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Sydney Railway Square YHA Review

Wherever you stay in Sydney it’s important to be as close to transport as possible because let’s face it, it’s not the most efficient city for getting around. Because of this, choosing to stay “in the CBD” still casts a wide net in potential sleeping points and surprisingly different experiences. The Circular Quay end feels the bustle of being right next to Sydney’s biggest attractions: the Bridge and the Opera House, while the Ultimo end feels a little more relaxed and reserved, especially as you approach Surry Hills or Camperdown.

Railway Square YHA is located at the Ultimo end of the city: away from the craziness of Circular Quay, but in my opinion, also more convenient, as it is right next door to Central Station. I had a 2 night stay there, as I was in town for the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS). Although the festival was at Olympic Park, I wanted to be in the city but connected enough to transport to get out and back easily.

The History

YHA are known for going above and beyond expectations. I’ve stayed at a few now and in my experience, the facilities are not just exemplary, but the site is often more than just a random building as well. Much like Sydney Harbour YHA, the YHA Railway Square is steeped in history dating back to the early 1900s.

The building is connected to Central Station and once served as the “Inwards Parcels Shed” for Australia Post. The parcels would arrive via tunnel direct from the Sydney Post Office, ready to be shipped around the country.

100 years after being built (1904-2004), the Inwards Parcel Shed became the Railway Square YHA. The replica carriage dorms sit at what they call “platform zero”, which was once in use at the station. If you look down between the dorms, you can see the tracks still there giving the carriages the genuine illusion of being on the tracks.

Close to Transport

When it comes to proximity to transport, you literally can’t get any closer than Railway Square YHA. 250 metres to Central’s departure hall, or mere inches from platform 1. And if you’re coming or going by bus, then Railway Square is practically at the front door.

I came by train and I strolled the short distance from Central, in behind the Adina Hotel, and through the doors of the former warehouse that houses the YHA Railway Square. The welcome was as friendly as they come and I was shown to my room: a private twin room in the far corner of the facility. (It was the top left window in the image below).

That’s the Central clock tower you can see in the background

The Room

The room was very basic, but anything more would have been a waste. There was a bunk bed with a double on the bottom and a single on top. I was there on my own and planned on spending most of my time out in the city so this suited me perfectly.

The only decision I had to make was “do I want the top bunk experience or a whole double bed?!”

I actually asked if I could have a couple of friends crash with me after the beer festival and the receptionist said that would be no problem at all (as long as they sign in when they do). It would certainly be very “cosy” with 3 people in there, but if you’re good friends and just there to go out in Sydney and get on it then it’s perfect.

Twin room at YHA Railway Square
Toiletries and towels are even provided in the private rooms!

The bathroom was nearby so even though it didn’t have an ensuite, it was not far to walk when nature called or to take a shower.

On this matter, the YHA was fairly full the weekend I went. The bathrooms never felt crowded and there was never a queue.

Importantly, the showers had really good pressure, coverage and heat: features that are often lacking at hostels. To me, that’s a sign that the owner actually cares that you enjoy your stay. The bathroom had heated floors too I’m pretty sure, which was noticeable in a cool May weekend.

Dorms

For those travelling with friends or wanting a cheaper option, there are plenty of dorms as well, of course. To keep with the station theme, some of the dorms have been fashioned into train carriages at Platform Zero; right next to platform 1 on the other side of the fence.

From the platform, it just looks like they’ve built a short building to look like carriages. But then as you walk through them, you notice that in between the two rows of carriages, the floor drops away to make them look like that are placed on the old tracks. It’s a very unique design and a fun novelty.

They are genuinely outside though, and while you might think being this close to the tracks would be noisy, the YHA staff actually told me that they built the carriages specifically to block out most noise. And besides, they are right next to the interstate tracks that are much quieter than the busy commuter trains.

Carriages on Platform Zero at YHA Railway Square Sydney
Through the frosted glass is Platform 1

Facilities

At all hostels, you expect the rooms to be bare bones – that’s how you know they are keeping the prices affordable. Railway Square YHA is filled with common areas for those inevitable times when travelling you just need some downtime, but want to be somewhere more interesting that your bed.

There is a large lounge filled with couches near reception, which is right next to the kitchen, and the theatre. There is also no shortage of sitting spaces dotted around the property for when you might want to relax, but don’t want to be amongst the commotion of the large common area.

The traditional goon box left in the theatre on a Sunday morning
Beanbags in the hallways at Railway Square YHA
Beanbags in the hallways

Then of course when the sun is out there is a deck with deck chairs with a view of the city.

There are fußball and pool tables to challenge your mates, and daily activities that’ll help you meet some people, get free food, and explore the city. These are all advertised on the blackboard next to reception.

YHA Railway Square sun deck

Whats on at Railway Square YHA this week

The Good Vibes

Beyond the things to do and people to meet, Railway Square YHA has put in some real effort to make sure that the facility is not just a Plain Jane affair. If there’s a spare wall, they’ll whack on some artwork. There are photos of Australian landmarks everywhere, but a lot of the art is just painted straight onto the wall. It’s all pretty unique and will turn your head every time you walk by.

Artwork on the walls of YHA Railway Square I feel good today YHA Railway Square

Fun stuff nearby

Being close to transport is great and all, but sometimes you just want to go for a wander. Central Station, and by extension Railway Square YHA, is right on the precipice of Surry Hills with quite a few good places for food, beers, and coffee:

  • Keg and Brew is an old English style pub with timber furnishings, hanging glassware, and over 20 craft beers on tap.
  • Royal Albert also has a great craft beer selection, but with slightly less character – great chats with the barman though in my experience.
  • Single O and The Reservoir both have great coffee and breakfasts, and
  • Chur is renowned in Sydney for doing great burgs.

For me, Sydney’s Railway Square YHA is all about the location. I loved being able to walk to Surry Hills, but I also loved getting the train back to Central Station after a big night out and not having to walk far to my bed.

You can’t ask for much more than that, but they offer it anyway.

I was a guest of Sydney Railway Square YHA, but of course all opinions are my own.

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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

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