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Holiday Inn Old Sydney in a nutshell, the pros: fantastic location, neat atrium design, good IHG option, decent (but not free) breakfast, rooftop pool area with views of the city and harbour. The cons: plain rooms, old building.
In January I took a trip to Australia as a crazy one-week solo vacation (SEE: The Anatomy of a One Week Trip to Australia). Two of my five nights were spent in Sydney, both at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney. I considered a few other options, including both Hyatts, but given that I was flush with IHG points and low on UR points, the Holiday Inn seemed the best choice. The Sheraton on the Park was also in the running, but I seem to have difficulty parting with my SPG points.
The Holiday Inn Old Sydney runs 35,000 IHG points per night. Given that cash rates were in the neighborhood of $260 over my dates, it was a reasonable redemption. Plus, I’m not a Holiday Inn hater like Dan (SEE: Why I hate Holiday Inns).
I arrived in Sydney on Asiana flight 601 at about 8:30 in the morning (SEE: Asiana business class review Seoul to Sydney). Customs entering Australia was a breeze, and soon I was basking in the warmth of the Australian summer. Rainy, chilly northern California was a distant memory. I could get used to a January like this!
I took the train from the Sydney airport to downtown. Excuse me, the Central Business District (CBD). It was an easy option, but it probably wasn’t the cheapest. The trains are reasonably priced…except for the airport stops. Bandits.
Soon enough I stepped off at Circular Quay. The Holiday Inn Old Sydney is about a 5 minute walk from the train station.
Arriving at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney
I arrived around 10:00 a.m., an outrageously early hour to check in to a hotel. But I’d figure I’d ask nonetheless. After 24 hours of flying, I desperately needed a shower, so I hoped they could accommodate me.
To my surprise, the hotel had a room ready for me, and the front desk staff cheerfully checked me in! I was given room 620. The staff informed me they had upgraded me to a corner room. Even though IHG technically doesn’t offer upgrades on award reservations, I’ve found that most hotels outside the U.S. at which I’ve stayed have offered us a modest upgrade as either an IHG Platinum or Spire (which I was at the time).
As I made my way to my room, I couldn’t help but notice the neat design of the hotel. The interior space of the hotel was a huge atrium. The restaurant was on the second level, accessed either by elevator or a circular staircase from the lobby.
I’ve only been in one other hotel with this sort of design, a Hilton in Mesa, Arizona. I much prefer the openness of this design over the typical corridor found in most hotels.
Room and first impressions
Room 620 is a fairly large corner with a view of the CBD, but unfortunately not of the harbour. There was a small entryway that opened into the room, with a door to the bathroom on the left.
The bed was typical plain Holiday Inn, but comfortable. The art in the room (of course) featured Opera House and Harbour Bridge photos. I’d see both of those in person soon enough.
There were a couple chairs in the corner. It seemed odd to me that there wasn’t a floor lamp and/or small table in the room. I did make a note of this and mention it to the front desk. It would help the room seem a bit less spartan.
The desk was just as plain and functional as everything else. But….you get what you pay for, and spending 35,000 IHG points per night was a much better deal to me than using either my UR or SPG points.
The instant I set my laptop on the desk, I realized I’d forgotten something: my universal plug adapter. A quick call to the front desk confirmed that they offer them to guests for free (although you pay a deposit to ensure they get it back).
The closet had the usuals: robes, slippers, iron, hair dryer, and safe. I thought about unpacking my stuff into it, but for only two nights, it didn’t really make sense.
I tried to take some shots of the CBD out the windows, but they were quite dirty. And there was no way to open them all the way. This was a bit of a bummer.
The bathroom was nice, but I could tell it was a bit old. It was really just a reflection of the whole building. The building is “heritage listed”, which should be a tip-off. It wasn’t a bad old, it just showed its age a bit. And it is still world’s better than a cookie-cutter Holiday Inn Express concrete tower.
Also, literally everything was white, given that the entire room was covered with 1 inch white tiles.
Overall, the room had the essentials, plus a decent view of the city. Nothing really stood out, but everything was nice and entirely adequate for my stay.
Exploring Sydney Harbour and CBD
I didn’t stay in the room long. A shower came first, then a few minutes checking out Google Maps, and I was off exploring.The first place I headed was back to the Harbour. After I navigated around the gigantic cruise ship moored in the harbour, I was greeted with this lovely sight.
After years of seeing photos, it was surreal to see the Opera House in person. A few more steps brought me to the Park Hyatt, one of those pinnacles of travel hacking (ha!).
Rounding the corner, I came to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After lunch at Nakashima, a Japanese restaurant I stumbled upon (aside: it was delicious), I decided to walk the bridge to get a good view of the city and harbour.
I got some good shots of the CBD from the bridge. You can see the brick edifice of the Holiday Inn Old Sydney in the center.
The rest of the day was spent on a long walk past the Opera House, through the Royal Botanic Garden, and all the way down to the ANZAC memorial. I caught the train back to Circular Quay and then called it a day.
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney
The next morning I decided to pony up the money and pay for breakfast. I think it came to about $17 USD for the buffet. The restaurant is located on the level above the lobby, and most of it is open to the atrium.
The offerings included fruit, yogurt, cereal, muffins, and pastries, as well as hot options including eggs, sausage, bacon and a few other offerings. Overall, it was a pretty good spread. You can’t read the signs in the photo, but they had both “American bacon” and “English bacon”. Sorry friends, the Brits outdo us on this one. I can’t do crispy bacon.
A posted sign also helped me remember that it is an “offence to handle food with your fingers”.
There were also baked beans and grilled tomatoes. This was new to me, and must be an Aussie thing. I love tomatoes, and those were delicious. The beans…not so much. I ended up with a plate full of fruit, English bacon, a tomato and beans, and hash-browns, plus some pastries.
There was also a juice bar, which I unfortunately didn’t notice until I was already stuffed to the gills. You can’t get fresher than that.
Pool and roof area
I decided to take a peek at the pool before heading out for the day. The pool and hot tub are located on the roof of the hotel with fantastic views of the CBD, harbour, bridge, and Opera House.
Honestly, this is one of the best features of the hotel. I went for a swim in the evening, and it was quite enjoyable.
The only thing I disliked was that there was an enormous cruise ship parked in the harbour. Every. Single. Day.
Luckily, most were gone by evening, and you could see the Opera House again.
My two days and nights in Sydney passed by like a flash, and then it was off to the Blue Mountains. I changed hotels to another Holiday Inn in Paramatta, and then headed to Canberra the following day.
Overall, I had an enjoyable stay at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney. The building was old, but the hotel was nice, and everything I needed. The location in The Rocks is great. You are just steps from the harbour. The rooftop pool and deck is one of the best features. Obviously, it would have been nice to have free breakfast, but this is more of a gripe with IHG (who doesn’t give free breakfast as a perk at any status level) than the hotel itself.
Given the chance to return, I would probably stay somewhere else. But it would be more for a new experience, and not at all because I didn’t enjoy myself. The stay was also a good award redemption during peak season rates.
Oddly enough, I’ve actually stayed at the Holiday Inn in the other Sydney, the cold version in Nova Scotia, Canada. What’s even more odd is that they are my two favorite Holiday Inn hotels that I’ve visited thus far.
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