Over Christmas I flew back home to Australia to visit family and friends and enjoy a bit of sunshine in my hometown of Melbourne. After we got over the Christmas food coma and endured the first heatwave, we ventured into the city to stay at a few choice hotels and sample the hospitality the Victorian capital has to offer.
I’ve written about how to spend 48 hours in Melbourne before, but I’d never really stayed in many hotels in the city I grew up in. That all changed when we stayed at The Olsen in Prahran, on Melbourne’s trendy Chapel Street.
This hotel absolutely oozes understated cool. As you walk in the lobby you’re greeted by a giant mural painted by famous Australian artist John Olsen, of which the hotel is named and styled. The Olsen is one of three boutique hotels that make up the Art Series hotels in Melbourne, each in the style of a well known Aussie artist.
When we arrived, we were checked in by incredibly friendly staff who really went the extra mile to make us feel welcome. When I had some questions about where to park our car, one of the staff at reception tried his hardest to get me a free public car park on the street and even went out of his way to call me in our room when it was free. What a top bloke!
The rooms in The Olsen are all about laid back, understated luxury. With plush leather recliners, chic furniture and a very “let’s lounge around and drink cognac all evening” feel to them.
Our Studio suite featured lots of white and chrome detailing, and felt more like a private apartment than a hotel room. The super plush bed really allowed us to relax and take a load off after some hectic days exploring the city.
Each room comes fitted with a subtle yet compact kitchenette; and with a Woolworths supermarket across the road, you’ve got everything you need to cook yourself up an affordable spot of dinner. The mini bar also comes stocked with Little Creatures beers, which is all kinds of awesome in my books.
The bathroom is a cosy yet nicely appointed affair, featuring toiletries with cheeky slogans on them to contribute to the fun yet sophisticated feel this hotel continually gives off.
Venturing out of our room and down onto the rooftop, we discovered the luscious pool that looks out over Chapel St. In the balmy December warmth during our stay, the pool really came in handy to cool off after a long day of exploring the shopping districts in Prahran and South Yarra. Right next to the pool is also a gym and sauna, and above that is a dedicated sun deck complete with cushioned sun loungers and big white umbrellas.
Breakfast is covered in the rustic and homely Spoonbill Restaurant on the ground floor, with Melbourne specials like smashed avocado on sourdough and the “Mister Crunchy” (rare breed ham, gruyere cheese and dijon mustard) to tempt you in the AM hours. Along with serving St Ali coffee (which you can claim on free when you check in on foursquare) and hearty dishes, Spoonbill features regional Australian fare that changes depending on season. If you’re in need of a spot of dinner later on, you can also sample John Olsen’s own paella recipe from his expat days in Spain.
With the Yarra River and Chapel St so close, you’ll want to make the most of the bikes ($5 per hour) and electric cars ($10 per hour) the hotel has on offer to rent. Or perhaps jump on a tram right outside the front door or a train into the city from South Yarra station, right around the corner on Toorak Road.
Rated #8 out of 197 hotels on TripAdvisor, Melbourne’s Olsen and the other Art Series hotels really are a cut away from the norm. They’re individually styled, special places to stay that are a step above what can be an unending landscape of chain hotels throughout the city.
Disclosure: We received one night complimentary of our two night stay at The Olsen.