Back in September 2012, a fun, hip, quirky and beautifully designed hotel opened in Sydney, Australia. I was fortunate enough to visit, and after spending four nights at the QT Sydney, it’s safe to say it’s unlike any hotel I’ve ever seen—and if the below tickles your fancy, one you don’t want to miss. Here are 13 reasons to stay at the QT Sydney:
1. The location
This hotel doesn’t have one of those amazing views of the Sydney Opera House, but it is right smack in the middle of the city on Market and George Streets. Everything you could possibly need is within two blocks, and I mean everything. From grocery stores, department stores and ATMs to even a camera shop where you can rent a camera for the day (Georges on George Street). Oh and to get to Circular Quay/the Opera House/Botanical Gardens, it’s just a 15 minute walk.
2. The friendly staff
The moment you pull up to the hotel you’ll no doubt be ushered to the second floor lobby by one of their friendly bellman or beautiful “Directors of Chaos” (see reason #3). They are all friendly—especially the guys who remembered me and asked each time they saw me about something we’d discussed the day before.
3. Directors of Chaos
Any hotel that has black leather-clad, red-wigged beautiful women known as “Directors of Chaos” gets a vote from me. The main job of these Directors is to hail cabs, valet cars and usher guests to the lobby on level two.
4. The elevators
How can an elevator be a reason, you ask? Just go for a ride and you’ll quickly see why. It’s the first elevator that I’m aware of with sensors that can actually detect the number of passengers riding in it—and then plays music to match the number guests. Groups get party songs, couples get sappy love tunes and solo guests get songs like Billy Idol’s “Dancing By Myself” or De La Soul’s “Me, Myself And I.” It’s hilarious.
5. The building(s)
The hotel is located in two of Sydney’s grandest and most prominent historical buildings, set side by side. Years ago, the State Theatre and Gowings building have been refurbished and turned into a bold and unique hotel experience now shared between the two. The Gowings building was a famed department store called what else…Gowings. And while writing this piece I actually remembered buying a painting there on my first visit to Australia in 1995 that still sits in my bathroom. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Gowings went out of business in 2006.
Next door is the grand State Theatre, which opened in 1929 (Gowings opened the following year) and is an extraordinary example of eclectic architecture that mixes cinema baroque with elements of Gothic, Italian and Art Deco design. The theatre still plays host to concerts, musicals and entertainers. Here’s a schedule of upcoming performances.
6. The design
The QT Sydney is the only Sydney hotel to be a member of the exclusive Design Hotels group. Design Hotels represent 250 independent hotels in over 40 countries across the globe. According to their website, “each property reflects the ideas of a visionary hotelier, an ‘Original,’ someone with a passion for genuine hospitality, cultural authenticity, thought-provoking design and architecture.”
The QT Sydney definitely does just that. In fact, the moment you step into the lobby you’ll be taken aback as it “feels like a cool art cinema foyer—complete with vintage movie posters, primary colors and a carefully compiled soundtrack.” Those aren’t my words—they’re those of CNN, but I couldn’t describe it any better.
7. The rooms
The hotel has 200 guest rooms that have been carefully crafted within the historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings. With a contemporary and, at times, quirky design, all guestrooms feature luxurious bedding, complimentary high-speed internet, in-room movies, a Nespresso machine and walk-in showers and most also offer an indulgent, oversized soaking tub. Oh and all the guest rooms are scented with the classic notes of Coco Chanel’s famous Chanel N°5.
8. The mini bar
One of my favorite parts of the room is the mini bar, which has all the usual stuff as well as items that Gowings would’ve had—like pickup sticks and an emergency bow tie. It’s ingenious.
9. Black robes
Have you ever had a hotel that offered black robes? Not me, but I felt like Darth Vader when I donned the QT’s, and it was super cozy. I just wish the mini bar sold lightsabers. Seriously, I thought about buying one of the robes but had no room in my carry-on.
10. The bathroom amenities
Even the deluxe spa amenities have a unique design. And they’re all botanical/organic products from Australia.
The hotel’s spaQ has six treatment rooms, and rooms 5 and 6 set in the original Gowings Barber Shop with historic features still intact. I had one of the best massages I’ve ever had here, thanks to my spectacular therapist Erin. On top of the setting being a conversation piece, the locker rooms (at least the men’s) have wooden lockers recovered from World War II-era Japan. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, make sure to check out the spa.
12. spaQ Barber Shop
There are only a couple places in Sydney where you can get an old-fashioned straight blade shave and one of them is at the The Barber Shop at spaQ. I love the fact that the barbershop pays homage to its roots by reinstating the former department store’s traditional men’s barber service. I signed up for the QT’s ‘Chin Music Shave’ ($45 AUD) while sitting in an authentic American barber’s chair (FYI: my grandfather used to be a barber after first coming over from Italy).
The “Chin Music Shave” was a special they were running throughout the month of March to help get everyone into the spirit of Major League Baseball since the Dodgers and Diamondbacks played two games there (here are my stories on the exhibition game and then Opening Day). The ‘Chin Music Shave’ included the Barber Shop’s straight-edged blade shave by steam room experience and a traditional baseball game day meal: a hot dog and beer in the hotel’s Parlour Lane Roasters.
13. Gowings Bar & Grill
A floor above the QT’s lobby is Gowings Bar & Grill. The 120-seat, European-style brasserie is happening on a weekend night. They have a DJ spinning records while the good-looking crowd orders all kinds of fancy drinks (like espresso martinis). The Executive Chef is Paul Easson, who has been awarded 1 Chef Hat (I was told Australia’s version of Michelin stars). The food is good (the mashed green peas are to die for) and they offer fresh Australian ingredients.
Good to know:
-Room rates begin at $273.
-I love the dinner at Gowings Grill but wasn’t a fan of their breakfasts—the omelets, huevos rancheros and pancakes are nothing like we get in America.
-Don’t call Gowings during breakfast on weekends. They were so busy they didn’t answer.
– The QT has in-house gym, but if you want something bigger, guests get complimentary use of the nearby Virgin Active Health Club at Pitt Street Mall.
-The QT Sydney concierge iPhone app links guests to their own personal concierge service the moment rooms are booked.
-If you need a cab I recommend walking down to Elizabeth Street so you don’t have to sit in traffic on Market and Pitt Streets.