For those who adore elegant, intimate boutique hotels, The Observatory is the perfect fit. Part of the Orient-Express Hotels & Resort collection, this 100-room property (pictured) oozes warmth and charm; some say it is reminiscent of a 19th century Australian mansion. I've no way to verify this of course, but I do know that I loved the Observatory's cozy, residential-style suites, with custom mahogany furnishings & huge marble baths. The hotel's Day Spa is one of the best in the city, with La Prairie treatments and a heated indoor swimming pool. The impeccable service & ultra-friendly staff stand out as a reason to return, and for me (and those who enjoy a quiet, peaceful setting), the less than 10-minute walk to City Center was a great way to burn off the hotel's amazing & hearty Australian "continental" breakfast (which could go down as one of the best hotel breakfasts I've ever had!).
Travelers who like to stay right in the middle of the city, within just a few steps of the action (ie, shops, restaurants, bars, Circular Quay, the Opera House, Botanic Gardens, the ferries & more) can't do much better than the Four Seasons Sydney. Formerly the Regent Hotel, the 531-room Four Seasons Sydney is fresh from a room renovation that completely transformed the original rooms & suites into sleek, modern settings with chic furnishings and a bevy of high-tech accoutrements (loved the oversized flat screen in my harbor view corner room!). While in house, I learned that the huge lobby/public space and the restaurants are gearing up for a total redo as well--set for completion before this year's end. Four Seasons Sydney gets my vote for having the most comfortable beds in Sydney, and if you book into a corner room, also the BEST harbour views. Nothing like watching the sunrise over the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge also in view! Most impressive, though, was the kindness of Sam at the front desk who sent complimentary chicken noodle soup up to my room when he learned from my travel pal that I was not feeling well). It's these little things that we notice--and remember--long after our stay in a great hotel.
Fans of hip & trendy boutique hotels will no doubt enjoy Blue, a Taj Hotel located on the Wharf at Woolloomooloo (steps from the famous Harry's Cafe on Wheels and a short cab ride or walk to King's Cross or City Center). The former W Sydney, the 100-room Blue Hotel is part of the much larger Wharf complex which includes trendy indoor/outdoor restaurants (like China Doll & Otto's), a Chakra Spa, apartments (including Russell Crowe's waterfront penthouse) and a full-service marina. The hotel's "blue" theme carries through to the accent colors in the sparse-yet-chic rooms to the bag of all-blue M&Ms in the mini-bar. We prefer the rooms and loft suite on the hotel's western side, as they afford the best views of the marina and city skyline.
Regardless of whether you are staying at Blue, be sure to check out The Water Bar, named "Bar of the Year" by the Sydney Morning Herald and "One of the top 10 bars in the world" by Condé Nast Traveler. (FYI: The hotel is also just across the water from my favorite yoga studio in Sydney, Yoga BC (http://www.yogabc.net/).
Unfortunately, I only had time for three hotel stays on this weeklong Sydney trip or I would have certainly booked a few nights (instead of just stopping by for an amazing lunch) at the newly renovated, harbourfront Park Hyatt Sydney. I'd have also tried the Diamant, the former Millennium Hotel now run by Eight Hotels which has been getting rave reviews from the style & design-conscious fashion/music crowd.
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