Blue Sydney - A Taj Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The unique Blue Sydney was originally a 1,310-foot long wharf built in 1911 on Woolloomooloo Bay. The architecture and decor of this luxury boutique hotel retain this history, mixing bits of the industrial warehouse look with a chic, modern design. The 100 rooms and lofts have posh, nautical style, as well as iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi (for a fee) -- but show some minor wear and tear. It's part of the Taj hotel chain, and is certainly one of the most luxurious hotels in Sydney -- located in a popular dining destination, near high-end restaurants and bars. The hotel's own on-site hot spot, WaterBar, is an impressive cathedral-meets-warehouse lounge with an extensive food and cocktail menu, stylish seating, stunning high ceilings and an overall ultra-cool ambiance. But it's a bit removed from more popular areas, such as the Central Business District.
Sir Stamford at Circular Quay Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The upscale Sir Stamford at Circular Quay is located next to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Opera House. The hotel partly resides in a building that dates back to the 1800s -- and is currently listed in the National Heritage Register -- and its classically elegant façade and interior design reflect this history. The property is grand, to be sure, but it's also a bit past its prime. The spacious, bright rooms are charming and homey, with some lovely antiques, but the decor scheme is dated; the marble bathrooms are the clear highlight. The European style in the lobby and common spaces still impresses, however: In addition to Georgian antiques, eight fireplaces and 550 crystal chandeliers, the hotel also contains one of Australia’s largest private collections of fine art. The acclaimed on-site restaurant offers beautiful views of Sydney Harbour, while the stylish bar has a wide selection of high teas, wine and cocktails.
Pensione Hotel Sydney Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Located on the fringe of the Chinatown district, this upper-middle-range, 72-room boutique has a historic facade and modern interiors. Each of the 68 rooms are small but clean and filled with character; they feature crisp white bedding, whimsical prints, and flat-screen TVs. Sleek bathrooms offer stall showers complete with rainforest showerheads. One big perk here is the guest lounge with comfy seating, a small kitchenette, computers for guest use, vending machines, and laundry facilities. It's a small property, so guests shouldn't expect much else in the way of amenities.