Urban

When the last thing you want is to get away from it all, these stylish city digs will fit the bill.

APARTMENT ALKIRA
MELBOURNE CBD, VIC

18 Queen Street, City
Email: apartment.alkira@gmail.com
Web: apartmentalkira.com.au

The location Behind the plane trees lining Queen Street, on the edge of the old financial district, there are plenty of historically interesting buildings, many of them former banking headquarters, that are now home to cafes, offices and, above street level, apartments. The self-contained Apartment Alkira is in one of the most striking of them, the art-deco Alkira House, close to the corner of Flinders Lane with its tempting treasure trove of restaurants, cafes and tucked-away shops.

The place A tall, thin, black streak of a building, Alkira House, built in 1937, is a stunning example of the "jazz moderne" style. The facade has glass bricks up the centre and glazed black tiles either side. Inside, this second-floor apartment has lots of quirky references to the architectural style, such as the black and red colour scheme, film posters, art books and the antique metal desk. The living and dining area is open-plan, with a red leather day bed dividing the space. There's a well-equipped galley kitchen, and the bedroom and bathroom are at the rear, furthest away from any street noise.

The experience With a weekend or longer to explore Melbourne, this funky apartment makes a perfect base from which to hit the food centres, galleries and city shopping (Flinders Lane alone could occupy a couple of days). You're also a stone's throw from tram lines to St Kilda beach, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy and a host of other inner-city hot spots.

Don't miss … The CBD's unique laneways - such as Degraves Street and the aforementioned Flinders Lane - will draw you in, but don't forget to head up the hill to the Queen Victoria Market, and across the river to Southbank's shopping strip, the Arts Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria.  
Clare Kermond

Cost: $210 a night (three-night minimum stay).
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: no.
Wheelchair access:
no.

GRAND HYATT MELBOURNE
MELBOURNE CBD, VIC

123 Collins Street, City
Phone: (03) 9657 1234
Email: reservations@hyatt.com
Web: melbourne.grand.hyatt.com

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The location Melbourne's central business district never feels like just a place for people to do business. On the weekend you'll find shuttered office towers and thinner crowds, but you'll also find galleries, design stores and those much-vaunted laneways. Located on Collins Street, at the Parliament House end of the CBD, the Grand Hyatt is as good a choice for a business trip as it is for more pleasurable pursuits.

The place Built in the 1980s, the 548-room Grand Hyatt was given a $45-million makeover in late 2008. It's now sleek and contemporary; the low-lit, buzzing lobby features Grecian marble, French designer chairs and sculpture by Melbourne artist Robert Bridgewater. There is a restaurant you'd be happy to eat in as well as a glamorous foyer bar named, somewhat puzzlingly, RU-CO.

The experience This is the big-hotel experience, but it is more discreet, and more luxurious, than many hotels that share its five-star rating. The spacious Spa King room has a very deep marble bath and a view to Federation Square.

Don't miss … The Melbourne restaurant of the moment, Chin Chin (125 Flinders Lane, 03 8663 2000), is so close by that it would be foolish not to visit. Try the barramundi and caramelised pork salad and you'll be convinced that - contrary to its reputation - Melbourne can do modern Thai food very well indeed.  
Lauren Quaintance

Cost: from $290 a night for the Grand King room; from $430 a night for the Spa King room.
Sleeps: 1-3.
Children: yes.
Wheelchair access:
yes.


THE COLLINGWOOD
BRISBANE, QLD

32 Collingwood Street, Paddington
Phone: (07) 3511 7430
Email: info@thecollingwood.com.au
Web: thecollingwood.com.au

The location A weekend in Brisbane usually means a hotel (with or without river views, depending on your budget) in the CBD but, for something a bit different, the inner suburb of Paddington offers steep streets full of charming Victorian weatherboard cottages only four kilometres, or a 10-minute bus ride, from the heart of town.

The place A purpose-built B&B in the style of a traditional Queenslander, The Collingwood has four guest rooms, each with ensuite and balcony. Though not super-huge, the rooms are stylish, and there's a large guest lounge for those wishing to spread out. A continental buffet breakfast is served on the rear verandah. Thoughtful touches include a computer with free internet access for guests' use; and quality tea bags, fresh coffee (with plunger) and fresh milk in the rooms.

The experience This historic precinct is full of galleries, antiques stores, cafes and restaurants. Within a walk or a short cab ride of the B&B are Il Posto (07 3367 3111), serving smart Italian (including pizzas) to an enthusiastic clientele, and Simpatico (07 3367 1117), offering pleasant, mod-Italian food in a relaxed setting. Also intriguing-sounding is Montrachet (07 3367 0030), a French restaurant so highly esteemed and hard to get into that it doesn't even open on Friday to Sunday nights - so yah-boo-sucks to the weekend-away crowd.

Don't miss … Just metres from The Collingwood, up on Paddington's shopping spine, Latrobe Terrace, a former theatre now houses the Paddington Antique Centre (seven days, 10am to 5pm), whose huge array of eclectic wares offers hours of browsing pleasure.  
Roz Gatwood

Cost: $220 a double a night for a two-night stay; $250 a night for one night. Single rate: $20 less per night.
Distance:
4km from Brisbane CBD.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: no.
Wheelchair access: no.

ESTABLISHMENT
SYDNEY CBD, NSW

5 Bridge Lane, City
Phone: (02) 9240 3100
Email: concierge@merivale.com
Web: merivale.com

The location Establishment is minutes away from the clutch of attractions that make Sydney the glamazon she is: the Opera House, the Botanic Gardens and the Harbour Bridge. The lure of retail therapy is all around.

The place This five-star, 31-room luxury boutique hotel was voted "one of the 25 hot new places to stay in the world" by Condé Nast Traveler magazine six months after it opened 10 years ago. With their exposed brickwork and spacious layouts, the rooms have a laid-back, New York loft-style appeal. Each comes with its own iPad 2, Apple TV and Bose sound system.

The experience Boutique hotel connoisseurs Mr and Mrs Smith have called Establishment "a multi-tasking pleasure palace" and to this jaded pair of guests, desperate for a 24-hour respite from the punishing schedule of a home renovation, that was an accurate summation. With several "everything under one roof" destinations to choose from within the hotel, a sojourn here can be as pumping or as Zen as you like. If luxing it up like Paris Hilton at the end of a jail term is the order of the day, the marble and bluestone bathroom will get the ball rolling in style: luxuriate wantonly in a Bulgari-foam bath or stand directly beneath the dinner-plate-size head of the "rain shower" for a deliciously bone-soothing drenching.

Don't miss … a special-occasion meal at Est, the three-hatted, multi-award-winning in-house restaurant run by chef Peter Doyle. Or, more affordably, a bite at Sushi E, the intimate and stylish sushi bar accessed via the Hemmesphere lounge.   Sharon Bradley

Cost: from about $449 a night.
Sleeps: 1-2.
Children: yes (though this is more of a coupley space).
Wheelchair access:
yes.

DOCKSIDE SALAMANCA
HOBART, TAS

87 Salamanca Place, Hobart
Phone: (03) 6234 5063
Email: stay@sullivanscoveapartments.com.au
Web: sullivanscoveapartments.com.au

The location Hobart isn't always top of mind when you think of a weekend getaway. Quaint but a bit quiet, you might say? Well, it's true it has a different rhythm, but a recent influx of newcomers and expatriates means there are unexpected gems to discover. There's still plenty of olde-worlde charm, but there's also an impressive art museum, cutting-edge restaurants and quirky shops.

The place Billed as one of the city's finest serviced apartments, this waterfront bolt-hole is an intriguing mix of old and new: exposed sandstone walls, glass, steel and minimalist modern furnishings. Original features such as wooden shutters that open to the street below have been retained (albeit sealed behind a glass door). There's enough local memorabilia on display to remind you that you're in Hobart but not so much you feel as if you're at Bill and Ethel's B&B. There's a fully equipped kitchen and a so-called "maxi bar" is stocked with Tasmanian wine, beer and spirits.

The experience On Saturday morning, you'll wake to find the Salamanca Market under way on the street below. There are hundreds of stalls selling hot food, organic vegetables and the obligatory ceramics and tea cosies. Later you might cross the road to the docks to get a close-up look at the commercial fishing boats moored there. Wander further along Salamanca Place and you'll find numerous places to eat and drink housed in atmospheric sandstone buildings.

Don't miss … A 45-minute ferry ride from downtown Hobart, the privately owned MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) at Berriedale has been described as a "subversive adult Disneyland" and it doesn't disappoint. MONA contains $100 million of art - from the sacred to the shocking - in a vast underground exhibition space.   Lauren Quaintance

Cost: $480 a night (two-night minimum stay).
Distance: 2km from Hobart CBD.
Sleeps: 1-4.
Children: yes.
Wheelchair access:
no.

THE ROYCE HOTEL
MELBOURNE, VIC

379 St Kilda Road, City
Phone: (03) 9677 9900
Email: enquiries@roycehotels.com.au
Web: roycehotels.com.au

The location The Royce flanks Melbourne's premier avenue, St Kilda Road, and most of the city's finer offerings are within easy reach via a short tram ride. These include the National Gallery of Victoria, the Arts Centre, St Kilda's Esplanade and South Yarra's shopping and dining precinct. The beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens lie between the hotel and the city.

The place The 100-odd rooms and suites at the Royce vary confusingly in size, decor, modernity and price. Some suites, for instance, have kitchenettes, others not. The website is less than helpful in pinpointing the differences in room quality and rates, but generally you get what you pay for. The views vary greatly, too, from a street-level look at Melbourne Grammar to a city skyline view across the Shrine of Remembrance.

The experience The Royce's lobby is a former Rolls-Royce showroom. It is vast and lofty and lined with attentive staff. The hotel boasts a swank restaurant, Dish, as well as a warmly lit bar, the Amberoom, but the dining and entertainment options within a five-kilometre radius present very rich pickings indeed, and guests would do well to book their preferred venues in advance.

Don't miss … a leisurely amble through the Botanic Gardens. If you prefer a faster pace, join the hordes jogging laps around it, a course known as "the Tan". John Van Tiggelen

Cost: weekend room and buffet-breakfast packages range from $199 to $450 a night.
Distance: 3km from Melbourne CBD.
Sleeps: 1-3.
Children: yes.
Wheelchair access:
yes.

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