I was immediately impressed. Situated in the heart of Darling Harbour, the Sofitel is banking its success on the old real estate mantra: “location, location, location.” And it has delivered in spades, ensuring it is one of Sydney’s best-positioned luxury hotels.
It is very close to the city being in Darling Harbour. Yes, you are a little bit detached from the hustle and bustle of city life, but that also means it doesn’t feel quite as hectic, or busy. Just check out the view across the harbour to the city!
As a brand, the Sofitel Darling Harbour focuses on offering an experience drawn from local culture yet blended with its French heritage. Each of its hotels are pioneering and uniquely French.
The Sofitel brand is on a mission to draw inspiration from local culture and tradition while celebrating innovation and the French art "de vivre" to offer a one-of-a-kind, luxurious hotel experience. Its new, Darling Harbour hotel is no exception.
Opened to the public on Friday, October 6, 2017, the Sofitel, Darling Harbour is the first new-build luxury hotel to open in Sydney since 1999 when The Westin opened. In fact, it is the first new luxury hotel in Sydney to open since the Sydney Olympic Games, which were held in the year 2000.
Operated by luxury hotel group, Accor, the Sofitel Darling Harbour was developed by LendLease magnate, Dr. Jerry Scwartz, and is estimated to have cost a mere $500 million. It features 35 levels, making it the tallest building in Darling Harbour. There are a total of 590 rooms, including 34 suites.
A group of us from Credit Card Compare were in Sydney for a credit card conference being held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Darling Harbour. And while staying in Sydney for the event, we thought we would check out the latest and greatest hotel Sydney had to offer: The Sofitel Darling Harbour.
And, better still, when we looked it up, it was located within a stone's throw of the ICC, so it was perfect for us. It is adjacent to the ICC, so you can literally just walk across the driveway and into the ICC. If you are attending a conference at the ICC, this is the perfect place to base yourself.
How to book
Sofitel hotels are part of the Accor Group, so points bookings can be made using Accor Rewards points – if you have any of those.
To stay at the Sofitel, you can look on all of the regular booking sites such as booking.com, Hotels Combined, Trivago, and the others. But I would personally recommend booking directly through the hotel, which is what I did for this trip. Thankfully the booking process on AccorHotels.com was quite easy and straightforward.
If you are wondering why I recommend booking direct with the hotel and not via a hotel booking site, it's one of the 7 Insider Hotel Upgrade Tricks from a Former Hotel Manager.
And when you book direct with the hotel, you earn Accor points. Make sure you are a member of the Accor program. It's free to join. If you make your booking via somewhere like booking.com then you might get a good deal but won't earn points from your stay.
What about earning Accor Reward points from a credit card? Other than earning points by staying in Accor owned hotels there's no simple way to earn points into the Accor loyalty program from your credit card in Australia. Not even Amex Membership Rewards points transfer to Accor. For cardholders of Amercian Express Platinum Card, it's not possible to book this particular Sofitel hotel in Sydney as part of the Amex Fine Hotel & Resorts program.
The next best thing is to become an Accor Le Club member which will boost your membership status to Silver and give you a free night's stay in one of the hotels subject to availability.
If you have some Accor Rewards points then you can swap 2,000 Rewards points for EUR €40 off your bill.
You can, however, transfer your Accor Rewards points out to 50 including major airline programs such as Qantas, Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Avios, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Emirates and Etihad. Remember to use those points or sweep them across to your preferred frequent flyer program before they expire.
Bienvenue to the hotel
Walking into the lobby of the hotel you know it's going to be a good stay.
It is beautiful, new and lively, while comfortable. The designers and architects have done a really good job in designing the whole hotel.
As you explore further, it’s easy to see that the design wasn’t all focused on the lobby, but in fact the whole hotel is really well laid out, and delightful in its design.
Upon our initial arrival, something that did really stand out to me was the staff. The concierge staff are straight over to welcome you, take your bags, park your car and get you checked in. They were very attentive, and friendly making checking in as pain-free as possible. This isn’t always the case at other hotels, so that certainly cemented my initial impressions.
For those of you who might be ready for a quick bite, or in need of a drink after traveling to Sydney, there is a bar and café in the lobby called the Espirit Noir, which is very polished and modern. The floors of Espirit Noir are a weathered timber that should oppose the modern elegance of the hotel, but somehow suits the feel perfectly. The furniture is plush and very inviting. The escalators lead upstairs to function rooms, including the Magnifique ballroom.
Food and drinks
We had dinner at the Atelier by Sofitel restaurant while staying at the hotel and lunch by the pool on one of the days.
The French cuisine was fantastic but I hate to say this, the wait staff weren’t quite up to speed yet. I do give them the benefit of the doubt, as it is a very new hotel. Teething problems? Some of the wait staff are French, which suggests they were brought in to help launch the hotel and the restaurant. Some of the other staff didn’t really seem to know what they were doing or had trouble finding diners in the very spacious restaurant. It didn’t put us off in any way.
Chill by the pool
The Sofitel also has one of the best hotel pools in Sydney.
Eating poolside, the food is brought up from Espirit Noir in the lobby or Atelier restaurant.
From my experience, there aren't many hotels in Sydney that have a pool, let alone a very modern, luxury, infinity edge pool that looks back to the city from Darling Harbour.
Now, this pool is not going to steal the crown from the 146m wide infinity pool perched 191m atop the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. But still, what a great place to spend time in the city!
Looking over the cityscape with Darling Harbour to your back, while relaxing in an infinity pool is a very unique experience, and as far as I know, the Sofitel is the only hotel that offers that experience in Sydney. If you do get the chance to stay at the Sofitel Darling Harbour, do not skip out on a visit to the pool.
In Da Gym with 50 Cent
Before spending all day attending a conference at the ICC, my brother, Andy and I decided to be active and check out the hotel gym located adjacent to the pool.
Stepping into the modestly sized gym, which wasn’t overly crowded at the time, we did notice one guy who looked familiar. Looking across I knew that I’d seen him somewhere before. And, then it dawned on me, it was rapper turned movie star, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson! I’m not a major fan of his brand of music, it was fun to be in the gym with someone as well-known as 50 Cent staying at The Sofitel.
Your Room Monsieur
Stephen, our Head of Sales, was privileged enough to get upgraded to stay in this corner room, which the Sofitel calls the Luxury Room. He was upgraded upon arrival simply because he was staying as part of our group in his own room – it basically made it easy for the front line staff to move him around. The room overlooked Darling Harbour, and fittingly, the room was luxurious to the hilt. It was very tastefully decorated, very new and very crisp.
The room was well appointed and featured a very, very comfortable double bed, soaring floor to ceiling windows with views back to the city. Pretty breathtaking. You could live here. A tremendous room to stay in the city.
For people who have time to stay in the bedroom, there is a massive LED Smart TV in the room.
Oddly enough, the bathroom occupied the best views of the room, overlooking Darling Harbour. Is the room arranged this way to give guests the best champagne in the bath Instagram shot?
Will I stay again?
Based on my experience at the Sofitel, Darling Harbour, I will stay there again. I could live there!
Location wise, it is prime and very hard to beat. Easy to get to by Uber from the airport. For conference delegates visiting the ICC, you literally cannot get any closer than this. And for anyone else looking for a prime location in Sydney to enjoy a city stay, the waterfront and city views are hard to beat.
And, unlike many city-based hotels, it is in Darling Harbour, so just a 10-minute stroll to the CBD, but with a much more relaxed feel to it. This would be perfect for a romantic city break.
For tourists from overseas visiting Sydney for the first time, it's in a brilliant spot. You are very close to the restaurants and bars, Australian National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Sydney Aquarium, the Chinese Garden, Tumbalong Park.
The room prices do fluctuate regularly, and when the city is really busy, the rooms can be very pricey at over $400 per night for an entry level room.
So, my final verdict is that I will absolutely stay at the Sofitel Darling Harbour again for the right occasion and when the price is right.