Sydney has the big, bold sights, but Melbourne has the culture and poise: that's certainly the claim of the local Melburnians. But actually, Victoria's capital city has plenty of both. This breathtaking city of old and new, stretching along the curve of Port Phillips Bay has architecture that wows, arts that sizzle and museums that blow the mind. It may have been founded on a gold rush 150 years ago, but there's still plenty of boom ongoing in 'Marvellous Melbourne'.
There are also plenty of accommodation choices. From sky-scraping hotels and glittering apartments, to sea-side guest-houses and backpacker bolt-holes. Melbourne's well-planned, but diverse neighbourhoods – cast along either side of the snaking Yarra River – can overwhelm visitors with their options. Let's have a look at what the main hotel districts can offer you on your visit.
First stop, of course, is the glitz and glamour of Melbourne central, the CBD (Central Business District), shooting its mirrored glass-towers skywards. As you might expect, some of the city's most prestigious and dramatic hotels can be found in this bustling centre of Melbourne life. Here you'll be close-up to that vibrancy, while staying in rooms with some of the most spectacular views in town.
It's not all account-draining luxury and vistas here though. There are lots of good quality business hotels, as well as reasonably-priced brand-name hotel chains – and even a smattering of budget guest-houses, packed down some of the CBD's well-hidden lanes and alleys. Another option, that's just opening up for those who want to be centrally located, is the Docklands district. It lies just to the west of the CBD. This area of warehouses is being redeveloped, and is gaining an increasing number of fine hotels.
Of course, as the self-proclaimed Aussie capital of culture, many visitors are drawn here for the shows and performances of Southbank, across the Yarra to the south. Fortunately for them, there are a number of modern hotels close by, in South Melbourne. These range from mid-price elegance to five-star fabulous, with the added bonus that a night at the opera (or an evening of theatre) is almost on your doorstep.
On the other side of the river, in North Melbourne, you'll find the city opens up into the University district of Carlton, with its parks and campuses mingling with Victorian suburbs having a decidedly Mediterranean flavour. Melbourne's large Italian community has long been settled along Carlton's streets, and it has some great restaurants. It has also attracted some great hotels, none too glitzy, but none too shabby either.
Lastly, if you want to do Melbourne, while having plenty of room to breathe and stretch, you could try staying in one of its prettiest (if far-flung) suburbs – Dandenong. Here you'll find several low-rise hotels and apartment complexes, serving as great bases for exploring the wider Melbourne area. The coastal beaches are a few kilometres south-west, while the wild splendour of the Dandenong Ranges lies to the north-west. And you're still within striking distance of the shimmering lights of Melbourne.