It is Christmas Day and we are about to unwrap a family gift at the InterContinental Melbourne. This isn’t a traditional present but it’s one that we have been anticipating for months. At reception, we receive the keys to our very special Christmas gift: one of the four luxury signature suites that are the highlight of this magnificent neo-gothic hotel. The InterContinental Melbourne, The Rialto, is a Melbourne landmark and housed in a building that was constructed in the gold rush era of 1891. The hotel began as two separate buildings — the Rialto and the Winfield — and housed the wool store, government and private offices and the first flushing toilets in Melbourne.
With their neo-gothic design and cutting edge facilities, both buildings were a testimony to Melbourne’s then status as one of the world’s wealthiest cities. Today they house a stunning hotel with 253 guestrooms and luxurious suites, a club lounge, fine dining restaurant, and multiple bars. When entering the hotel, it’s impossible not to be wowed by the historic architecture and glass atrium roof area that spans both buildings and transports you to the early 1900s Melbourne. The Brighton Suite is our home for the next 48 hours and best described as 100 square metres of decadent luxury. It’s not cheap at around $600+ a night but it’s definitely worth it.
Our arrival at the hotel is warm and efficient with a cheery Merry Christmas from the concierge and our bags are whisked away from the reception desk in moments. As Club Lounge guests, we can check-in at the luxurious surrounds of the Club Lounge on Level 4. We can’t help but smile at each other as we already know about all the nice little luxury extras like this that come with the suite. All the rooms at the InterContinental Melbourne have tasteful and elegant decor with all the modern amenities you could possibly want for a business or leisure stay. Choices range from the modest Queen Rialto rooms with queen beds to the larger King Executive rooms with king beds, plus Signature and Executive Suites which have king beds and are a very generous size.
As we venture around the hotel we also take a keen interest in the variety of artwork. From the in-room photos of Melbourne to the sculptures from local artists, all of them are quintessentially Melbourne. One unique aspect of the rooms and suites is that some have balconies that overlook the atrium. This area offers a view with a difference and is an all-weather air-conditioned space, perfect for people watching and chilling out.
These rooms might not suit everyone as the balconies face each other and also provide a view inside your room for those staying in the opposite building. If you stay in one of these rooms, remember to close the curtains so you don’t give other guests a peep show when you’re getting changed. Another choice of room category is Club Class which we have as suite guests but this is also available in most room categories. This option is more expensive but offers added inclusions such as breakfast, signature afternoon tea and an evening cocktail hour. Kids under 12 aren’t allowed in the Club Lounge during the cocktail hour but parents and their children are invited to enjoy the cocktail hour at an alternate hotel venue.
The InterContinental Melbourne, The Rialto, also has what are arguably the best hotel suites in Melbourne, with a choice of four Signature and three Iconic suites. Each suite has its own style and decor that reflects the suite’s name and unique theme. Our Suite, The Brighton, takes its colour scheme from Brighton’s iconic beach boxes with sandy tones like the beach and splashes of seaside colours. Other themed suites include the Yarra Valley Suite, City of Melbourne Suite and the Great Ocean Road Suite.
All are magnificent and make for a genuinely unique Melbourne stay and – even though they are expensive – in our opinion they are well worth the price when you consider all the extras, the fact our suite easily accommodated three people and we could pre-purchase in advance and save. The only disappointment during our stay was that because we stayed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we were unable to dine at the hotel in the evening. Alluvial Restaurant, which is the only restaurant at the hotel, was fully booked on our first night (our fault for not thinking to book in advance) and closed on Boxing Day. This was a Thursday so we weren’t expecting it to be closed, especially not at a five star hotel of this size.
We ordered pizzas from room service on our first night. They were‘okay’ but not great so we didn’t want to do this again on the second night of our stay. We had no choice but to head out and find another restaurant that was open and could fit us in (which wasn’t easy, as it turned out). This was exactly what we had been trying to avoid by booking a five star hotel which had it’s own dining options.
If you have club access you can have buffet breakfast either at the restaurant or a la carte in the club. The buffet breakfast in the restaurant was extensive but we enjoyed having breakfast in the Club as it was more personal and less frantic, plus there was an a la carte menu. The Market Lane Bar located adjacent to reception is also available for light meals and snacks (although not when we stayed).
Amenities at the InterContinental Melbourne include a 24-hour gym, heated indoor pool, plus multiple meeting and function rooms for weddings and events. There is also a stand-alone Botanica Day Spa for all your pampering needs but, understandably, this wasn’t open at Christmas. While we were sitting on the charming outdoor balcony at the Club Lounge enjoying a glass of wine, we saw many people taking photos of the hotel from across the street. When travellers stop to take photos of where you’re staying, you know right away that it’s an impressive hotel.
Disclosure: The writer paid for his stay at The InterContinental Melbourne, The Rialto and would not hesitate to stay at this hotel again at his own expense.
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