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Arriving at the InterContinental Sydney on a stunning winter day, we stepped out of our Uber and the dapper porters swooped, our doors were opened, luggage was retrieved, and we were cheerfully ushered into reception with a warm welcome and many smiles.

As we discovered during our stay, the days of post-COVID staff shortages and a lack of service are, at least at the InterContinental Sydney, a thing of the past. This is a five-star Sydney stay with all the bells and whistles in a dress circle location that had us in the heart of the action for our stay during Vivid Sydney.

InterContinental Sydney
Treasury Entrance at the InterContinental Sydney

Reception was busy but there were plenty of staff and we were quickly given our keys, a list of hotel amenities and had our dining reservations reconfirmed. The only glitch during our stay was the additional reservation at Aster on our final night at the hotel that we requested on check-in was forgotten (or unavailable but no one called to let us know).

InterContinental Sydney location

The InterContinental Sydney was the perfect accommodation option for our Vivid Sydney stay thanks to its handy location and harbour views. Circular Quay was 200 metres down the hill, the Pitt Street Mall was less than a ten minute walk away and it took us less than half that time to get to the tram stop.

The Opera House View from the InterContinental Sydney
The Opera House View from the InterContinental Sydney

InterContinental Sydney rooms

The hotel’s room keys are pre-programmed for your floor, so there is no need to remember where you need to get out. Arriving on level 27, we opened the door to our East Harbour Room and were instantly impressed with its modern decor and the views of Sydney Harbour and the Royal Botanic Gardens (a bonus during Vivid as the gardens had an evening light show that we could see from our room). If you want a view of the Opera House, you’ll need to book an Opera House View room.

All of the 509 guest rooms and suites have undergone an extensive refurbishment, with a contemporary palette of greens, greys and creams, complemented by the latest technology. It was great to have a choice of USB-C and USB-A charging ports beside the bed, as we have devices that use both. There were also bedside controls for lighting and blackout blinds/curtains, a Bluetooth speaker with a docking station, and a large-screen TV.

InterContinental Sydney East Harbour Room
East Harbour Room at the InterContinental Sydney

We enjoyed the king-sized bed, coffee pod machine, fancy French tea selection, and Swedish Byredo bathroom products during our stay. But what we loved the most was the view from our room which overlooked the eastern section of Sydney Harbour, Garden Island, and the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which were lit up for Vivid. The window seat, which was long enough for two people to spread out on, was the perfect spot to enjoy the view together.

Drinks at Aster during Vivid

Speaking of locations and views, don’t miss the InterContinental Sydney’s rooftop cocktail bar and light eatery, Aster, which has 180-degree views of some of Sydney’s icons, such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and the Botanical Gardens. Instead of cramming people in, the seats are plush and spaced apart so the bar feels upmarket and intimate.

Book ahead as space is limited and in high demand, especially in the evenings and during Vivid Sydney. Weather is also a factor. We were fortunate to get a window seat on the night we went for a drink which was wonderful, but sadly, lashings of rain obstructed our view. The outdoor terrace was also closed, so try to visit on a night with better weather than we did if you can.

Aster Rooftop Bar. Located on level 32
Aster Rooftop Bar on Level 32

InterContinental Sydney Club Lounge

Located on Level 31 is the equally appealing Club InterContinental, a lounge bar and a light eatery for guests staying in the hotel’s club-level rooms and suites. Club InterContinental includes breakfast on the rooftop at Aster plus a complimentary afternoon tea and twilight canapes and drinks from 5 pm to 7 pm. Also included is a complimentary pressing of two pieces of clothing per stay. Level 31 is also where you will find an indoor heated pool and gymnasium, both of which come with views of the harbour and the Sydney skyline and are complimentary for all guests to use.

InterContinental Sydney breakfast

Breakfast at the InterContinental Sydney comes in the form of an impressive multi-room buffet at The Conservatory Restaurant. It is located in the historic Treasury part of the building with street views, high ceilings, art deco features and multiple rooms holding delicious breakfast delights. We loved the friendly service and dizzying array of dishes on offer, and the fact that espresso style barista coffee was complimentary, unlimited and very, very good.

InterContinental Sydney breakfast
InterContinental Sydney continental breakfast selection
Queens of Eggs at the stunning  Conservatory Restaurant
Eggs with a smile at The Conservatory Restaurant

InterContinental Sydney lunch options

If you want to eat in-house for lunch, head to The Treasury, an area that is both an iconic Sydney landmark and now a beautifully redecorated art deco-styled bar/lounge area on the hotel’s lobby level. The lunch menu at The Treasury consists of light meals such as club sandwiches and burgers, as well as more substantial options like lamb shoulder or seafood dishes if you’re really hungry. We didn’t dine here during our stay but it was very popular.

The Treasury Bar and Lounge
The Treasury Bar and Lounge

Dinner at Pont Dining Room

Dinner is available at The Treasury, which doubles as a bar and has a lively buzz at night, or you can head to the Pont Dining Room in the original Treasury building. Here you’ll find a more upmarket dining experience with a modern Australian menu featuring mains like Black onyx brisket and tenderloin served with compressed pear, beef fat hash.

Pont Restaurant InterContinental Sydney
Pont Dining Room at the InterContinental Sydney

InterContinental Sydney high tea

The InterContinental Sydney also serves a high tea at Aster that is billed as a High Tea in the Sky and comes with stunning day time views of Sydney, plus finger sandwiches, cakes, and scones accompanied by signature jams and cream. There’s also artisan loose-leaf La Maison Du Thé tea, a coffee menu and your selection of Champagne, sparkling or non-alcoholic beverages.

Our take on the InterContinental Sydney

Overall, the InterContinental Sydney offers a 5-star experience that delivers on style, decor, class and, most importantly, service. This hotel ticks all the boxes for luxury, plus there were also plenty of little things we loved about our stay, like the housekeeper who carefully folded the clothes that had been left on a chair and the bowl of Lindt chocolates available at reception for guests each afternoon. And, of course, it’s one of the best located hotels in Sydney. If you’re planning a luxury Sydney stay, we highly recommend this hotel.

Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of the InterContinental Sydney and would not hesitate to stay at this hotel again at their own expense.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.