Yes, The Darling is part of The Star casino complex, but it exists within its own glamorous galaxy. Easy access to good restaurants, just beyond the lobby, is part of the deal, most notably Barbadian-flavoured Momofuku Seiobo.
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, (02) 9777 9000, thedarling.com.au
Establishment Hotel Sydney
Accessed via a gritty city alley, The Establishment is an in-the-know secret that largely bypasses the suited crowd in the rowdy bar. Order room service from Mr Wong, Dan Hong's buzzy Cantonese restaurant around the corner, or set off on foot to explore the rest of the Merivale entertainment empire - there are nine bars and restaurants in the hotel complex.
5 Bridge La, Sydney, (02) 9240 3100, merivale.com.au
Position, position, position. Intercontinental Sydney's dress-circle location has always been chief among its assets. Along with one of the most impressive views in town, the hotel is in close proximity to the Botanic Garden, ferries and everything else Sydney has to offer.
117 Macquarie St, Sydney, (02) 9253 9000, icsydney.com.au
The Langham Sydney
The pink taxi parked in front of The Langham hails from London, but inside the hotel the vibe leans more Parisian salon. The hotel even has its own private art collection, curated in collaboration with Sotheby's no less.
89-113 Kent St, Sydney, (02) 9256 2222, langhamhotels.com
The Old Clare Hotel
Everything old is new again and, in the case of The Old Clare Hotel, it just gets better with age. The grungy Clare pub and adjacent Carlton United Brewery building were transformed in 2015 into a 62-room oasis in buzzing Chippendale. Expect superior dining, art and shopping options on the doorstep, character in spades, and friendly staff.
1 Kensington St, Chippendale, (02) 8277 8277, theoldclarehotel.com.au
There's an Alice in Wonderland feel to this 1915 wharf conversion – it's old but it's new, it's big but manages to operate on a human scale. Tying it all together is the unmatchable view.
6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo, (02) 9331 9000, ovolohotels.com.au
Paramount House Hotel
Winner - 2018 Hotel of the Year
It takes a village to make a great hotel. Paramount House Hotel, winner of our 2018 Hotel Awards, is a handsome conversion of a former film-storage warehouse, its 29 rooms and lofts bearing a relaxed, lived-in style that favours comfort over design statements.
80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills, (02) 9211 1222, paramounthousehotel.com
Sparkling and abuzz with ferries and cruise ships, Sydney Harbour unfurls in front of the Park Hyatt like its own private playground. Inside, the décor is modern and muted, a smart backdrop for Australian artworks. Comfort and elegance are the focus in guestrooms, with spacious marble bathrooms and balconies with oversized sunloungers. In a city besotted by property value and location, this is a most spectacular address.
7 Hickson Rd, The Rocks, (02) 9256 1234, sydney.park.hyatt.com
Pier One Sydney Harbour
As one of only two wharf hotels in the city, there are few more spectacular or affordable places to stay and play by the harbour. Make the most of it by taking breakfast with views at The Gantry's waterside tables, or settle later pier-side with a burger or ribs from the food truck on site. Inside, the handsome industrial bones of this old finger wharf set a nautical vibe in white, light-filled, unfussy rooms with city or (more) harbour views.
11 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay, (02) 8298 9999, pieronesydneyharbour.com.au
If you loathe beige hotels, you'll love the QT. From door staff wearing fiery red wigs and leather, to the video installations at reception and walls of suitcases in the lobby, the QT is one big performance. Rooms and corridors can be dark but strategically placed mirrors and lighting render them dramatic, and furnishings are bright and modern. Remnant Art Deco features, including floorboards and stairwell signage to the now-defunct dressmakers' workshop, lend character.
49 Market St, Sydney, (02) 8262 0000, qthotelsandresorts.com
It's a front-row seat to Sydney's sparkling harbour at Shangri-La Sydney, whether from a window seat in your room or a velvet couch at Blu Bar on 36. Harbour vistas are viewed from serene, uncommonly spacious rooms finished in light timbers and neutral tones, with marble here's even deeper relaxation in store on the second floor, which houses a modest indoor pool and a day spa.
176 Cumberland St, The Rocks, (02) 9250 6000, shangri-la.com/sydney
Sheraton on the Park
Fresh from a $45 million head-to-toe makeover, the grande dame of Elizabeth Street once again reigns over Hyde Park. This is a proudly full-service five-star, so expect porters to wrangle luggage, superior housekeeping and room service, and generous meals in Feast restaurant, where big breakfasts segue into extravagant seafood buffets.
161 Elizabeth St, Sydney, (02) 9286 6000, sheratonontheparksydney.com
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
Set high above the throng, the Sofitel is the new five-star face of the Darling Harbour tourist precinct. Step into 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.
12 Darling Dr, Sydney, (02) 8388 8888, sofitelsydneydarlingharbour.com
Spicers Potts Point
Spicers Potts Point is an inner-city sanctuary of 20 rooms ranging from studio-style queen rooms to the urban glamour of Victoria terrace suites. The décor is cool and calming – bleached oaks, greys and creams enlivened by Martine Emdur's paintings of submerged Sydney swimmers. The welcome is gracious; luggage is spirited away, guests are given a "passport" loaded with local tips and treated to cocktails and canapés each evening at the reception bar. A home away from home.
120-124 Victoria St, Potts Point, (02) 9357 3200, spicersretreats.com
West Hotel Sydney
The grace notes in this new-build hotel by Hilton's Curio Collection are botanical: a striking white-waratah motif in the lobby, a garden atrium, leaf-patterned carpets and native flowers throughout. On the CBD's western edge and close to Barangaroo, the hotel has a façade clad in geometric wall panels that create the look of a faceted jewel, and these panels frame big windows in 182 jewel-toned rooms and suites.
65 Sussex St, Sydney, (02) 8297 6500, westhotel.com.au
The Westin Sydney
It's all about location at the Sydney outpost of the Westin empire. Housed within the heritage-listed sandstone walls of the former GPO building, guests couldn't be more CBD-central. To get a feel for this exceptional building, upgrade to an aptly named Heritage room, carved into the building's original contours and kitted out in antiques.
1 Martin Pl, Sydney, (02) 8223 1111, westin.com