When your family's first trip from the U.S. to Australia is over the travel crunch period of late December, and your ambitious outbound itinerary includes four flights that stretch over 24-hours, cover more than seven-thousand miles, cross the international dateline and flip-flop hemispheres, there are a few basic things that you want and need when you arrive at your hotel. You want it to be "as advertised", nothing less. You want to get the exact rooms you reserved at the right price, and you want them to be ready. I'm happy to say that the Langham in Melbourne met and exceeded all of my expectations. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the quick, friendly, and efficient service by the doorman, the bellman, and the reception desk. Check in was a breeze and our luggage was whisked up to our rooms so quickly that our suitcases beat us upstairs. We had connecting River View king/double-double rooms (2127 & 2129) that featured a spectacular panorama of the Yarra River, Flinders Station and the city's skyline that seemed so close that you could almost reach out and touch the buildings. The view was mesmerizing and we never got tired of it. In fact, the early morning after our first night there, we spotted almost a dozen hot air balloons hovering over the city, bathed in the golden light of sunrise. It was an ethereal moment, the kind of unexpected treat you hope for when you travel.
The Langham's location is perfect for exploring Melbourne. Walk out the front door, turn left and go up a few steps and you're inside the Southbank complex of shops and restaurants. (In fact, the Southbank riverfront promenade extends for several blocks and includes scores of restaurants. You won't go hungry here! Also, people watching along the Southbank Promenade was really entertaining. You'll see both the beautiful and the bizarre.) Take a slightly different walking route and within a few steps you're on a pedestrian bridge that takes you over the river directly to Flinders Station and on to the stores, shops and cafes of the Lanes. At Federation Square you can either hop on a convenient St. Kilda street tram to the waterfront or enjoy the free trolley that circles the downtown core. It's an easy way to explore the city. Want a commanding view of Melbourne and its environs? The Eureka Skydeck is less than a block from the Langham.
The hotel's lobby isn't really a "lobby" in the traditional sense. It's a series of cascading open air floors starting at ground level, you take an escalator up to the reception area and then walk a few steps up another level to the restaurant/bar. We enjoyed three spectacular breakfast buffets that included a dizzying array of practically every kind of breakfast food you could wish for. The honeycomb presentation was a bonus. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for.
The Lanham's guest rooms are in the process of being switched over to a more environmentally friendly electrical system. Unfortunately, this wasn't explained to me at check in and I didn't know that you have to insert one of your room keys in the small receptacle just inside the door and leave it in place in order to activate the lights. We stumbled around trying to figure out why nothing worked until I eventually called down to the front desk and had it explained to me Other reviewers have raved about the comfortable beds here. They were right! The bathrooms were spacious, well equipped and quite modern but their light switches were on the outside of the bathroom (which took a little getting used to) and the doors were equipped with a device that made them open and close more slowly and prevented them from being accidentally slammed. The air conditioning unit in one of our rooms didn't work properly at first, but hotel maintenance fixed the problem in short order. Here's a nice touch: at check in, the front desk receptionist suggested that since we had two connecting rooms, we might enjoy getting two different Australian newspapers in the morning. Great idea!
The pool and hot tub were nice and the pool deck seemed like a wonderful observation point to soak up the sun and check out the city views.
Service here was truly first class. Every employee seemed friendly and personable. The chief Concierge, Peter McBreaty, was especially helpful. He facilitated the switch of an Avis rental car from an inconvenient location to a different and much more convenient location. And then he had the car delivered to the hotel so it would be ready for us when we were ready to hit the road and start exploring Victoria. Bravo, Peter!
I had been looking forward to enjoying a drink at the bar, but was somewhat disappointed in my experience there. The bar felt cold and without much of a personality.Yes, it looked classy and inviting. But although there were a few seats on either end of the bar, they really weren't conducive to sitting there. There were so many odds and ends scattered across the bar itself that it felt stiff and uncomfortable. It seemed like the real purpose of the bar was to serve drinks to customers sitting at the tables that were scattered around the lounge.
Two very minor negatives: valet parking was $45/night. That's the most I have ever paid to valet a car overnight in any hotel in the world. I noticed a self-park garage less than a block away that advertised overnight parking for $7. Quite a difference! Also, there's no free wi-fi at the Langham. Maybe there is on the club level, but if I wanted internet service I either had to pay for it, or purchase online time in the business center from the front desk. For what I paid to stay here, I would have hoped that free wi-fi would have been available.
All in all though, staying at the Langham was a great experience and a perfect spot to begin our time in Australia. Bring your wallet because it's quite expensive here, but you should realistically expect to pay high prices at a five star hotel in an international destination. I'll be back.
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- The Langham, Melbourne Hotel Melbourne