommodation.
Beside having a beautiful interior design it offer also one of the best price for any hotel in the city centre. Highly suggested
Darling Harbour is a relatively new area of Sydney being redeveloped only 30 years ago.
It used to be the docking area of the city. It is now the place to be with so many restaurants, bars and cafes. The Convention Center is also here.
If you have kids, this is the place to visit with a huge free playground and the many attraction around (read more later).
You can go to Darling Harbour by ferry or with a 20 minutes walk from the Town Hall metro station.
The Ovolo 1888 in Darling Harbour is the boutique hotel you would not expect in this area. Beautifully restored in a historical building, it is behind the corner from the Harbour and its attractions.
The room is furbished with antique furniture and a minibar with free snacks. Included are also a fitness center and free wifi.
It is clean and it has an excellent quality/price ratio. The Staff is friendly and prepared.
The Astral Tower and Residences at The Star is a very short walk from the Maritime Museum and the Darling Harbour ferry station, very practical. Great view and luxurious stay.
Darlinghurst to Potts Point is the area where the biggest part of the nightlife is.
In saying that there are super quiet streets as well as super parties streets where it is impossible to sleep due to the noise.
I was in the area a few times an in one occasion I did not realise my accommodation was just in front of a bar open till 4am. But during the day it was super quiet. Guess what I did….just joined the party LOL
Oxford street is the area with possibly the highest concentration of bars and pubs in the all of Australia. There is a big influence from the gay community that uses this area for the famous Mardi Gras parade, an event not to be missed if in the city in early March.
After the second world war this area was mostly inhabited by refugees and European immigrants that took here foreign customs as cafes and cabarets that soon transformed in strip club.
The 70s and 80s were years when prostitution and drugs were reigning in the area and it’s almost incredible, and unthinkable, the change Darlinghurst, Potts Point and Woolloomooloo have gone through.
Once you leave the main streets and explore inside these districts you can find real gens, peaceful alleys and lanes, beside amazing restaurant and trendy eateries.
It’s one of my favourite area to stay, however being selective is really the password otherwise you may end up with a sleepless night.
The Ovolo Hotel in Woolloomooloo is an amazing gem not to be missed if you decide to stay in this area. It is in one of the old pier, formerly a woolen dock, fully refurbished and redesigned.
Stunning position, just minutes away from the CBD and the Botanical Garden, the Ovolo offer complimentary breakfast, as well as free happy hour
The Medusa is a lovely boutique hotel on Darlinghurst Road, so close to the bars and restaurants however it looks like miles from the noise. It has been beautifully refurbished and the stuff always try to make you feeling at home.
There is also a tiny swimming pool, more to cool down on a hot day than to have a swim though.
The Darlo Bar is a quirky place that sometime has some amazing offers, down to $130/night and that is when you should book staright away, if this is your kind of hotels. Very well decorated with common bathrooms, always clean.
At the basement there is a fabulous pub for the last drink
I find incredible how Surry Hills has gone through such a dramatic change in the last 15 years or so. It was once one of the cheapest area to buy a property. It is now one of the most expensive area.
And there s a good reason for that.
There are so many beautiful cafes, restaurants and bars around, together with parks and leafy streets. The nightlife is here respectful. There is no craziness on going, everyone wants just to have an enjoyable and easy time.
Add to that the multitude of art centres and art exhibitions. If you can make it to one of the opening you will be suddenly immerse in the local underground art community
Surry Hills is also so close to the CBD that makes it an interesting area to be based even on a business trip. You leave the office and you walk to one of the coolest place in Australia.
It’s walking distance from the Central Station which makes it a super convenient place to stay.
The Rydges Sydney Central is just minutes away from the Central Station that makes it so convenient for both access tot he Airport and literally to any attraction in the city.
Peaceful and quiet. Clean room and nice large well organised rooms. Add a friendly stuff and you can get it wrong.
The Shakespeare Hotel is one of the cheapest hotels in Sydney I think. I stayed there a couple of times and I was pleased with my time. The rooms are on the third levels of a pub that closes at 10pm. This means that the night is quiet and easy. The rooms have a shared bathroom which I found in both occasions clean.
The location is perfect too, close to the Central Station and to the cafes and restaurants of King Street.
This is the coolest area to be, you will experience the best of the local Sydney life.
It’s around 4 km from the CBD however it is very well connected with frequent trains that will take you to Circular Quay in minutes.
It’s also super convenient if you fly in. The airport is so close that you better take a taxi, it’s much quicker and cheaper too.
Live music is another constant presence in the area with bands in pubs, mostly in the weekends, and theatres with a great line-up of famous names.
The first part of King Street, from the Victoria Park till the station, has some amazing Thai and Asia restaurants, supposedly the best in Sydney
If you are after middle east food then head to Enmore Road or King Street, after the station, towards Sydney Park.
Fashionable cafes are everywhere, meters from each other.
You will hardly experience any tourist here. This is the place to experience the local Sydney life.
The Billabong Gardens is my favourite hostel in Sydney. It is so laid back, very economical and in a perfect location.
They have two buildings. The main one with a tiny pool right in the middle. This tends to be used by the younger crowd. The other building, called St Kilda, is an old Victorian style house and it is my favourite. Ask for the room on the first floor. You are going to share the bathroom only with another bedroom.
The Urban is the alternative with a beautiful interior design that comes at an higher price, I add here well worth the extra bucks.
The location is just perfect, on Enmore Road, 3 minutes walking to the train station. A ticket to the CBD is around $2 and the trip last 5-7 minutes. Very convenient.
Enmore Road is one of my favourite place for middle east food. I suggest The Sultan’s Table. It’s always full and there is a good reason for that. The dip plate is to die for.
Paddington is a fascinating are of well refurbished terrace houses, trendy boutiques, cosy restaurants and cafes, niche art galleries and a few bookshops.
Add the biggest park in Sydney, the Centennial Park, and leafy streets everywhere.
This area reaches its best on Saturdays with the Paddington Markets next to the lovely Uniting Church.
Peaceful and arty are the two words that come to my mind when someone ask me about Paddington.
It is located just between the CBD and Bondi beach which can makes it convenient if you plan to visit both. Busses run continuously on Oxford Street however they can be quite full during business hours and slowed down by the city traffic too.
Of all of the areas in this post, Paddington is probably the one that is less convenient for transportation and it will take you more time to move around.
This is more of a residential are and it’s rare you can actually find an hotel. This is somehow goodnews because, if you stay in Paddington, you will be very likely to experience some time as the locals do.
The Hughenden Boutique Hotel is a refurbished old Victorian building in Woollahra, right on the border with Paddington.
It is literally surrounded by art galleries and exhibitions. If you go to a news store you can buy the Art What’s on magazine to see if there is any opening night in the area, usually on Thursday night.
It’s also so close to Centennial Park, the place to in the weekend to do, or watch, any kind of sport.
The Residences Centennial Park is the most unique accommodation you can have in Sydney. These are the two houses originally used by the rangers in charge of the Centennial Park.
They have been tastefully renovated in a Victoria style. They have an amazing view and you will almost feel to be in the outback although you are right in the center of the most populated city in Australia
They are ideal for big families or with friends because they include 3 or 4 bedrooms.
Let me start with the bad news first. It is not conveniently connected to Sydney. You need to take a bus and a train. It will take time to go to most of the attractions.
In saying that, if you plan to stay 5-7 days in Sydney and you want to mix some beach life with some museums, and other places to visit, then Bondi could be the solution.
Worthless to say that the beach is just magnificent and that is why it is so popular.
If you are into surfing you can rent a board or take few lessons. If you want to have a quiet swim you can visit one of the many swimming pool built into the rocks in one of the many small bays so close to Bondi.
Do not miss the great walk from Bondi to Coogee beach, back by public bus. You will experience one of the best coastal walk in Australia. Moreover you will go through the incredible Waverley Cemetery, overlooking the Ocean. Really unique.
The QT Bondi is really an unbeatable hotel. Positioned just meters away from the beach, it offers some of the easiest, however beautiful, interior design. It’s really a pleasure to spend few days here.
Every room includes all the appliances that you will need. Neat and clean with a tasteful,modern and functional decor. If you need, you can even leave for few days, free of charge, your luggage (in case you plan a short trip somewhere)
The Adina Apartment is a good alternative. Located very close to QT Bondi and the beach it offers studios and 2 bedrooms apartments with all you need for a long stay, ideal for a week or more.
Also in this case, the interior design is curated down to the details. A gym and a swimming pool are also available.
The Bondi Beachouse YHA is the choice for a short, or long, stay in Bondi on a budget. Located in an art deco building, the hostel offers shared and rpivate rooms.
The view from the rooms can be really magnificent. The common kitched is probably under dimensioned for the number of customers, and this is something that they are working on.
Is Manly the alternative beach to Bondi? I am not sure about that. I personally prefer Manly to Bondi, however it must be said that the beach is not as dramatic.
Why do I like so much Manly?
Because of many reasons:
There is only a small drawback. It’s far away from the Airport although not as complicated to arrive. Take a direct train from the Airport to Circular Quay and the Ferry from there. It should take around one hour, based on connection time.
You go to the Manly Paradise Motel for the amazing position, just facing the beach and the ocean. Just imagine yourself with a beer or a glass of wine on the balcony watching the last surfers coming out of the sea.
It is so closed to all the restaurants and bars. A 20 minutes walk along the coast to Shelly beach for some time in the quiet water
The Quest Manly is also in an amazing location, however this time facing the bay. You are a stone away from the beach and a perfect place to enjoy the sun going down on the horizon.
And, if you have still some energies, have a look at the gym with the sauna, quite pleasant on some cold winter days.
The ferry station is as close as just a 3 minutes walk
The Q Station is one of the best value accommodation in Sydney. It is located in the Sydney Harbour National Park with a private beach available for the guests. It’s a resort on its own in a beautifully restored old building.
If isolation is your thing then Q Station is the place to be.
The Ferry station is a 25-30 minutes walk from the hotel. There is also an available hourly bus that takes just 5 minutes.
You have here a vast choice,really, and that’s another beautiful thing to stay in the CBD. Add also that with a ferry with Circular Quay you can quickly visit any place in the bay.
These are just few of the interesting sites. You can see a full list on the Sydney Tourism Board.
When in this are I suggest a visit to one of the many galleries. This is a list which includes also few in Alexandria, bordering Surry Hills
If you need free internet access or you just want to have some reading time, you can visit the local gallery on Crown Street.