Where to stay in Sydney? Well, just like Melbourne, Sydney has plenty of choices when it comes to somewhere to check in — boutique hotels, flashy five stars, backpacker hostels, and, of course, apartment rentals, serviced apartments and apart-hotels.
Just as we did in Melbourne, we got to try a huge range of accommodation over a couple of recent trips to Sydney too. We’ll review our pick of the best Sydney apartment rentals here and the Sydney boutique hotels and Sydney luxury hotels we tested out in our next posts.
It probably never needs to be said again here, but apartment rentals will always be our preference when it comes to digs if we’re in a place for more than a few days, even when that place happens to be our hometown.
As fans of slow, local and experiential travel, we like to be able to settle into a place for a while and want to know we can shop the markets and do some cooking if it takes our fancy. At the very least, we want a fridge where we can keep some cheese and olives and chill some bottles of Aussie wine.
Now it must be said that accommodation in Sydney — and Australia as a whole — can be expensive. There are few bargains to be had, even when it comes to apartments. But at least with apartments you can save money by occasionally cooking in or bunking down with family and friends — and we’ve also got some great tips for doing Sydney on a Budget.
Where to Stay in Sydney — Best Sydney Apartment Rentals, Serviced Apartments and Apart-Hotels
FRASER SUITES, SYDNEY CBD
We have to confess that the initial appeal of Fraser Suites was its handy Kent Street location opposite Tetsuya’s where we had an afternoon photo shoot and interview with Tets scheduled, followed by dinner later that night; we’ll tell you about that in another post. After that, it was the general neighbourhood that attracted us.
This is one of our favourite parts of the CBD. It’s a one-minute walk to Sydney’s Sussex Street Spanish quarter, centred on the Spanish Club, a tiny enclave where Sydney’s Spanish and Latin American communities have congregated for half a century, that’s still home to a handful of traditional tapas bars. And then it’s two more minutes stroll to Chinatown.
Superb location aside, these are some of the most stylish apartments we’ve ever stayed and we’ve checked into hundreds of rentals over the years. Designed by illustrious architects Foster+Partners and decorated by award-winning local interior design firm RLD, renowned for chic, sleek contemporary designs that still have warmth, these are very modish digs.
The striking 42-storey tower has a grand, glam lobby that wouldn’t be out of place in Dubai; a 200sqm gym and 20m lap pool we were too busy to try; and 201 self-contained studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, and very posh duplex penthouse apartments. So this is in no way intimate apartment accommodation.
The ‘suites’ as they like to call them are more spacious than most hotel suites with very generous living and dining areas, ample study space, and a well-equipped kitchenette with fridge, toaster, kettle, quality bone china and good glassware, and terrific stainless steel appliances. You’ll also find the usual high-tech extras you expect at this level: high-speed broadband Internet, flat-screen TVs with cable, and DVD player.
Our only quibble would be that there’s only a microwave and no proper stove, making this an unsuitable apartment if you want to cook. Having said that, Tetsuya’s is across the road and this area has an abundance of affordable ethnic eats.
Book Fraser Suites Sydney online with our booking partner Booking.com.
ASTRAL RESIDENCES, PYRMONT
These spacious apartments at The Star casino and entertainment complex may not be as sleek as Fraser Suites nor as stylish as the new boutique hotel at The Star called The Darling, but they are super-comfortable and offer some of the most spectacular views of Sydney CBD’s skyline that you’ll find in the city.
The apartments are a bit drab décor-wise, furnished in creams and beiges, but there are comfy sofas and dining tables large enough to host a dinner party and a proper kitchen big enough to cook for one. There are snug separate bedrooms and decent-sized bathrooms, plus laundry facilities, something a lot of apartments in Australia neglect to provide. While Fraser Suites is more fashionable, these are more functional.
The casino location won’t suit everyone. There was a noisy girls getaway underway down the hall, an even rowdier boy’s night out in another apartment nearby, and some dodgy-looking ‘businessmen’ with skimpily clad ‘girlfriends’ slipping in and out of rooms during our stay. None of which bothered us at all — in fact it gives the place the kind of Vegas-ness you expect a casino to have — but it might not appeal to families with small kids.
While we’re not particularly fond of nearby Darling Harbour, we do like Pyrmont, which has really developed in a positive way since we’ve lived away. It’s home to beautifully renovated finger wharves, waterfront parks, a farmer’s market, and Sydney Fish Markets.
It’s a short but pleasant amble across the bridge over Cockle Bay to the heart of the city or a ten-minute stroll through Darling Harbour to Harmarket and Chinatown, and you can also hop on the light rail, which will take you to Glebe (my home during my uni days) and beyond to Rozelle and Lilyfield.
Or you can just kick back at The Star, which, in addition to the casino has a theatre, a half-decent shopping centre, and good restaurants, including David Chang’s Momofuku Seiōbo, and Chase Kojima’s Sokyo.
Book Astral Tower and Residences at The Star online with our booking partner Booking.com.
ADINA APARTMENTS, SURRY HILLS
Slap bang on Crown Street in the centre of Surry Hills, one of our favourite inner-city Sydney neighbourhoods, the Adina Apartments are ideally placed for visiting foodies, barflies and fashionistas.
One of Sydney’s best restaurants, Marque, is downstairs, and there are a dozen other superb restaurants within a kilometer or so. Long a city of ceramic-tiled pubs, Sydney now has a flourishing small bar scene, but in Surry Hills you get the best of both worlds, its hilly streets dotted with some of Sydney’s most local watering holes, while laneways hide dimly-lit wine bars.
Crown Street is also the spot to head for vintage clothes, as well as offbeat fashion and handcrafted jewellery, and fascinating shops selling everything from Mexican curios to recycled stationery. And there’s even more to explore in the adjacent precincts: Waterloo and Redfern to the south and Darlinghurst and Paddington to the north.
If it sounds like you’re not going to spend much time in your apartment if you stay here, you’re probably right, but that would be a shame, as the area is also home to some of Sydney’s best gourmet shops, including Bourke Street Bakery (for artisanal bread naturally), Formaggi Ocello (for cheese of course), Pasta Emilia (handmade pasta) and Single Origin Roasters (sustainable coffee).
If they don’t tempt you to stay in and cook up a feast in the fantastic kitchen — this is one of the few apartments we’ve stayed in Australia that actually comes with a proper stove with oven — nothing will. Need further enticement? Hudson Meats offers in-room dining packages delivered to your door, from a breakfast package that includes free range eggs, bacon, tomato and mushrooms, to dinner packages, including grass-fed steaks and vegetables. We tried them and they were brilliant; more on that soon too.
The apartments are chic, spacious and bright, with bold neutral colours enlivened by bold accents. The furniture is casual and contemporary, with big modular lounges and funky dining tables and chairs, and there are helpful extras like an iron boarding and iron, and laundry facilities.
Try to book an interior apartment with a balcony, which boasts views of the stunning swimming pool and leafy gardens. If you’re as busy as we were that view is probably as close as you’re going to get!
Book Adina Apartment Hotel Sydney, Crown Street online with our booking partner Booking.com.
* We experienced the apartments above for magazine stories on Sydney and were hosted by the accommodation. Opinions are our own, obviously.