The best places to stay in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)

$

Hotel Altamont

“Good-value base for exploring the after-dark attractions of Darlinghurst and Kings Cross.”—Peter Dragicevich, author, Lonely Planet’s Sydney City Guide. Fifteen smartly designed rooms raising Sydney’s budget accommodation standards. Friendly staff; busy communal areas; breakfast included. 207 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 9360 6000. www.altamont.com.au

Pensione Hotel

Tastefully reworked former post office close to Chinatown, Darling Harbour, and the Central Business District (CBD). Seventy-two guest rooms with TV, fridge, air-conditioning, and subtle color schemes. Mosaic-tile bathrooms; bar and restaurant downstairs; great value. 631-635 George Street, Sydney; tel. 61 2 9265 8888. www.pensione.com.au

$$

Hughenden Hotel

“Striking distance from Paddington Markets and Oxford Street; people-watching over an à la carte lunch here is a must.”—Greg Barton, editor, Australian Traveller magazine. Arts and literary guesthouse with 35 rooms is home to a resident artist, rotating exhibitions by KIKU Arts, and permanent collections from Wagner Gallery. Furnished with antiques; some rooms have balconies; breakfast included. 14 Queen Street, Woollahra; tel. 61 2 9363 4863. http://www.thehughenden.com.au/

Ravesi’s

Twelve lavishly designed suites in a 1914 Bondi Beach building. Tasteful palette of browns, creams, and grays; effervescent bar downstairs opens onto the street, attracting Bondi’s beautiful people. Check the surf from your balcony. 118 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach; tel. 61 2 9365 4422. www.ravesis.com.au

The Russell

“Boutique hotel in the historic Rocks; can’t be beaten on price, charm, or location.”—Greg Barton. Cottage-style interiors, open fireplaces, fresh-cut flowers, and views from the rooftop garden; 29 rooms. Walking distance to Circular Quay; light breakfast included. 143a George Street, The Rocks; tel. 61 2 9241 3543. www.therussell.com.au

Vulcan Hotel

“Stylish, heritage-listed 46-room hotel, just minutes from Darling Harbour.”—Anne Matthews, author, Fodor’s Sydney’s 25 Best. Renovated 1894 pub building with boutique trimmings; listed on the Register of the National Estate for its architectural value. Professional international staff; muted chocolate and white colors. 500 Wattle Street, Ultimo; tel. 61 2 9211 3283. www.vulcanhotel.com.au

$$$

BLUE Sydney

“Overwhelmingly stylish next to some of Sydney’s best-known restaurants; funky loft-style rooms.”—Greg Barton. Converted warehouse accommodations at 1,312-foot-long (400-meter-long) Woolloomooloo Wharf (Finger Wharf)—the world’s longest timber wharf, renovated with no expense spared in the mid-1990s; 100 rooms. Fine dining; efficient, unpretentious staff. Sip a cocktail in the moody Water Bar downstairs. 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo; tel. 61 2 9331 9000. www.tajhotels.com/Sydney

Hilton Sydney

Epitome of urbane class and professionalism; 577 rooms. Up-to-the-minute business facilities include 23 meeting rooms and Wi-Fi Internet access. Caused a real splash on the Sydney hotel scene when it reopened in 2005. Prominent downtown location; opulent Zeta Bar and brasserie on-site. 488 George Street, Sydney; tel. 61 2 9266 2000. www.sydney.hilton.com

InterContinental Sydney

“The best Harbour Bridge and Opera House views in Sydney; a true five-star experience.”—Greg Barton. Over 500 guest rooms atop Sydney’s former Treasury building. Classy coffee-color interiors; spa baths and rooftop lounge. Corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets, Sydney; tel. 61 2 9253 9000. www.sydney.intercontinental.com

Manly Pacific Sydney

Mid-rise, 214-room hotel in seaside Manly—perfect if you like to surf and don’t want to stay downtown. Relaxed staff; rooftop pool, business center, sauna, and gym. Ocean-view balcony rooms are the pick of the bunch. 55 North Steyne, Manly; tel. 61 2 9977 7666. www.manlypacificsydney.com.au

Medusa

“Dogs are welcomed with open arms at this highly original, hip, boutique outfit.”—Greg Barton. Perfect position for colorful Darlinghurst and Kings Cross nightlife; extravagant, richly toned interiors built around a courtyard reflecting pool; 18 rooms. 267 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst; tel. 61 2 9331 1000. www.medusa.com.au

$$$$

Four Seasons Hotel

One of Australia’s better hotels, with Sydney's largest heated outdoor hotel pool. 531 high-class accommodations on the doorstep of The Rocks and Circular Quay. External architecture is forgettable, but amenities impress; day spa, 24-hour gym, upscale eateries, shoeshine, secretarial and translation services, and eager-to-please concierge. 199 George Street, Sydney; tel. 61 2 9238 0000. www.fourseasons.com/sydney

The Observatory Hotel

“Comfortable suites in a surprisingly quiet nook of the city.”—Peter Dragicevich. One hundred guest rooms; sumptuous interiors of marble, mahogany, and cedar. Day spa treatments from massage to mud baths; on-site Globe Bar has genteel, clubby appeal. Often overlooked by visitors, serene Millers Point location is just a short walk to The Rocks and Circular Quay. 89-113 Kent Street, Millers Point; tel. 61 2 9256 2222. www.observatoryhotel.com.au

Park Hyatt Sydney

Perfectly positioned, swanky hotel flanked by the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Literally on the harbor, unobtrusive, four-story hotel is arguably Sydney’s best. Promenade along the harborside boardwalk before dinner at one of the highbrow, on-site eateries. Plush interiors; polished service; 158 rooms. 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks; tel. 61 2 9241 1234. www.sydney.park.hyatt.com

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