Australia, Destination

Weekender: Crown Metropol Hotel, Melbourne

Weekender: Crown Metropol Hotel, Melbourne

THE SETTING

Crown Metropol is part of the mini-city of buildings that comprise Crown in Melbourne. The Metropol is adjacent to two other Crown hotels, the Towers and the Promenade Melbourne, as well as to the Crown Entertainment Complex. The three hotels are all of a grand scale but the entertainment complex is simply enormous. It’s home to Crown Casino, along with the largest indoor theme park in Australia, 13 cinemas, a bowling alley, live theatre and concerts, bars and clubs, not to mention the shops (all the major international fashion brands are here). It’s possible you could check in a long weekend at the Metropol and never step outside this overwhelmingly sleek and glossy world.

THE SPACE

This is not accommodation of the boutique variety. Crown Metropol is a modern, luxurious high-rise hotel with 658 rooms and suites. Generously proportioned, plush and adorned with cutting-edge artwork, it offers all the services and premium facilities guests expect. There is complimentary wi-fi throughout the building, which has a spa, indoor swimming pools and gym. Metropol is a popular venue for events and conferences – during my stay it was hosting the Australian Banana Industry Congress, including the 2015 Banana Ball.

The hotel’s Isika Day Spa (isikaspa.com.au), open daily on level 27, has 10 treatments rooms plus a hair salon and nail bar. Like upmarket hotel spas everywhere, services don’t come cheap – a 60-minute “chakra balancing” massage costs A$236 (NZ$265). The spa offers treatments for men including a facial, back treatment, manicure and pedicure.

Isika is popular so if it’s booked out, simply walk over to the hushed and womb-like Crown Spa at Promenade Melbourne for a treatment. I had a relaxing massage in the sure hands of Amy in an opulent room exquisitely decorated in tones of cream, soft turquoise and gold. With a domed ceiling, oversized chandelier, couches, chairs and tables, a bathroom, and even an entrance hall, it was by far the grandest treatment room I’ve seen.

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One of the 658 rooms at Crown Metropol in Southbank.

THE KIT

My suite has panoramic views of the city thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, and is spacious and well-appointed. Posh touches include a “tea menu” of concoctions featuring Egyptian peppermint and Australian gum leaves. Thankfully there’s good old gumboot too.

COMFORT FACTOR

Metropol has all the expected amenities and scores highly for comfort. The only thing I was left wanting was something synonymous (for me at least) with luxury hotel rooms – a bath.

FOOD

There are abundant options in the Crown complex – 12 “premium” restaurants, including Nobu and Rockpool, and 16 more casual ones. There’s also an upmarket food court plus 15 bars and nightclubs ranging from a champagne and oyster bar to a sports bar and beer garden.

At the Metropol, Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar serves French-inspired modern dishes daily and there is a club lounge and bar, 28 Skybar Lounge, on the top floor.

At 7am on a Friday morning, the view from the skybar lounge distracts from the buffet breakfast. From the windows that run its length, the city shrinks to a twinkling panorama far below. Hot-air balloons drift on the horizon. Giant cranes swing into action on CBD building sites and construction workers cluster, from this height resembling ants in high-vis vests.

The freeways already buzz with traffic and the Dandenong Ranges in the distance are almost lost in the haze. The sun slides shyly across apartment blocks and the honeycomb roof of AAMI Park sports stadium can be glimpsed between high rises.

Melbourne has been named the world’s most liveable city so many times the honour is almost meaningless. Every time I visit I am reminded how affluent it appears compared with New Zealand’s cities. Yet over breakfast I read a story in the paper about how charities here are being forced to ration food donations due to overwhelming demand.

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Artwork in the lobby of the Crown Metropol hotel.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Central Melbourne is on the doorstep. The Metropol is in Southbank, home to a bustling riverside hub of cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s within walking distance of the CBD’s little laneway shops and Bourke St department stores – not too far to schlep if shopping is a priority.

The hotel is near the National Gallery of Victoria and performing arts hub the Melbourne Arts Centre, as well as Federation Square, Flinders St train station and trams heading in all directions.

If time is short, take a tour with affable guide Daniel Platt, who runs private and bespoke city tours (seelocaling.com.au).

THE VERDICT

Crown Metropol has everything required of a big city hotel in a handy location.

GETTING THERE

By taxi, bus or train from Tullamarine Airport.

ESSENTIALS

Rooms start at A$268 a night. Crown Metropol Melbourne, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank 3006. Seecrownmetropolmelbourne.com.au

WHILE YOU ARE THERE

There are two major art exhibitions on in Melbourne until November. David Bowie Is, created by London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, is on at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square until November 1. Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great features more than 400 works from the Russian ruler’s private collection and runs until November 8 at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). See acmi.net.au and ngv.vic/gov.au

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