Set high above the throng, the Sofitel is the new five-star face of the Darling Harbour tourist precinct. While it's koala souvenirs and fish 'n' chips outside, inside is an alternative universe where greetings are in French and the white-marble lobby is sweetly scented and lit by candles. Upstairs is a Champagne bar, an infinity pool that appears to flow into the harbour and 590 serene rooms and suites. Full-length views of the city skyline and harbour dominate, though there's attention to detail in plush sandstone-veined carpets, heavy timber columns, maritime photographs and leather detailing inspired by vintage luggage. The tranquillity will be complete when a huge aquarium is unveiled in the lobby.
Though too small for energetic lapping, the 20-metre infinity pool on level four is perfectly formed for scenic dipping and positioned for Insta-ready posing.
Hotel gyms are often relegated to spare-room real estate, in the basement or squeezed into awkward spaces. Not here. A phalanx of cardio and weight machines is lined up at floor-to-ceiling windows facing Darling Harbour and the city skyline.
Start the day with wraparound harbour views and a cut-above buffet breakfast ($40, continental $34) in Atelier by Sofitel. The distances between food stations demand a plan of attack so your espresso doesn't cool while you're browsing baskets of fresh pastries, ordering eggs or waffles, or ladling congee and condiments
As the sun sets and the cityscape lights up, settle in at the Champagne Bar with a glass from the long list of mainly marquee Champagnes. The house pour, a 2009 Louis Roederer, is a good place to start.
This review was made independently for the Gourmet Traveller Hotel Guide. The guide's reviewers visit unannounced and pay their way.