I very rarely stay in hotels in my hometown of Sydney. However, on this occasion, I booked myself a two-night stay at the InterContinental near Sydney’s Circular Quay. I then flew back to my ‘other’ hometown of Austin, Texas.



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Review: InterContinental Sydney was last modified: April 8th, 2020 by Matt Moffitt

We originally reviewed this hotel almost a decade ago—and not much has changed. Keith gave it three stars back then and I am doing the same this time.

InterContinental-Sydney - King-Harbour-View-room-review
This hotel is a five-minute walk from Circular Quay

Research & booking

The InterContinental Sydney just creeps into the top third of hotels in Sydney on TripAdvisor—you’d expect it to be higher given the prestige of the brand. Most of the top 10 are boutique hotels. For comparison purposes, the top three chain hotels are the Park Hyatt, Radisson Blu and Sofitel Darling Harbour.

This hotel is a Category 12 property (the second highest) through IHG Rewards, costing 65,000 points per night. I didn’t have enough points in my IHG Rewards account to book an award stay. (You can buy IHG Rewards points during promotions.)

InterContinental Sydney entrance sign

Therefore, I booked a cash rate for ~$230/night but I made sure to click through Cashrewards to earn 3.5% cashback ($16). I also earned 10 IHG Rewards points per USD spent (just over 3,000 points). Finally, I registered for one of IHG Rewards’ many promotions before I booked this stay—I’d highly recommend checking this page to see what’s on offer.

For what it’s worth, I like to use my IHG Rewards points for quarterly PointBreaks promotions for overseas stays.

The room

I must come clean: I find the style of InterContinentals really stuffy. I’ve stayed at them in Hong Kong, Seoul, Amman and now Sydney and none of those stays stand out to me. I much prefer Park Hyatts, for example, to InterContinentals.

The standard rooms measure 30m², which is ample but not overly generous. They have an old-time style.

InterContinental Sydney bed

Obviously, the most important aspect of a hotel room is its bed. I found the king-sized mattress, linens and pillows to be comfortable and breathable.

InterContinental Sydney bed
InterContinental Sydney bed

A nice touch was the pillow menu.

InterContinental Sydney pillow menu

There are two types of rooms on offer at the InterContinental Sydney. One is a city view (which I had—of construction next door):

InterContinental Sydney bed
InterContinental Sydney view

with the other being a harbour view room:

InterContinental-Sydney - King-Harbour-View-room-review

Although I was on the third-highest floor (Level 27), I heard nearby pubs during the night and construction all day.

The TV is low-definition and old-school.

InterContinental Sydney TV

You’ll get all the usual tea, coffee, drinks and snacks.

InterContinental Sydney minibar


There is a basic worktable. I found the seat to be really uncomfortable after working for a few hours.

InterContinental Sydney room view

Moving onto the bathroom it’s nice enough but not overly spacious.

InterContinental Sydney bathroom
InterContinental Sydney bathroom

There is a weird window between the room and the bathroom.

InterContinental Sydney bathroom window

A lot of reviewers on TripAdvisor didn’t like that there was a shower curtain instead of glass. I didn’t really mind.

InterContinental Sydney shower

The toilet didn’t flush fully. I don’t think it was out-of-order, just that it stored a small amount of water. That’s awkward. Plus, when lying in bed, I heard the sink gurgling a couple of times. Maybe the plumbing wasn’t working properly?

At least the toiletries were cute and elegant.

InterContinental Sydney toiletries

The hotel

Check-in was fast and friendly for me and the housekeeping staff were smiley and efficient.

The InterContinental Sydney’s WiFi was consistently great, clocking 40/52 Mbps download/upload speeds.

As for public areas, there is a central atrium to have a drink or snack and listen to piano being played in the early evening.

InterContinental Sydney central atrium

On the top floor, there is a small 15-metre-long indoor pool with a view of the bridge and Opera House.

InterContinental-Sydney - King-Harbour-View-room-review
InterContinental Sydney view from pool

I visited the gym but wasn’t able to grab a photo due to the other guests using it. I would describe it as fully-equipped but cramped.

The InterContinental Sydney has two restaurants. One is Cafe Opera, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Breakfast is priced at $42/26 adult/child aged 5-12; at lunch and dinner, kids eat for free.

The other restaurant is The Cortile. It offers a high tea from 11am until 5pm every day for $70 per person (add $9 on the weekends). You can choose between the vegan and non-vegan menu. From 5-7pm Sunday to Thursday, there are discounted cocktails available during happy hour.

Around the InterContinental Sydney

The main attraction of this hotel is its fantastic location. By foot, you are:

  • 3 minutes from Circular Quay for ferries, train and light rail
  • 5 minutes from the Royal Botanic Garden
  • 7 minutes from the State Library
  • 10 minutes from the Sydney Opera House
  • 10 minutes from Coles or Woolworths at Wynyard
  • 15 minutes from Andrew Boy Charlton Pool (my favourite in Sydney)
State Library of New South Wales
The State Library of NSW is worth a walk around

It takes 25/30 minutes to the domestic/international terminal at Sydney Airport by either foot & train or car.

Frequently asked questions

Does the InterContinental Sydney have a pool?

Yes, the hotel has an indoor heated pool on the top floor. It offers views of Circular Quay, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. It is 15 metres long and is open from 6am until 9pm every day.

What kind of breakfast is served at the InterContinental Sydney?

The hotel’s Cafe Opera offers a full buffet breakfast every day from 6:30am until 10:30am. Breakfast is priced at $42/26 adult/child aged 5-12;.

What are the check-in and check-out times at the InterContinental Sydney?

Standard check-in is at 3pm. However, if you arrive earlier, the hotel can store your luggage for you until your room is ready. Check-out is at 11am. However, you may be able to arrange a later check-out for a fee or with IHG elite status.

Summing up: InterContinental Sydney

When Keith stayed here back in 2011, he concluded:

All up, a quick and pleasant stay. Nothing specific to recommend it but also nothing wrong at all either. If it suits your location and budget, I’d recommend giving the Sydney InterContinental a try. However, without spending extra on club access or a suite, I doubt you’ll be completely blown away.

I would tend to agree. I set my expectations at ‘average’ before staying here and after having done so, I’m neither wowed nor displeased. What I most appreciated were the convenient location and efficient customer service.

InterContinental Sydney building

In 2017, it was announced that this hotel would get a $200 million renovation, with ‘proposed upgrades…to all existing public areas, functions rooms, restaurants and 509 guest rooms and a new, 900 square-metre grand ballroom.’ However, this is more of a longer-term renovation and has not been completed (or even started?) yet.

For now, if being near Circular Quay, the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge or The Domain is important to you, then staying here could be a good option. Otherwise, it’s worth looking around for a better deal.

What’s great

  • Excellent location
  • Comfortable bed
  • Friendly and professional staff
  • Great views of the harbour
  • Reliable WiFi
  • Great hot water temperature and pressure
  • Indoor pool

What’s not great

  • Drabby and old appearance
  • Faulty plumbing (may have just been during my stay)
  • Noise from nearby pubs and construction
  • Very uncomfortable workchair
  • Cramped gym
Review: InterContinental Sydney was last modified: April 8th, 2020 by Matt Moffitt