Melbourne’s legendary laneways abound with cutting-edge cafés, first-class restaurants, uber-cool speakeasies, designer retailers and a growing collection of brilliant boutique hotels. From Lygon Street landmarks and St Kilda Road showrooms to the world’s pre-eminent dessert hotel and a trailer park in the sky, book one of the best boutique hotels in Melbourne.
No city in Australia can compete with the stylish swagger of the Victorian capital – just ask a fiercely proud Melburnian to confirm that – so it’s no surprise that Melbourne has the most vibrant assortment of boutique hotels in the country. Cantilevered pools, rooftop camper vans and priceless artworks form only a few of these properties, which are every bit as bohemian as the city itself. On the hunt for a unique place to stay? Melbourne has a boutique hotel for you.
United Places Botanic Gardens
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United Places Botanic Gardens has 12 spacious suites | Courtesy of United Places Botanic Gardens / Hotels.com
Occupying an ultra-modern glass building that looks like a trendy block of flats, United Places Botanic Gardens’ 12 rooms radiate inner-city cool, with oak floors, polished concrete and luxe-leather furniture. Generous balconies make the most of the leafy surrounds, with views of the tumbling lawns of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in swanky South Yarra. The property also prides itself on collaborating with local artisanal producers, with bespoke Szilvassy ceramics filling the kitchenette cupboards, organic cotton Loom towels lining the bathroom and whisky by Sullivans Cove Distillery populating the minibar. Guests also receive a complimentary breakfast delivered to their room from the wood-fired ovens of Matilda 159 Domain downstairs.
There are five Art Series Hotels sprinkled across the Victorian capital, with each one dedicated to a significant Australian contemporary artist. The Blackman takes its inspiration from Charles Blackman, a leading figure in the legendary Antipodeans group of painters who protested the rise of Abstract Expressionism with their spectacular figurative paintings during the 1950s. Blackman’s playful artworks – particularly those belonging to his Alice in Wonderland series – adorn the walls of this St Kilda Road property, south of the central business district (CBD), and suits the hotel’s bright colour palette. The Blackman has two on-site restaurants – Fleur Depot de Pain (a French patisserie) and Classico (an Italian eatery) – plus a fleet of city-friendly Smart cars and LEKKER bikes for hire.
The light-filled rooms at The Prince Hotel feature a soft colour palette | Courtesy of The Prince Hotel / Booking.com
More than 15,000 kilometres separate the sands of Miami and the shores of St Kilda, but the soft pastel hues of this Art Deco hotel could have been lifted straight out of South Beach. The four-storey Prince Hotel has towered over Acland Street since 1936 and became trendy boutique accommodation in the new millennium. Today, the building features green- and pink-hued rooms brimming with plush furniture, pendant lighting and white marble. The property’s spirit lives on in the public bar and live-music venue downstairs, while the bistro and spa are very contemporary additions.
Opening one of the city’s newest boutique properties in May 2019, the Zagame family has dominated Melbourne’s hospitality game for more than half a century. Hotelier brothers Victor and Robert Zagame pumped 18 million Australian dollars (£10 million) to turn an old motor inn into Zagame’s House, an arty 97-room hotel with a dramatic black exterior and bespoke local artworks and furnishings. With Lygon Street’s smorgasbord of Italian restaurants on its doorstep and the quaint Carlton Gardens a short stroll east, the hotel’s Lord Lygon wine bar dishes up charcuterie platters to share while 1851 Coffee Kitchen serves a scrumptious seasonal breakfast.
Royce Hotel is an elegant five-star boutique property. Occupying a heritage-listed building that sold Rolls-Royce cars during the 1920s, this Art Deco hotel sparkles with historical grandeur – from the grand staircase and glitzy chandelier sparkling in the lobby to the refined muted colour palette and opulent Italian marble bathrooms in each of the 100 light-drenched rooms. Sitting on St Kilda Road close to the high-end shopping destinations of Toorak Road and Chapel Street, the Royce Hotel offers foodies The Amberoom, which serves lunch, dinner and cocktails, plus the award-winning Dish for breakfast.
From the ground-floor reception desk – itself a sculpture of a horse and carriage – to the cantilevered rooftop pool peering over Flinders Lane below, the Adelphi Hotel is not short on quirky design features. This old rag-trade building near Flinders Street station was converted into a boutique hotel in the late 1980s and then Wonka-fied by award-winning design studio Hachem in 2013, becoming the world’s premier dessert-themed hotel. The 34 rooms feature black-and-white zigzag carpets, stools shaped like liquorice allsorts and custom-made marshmallow beds (non-edible, unfortunately). However, sweet treats are available at Om Nom Kitchen in the lobby.
Once a sticky-floored music venue that hosted the likes of Jet, Regurgitator and The Temper Trap on their way to the top, the grungy East Brunswick Hotel became an upmarket pub before new owners added boutique accommodation in 2018. Located in the heart of Melbourne’s hipster haven at the north end of Lygon Street, this historic building dates back to 1888. While the front bar features exposed brick, steel beams and recycled timber with modern pub grub coming out of the kitchen, the 12 rooms are a more intimate affair, with velvet lounges, ornate chandeliers and a moody colour scheme.
This Flinders Street landmark is now in its fourth incarnation, beginning life as a tea warehouse for the Griffiths Brothers in 1900, then a newspaper HQ in the 1960s and a pool hall in the ’70s. The Hotel Lindrum breathed more life into this red-brick Romanesque Revival monument in 1999, retaining the name (and plenty of memorabilia) from the old billiards centre while adding 59 luxurious guest rooms. The mellow wooden and velvet decor echoes the building’s past, but the forward-thinking fare at the on-site restaurant Felt and cocktails in the Back Bar & Billiard Room are thoroughly modern touches.
A rooftop trailer park comprising six retro camper vans, NOTEL is a quintessentially Melburnian concept. Welcoming their first guests in 2016, these gleaming chrome caravans quickly became the coolest place to stay on Flinders Lane, thanks to their beaming pink fit-outs, vintage design touches and lofty inner-city views. Valet parking, a well-stocked minibar, in-room iPad Pros and photo printers to capture #selfies, plus the private spa in the glam Airstream With Benefits, offer a little more luxury than the average caravan park.
The Cullen is part of the Art Series Hotel Group and pays homage to Adam Cullen, whose irreverently humorous paintings of cowboys, kangaroos and Ned Kelly made him one of Australia’s most controversial (and collectable) modern artists before his death aged 46 in 2012. Looking across Commercial Road at the fresh produce and speciality fare inside the bustling Prahran Market, the property’s 118 open-plan rooms are furnished with Cullen’s creations as well as bespoke Art Series Signature beds and in-room kitchenettes. The hotel also has a hair salon, state-of-the-art gym and two restaurants.
Ovolo Laneways is all about the free stuff – free “grab-and-go” breakfast, free goody bags upon check-in, free all-day snacks, free imported beer in the minibar, free Apple TV and satellite channels, free self-service laundry and free drinks during the lobby bar’s happy hour. Hidden on Little Bourke Street around the corner from the Princess Theatre and Victoria’s Parliament House, these 42 rooms take their design lead from Melbourne’s laneways, with street art and slogans splashed across the walls. Big spenders can treat themselves to the penthouse suite, complete with a lolly buffet, pinball machine and outdoor Jacuzzi.