Capella Sydney revives urban heritage through contemporary luxury

Capella Sydney opens, adding a fresh option to the Australian city’s booming hospitality scene, designed by architects Make

capella sydney exterior
(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

The highly anticipated Capella Sydney is the newest reveal in the Australian city's booming hospitality scene – which includes the soon-to-open W Hotel and the recently launched Crown Towers, Ace Hotel Sydney, and The Porter House, to name a few (see our Sydney guide). Located in the northern CBD, close to the commercial, arts and cultural districts, the Capella brand’s first Australian outpost has raised the bar for luxury accommodation in Sydney.

capella sydney hotel interior with seating and triple height ceilings

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

Capella Sydney’s heritage-informed, contemporary approach

The hotel occupies a grand, heritage-listed sandstone building – once home to the government departments of education (built 1912-15) and agriculture (added in 1930) – and its design has been spearheaded by architecture studio Make, which incorporated a four-floor extension from the original roof, slightly set back, making it less visible from the street below. The design itself makes the most of the building’s existing features, such as the majestic marble-clad entrance, while celebrating contemporary Australia with modern details.

At the core of the hotel, Aperture, the ground-floor all-day dining space, is enclosed with a skylight and features a 7m-high green wall with nearly 70 species of local flora. Taking centre stage is a mesmerising, bespoke kinetic sculpture called Meadow, designed by Amsterdam-based Studio Drift, which represents 18 colours of Australian wildflowers. 

capella sydney interior detail of decor

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

Throughout the hotel, it’s the artwork that steals the show. From the Living Room lounge to the two ground-floor restaurants, the bar and the 192 guest rooms and suites, every space features standout pieces by Australian artists. Large-scale artworks by Judy Watson dominate the ground floor, while lively dots, spirals, swirls and dashes by Otis Carey adorn the walls of the McRae Bar. 

In contrast, the guest rooms each feature one key piece – spanning artworks, archival images and contemporary photography – amid their stylishly muted interiors, featuring walnut wood and natural stone, Frette linen and Hæckels bath products. 

capella sydney minimalist room

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

Chef and restaurateur Brent Savage – behind Sydney favourites, Bentley, Monopole, Yellow and Cirrus – brings his magic to Capella Sydney with Brasserie 1930. Named for the year this part of the building was constructed, the room here features a chequerboard black-and-white marble floor alongside stained-glass details, and art by Georgia Bisley. The food celebrates the best of Australian produce, with cooking methods that focus on age-old techniques such as curing, smoking, fermenting, preserving and pickling. Expect dishes like Flinders Island scallops served with nectarine, brown butter and finger lime, or the sensational whole roasted duck, served with the breast and neck sausage, alongside roasted plum, fennel, spinach and glazed eschalot. 

Named in honour of George Mcrae, the building’s original architect, the McRae Bar is a modern take on a Victorian drinking den, with a cocktail list peppered with late-1800s touches that celebrate the golden age of fine drinking.

capella sydney room bathroom

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

And then there’s the sprawling sixth-floor wellness space. Here the Department of Education’s former art gallery has now been transformed to include a 20m heated indoor swimming and vitality pool, where a series of copper-lined heritage lanterns illuminate the space with natural light. Elsewhere, there is a fully-equipped gym, a yoga platform, saunas, steam rooms and the Auriga Spa, with a menu of indulgent, immersive treatments sure to set you on the right path for exploring the streets of Sydney.  

moody dark corridor inside capella sydney

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

art hanging on a wall inside capella sydney

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

green wall inside capella sydney

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

capella sydney white swimming pool

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye)

Rates from AUD750 (approx £412) for a Deluxe Room 

Lauren Ho is the former travel editor at Wallpaper*. Now a contributing editor, she roams the globe, writing extensively about luxury travel, architecture and design for both the magazine and the website, alongside various other titles. She is also the European Academy Chair for the World's 50 Best Hotels.