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Category Archives:Victoria

The Ultimate Guide to Melbourne Like a Local

Every time I go to Melbourne I go looking for a comprehensive guide on what to do and where to do it. I also do not wish to pay for this info. I would think “surely another blogger has put together an ‘Ultimate Guide to Melbourne’ that can help me”. Sure enough, there are quite a few of these, but none of them were satisfactorily ‘Ultimate’ for my liking.

So this time I went to Melbourne, I planned to create my own. I actually built the skeleton of it before I went, enlisted the help of a number of trusted bloggers to get some different perspectives and started filling it in. Continue Reading

The Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel Review

If you want to be well located for your next jaunt in Melbourne, The Ibis Styles, The Victoria Hotel is perfectly located within the city to help you do that comfortably and efficiently. The hotel so nice they named it twice.

Melbourne is without doubt the best planned city in Australia. Sydney is a mess. Brisbane straddles a river, which means you are always crossing bridges. Canberra they at least tried, and Newcastle is just hilly. With Melbourne, they finally got it right. Its CBD grid is easy to navigate on foot and lends itself perfectly for light rail going up and down each of the main streets.

Trams are the ultimate way to navigate Melbourne so it makes it really handy to stay as close to a tram station as possible. That’s where the Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel comes in.

The Victoria Hotel has a lot going for it, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but without doubt its best feature is its location within the city and its proximity to transport. So that sounds like an ideal place to begin.Ibis Style Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel outdoor facade. By @backstreetnomad

The Location

After I’d settled in to the hotel and decided to start exploring, the first thing I noticed was the The Victoria Hotel is right in the thick of it. 100 metres down Little Collins Street is Swanston Street, one of the main streets of Melbourne that basically splits Melbourne in two.

Around the corner is Town Tall and with it a tram intersection of tram lines with a stop for both directions. This was perfect because it meant that you are only a couple of minutes walk to a station whenever you needed to go somewhere that was on a tram line…which is everywhere if you want it to be.

Going north, all you have to do is find a nearby laneway and you are in the famous Bourke Street pedestrian mall. Just 5 minutes northeast on the grid is Chinatown, which will satisfy that dumpling craving you know you’ll eventually get (we did!). And just next door is Meatmaiden, one of the best burgers (and steaks probably) in the city.

Lastly, in the event you actually want to go to Federation Square (hey, it’ll happen), it is a mere 10 minutes stroll down Swanston Street.

I genuinely felt like I was close to everything for the entire weekend.

The only downside with the location was that on Friday and Saturday nights it was pretty noisy, even on the 5th floor (room 501). The noise travel up Little Collins from Swanston really well and is generally a mix of drunks and buskers. Honestly, its not too bad and you can shut it out pretty well, but it’s something to be aware of.

And on another note, though, my family who were in the 2 bedroom apartment didn’t hear anything so it will likely depend on where in the hotel your room is.

The beautiful foyer of the Ibis Styles Melbourne, the Victoria Hotel.
The beautiful foyer of the the Victoria Hotel. Yes, that’s a fish tank behind reception.

The Arrival

After an early morning flight it can be difficult to seem chirpy, but this quickly changed as I was greeted with the happiest and friendliest of reception staff I might have met. (It also helped that they had actually heard of me and this blog, which got me really excited).

Incredibly, at 10am my room, and the rooms of my family who were also visiting Melbourne with me were ready for us. In addition, my mum had actually made two bookings and had accepted that she’d have to check out and in to a new room. But the staff would not have a bar of that and made sure she could keep the one room the whole stay.

It’s this ‘yes’ attitude that always makes the difference between a good hotel and a great hotel.

The Heritage Queen Room at the Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel

The Room

I had booked a Heritage Queen Room and requested a cot for B-man and we were given one of the 5th floor of 6 (Room 501 to be exact). I probably wouldn’t worry too much about what level you are on because, being in the centre of the dense CBD, there’s not much of a view until you get to the top (but I’ll get to that later).

The room was clean, spacious and very comfortable with all the amenities one could need including fridge, tv, phone, kettle (with tea and coffee), iron and board, table and chairs, hangers, extra pillows, and of course the tiny soaps and shampoos that budget travelers love.

The bathroom was also generously sized, the star of the show being the enormous shower. I reckon you could fit 8 people in there. As long as they were all very good friends of course.

As a bonus, a few of my relatives were staying in a 2 bedroom apartment, which also looked perfect for any group of 4 wanting to stay in the city. It contained a room with a queen bed and ensuite, a room with two single beds, and a living room with a kitchenette. Plus all the same amenities that were in my room.

Pool and spa at the Ibis Styles Melbourne The Victoria Hotel

The Hotel Facilities

Fitness freaks will love knowing that the Victoria Hotel does have its own gym. It is pretty basic with only about 5-6 machines, but they are fairly new and in good quality so you’ll be sure to still work up a sweat. And post workout you can have a swim in the indoor pool, with views of nearby buildings from the 6th floor. And for those prefer to just relax, there is also a hot tub.

Having dinner in Alice's Thai Restaurant at the Victoria Hotel Melbourne

The Restaurant (Alice’s Thai)

We had dinner at Alice’s Thai, the hotel restaurant and I’ll be honest, it was probably the best Thai I’ve ever had. I ordered chicken cashew nut (my favourite Thai meal, and a fairly safe option) and Kynie ordered the chicken pad see ew (her own favourite) plus a fried rice.

The fried rice was on point, and chicken cashew nut was just incredibly flavoursome, generous on the chicken, yet still loaded with vegetables. I like Thai, but I don’t really know what makes it great, but I know when it’s great, and this was one of those times.

As usual with Thai, there was SO much food and it is very inexpensive. This meal with drinks cost around $55 which is very good value.

Dinner at Alice's Thai in the Victoria Hotel, Melbourne

If you’ve read any of my city guides, you’ll know there’s always a heavy emphasis on good beer. Bars with craft beer are always the first thing I look for in a new city, and the first thing I look for on the menu. However, if that’s you as well you will be kept wanting as the line up is pretty pedestrian. Though I note this is very standard for Thai restaurants so this really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Bottom line is, if you love your Thai food, then you should have a meal at the hotel Restaurant.

The restaurant also offers buffet breakfast every morning, though note that this is not included in your room rate. The breakfast is very good though if you don’t mind paying $19 for all you can eat.

It includes just about everything you would hope for at a buffet breakfast including a selection of fresh juices, toast, fried and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, pancakes, baked beans and the crispiest hash browns in the world. They also have rice and rice porridge for our Asian friends. The only disappointment was I thought the pastries were a little stale (on both mornings I went).

The lineup for breakfast at the Victoria Hotel Melbourne. Pastries, toast and juice is around the corner.
Rice for breakfast? Who would have thought

The Bar (Vic’s Bar)

Vic’s Bar provides a quiet setting to knock a few back after a hard day of sightseeing or a place to kill an hour while your family has a mid afternoon nap.

The bar has a great selection of drinks and friendly bar staff who can recommend something if you can’t decide. Though lets be honest, this happens how often?

There’s a pool room around the back and great little finger food menu for when the 4-beer munchies really start to kick in. Choose from spring rolls, chips, prawn cutlets and of course what bar menu would be complete without wings?

The bar is open from 3pm until about 1am.

The view from the pool and spa room at the Victoria Hotel Melbourne
The view from the pool and spa room

The Negatives

To be honest, there aren’t many. My stay at The Victoria Hotel was generally filled with delights. It did exactly what it said on the tin, and provided the best value for money you can ask for.

One thing of note was that they won’t hold your bags for you after you check out. Well they will but for a small fee. I know this isn’t all that uncommon, but it is a bit of a pain all the same.

And this one is a very minor issue, but Vic’s Bar only opens at 3pm. Found this out the hard way didn’t I haha.

The Price

Prices can vary quite a bit depending on the day you wish to stay. Weekends will generally be more expensive and are around $200 a night (Friday and Saturday) while the standard weeknight rate is $130.

With that said, if you look on the website they often have specials if you are happy to prepay and book multiple nights.

Having spent a full weekend here I can tell you that paying under $200 a night for a hotel of this quality, with these amenities and facilities, and in such a central part of the city is value.

When I go back to Melbourne I will absolutely will stay here again.

The Directions

From the airport:

  • For a group of 3 or less, get the SkyBus ($19 each) to Spencer Street station and catch a tram (free) up Bourke Street. Get off at and walk down Swanston for a block and turn left up Little Collins for about 100 metres.
  • For a group of four or more it will be cheaper (or as much) to get a cab direct to the door. A cab will be about $65-$70.

Disclosure: I received a free night at Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel but all opinions expressed within are my own. 

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The Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel is perfectly placed within the Melbourne CBD for a stay of any length at very good value. by @backstreetnomadThe Ibis Styles Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel is perfectly placed within the Melbourne CBD for a stay of any length at very good value. by @backstreetnomad

How to immerse yourself in Melbourne culture

Melbourne Victoria
Our apartment view

Despite being Sydney’s little brother, Melbourne has grown up to become what is oft considered the culture capital of Australia. Artsy, independent, and very unique, Melbourne is envied by other cities for its offering of a plethora of unique cafes, restaurants and bars to foodies, hipsters and beer lovers everywhere. It is a status it warmly embraces as it draws people from afar and keeps the population sane.

Sex is fun
Our view while waiting for Manchester Press

Melbourne is surprisingly low on “attractions”, and in fact come to think of it I can’t remember anyone saying “I’m going to Melbourne to do x y and z’, unless that ‘x y and z’ was a selection of their favourite hangouts. The best way to really experience Melbourne is to wander and to wander down alleys. Cute cafes are hidden down alleys, while other alleys are overflowing with sidewalk tables, gas heaters and busy waitstaff. And I haven’t even mentioned the shopping possibilities. Australians (read: ‘Australian women’) often flock to Melbourne for the sole purpose of a shopping trip. As a manly man, this would never be planned for, however, that’s not to say that this couldn’t (read ‘didn’t’) accidentally happen. With the combination of H&M opening in the beautiful GPO building, Spencer Street Outlet mall and the discovery of Uniqlo, this is precisely what happened between lattes.

The first place I visited with my wife and our couple friends was a place called Manchester Press, a cafe in an alley off Little Bourke Street known for gourmet bagels. Mine was absolutely divine, but I guarantee you it wouldn’t matter what you ordered, you will enjoy it. Our only problem was, this was our first meal of many: we had set the bar real high, real early.

Manchester Press, Melbourne

Also on our hitlist was Hopetoun Team Room. They have a variety of exotic teas on offer and the most amazing cakes in the window. Not to mention incredibly green and yellow swirly wall paper makes you think you are actually in a garden. A garden of tea. I didn’t eat any cake, I just enjoyed the colours that their cake window blasted into the Block Arcade.

Moving on to my highlight of the weekend (and in the process skipping over detailed descriptions of the incredible burgers of Huxtaburger II; a throw back to my England days in the Sherlock Holmes pub and dropping cash at the extravagant H&M) was a bar in Collingwood called Forresters. Unassuming from the outside, but full of delicious beer on the inside, Forresters boasts over 40 taps of incredible craft beer from all over the world and are broken up into sections of style to easily pinpoint what it is exactly you want to drink. After 3 or 4 beers I was reluctantly dragged away because it was approaching 8pm and dinner was yet to be eaten.

Forresters, Melbourne

And so followed 2 more days of this routine. I could (but I won’t) list out all the places we visited, suffice it to say that the Melbourne coffee and foodie scene is the envy of the east coast. If the food and coffee doesn’t get you, the unique decorations will.

With all this in mind though, this is only half the fun. Melbourne is often compared to European cities and this is well reflected in its architecture. Sydney architecture is dominated by beautiful romanesque and classical architecture, whereas Melbourne displays a much more prominent Victorian theme, which is a beautiful contrast to the modern skyscrapers. (I’ll be honest, I had to Google these styles to ensure I had the comparisons right).

Finally, if you visit Melbourne you must, must must visit a ‘puzzle room’, where they lock you in a themed room and you have to find and solve clues to get out. We visited Exitus and played the prison puzzle. It was very challenging but we did manage to escape. Despite being exorbitantly expensive for a 45 minute game ($38 each! plus cab ride to Port Melbourne) it was a lot of fun and it money is no object definitely, definitely give it a whirl. You can also try Escape Room, which is a similar concept. I recommend you book in advance though as it is very popular.

 

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Got a recommendation? What must do places did I miss?

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