Corporate Christmas parties that are not with your own office crowd are something I equally love and hate.
On the one hand, you can really let go and do your own thing without worrying about your reputation at work. On the other hand you alway feel like you are not really part of the team (which you aren’t, these people hang out pretty much 48 weeks of the year so they tend to bond over time). In the end you feel somewhat excluded and even jealous about their great office friendships.
No, I am just kidding. I would hate to have an office job right now. I just don’t quite like big massive anonymous parties. And my husband’s employer is a big Aussie cooperation with thousands of staff. A Christmas party with these guys is always a big affair. It comes with a lot of perks but also big crowds. In short, I love it and I hate it.
To sweeten these Christmas parties for us we have over the years developed the idea of adding a hotel stay into the mix. This has the advantage of not having to find a taxi home on some of the busiest summer nights in Sydney. And it also means we have some cosy couple time and a cuddly staycation in our own city without the kids. And suddenly, I am really looking forward to my husband’s corporate Christmas parties!
Steeped in history yet modern and exciting
This year we had to find a place close to Darling Harbour, where the party was going to take place. There are of course a number of hotels that you can choose from – it is Sydney’s premier tourist hub after all. However, one hotel stood out for us in our research, the Ovolo 1888. This hotel has been on our radar for quite some time. Many local bloggers and instagrammers that I know have been raving about this hotel for years.
The Ovolo is located in Pyrmont. A great location if you are visiting Sydney. All the famous Darling Harbour attractions are just on the other side of Cockle Bay. Access is easy thanks to the pedestrianised Pyrmont Bridge which allows you to cross the harbour to get to all the attractions on the other side as well as the city centre.
Close to many typical Sydney attractions
Plus, there are of course plenty of other attractions on that side of Darling Harbour as well. In short, it’s a great starting place for visitors to the city who want to be able to visit the majority of entertainment options by foot.
The reason why Ovolo 1888 has such a special place in the online community’s heart is because it positions itself as an “instagrammer friendly” hotel. There is a lot to see and to discover here. Set in a converted wool store which was build – you guessed it – in 1888, this hotel is steeped in local history. Back then the area was part of the greater port ecosystem in nearby Cockle Bay. In fact, it is the oldest purpose built wool store remaining in New South Wales.
Today, there is still a lot of exposed brick as well as reclaimed timber beams. Cleverly arranged glimpses into the core and the history of the building. It is an understated old industrial appeal which is flirting with the fresh and colourful highlights of a funky and modern design.
A quirky hotel with a sense of humour
But this doesn’t mean that Ovolo 1888 would feel old to the guests. As soon as we entered the small lobby-cum-breakfast-area we were overwhelmed by the many little details that give the hotel a fresh and modern look. There is pop-art style artwork behind the check-in counter. A golden empty picture frame suspended from the ceiling (for selfies). Tiny soccer players bringing the void under the glass elevators to life. Check out the photos on the bottom of the post for some of these details.
The stylish mix of old and new is carried on all the way to our room. We had booked a loft room. Loft rooms come with a lower level where you have the bathroom and a lounge area. Via stairs you can reach the mezzanine with the comfy bed. This set-up alone makes this room a bit different to the usual hotel experience. It took us a while to just explore the different views and quirky details in our room.
Little details to make our stay special
Speaking about quirky details: The Ovolo 1888 does come with a strange sense of humour. Funny lines can be found on many items that are provided for the guests’ convenience. The spare toilet roll talks about “crap”. The slippers promise “happy feet”. The hair dryer warns you not to “stress your tress”. It’s the little details like this that make you want to explore every corner of a room, open every single drawer, check out all the toiletries provided.
We booked directly with the hotel and received tons of freebies which we loved. I think hotels these days still underestimate the power of a good freebie. The feeling that you step across the threshold and don’t need to worry about accidentally spending even more money on an already rather pricey room.
At the Ovolo 1888 we felt spoilt. And that’s what customer service and hospitality should be all about. Guests like to share these things with their friends. It creates a positive vibe, stays in the memory for a long time, pulls people in that have never thought about booking this hotel before.
Freebies and extras – the hotel that keeps on giving
Anyway, we loved the fact that we received so many extras with our room. First of all, there was free Wifi. We didn’t avail of it during our stay, so I cannot say anything about reliability or speed. Then there was a minibar fridge filled with soft drinks, water, wine and beer which was also included. A loot bag with a mix of good quality lollies. An iPad which could be used free of charge. A free tote bag. Free toothbrushes. Free continental breakfast buffet in the morning. And lots more.
The only thing that was not free was parking. You can park on the other site of the road at a public car park. However, even with the 50% discount that the hotel provided, it is costly.
Well prepared we set off to our nearby Christmas party which involved way too much sparkling wine, big crowds, and a maritime theme. Why I stuck with sparkling wine I will never know. The only thing I do know is that it didn’t do me any favours. We arrived back at the hotel happy and what we thought was pretty sober. But in the end I seemed to have passed out on the sofa for a while before retiring to bed in the middle of the night.
A rude awakening sweetened by a great free breakfast
Not the hotel’s fault at all but the 8.45am fire alarm was a rude wake up call after such a boozy night. The Ovolo had to work extra hard to smooth me into a relaxed and happy morning. We went downstairs without a shower (the hot water had been switched off due to the false alarm and needed to reheat) and explored our breakfast options.
The continental breakfast was packed with lots of interesting stuff. There were sliced sausages and cheeses, fresh juices and pastries. Yet, I couldn’t resist the avo on sourdough bread which I ordered from the menu at an extra cost. Coffees were also included and fantastic – the quickest way to get me back on track after the rather short and restless night.
Overall, a great hotel experience in a quiet yet central part of the city. I would definitely recommend staying here if you are looking for a funky and quirky hotel not far from all the good things that Sydney has to offer.
Tips for staying in Darling Harbour
If you are looking for dinner options in the area try The Malaya for Southeast Asian food, Braza for Brasilian churrasco, Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, or indeed the Hard Rock Cafe. All of these restaurants are in Darling Harbour. Cheap eats can be found in nearby Chinatown or at the Harbourside Shopping Centre.
Kids will love visiting SeaLife, WildLife World, Madame Tussauds (consider buying a combo ticket for great discounts to these three attractions as they belong all to the same group), the Powerhouse Museum (free for kids 16 years and under), and the Australian National Maritime Museum (free entry to the galleries but the Big Ticket will let you explore way more). Many cruises and excursion boats depart from King Street Wharf and Aquarium Wharf in Darling Harbour. Also check out the Fish Market, events at the ICC and the Star Casino.
Don’t miss the Darling Harbour fireworks which happen on most weekend nights after dark.
Disclaimer: I stayed at Ovolo 1888 for a slightly discounted media rate, however all opinions voiced are definitely my own. If you want to book this hotel please consider using this link which will send a small commission my way. This affiliate link is provided by Booking.com, one of the leading online hotel accommodation providers which I have used many times in the past.