While it’s fairly simple to get around in Melbourne, you want to get the location of your hotel exactly right, especially if you are down for a series of events. In this particular case, I was down in Melbourne for a music festival (Soulfest) at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and to check out the new exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was a rushed trip down, with only one night stay before I fly back to my hometown of Sydney, which is why staying at The Swanston Hotel, Grand Mercure wasn’t just a pleasure, it was a necessity.
There are two entrances to the long lobby area, one off Little Bourke Street and one off Swanston Street. The Swanston is probably the entrance you’ll be using the most seeing as it opens up right onto a very central location on the long, diverse street. There’s a Haigh’s Chocolates store on your immediate left, and it’s a big one too. In fact, the hand-made chocolate haven is technically part of the hotel since one of the shop’s two doors is in the lobby.
Following a smooth, seamless check-in with an exceedingly helpful concierge I made my way up to the tenth floor to check out my Superior King Room. You walk into a small hallway with a bathroom to the side before you reach the spacious main area, the bed here is massive with a thick blanket and numerous, extra soft pillows. Directly in front of the bed is an average sized plasma sitting on a big cabinet. Beneath the TV is a number of cupboards, one of which has the mini bar modestly stocked with just necessities (and lollies).
To the side you have a study desk with an adapter right next to it and a few standard guides to Melbourne; ones that are nicely illustrated and actually informative. In the corner you have a stylish, thin curtain hanging over large windows overlooking Swanston St. Although your view is mostly taken up by neighbouring buildings, The Swanston is big enough that you can see pretty far down one of Melbourne’s most vibrant streets and the it’s quite gorgeous, considering the surrounds don’t exactly lend themselves to a natural view.
While there is plenty of storage space in the room, one – very small – issue I had was the ill-advised placement of the electricity outlets. There’s one next to the study desk and one not far from that above a sturdy shoe rack. But the one closest to the bed is hard to access with two solid bedside tables, so for those who like their phone charging right next to them when they sleep I suggest you bring a longer cable.
Any street noise was very minimal, both during the day and night, and the walls are really thick so it’s as nice and peaceful as you want it to be here.
The bathroom has a modern shower/bathtub, vanity, and toilet. It’s nice and clean, with a good selection of hair products and two cakes of soap, but other than that, it’s a pretty standard four-star hotel washroom.
While there aren’t any bells and whistles that are particularly memorable about the room, it’s a nice, clean, and most importantly, comfortable room to stay in, while the location is the real star aspect of the hotel.
There is a well-equipped gym in the hotel as well as an indoor pool which overlooks Swanston street. The area is quite relaxing, with a large spaces to sit and a moderately sized heated pool.
Back downstairs, you have immediate access to an RSL-type area with a dozen or so poker machines and a bar, but I suggest – unless that’s your thing – to head to the Cocoon Bar on the hotel’s Mezzanine level for a drink. It’s intimate and cosy with perfect mood lighting. If you are leaning towards food then the Louden Kitchen & Grill is a great option. A buffet breakfast in the morning here is a good choice, with your standard range of eggs (however you like them), sausages, bacon, and toast sitting next to some more Asian-inspired options and a fresh fruit section. The yoghurt here is a delicious and fresh, as is the museli. The buffet scrambled eggs were a bit inconsistent when I tried them, but the heap of crispy bacon more than makes up for that. The hotel’s attached Soul Cafe also offers some really great options.
While the room service menu is reasonably priced and packed full of great sounding options, I suggest taking full advantage of the location because some of the city’s best bars and restaurants are only a stone’s throw away. For modern Thai and an absurdly large selection of drinks, my favourite Melbourne bar Cookie is but a 5-10 minute walk away. For those late-night junk-food lovers you’ll find a Mc’Donalds, KFC, and Hungry Jacks all less than 10 minutes walk down Swanston Street, right next to Federation Square.
Depending on your pace, it takes about 15 minutes, walking, to reach the National Gallery of Victoria where some of Australia’s best exhibitions rotate. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl takes about 20 minutes to reach on foot from The Swanston, again placing this as the perfect hotel to stay if you are down for an event. For all else, there’s a tram stop pretty much directly outside of the hotel. All major ATMs are also located very close to the Swanston Street entrance.
Location: 195 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC
Contact: 1300 650 315 or +61 3 9663 4711