Some cities’ business districts are about as exciting as a trip to the dentist. Melbourne’s CBD is not one of them. This is where the city’s cafés are at their most fragrant, the street art is at its most colourful, and boutiques are at their most stylish; and these 10 hotels couldn’t be located any closer to the action.
Bordered roughly by the Yarra River to the south, Spencer Street to the west, Victoria Street to the north and Spring Street to the east, Melbourne’s compact city centre is where visitors spend most of their time: shopping in the arcades, getting snaps of the murals plastered across Hosier Lane, sipping on cocktails in hideaway speakeasies, and getting lost down labyrinthine alleyways. It’s also where travellers will find most of Melbourne’s hotels, from stately old dames that have been standing since the 1860s to artsy boutique properties that break with tradition.
The QT Melbourne occupies a former cinema in the fashion district | Courtesy of QT Melbourne / Hotels.com
Much like Melbourne itself, QT features a combination of different influences – the old and the new, the grungy and the refined, the cool and the classy. The building used to be a cinema. There’s a sculpture of a peacock at reception, street art on the walls, and guests giggle at one-liners delivered by the talking elevator. This Russell Street address is shared by Tanto, the city’s pre-eminent knife store, selling a range of Suisin blades handcrafted by 10th generation Japanese sword-makers. This all combines to form one of Melbourne’s hottest boutique hotels in the heart of the CBD. The 188 industrial-chic rooms are fitted with cool polished concrete and warm timber flooring, while the dining options – the Rooftop at QT bar, the upscale Pascale Bar and Grill, and the Cake Shop for dessert — are also a treat.
Sitting next door to the Princess Theatre on the eastern edge of the CBD, the so-called Duchess of Spring Street is accustomed to accommodating royalty, from King George VI to the Queen of Hollywood Meryl Streep. Australia’s last surviving grand hotel from the 19th century, the Windsor’s 180 old-fashioned rooms are a time capsule of the era in which they were created, thanks to period decor and 12-foot-high ceilings. The afternoon tea is another tradition dating all the way back to 1883, cementing its reputation as Melbourne’s finest high tea.
The words ‘budget’ and ‘boutique’ are often mutually exclusive in city-centre locations. That’s not the case at this trail-blazing hotel on William Street, across the road from Flagstaff Gardens. The Jazz Corner Hotel opened above live-music venue Bird’s Basement in 2017, offering a range of 100 studios, one and two-bedroom apartments each themed after the greats of jazz; with album covers, instruments and musical memorabilia papering the walls. A stay isn’t complete without an Italian dinner at Bird’s Upstairs before a gig at Bird’s Basement, the 200-seat jazz bar that’s the sister venue of renowned New York institution, Birdland.
This five-star Flinders Street favourite had a long and winding biography before becoming a hotel in 1999. Originally constructed as a salesroom for the Griffiths Brothers tea merchants in the early 1900s, this striking red brick romanesque revival building then welcomed newspaper offices and a pool hall later in the century, picking up its moniker from champion snooker player Walter Lindrum at the time. Today, the Lindrum has added 59 intimate rooms and suites to the original building, while retaining subtle nods to the landmarks’ past life in the intimate Back Bar and Billiard Room, as well as the contemporary Australian restaurant, Felt.
This youthful hotel has been inspired by the laneways for which Melbourne’s CBD is famous, decorating the walls of its 42 guest rooms with the sort of street art that illuminates the city’s urban landscape. Ovolo’s ‘eff the rules’ mantra captures the rule-breaking vibe of this Little Bourke Street location, which offers a long list of freebies that are sure to agree with budget travellers: free takeaway breakfast, free snacks and sweets, free Apple TV and satellite channels, free laundry, and the best part of all, free drinks at the lobby bar during happy hour plus a free in-room minibar. Cheers to that.
Notel is the coolest caravan park in Australia. A far cry from the daggy trailer parks travellers find in far-flung corners of Australia, these six stylish Airstreams are situated smack bang in the centre of the CBD, with city views that capitalise on the enviable Flinders Lane location. Opened on the rooftop of a nondescript car park in 2016, this collection of chrome caravans immediately made a splash thanks to Notel’s prime location and futuristic fit-out – Fitzroy architects Edwards Moore designed the dazzling pink interiors of the six surprisingly spacious vintage campers.
Most hotels in Melbourne’s CBD are found around Flinders Street, but further north on Elizabeth Street lies one of the most affordable options in the centre of the city. The Jasper Hotel features 90 bright and contemporary rooms centred on a sun-drenched central courtyard, with rates from roughly $100 a night – some of the best value in the CBD, without compromising on quality. This former YWCA property benefitted from a $7 million facelift in 2014, which dragged the Jasper into the 21st Century with modern details like hanging lights, a vertical garden in the courtyard and an all-day eatery that makes the most of the farm-fresh ingredients coming straight from the Queen Victoria Market next door.
The Savoy’s 163 rooms look like they’ve been lifted from the pages of the Great Gatsby, but this hotel dates back further than the Roaring Twenties. This three-level Victorian masterpiece began life as Alexander’s Family Hotel in 1866 before an American-inspired Art Deco revamp in 1926, unveiling the first hotel ensuite bathrooms in the entire country. The hotel then hosted the biggest names in show business – Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald – under the Savoy-Plaza name in the 1950s, then served as a police academy in the ’70s, then re-opened as a hotel again in 1991. But the Art Deco magic arrived with another lavish refurb in 2018, when award-winning architects Woods Bagot installed chequerboard bathroom tiles, bespoke carpets, period plasterwork, plus chandeliers and marble galore in the reception. Sitting on the corner of Little Collins and Spencer Streets directly opposite Southern Cross Station, the Savoy’s speakeasy-style Alexander Bar pays tribute to the original owners a century and a half ago.
Welcome to the world’s premier dessert hotel. Acclaimed Melbourne interior design firm Hachem gave this old textiles warehouse a whimsical head-to-toe makeover in 2013, adding a sweet streak throughout the Adelphi’s 34 confectionery-themed rooms. That means cherry-inspired lamps, marshmallow soft beds, stools shaped like liquorice all sorts, extravagant patterned carpets, and bowls of candy in every room. Of course, the world’s premier dessert-themed hotel demands spectacular food, which is provided by Om Nom Kitchen downstairs, as well as somewhere to work off all that sugar, in the form of the rooftop pool towering above Flinders Lane below.
The Venetian Gothic facade, brimming with stained-glass windows, European gargoyles and elaborate brickwork, is an entree to the luxury guests enjoy inside the Intercontinental’s 253 five-star rooms and suites, renovated in 2008 by interior designer Joseph Pang. Situated on Collins Street in the shadow of the soaring Rialto Towers, the landmark Rialto building began as a wool store in 1891 when Melbourne was still awash with the riches of the Gold Rush – the era that inspired the name of Alluvial, the InterContinental’s upscale Mediterranean restaurant flooded with natural light by the property’s nine-storey glass atrium.