Sydney is an enormous city – much bigger than most people realise, in fact. It’s about 60 kilometres from one side to the other and can take a couple of hours to drive across (even without bad traffic).
It’s why I think choosing where to stay in Sydney can be really important, because you don’t want to end up a long way from all the things you’re planning to do.
The good news, though, is that many of the things that will interest tourists are close to the Central Business District and the majority of accommodation is either there or in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
But each of these neighbourhoods has its own character, and each has pros and cons when choosing the best places to stay in Sydney. Giving it a bit of thought before you book could save you a lot of hassle for your trip.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to offer some advice on the best areas to stay in Sydney, plus some tips on the best Sydney hotels.
Best places to stay in Sydney
As I mentioned, there are quite a few areas to stay in Sydney and choosing the best one for you will come down to a mixture of factors like transport options, atmosphere, and preference for particular hotels.
So you can see how they fit into the broader layout of Sydney, I’ve marked the neighbourhoods I’m going to talk about on this map
To get a sense of where you’ll find hotels within these areas, and the prices for the days you’re thinking of visiting, you can use this interactive map of accommodation in Sydney
So, let’s now have a look at each of these neighbourhoods to choose the best area to stay in Sydney for your trip.
When you’re ready to start planning your activities, check out my story on the best museums in Sydney.
Ok, if you think you’ve found where to stay in Sydney, then it’s time to choose your accommodation. Let’s get into my top suggestions for each neighbourhood.
Central Business District
Sydney’s Central Business District (usually just called the CBD), is like the middle of a wheel, with spokes heading out across the city in every direction. This makes it the most convenient place to base yourself if you’re planning to do a lot of exploring around Sydney (plus many of the main sights are here anyway).
Another benefit is that there are a lot of accommodation options in Sydney’s CBD, including some of the top hotels – but most accommodation here tends to be either quite expensive or aimed at backpackers, with not much in the middle.
The part of the CBD with all the office buildings can be quite soulless, particularly in the evenings and weekends when all the workers leave. But areas like The Rocks and Darling Harbour have a lot more restaurants and a focus on tourists (which may be a good or a bad thing for you).
- Base Sydney: There’s a fun community atmosphere at this hostel, which has excellent facilities and good opportunities to meet other travellers.
- The Pod Sydney: It may be a hostel, but The Pod has a lot more privacy with curtains around the beds, making this a bit more of a flashpacker option.
- There are also some great backpacker hostels around Central Station, which I’ll talk about in the Inner West section.
If you’re travelling around the country to more places than just Sydney, you may be interested in my list of the best hostels in Australia.
- The Capsule Hotel: If you’re just looking for somewhere cheap and easy to crash, you could go for these Japanese-style capsule rooms.
- Travelodge Hotel: It’s getting towards the upper end of what I would call ‘budget’, but the Travelodge has lovely rooms and is the best value for what you get.
- QT Sydney: Right in the centre of the city, the QT Sydney oozes cool and the dark design palette makes it impossible to get a bad night’s sleep.
- Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour: Ovolo is such a great brand with amazing hotels around Australia and this one’s cool design does not disappoint.
- The Langham: This is one of the most luxurious hotels in Sydney, with a more traditional European feel to its interior design.
- Park Hyatt: The Park Hyatt’s position on the harbour makes this one of the most famous luxury hotels in Sydney, but it’s also one of the priciest!
- Pier One: I also highly recommend Pier One, which deserves its five stars for its luxury, but also adds some cool modern touches to the interior design.
Personally, I think the Inner East is one of the best places to stay in Sydney. It’s a trendy area full of great restaurants, bars, and art galleries – but it’s still very close to the CBD and can even be walking distance.
The most popular suburbs here include Kings Cross, a former red light district that still has a lot of nightlife; Surry Hills, a hip suburb full of restaurants and pubs; and Paddington, a bit more upmarket with boutique shops.
Recent years have seen some cool new hotels open in Sydney’s Inner East that make it even more worthwhile staying in this area.
- The Original Backpackers Hostel: Set in a quieter part of Kings Cross with a leafy garden, this hostel puts you in the heart of the action without all the noise.
- Secret Garden Backpackers: On the edge of Surry Hills, walking distance to Central Station, Secret Garden is a fun and convenient hostel.
- Paramount House: This renovation of an old movie headquarters in Surry Hills has brought hipster cool to every part of the design.
- The Hughenden Boutique Hotel: In the quiet suburb or Woollahra, on the edge of Paddington, this charming hotel is set in a restored Victorian mansion.
- Ovolo Woolloomooloo: This is one of my favourite Sydney hotels, in a beautifully converted wharf, set conveniently between Kings Cross and the CBD.
- Spicers Potts Point: On a quiet street of Kings Cross, this Spicers hotel has all the luxury trappings but also feels like a comfortable home.
Continuing on from the Inner East, you’ll reach the Eastern beaches, which also have a good range of accommodation options. Most of them are around Bondi Beach, but you’ll also find quite a few at Coogee Beach.
One of the city’s biggest draw cards is the water, and you won’t find accommodation in Sydney closer to the surf than this. If you like the idea of waking up and having a swim in the ocean before breakfast, then this is where to stay in Sydney!
The downside is that you’re a bit further away from many of the main sights and there’s no train offering an easy transport option (although the buses from the city centre are quite good).
- Coogee Beach House: A lot of young travellers prefer Coogee to Bondi these days, so this hostel has plenty of stuff going on.
- Mad Monkey Coogee Beach: There are also great vibes at the Mad Monkey at Coogee, which is right opposite the beach.
- Cliffside Bondi Beach: For an even more private self-contained apartment, this one right on the cliff has epic coastal views.
- Beach Retreat: Or for a bit more space, this sunny two-bedroom house might be better for families or groups of friends.
- Adina Apartment Hotel: A modern hotel with large rooms and water views, this is an excellent base for your time in Bondi.
- The Baxley: Although it’s probably more ’boutique’ than luxury, this wonderful little hotel in a residential area feels like a home away from home.
The Inner West is similar to the Inner East, in that it’s full of places to eat and drink, but it’s got a much more laidback and alternative atmosphere. Generally, it hasn’t seen as much large development, which means there are fewer accommodation options.
The start of the Inner West is around Central Station, so you will find a lot here – especially backpacker hostels – and it’s a very convenient area to be based. It’s on the doorstep of Chinatown, which may be a benefit too.
The classic Inner West neighbourhoods like Newtown and Glebe are full of life and offer a great insight to Sydney life, and may be a good option if you’re considering a longer stay.
- Sydney Central YHA: This large hostel directly opposite Central Station welcomes guests of all ages and is an excellent budget option for travellers.
- Summer House Newtown: You’ll get a more local experience by staying in Newtown, and this hostel has a chilled vibe – and there’s even a pool in the courtyard.
- Bright and Airy Newtown Home: This three-bedroom house in Newtown is great for large groups and gives you easy access to all the suburb’s restaurants and nightlife.
- Modern Studio in Glebe: This cute little studio apartment is a wonderful base in the residential part of Glebe, but with easy access to the city and public transport.
- The Collectionist: This hotel is perfect for art lovers, with each room decorated differently based on the artworks that are on display in it.
- The Urban Newtown: The industrial-chic interior design of the hotel suits its cool location in the middle of alternative Newtown.
Lower North Shore
On the southern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the CBD, on the northern side is an area of Sydney called the Lower North Shore. And although tourists often don’t look for accommodation in Sydney here, there are some great options, particularly for self-contained apartments.
The suburb of North Sydney caters more towards the business traveller, although the rooms are just as good for people here on a holiday. But as you go a bit further up the train line to places like St Leonards, you’ll get better prices, or head into Mosman for a more residential feel.
Not many of Sydney’s tourist attractions are on the Lower North Shore, but it’s a slightly calmer part of the city and has good transport links to wherever you want to go.
- The North Shore Hotel: This rustic hotel is just a ten minute walk from the centre of North Sydney and provides large comfortable rooms.
- The North Sydney Hotel: Set above a pub, it can be a bit loud, but the rooms have funky designs and this is usually a great value option.
- Two-bedroom apartment: For a bit more space, this lovely two-bedroom apartment feels residential but is still close to the action.
- Four-bedroom house: If you’re staying for a while or are in a large group, then this large modern home is a perfect base on the Lower North Shore.
- Vibe Hotel North Sydney: I actually think the Vibe Hotel North Sydney has a nicer feel than Meriton Suites, but it just missed out on the top spot because it doesn’t have any views.
- View Sydney: As the name suggests, View Sydney does have an epic view across the harbour to the city, but the rooms are a little old-fashioned (although comfortable enough).
Most of the north of Sydney is quite suburban and not many visitors will stay there (unless they have friends and family nearby). But the main exception is Manly, the most popular beach north of the harbour.
Manly has some similar beach vibes to Bondi – cool cafes, restaurants with water views, busy bars – but it’s much more relaxed and less crowded. It’s a fun place to stay in Sydney that gives you the surf without the inner city chaos.
The downside of staying in Manly is that it takes a long time to get anywhere. There’s no train and it’s a long bus trip to the CBD – but you can take the ferry, which is an adventure in itself.
- Manly Bunkhouse: It’s not right at the water, but Manly Bunkhouse is another popular option on the Northern Beaches, with good rates and a friendly community.
- Heart of Manly apartment: If you would prefer to have an apartment that’s in the middle of the action, then this is a fantastic place.
- 3-bedroom beachside apartment: For more space, this wonderful apartment has three bedrooms (sleeping 6) and has a balcony facing the beach.
- Quest Manly: Another excellent luxury option is the Quest Manly, which has large modern rooms and looks out over the harbour.
- Novotel Manly Pacific: Looking out over the beach, the Novotel Manly Pacific is another four-star hotel, but it feels a but older than the newer additions to the area.
Parramatta may be the geographic centre of the huge Sydney spread, but it’s a long way from the city’s main tourist attractions. Although there are plenty of things to do in Parramatta itself, this is probably not the place to stay for your first visit or if you’re here for sightseeing.
But the advantages of Parramatta is that it’s much closer to Sydney Olympic Park if you’re coming for an event, it’s closer to the Blue Mountains if you want to spend some time there, it may be more convenient if you’re driving into Sydney on a motorway, and rooms tend to be a bit cheaper.
There are also express trains from Parramatta to the CBD that only take 25 minutes, so it’s not like you can’t easily get into the city if you do choose to stay here.
You won’t really find any backpackers in Parramatta, but there are some decent budget options, and quite a few higher-end hotels with lovely views.
- Western Sydney University Village: The student accommodation here is a perfect option for backpackers, large groups, or anyone who wants to relive their university dorm days!
- Holiday Inn Parramatta: A basic but comfortable hotel that gives you everything you need, with a great rate for the room.
- Novotel Sydney Parramatta: And, while it’s not exactly a boutique hotel, you may also want to consider the Novotel in Parramatta, which has cute rooms at a reasonable price.
- Meriton Suites Church Street: The suites at the Meriton are modern and large with epic views along the Parramatta River – plus you’re right in the middle of the action.
- PARKROYAL Parramatta: The beds are super comfortable, and everything from the service to the design makes the PARKROYAL a wonderful option in Parramatta.