Lux Nomade checks into the newly opened Aiden Darling Harbour in Sydney
At its core, Aiden Darling Harbour is a neighbourhood hotel.
Governed by the motto “a hotel designed for travellers, by travellers”, the family-run boutique hotel – which occupies a 1930’s Art Deco building on a busy corner of Pyrmont – is a creatively designed, quietly luxurious base from which to explore what Sydney’s recently re-energised city has to offer. Owned by Melbourne-born Nicholas Chen, the Aiden team is made up of a group of international travel enthusiasts, all committed to facilitating the magical moments that make exploring a new city the exciting, enriching experience it can (and should) be.
“It’s all very well coming to a hotel and ticking off a city’s main attractions, but actual travelling is about talking to locals, and experiencing a city through their eyes. That’s why when we have a new host start at Aiden, rather than having them spend their first day on the computer, we give them a map of the area and say: off you go. We tell them to go and explore the city, then come back in a few hours and tell us what they found.”
And in a way, during our visit, that’s exactly what we did.
The building itself, a former grain store, sits on the corner of Murray Street, a three-minute walk from the buzz of Darling Harbour. Rooms on the east side of the hotel open up to sparkling views of the city, with the towers of Barangaroo stretching up into the sky above the harbour. A marble and walnut bar space occupies the ground floor, serving up hand-crafted cocktails, Australian wine and locally brewed beer by night, and a classic breakfast menu every morning. Despite the attention to detail paid to the interiors, the ethos of the Aiden is to help travellers set foot outside. “The hotel isn’t the destination, Sydney is the destination,” Katharina Enzinger, Aiden’s General Manager explains.
The 88 bedrooms are compact but actively luxurious. Queen and king-size beds are backed with deep blue velvet headboards and hand-painted Australian flora-inspired murals by Aiden’s first artist in residence Jessica Le Clerk. Le Clerk and her team also painted a striking 25-metre mural on the outside of the hotel, which is only visible to guests whose rooms open onto the back of the building. “We wanted to make sure that the view from every room, even those that didn’t look out onto the harbour, were interesting and beautiful in their own way,” Enzinger tells us, as she shows us around the hotel.
“The hotel isn’t the destination, Sydney is the destination,” Katharina Enzinger, Aiden’s General Manager
With a focus on sustainability and wellness, each room is fitted with a state-of-the-art air filtering system, and to minimise electricity consumption, movement-sensitive lighting and air conditioning features are used throughout.
In the bathrooms, stone-walled rain showers are stocked with Rituals Cosmetics hair and body products. Despite Rituals being a popular brand across Europe and Asia, Aiden is the first Australian hotel to stock the B-Corp certified brand – another reflection of their internationally influenced approach. Other bathroom features include Dyson Supersonic hair dryers, and all rooms are kitted out with kettles, coffee machines and fridges stocked with refillable bottles of filtered still and sparkling water. Room categories range from super compact “Exhibitionist” rooms to the “Balcony” category we happily found ourselves in.
We arrived on a Friday evening and made it onto the balcony – which stretched along the entire east side of our room – just in time for sunset. The sky turned dusty pink above us and the streets below buzzed with the ephemeral electricity of twilight. After two years of lockdown and various levels of restriction, it felt like Sydney was back, and from our bedroom on the top floor, the city was our playground. After sampling Aiden’s signature cocktails as dusk disappeared, we wrapped up and set out into the winter night.
A fifteen-minute walk from the hotel, along the waterfront and through the park behind Darling Harbour, Haymarket’s Darling Square was offering up the kind of joyful chaotic energy that’s synonymous with delightfully anonymous international Friday nights. While not archetypally “Sydney”, the extensive dining precinct is one of Sydney’s newest and most diverse dining hubs, with options ranging from high-end contemporary Chinese eatery XOPP to a Korean hot pot restaurant with robot waiters.
After choosing a venue with a queue that was promisingly impressive, but not wholly off-putting in its length, we ordered sake and bowls of don and ate outside as the streets hummed around us.
A friend was DJing at a club in Darlinghurst, and the walk through Sydney’s centre – along Goulburn Street and past the skaters playing Dua Lipa from a boombox by the fountain in Hyde Park – was the perfect length.
We drank cocktails at a vintage-style bar lit with fairy lights, then headed to the club for a dance before walking back to the promise of Madhouse Bakehouse biscuits and a hyper-comfortable king-size bed.
On the walk back, we stopped by for a quick dance at another club. This particular establishment has never been on our hit-list of Sydney destinations, but it was en route and, when organic tea and a designer shower are mere minutes away, why not?
Back in our room, the Aiden team had placed a “Ritual Of Sleep” gift set – complete with a scented candle, a nourishing hand mask and a sacred wood and lavender pillow spray – on the bed, designed by the Rituals team to aid restful sleep.
Electric blackout blinds that folded down across the floor-to-ceiling windows kept the sunshine out until it was time to meet the day, and despite its central location, Pyrmont on a Saturday morning still had an air of quiet.
We ate breakfast in the light-filled bar space on the first floor, then said our goodbyes and went off to explore the city, as recommended by the Aiden team.
Rooms at Aiden Hotel Darling Harbour start at $249 per night. For bookings or more information visit aidendarlingharbour.com.au