Where to stay in Melbourne? Apartment rentals, boutique hotels, big luxury hotels, backpacker hostels, Melbourne has it all. And it seems like we got to try them all over two trips, which saw us checking in and out of countless different types of accommodation all over the city.
While Melbourne has plenty of lavish luxury hotels and stylish boutique places, our preference, as always, will be apartment rentals, so let’s take a look at the serviced apartments and holiday rentals we got to settle into for a while first.
These swish, spacious apartments in a grand Edwardian house could just be the most sumptuous we’ve ever stayed in. Located a short tram ride from Melbourne’s CBD in the buzzy inner-city suburb of Richmond (home to our favourite Asian eat street), these eleven, elegant, light-filled one- and two-bedroom apartments are ideal for stays of a few nights – or more, if you can afford it. While they are expensive, they have to be the best kitted out of any apartments we’ve tried. Exquisitely and lovingly decorated by the owner Yvonne (she lives on site), in an eclectic combination of antique, collectables and modern classics, the apartments boast plush furnishings, warm lamps and chandeliers, original art on the walls, and vases of fresh flowers. They also come with many of the luxurious extras you expect to find in a five-star hotel but don’t often see in apartments, like big fluffy towels, robes and slippers, along with all mod cons. The fully equipped kitchens are fitted out with a dishwasher, fridge, proper ovens, hot plates, and microwaves – most apartment rentals only offer microwaves and rarely have ovens – and the fridge is jam-packed with goodies to get you started, including scrumptious breakfast supplies. There are also plenty of appliances and utensils if you’re keen to cook up a storm – or simply whip up a stir-fry. Asian is the thing to make here with so many excellent Vietnamese supermarkets nearby. There’s also a washer/dryer, fast (complimentary!) Internet, and a DVD and movies. There’s some undercover parking spaces, a helpful manager/concierge, and flexible check-in/out times depending on other bookings. Very impressive.
Grand Mercure Flinders Lane
Slap-bang in the centre of the city, in an unbeatable location on the stylish shopping street that is Flinders Lane, these sprawling apartments might just be the swankiest in Melbourne after Andre Mews. Although naturally, belonging to a big brand and with two accommodation types – the Flinders Suites and Courtyard Suites – they don’t have the same idiosyncratic sense of style and personal touches. Though they are certainly impressive. Colossal in size and decorated in a neo-baroque style, in silver, slate greys and black, our apartment had a separate dining-kitchen, living room, study, bedroom, and enormous bathroom. It was so large we could easily have held a dinner party here. The kitchens were well equipped too, with a good-sized fridge, stove, microwave, and loads of appliances and utensils. What we really loved was the dining table for six in addition to the desk in the study, which meant we both had a workspace – there’s nothing we hate more than a hotel room with one desk, meaning one of us has to work on the edge of the bed. There was also a massive sofa to spread out on, which, again, is a luxury when you’re always on the road and lazing about is limited to bed. While we could have made our own breakfast, the Grand Mercure includes breakfast, which you can go and enjoy at a nearby café or can phone in to have delivered to your room. We went with the latter option, and ordered eggs and coffee, and they arrived quickly and were still warm. Like Andre’s Mews, we loved the fact we could have the best of both worlds – apartment rentals and boutique hotels.
We were first introduced to Espresso Apartments by Roomorama, through which we had booked apartment rentals in the city, St Kilda and Elwood, two of which turned out to be funky Espresso Apartments. We liked them so much we tried another of their cool flats later in the trip. The apartments are located in residential blocks in suburban streets, and each is furnished differently to the next, yet they all have a similar sense of style. They’re light and bright, with splashes of bold colour; chic, sleek and contemporary, with a minimalist look and clean lines; and all boast a consistent level of comfort and quality when it comes to amenities. That means every apartment had the same standard of linen and towels, a brand new flat screen TV and CD/DVD player, complimentary internet, a phone, a good washer-dryer, and the same quality kitchen utensils and appliances, including a Nespresso machine, and coffee refills, and tea, sugar, salt, and milk. What this means is that when you book an Espresso Apartment you know exactly what you’re going to get. One thing we don’t love when staying in holiday rentals around the world is that amenities can vary vastly from one place to the next. One house might have a dream kitchen, while another might have the bare minimum, which is so basic you can’t even make pasta. We were also impressed with the system for collecting and dropping off keys, which doesn’t require you to go into an office or do a meet and greet, which can waste precious time.
Punt Hill Apartments
Like Espresso Apartments, we also became aware of Punt Hill apartment rentals through Roomorama and ended up staying at three of their properties by the end of our trip, in the CBD at Punt Hill Flinders Lane (a superb location, in shopping central), at Punt Hill Manhattan (up the other end of Flinders Lane near Chin Chin and Cumulus), and on Toorak Road at Punt Hill South Yarra Grand (just seconds from Dainty Sizchuan). Located in dedicated buildings, these are serviced apartments rather than holiday rentals. Having said that, unlike Espresso Apartments, each of the Punt Hill properties was quite different to the next. The Flinders Lane apartment was functional, with little in the way of any special amenities, while the South Yarra Grand was stylish, with iPod docking stations and good kitchens with proper ovens, and the Manhattan, which had a New York-loft feel about it fell somewhere in between. Like the Grand Mercure there, there are reception desks, although they’re not staffed 24 hours like a hotel, however, there’s a hotel check-in/out process and assistance with calling cabs and the like. What we loved about all the apartments we stayed in were the locations, making these great options if you want to be as central as you can be.
The Citadines brand is the younger, hipper sister of the older, upscale Somerset and Ascott brands. It was a Somerset apartment we rented for four months last year in Bangkok. In Melbourne CBD we checked into Citadines on Bourke Street – again, very handily located for restaurants, like Flower Drum, GingerBoy and The European. With its big busy lobby and reception desk, it felt a bit like a hotel. And the apartment we had, a Studio Deluxe, smaller than the ones you see in the images above, and with just one dreaded desk for us both to work at, also felt more like a hotel room with a kitchenette than an actual apartment. Which is perhaps why they call their model an ‘Apart’hotel’. The Melbourne property is sleek and contemporary and reasonably well kitted out, with a fridge, microwave, kettle and toaster, and a basic range of utensils, although it wasn’t as well equipped as the apartments above, but then it is considerably cheaper. If you’re staying in this property, you’re working, and you can afford it, we’d recommend upgrading to the larger Studio Executive with a better kitchen and dining table and chairs.
Some of our apartments were organized through Roomorama, an accommodation booking site for short term rentals that operates a little like HomeAwayUK, our 2010 partners. The main difference is whereas HomeAway primarily lists private homes for rent – from dedicated holiday rental properties to homes that owners rent out when they go away themselves on holiday – Roomorama has these, as well as some additional options. There are listings with apartment rental companies like Espresso Apartments, serviced apartment buildings like Punt Hill, as well as hotel rooms, although this isn’t always so readily apparent by the listing on Roomorama. We thought we were rocking up to a privately owned apartment the first time we stayed at the Punt Hill Flinders Lane. While this might not bother some travellers at all, I know others who would hate the idea of staying in a serviced apartment building when they thought they were going to be in a private residential building. On Roomorama, you can also find rooms – one bedroom with ensuite (and perhaps a kitchen) in a private house or apartment that others are living in – which might also not be what you’re looking for. It’s important to check the ‘Property Type’ under ‘Property Details’, to see if it says ‘Bedroom’. That little detail aside, the site is easy to use and I really like the clean, minimalist design.
Have you stayed in any of these or stayed in holiday rentals or serviced apartments in Melbourne? If so, which are your favourites and why? Feel free to leave tips for our readers below.