I chanced upon the Victoria Hotel when a friend invited me over for drinks in the lounge. After a couple of beers, our casual conversation turned into a history lesson with other hotel guests about this Melbourne icon. I thought it would be interesting to share what I'd discovered with you.
The Victoria Hotel has been operating for 132 years, opening just 45 years after Melbourne was established in 1835. This makes it one of the original hotels in Melbourne and older than the grand dame Hotel Windsor. It was founded by the Honourable James Munro, a former premier of Victoria. He opened the hotel on 1st November 1880 as Victoria Coffee Palace, serving an alternative to late 19th century bawdy and rowdy pub accommodations. This meant the hotel did not serve alcohol. This was a key difference from the other regular hotels in Melbourne, as the dry hotel served only tea, coffee and mineral waters to patrons.
It grew in stature as a luxury hotel in the 1920's and 30's, becoming known for its exceptional customer services including porters meeting and assisting guests arriving at Port Melbourne Docks and Spencer Street Train Station. The Vic, as it became known, was advertised as the largest hotel in the Commonwealth. It had a ladies' dining room and a smoking room while the basement was let as an oyster room. It was also the first hotel in Melbourne to offer electric lights in guest rooms.
The hotel saw action during World War II as accommodations for the American Army for many months. It was the main meeting and function venue for the International Olympic Committee during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. The original lobby is still in use today, minus the skylight dome which was removed during World War II to blackout the hotel as a security precaution. Guests can also now enjoy a beer or wine in Vic's Bar. Today it remains the largest 3.5 star hotel in Australia.
The Victoria Hotel Melbourne is now an All Seasons / ibis Styles brand that is part of Accor hotels. It is one of the economy hotels in the chain, characterised by warm and welcoming atmosphere in the public areas and bright and comfortable rooms at affordable prices. It features 374 rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, gym, sauna, spa, restaurant, bar and conference facilities.
Despite the fading grandeur of the late 1800s, the Victoria Hotel Melbourne remains a favourite for visitors due to its low price for a central location in Melbourne CBD. It offers easy access to all the sights and sounds of the city with shopping, good food and attractions all within 5 minutes' walk radius of the hotel.
Up Little Collins Street will have you at the doorstep of good feed from Saint Peter's and Comme. Down the street into Swanston and you have Allegro in Westin Hotel and La Vita Buona in City Square. Shopping at David Jones, Myers and Zara is just around the corner at the Bourke Street Mall. Another 5 minutes' walk past the shopping strip and you're into Little Bourke with its countless selection of Asian eateries. Attractions like the Melbourne Town Hall, Federation Square, Southbank, the Flinders Street Station, the Arts Centre and the Melbourne Cricket Grounds are also close by.
With rooms starting around AUD147 per night, it is possibly one of the cheapest for its star rating in the city. That's probably another reason why I've been seeing schools of footy fans and international tourist streaming in and out of the hotel. The hotel is also running a Country Bed and Breakfast Special till 30 December for their heritage rooms. These rooms are furnished in traditional decor with modern colours and furnishings, and equipped with the comforts of ducted air conditioning, plasma TV, tea and coffee making facilities, hair dryer and a modern bathroom.
Food and Beverage
Victoria Hotel Melbourne offers 2 dining options in the Vic's Bar and Pool Room and Alice's Restaurant. Alice's Restaurant is the hotel's all day dining venue providing full buffet breakfast, Thai food and Australian favourites. It is a no-frills place for a quick and relatively cheap sit down meal. It offers lunch specials with a glass of wine for AUD10.50.
Located on the mezzanine level, Vic's Bar and Pool Room is probably one of the city's best kept secrets where drinks and finger food are affordable. It boasts many regular patrons who frequent this friendly and unassuming pub several times in the week.