The Hilton Sydney has long been a mainstay of Sydney's high-end hotel scene. First opened in 1974, it has undergone multiple renovations and changes over the years, completing its latest refurbishment in 2020 - its first major update since 2005.
The Hilton is truly in the heart of the city, at 488 George Street opposite the Queen Victoria Building, next to the Sydney Tower and a short walk from Hyde Park, the Town Hall and the Pitt Street Mall. As a Melburnian, the novelty of seeing trams, excuse me, light rail vehicles trundling along in front of the hotel feels a lot like home.
The 587-room hotel this year completed a two-year project to renovate every room in the property, which included the addition of two new room types: Corner Rooms featuring extra space and views, and Family Rooms - adjoining rooms that can be booked together. Artworks from three female artists, Camie Lyons, Angela Hayson and Bec Tarrant, have been added, the former two Sydney-based and the latter an Indigenous artist from Queensland.
Other key selling points, include the large Fitness First gym at basement level, which features a pool and offers complimentary access to guests; Luke Mangan's flagship restaurant (see 'The Food' below) and the heritage-listed underground Marble Bar remain.
Inside the rooms, designed by Sydney's a+ design, new soft furnishings, carpets and curtains have been installed, plus new bathroom fittings, recliners and 140 cm smart TVs. Desks have been removed and replaced with a table that can be used for working or dining, along with an oversized Italian armchair and ottoman.
I'm in one of the new Corner Rooms, which offers three narrow windows overlooking the street, each with a small cushion on the large sill if you fancy taking a seat to get a better view. The layout works quite well with a small entryway housing the wardrobe and a set of drawers, then a corridor that takes you past the bathroom into the room proper. As a result, you're a reasonable distance from the door, meaning you're not exposed to any noise from the corridor outside.
There's a king-sized bed and new, giant, 140cm TV screens have been installed - so big in fact, they seem almost too big for the room. At the time of my stay, the minibar was empty due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Blackout blinds ensure a good sleep as the sun rises. There are controls for all the room's lights by the bed, clearly labelled so there's no need for that desperate search to find the switch for the bathroom nightlight.
The bathroom, with toiletries by Crabtree and Evelyn, features a large shower and separate, deep bath.
The Hilton was one of Sydney's quarantine hotels last year, leaving the program in January. At the time of my stay, messages of support from workers in the adjacent office building ("You've got this!") were still visible, taped to their windows - which was nice even if I wasn't trapped in my room for 14 days.
Glass Brasserie, celebrity chef Luke Mangan's flagship restaurant, has long been an attraction at the Hilton for guests and locals alike. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, it's open only from Thursday to Saturday at the time of my stay, which precludes me from dining there. Instead I am resigned to drooling over the restaurant's room service menu, which includes some of the key signature dishes. The regular room service menu is passable, but having dined at the Good Food chef-hatted restaurant on a previous Sydney visit, I am in the unfortunate position of knowing what I'm missing. Breakfast is still a buffet, but food is now pre-plated in individual portions or served up directly by the chef.
The iconic State Theatre is just around the corner from the hotel on Market Street and with the state's vaccination rates passing 90 per cent, a night out is again a possibility. A wide range of music, theatre and comedy acts are performing here over the coming months. There are still capacity limits and punters have to show proof of vaccination. Pre-show visit the Hilton's famous underground Marble Bar for a drink. See https://www.statetheatre.com.au/
After nearly 50 years, the Hilton remains one of Sydney's most iconic hotels. The recent changes are more evolution than revolution but more diversity in the room types is a welcome development.
Rooms at the Hilton Sydney start from $269 a night and $294 a night for a King Corner room.
The writer stayed as a guest of Hilton Sydney.