Last updated on February 29, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sydney

Where to stay in Sydney CBD

I have been visiting Sydney on a regular basis for the last 15 years.  I love it so much

The centre of the city is unusually very long and wide, no wonder you may find it difficult to understand where to stay in Sydney CBD (Central Business District)

There are areas that work great with families, others that have one of the best views in the world and others that come really cheap (for Sydney standards)

In this guide, I will tell you more about the best areas to stay in Sydney CBD based on your type of trip, this could be a long holiday, a short stay or a business trip.

And if you still have a question, feel free to leave a comment. I usually reply in no time.

Let’s get into it

You can read also

One of my favourite Top spot for landscape photography in Sydney
View of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the Botanical Garden

Where to stay in Sydney CBD for an amazing view or a cheap stay- in a nutshell

The CBD 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.

The Rocks is the oldest part of the city, a beautiful place to stay and sure to visit. You can even explore the houses of the first settlers.

In the map below I subdivided the Sydney CBD into 5 areas.

They have their own vibe and they tend to cater to different kind of travellers, either for business or leisure.

Best areas to stay in Sydney CBD
Best areas to stay in Sydney CBD (High Res Map) – © OpenStreetMap contributors
  • Where to stay in Sydney CBD with family: the best is around Darling Harbour. It’s a beautiful pedestrian area, so easy to move around with kids. You will be also close to 2 train stations, so convenient if you are flying in. It’s also within walking distance to the Central Station. 
  • Where to stay in Sydney CBD cheap: Central Station has the highest concentration of hostels. This is where you will get the cheapest beds in the CBD and Sydney. It’s conveniently located close to transportation and just 7 minutes by metro to Circular Quay
  • Best place to stay for the view: Circular Quay is unbeatable. From a few hotels, you can have a view of the Sydney Harbour, the bridge and the Opera House. So spectacular and unique. The Rocks has also accommodations with an incredible view of the Opera House but not the bridge.
  • Best area for nightlife: Friday is the biggest night. That’s when everyone from the office goes to the pub and from there they move on to the rooftops and a few clubs. The Centre of the Sydney CBD is ideal because you will be a short walk from most of the places. I also suggest staying close to Central Station. From there you will be a short walk to the famous bars and clubs of Oxford Street. Such great fun there. A never-ending night
  • Ideal place to stay for a business trip: the Centre works very well. It’s busy with traffic at all times of the day, however, most of the good hotels have double-glazed windows. You will be also a few hundred meters from the Botanical Garden in case you love starting your day with some jogging
  • Where to stay for couples: The Rocks is the most romantic and charming area of the Sydney CBD. It’s like stepping back in time, especially after dark when most of the day-travellers leave and the small lanes get almost empty. You are also a short walk to Circular Quay and the ferries to Manly and the other beaches in the Sydney Harbour. Circular Quay is instead the best option for a unique view.
  • Where to stay in Sydney CBD for New Year Eve: The biggest party is in Darling Harbour. It’s packed everywhere. Plenty of bars and clubs to spend the night and fireworks as well. You will need to book your stay very well in advance. If you can’t find anything, stay in the Centre instead, only 15-20 minutes by foot away
  • Best place to stay in Sydney CBD for 1 night: Stay anywhere close to the Metro station for easy access to the airport. If you stay in the Central Station area you will have more transportation options.
  • Best area to stay before a cruise: the Passenger Terminal is right in front of The Rocks and next to Circular Quay. Both areas work great, so much easier because you will not need to take a taxi or the metro.
  • Quietest part to stay in the CBD: the Centre and the Central Station are the busiest parts, with plenty of traffic, except at the weekend. Circular Quay and Darling Harbour are the quietest part with almost no traffic (it depends on where you book your accommodation). The Rocks is also very good, except if you stay too close to the Highway/Bridge.
  • Best Tours and activities in the CBDThe Harbour Bridge Climb is an experience to remember for a very long time, certainly unique. The view from the top is spectacular. The Sydney Opera Tour will give you in one hour all you need to know and see about this iconic landmark. For a special dinner, you should check out Dine above Sydney, for a lovely meal on the rotating top floor of the Sydney Tower
Contrast of new and old architecture in the centre of the Sydney CBD
Contrast of new and old architecture in the centre of the Sydney CBD

The 5 areas to stay in Sydney CBD

The Rocks (charming and romantic with a view)

This is the first European settlement in Australia.

The Rocks is so beautiful, full of narrow alleys, small lanes and gardens.

Wondering around The Rocks is like walking in an open-air museum.

It’s so romantic and charming at the same time. A place you want to get lost with your partner.

The old warehouses of the Nineteenth century have been converted today into galleries and restaurants.

Enjoy the oldest pubs in the city, the picturesque markets at the weekend and my beloved Museum of Contemporary Art.

For a stay, check out the Rydges Sydney Harbour right in the heart of The Rocks.

The view from the rooftop is amazing, especially from the pool, great for those hot days (see photos here)

Rooms are spacious and, considering the position, great value too.

Check price at Rydges

If you are after a unique experience you may want to check the Park Hyatt Hotel.

This 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 (see photos here).

The rooms are spacious and you will have also a pool, of course with the best view

Check your dream hotel availability

Park Hyatt hotel
Park Hyatt Hotel

Being at the Rocks means you will be meters away from the Harbour Bridge that links the Central Business District of Sydney to the North Shore over the bay.

It was built in the 1920s and it’s used by trains, cars, bicycles and pedestrians, each one with its own lane.

It is also possible to climb it, a great 3-hours experience.

Next to the Passengers Terminal, you will also find the Museum of Contemporary Art, one of my beloved Sydney museums.

It is the only one in Australia that exhibits contemporary art of national and international artists (10am to 5pm)

You will find also so many traditional restaurants and pubs.

Some of them have also great live music, especially on the weekend. These are a few of my favourites:

  • The Australian Heritage: it has over 100 years of history, very traditional and friendly. Basic pub food, however, you come here for the place and drinks more than the food
  • The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel: this is one of the hidden gems of Sydney. Difficult to find it if you are not looking for it. Great food, an amazing historic landmark and, best of all, fantastic beer locally produced. All at an awesome price. Indeed, I visit it quite often myself 🙂
  • Munich Brauhaus @ The Rocks: if you are after some exotic food…German sausages and schnitzels with German beer obviously
  • The Glenmore Hotel: my favourite end-of-the-day drinks place. The rooftop is really a special place to be. Spare 1 hour or so for a beer here. Walk up to the top floor and experience the amazing view, from the Harbour Bridge to Manly
Sunset on the Opera House
Sunset on the Opera House

Circular Quay (best view, couples)

This is where you can have the best view of the iconic attractions of the city: the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

It’s a very handy area too because there is a metro station for direct access to the airport.

Direct busses to Bondi Beach leave from the small square.

Moreover, all the Sydney Harbour ferries start from here. So you can be in no time to places like Manly, very practical.

It’s a quiet area, especially on the weekend. 

It’s also ideal for couples to have a romantic walk along the waterline, the Botanical Garden or get lost in The Rocks.

The Pullman Quay has one of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, full window, really unique (see photos here)

Besides having spacious rooms they provide also access to a pool and a gym

Check availability at Pullman Quay

The Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel has a great location with few rooms overseeing the bay, the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge (see photos here).

It’s so close to the ferry and train station that will make any sort of trips very convenient.

Expect the great service provided by one of the leading world hotel chains. 

Check availability now

Sydney Hotel CBD
Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel

Once in Circular Quay, you must explore the Sydney Opera House, open in 1973, one of the most original and significant architectural projects of the last century.

It was planned by a company called ARUP under the guidance of the Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

It has a controversial history with the Sydney Council not happy about the work and eventually asking the architect to leave.

It is now one of the first tourist attractions and probably the symbol of the city.

You will also have access to the Botanical Garden and the Government House.

Entrance is free and there is a guide that will guide you through this landmark explaining also how the political system works in Australia.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is the place to be at sunset.

You will have an amazing view of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House

For drinks and casual food, you should go to Opera Bar. There is always a great atmosphere with a good mix of local and tourist crowd.

For the most impressive view go to the Altitude Restaurant where you can experience a fusion cuisine based on multiple tasting dishes.

The Sydney CBD, view from the Opera House
The Sydney CBD, view from the Opera House

Darling Harbour (families, quiet, close to many bars and restaurants)

This is my favourite area when I travel with my little kid.

There is a great choice of bars/restaurants facing the water.

Most of the hotels are on the back, still with a great view, but very quiet.

The whole area is pedestrian and there is a big playground for the kids to get wild.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a lovely quiet place to explore with fountains and little fish pools.

For the bigger kids, you have the Aquarium, the Maritime Museum (with access to a submarine), the Wild Life Zoo and the Shark Dive Xtreme for the most adventurous children.

The Novotel has one of the best views of Darling Harbour and the CBD skyline (see photos here).

The rooms are spacious and the breakfast to die for, with a great choice for everyone.

Check availability at Novotel

View from the Novotel window - so magical at night
View from the Novotel window – so magical at night

For lunch or dinner, you may check out the Watershed Hotel, a nice pub facing the water with a good selection of beers.

For a special night out, you should book a table at Zaaffran, one of the best Indian restaurants in Australia.

Centre (business trip, nightlife)

This is a very wide area that covers most of the central part of the CBD.

This is where most of the offices are, very busy during the day but much quieter after dinner.

This is the perfect place to stay in Sydney CBD if you are on a business trip.

You will be also close to the beautiful Botanical Garden in case you want to do some jogging. 

Nike used to meet at 6pm for a complimentary group run (check the website to verify the meeting place)

There are some bars popular with after-work drinks and a few amazing rooftops in the area.

You will be also close to the (in)famous Oxford Street (if staying around Hyde Park), with many clubs and bars open till late.

One of the most convenient and great value accommodation in this area is the Sydney Hotel CBD, just minutes from everything and at a bargain price for Sydney standards.

The staff is very friendly and the hotel is within walking distance from Central Station, Darling Harbour and lots of shopping areas, including the market in China Town.

Check now the best price

The Sydney Tower between old and new buildings of the central area
The Sydney Tower between old and new buildings of the central area

In the area, you will also find the Sydney Tower, also called Center Point Tower, one of the tallest buildings in Australia.

It was planned and built to give a 360 degrees view of the city.

You can book a table also at the restaurants on the top 2 spinning floors, a unique experience.

If you made it to Sydney then you should add to your bucket list also the Hyde Park House, a pub with a lovely and charming rooftop and a great view of the city night skyline.

Central Station (budget, nightlife, practical)

In this area, you can find the highest concentration of hostels and cheap accommodations.

It’s very practical because of the many trains that can take you to the airport, and vice versa.

It’s an ideal area, for example, if you have an early flight in the morning, or you think to spend just 1 night in the city.

You are also a short walk to Surry Hills for some of the best cafes and boutique bars in Sydney.

Walk a few meters more and you will be in the Oxford Street neighbourhood where the nightlife never stops

And for dinner go to Chinatown, very characteristic and with many restaurants offering great value meals.

Talking of budget accommodations, the Sydney Central Inn is unbeatable in price.

It’s cheap, with comfortable beds and with clean toilettes/kitchen, really all you need.

Check price at the Inn

The Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar is one of the best values in the are and possibly in the CBD.

The rooms are ginormous and the location is great, next to Hyde Park and meters from Oxford Street and the Metro Station.

Check price at Stellar

Central station - At the platform waiting for the train to the Airport
Central station – At the platform waiting for the train to the Airport

For some great Asian food, you should visit Chin Chin, so tasty and great value too.

Another place I would suggest is Camy’s for its fabulous chargrill chicken.

Other neighbourhoods outside the Sydney CBD

Here is a quick list of my other favourite neighbourhoods in Sydney. For more information, you can read my extensive guide to the best areas of Sydney.

  • Darling Harbour: this is a little bay directly connected to the CBD (walking distance). The view is magnificent and you have plenty of restaurant and pub options next door. The best place in Sydney to relax, just grab a drink and enjoy the nice breeze
  • Darlinghurst: the most famous area of Sydney for nightlife and bars. It can be overwhelming, sometimes too much, however, it’s ideal if you plan to have some late nights. Just make sure to book the hotel on a quiet street.
  • Surry Hills: this is the trendy and arty area of Sydney. It’s all about being local, visit the boutique restaurants, enjoy brekky at the fashionable cafe, visit a few stylish furniture shops
  • Paddington: it is the upper-class area of the city, with some amazing art centres and small exhibitions (the Australian Photography Centre is my favourite). It’s a short bus ride to the beach which is quite handy in summer
  • Newtown: the coolest area with plenty of live music options. It has some great grunge restaurants, especially with Middle East cuisine. It’s also very close to the airport (really a short taxi ride, same cost as public transportation)
  • Bondi: the worldwide famous beach, the place to see and be seen. In winter Bondi can be quite nostalgic, however, in summer it becomes the most popular beach in Australia. Probably not the best place to stay, unless you are into surfing, but surely a place to visit. 
  • Manly: the alternative beach, almost a sleepy village, less touristic than Bondi, more authentically Australian. Transportation from the CBD is very quick (15mins by fast ferry or 30 minutes with the regular service) and this is a great advantage if you plan to spend most of the time at the beach with a few excursions to the major attractions. 

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Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

1 thought on “Where to stay in Sydney CBD [and what to avoid]”

  1. Sydney is a wonderful place to shop and try different activities, but you need to please your taste buds as well. I was not sure about the best places to eat in Sydney. This post has resolved my problem. I like to eat and I love trying different types of cuisines, snacks, drinks, etc. I like Italian food and I will give a try to Italian restaurant. I also read about the Urban Eatery & Cafe in Broadbeach, wish to go there. So I will try that too. Well, thank you for this post.

    Reply

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