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“Clean and comfortable, but limited options nearby.”
Review of University House

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University House
Ranked #29 of 57 Hotels in Canberra
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
90 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Clean and comfortable, but limited options nearby.”
Reviewed March 26, 2012

I stayed at University House for a conference at the same venue. Having an on-site bar and restaurant, we never left the place for two days. The rooms are modest with simple furnishing, but more spacious than expected. A small bedroom (bag table in the living room!) but comfortable bed. Free internet is available in the library. The bar prices are very reasonable, but it closes at 8pm weeknights. The breakfast options were broad and fresh, with a full breakfast only slightly more than a continental. Overall an adequate venue, but a bit limited when compared to commercial hotels.

Room Tip: Phone or email ahead and ask for a ground floor room (no lifts to higher floors).
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  • Stayed March 2012, traveled on business
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Thank Kevin51
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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336 reviews from our community

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English first
Double Bay, Australia
Level Contributor
113 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 86 helpful votes
Reviewed March 23, 2012

The Foundation Stone near reception at University House records that it was laid on 24/10/49 [and hence one of the first buildings at the now world famous Australian National University - associated with, for instance, the majority of Australians who have been awarded the Noble Prize - including the latest who still teaches there!].

Presumably when the Government asked greater self-funding from Universities, part of University House was refurbished and is open to the public for accomodation. This restoration has maintained the 1950's style of the building, together with the room interiors which have "retro" wooden furniture which could well be original but revarnished. I noticed another plaque awarding the building a heritage prize from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, so this will give you a good idea of the quality of building you will be staying in. The other unique feature is that it is still a fully functioning part of the ANU, with many seminars on while we were there and rooms used by members of [ as distinct from guests at] University House

In the tradition of English university colleges, the premises are built around a large quadrangle, which now contains mature shady trees and features along one side a huge ornamental fish pond. Reception is on one side of the quadrangle, together with the restaurant {Boffins - which is more than adequate for lunch or dinner], together with a bar and breakfast room on a lower level.

Consistent with this being a functioning university college more than a hotel as such, there is no valet parking, bell boys or room service [but you will soon say "so what", given the serene and privileged setting and value pricing!].

The three accommodation wings are of 3 stories each but have no lifts, so if you have trouble carrying your bags ask for a ground floor room. Also, another quirk is that the floors are not horizontally connected, but in sets of 6 around an interior staircase [from which you will occasionally hear people walking up and down ] The entrances are marked "A' to "L" and because the quadrangle is so large you should ask reception what direction to head in for your room.

The rooms now available to the public were once accomodation for professors and graduate students of the University. They have all been thoroughly and tastefully refurbished, while maintaining their heritage design and furniture [except for the shower/bathrooms which are new but small]. After a few stays, without question the best rooms are "North Wing Suites" - see my photos. I deduce they were originally one room apartments. They consist of a spacious lounge area and a balcony its full length, overlooking the main library of the ANU with Black Mountain and its iconic Telstra Tower in the distance. There is a separate bedroom [which the bed largely fills] and bathroom[ with shower]

On previous stays I have not encountered rooms the size of the sNorth Wing Suites in either the West or East wings and would describe them more as converted studio apartments. Exterior East and West Wing rooms also have smaller balconies [or none]. Be aware that West Wing rooms overlook the Fellows Garden which is set among tall old trees and seems to be a favourite spot for socialising by university staff and guests. So if you are not out there enjoying yourself, it can be noisy in your room until 7-8pm, especially if a jazz band is in action. The exterior east wing rooms overlook the carpark - say no more. These hassles can be avoided by booking an interior courtyard room so you will look out on the serene quadrangle.

The only "staff" you are likely to encounter [apart from room cleaners] are at reception and in the eateries - they were all pleasant and proficient and remember they are also catering to the needs of the University , its faculty and staff - together with us guests.

Insider tips:
1.to the right from the main entrance and about a 5 minute walk is a licensed convenience store which is good for supplies [even though rooms have small mini bar].
2. There is very limited parking at the entrance [from 5 minutes to 2 hours]. However there is a large carpark next to University House, but make sure you get a permit from reception to display in your car to show that you are a guest of University House as it is otherwise 2 hour parking and as usual parking "inspectors" do as they do everywhere.
3.There are no passing taxis or public transport. Canberra being so spread out is definitely a city where you need your own car.
4.There is an ATM at reception.
5. a walk through the ANU grounds is most pleasant and you can even go into the students "uni Bar" if you want to relive your student days [nothing seems to have changed!].In or near the University grounds within a 5 minute walk are are two marvellous buildings architecturally - The Australian Academy of Sciences [which looks like a space saucer!][ and the John Curtin School of Medical Research. University Hall at University House is also worth a look in {but not for use of guests]
6The only major national tourist attractions nearby [and each about a 15 minute walk if you want] are the National Museum of Australia and the National Botanic Gardens {both definitely worth a visit]. Otherwise all other national buildings open to the public eg Parliament House/National Gallery are "on the other side of the Lake" [except for the War Memorial but it too is also a distance -by Canberra standards]. Nearby is Canberra's CBD called "Civic" but would give it a miss.
7.While the University House restaurant meets normal standards, it does not pretend to be a "flash" restaurant. However there seems to a a concentration of them in the apparently old suburban centres called Manuka and Kingston, especially Kennedy Street ,Kingston which has a wide range of different types of restaurants.

Overall ,University House provides a unique experience in the serene atmosphere of a functioning heritage university college at a bargain price compared to commercial hotels [and the suites are exceptionally good value] - and you get the great grounds, buildings and surrounding university life of the ANU for free.

Room Tip: Without question the best rooms are called "North Wing Suites" read review above.Exterior...
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  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
6 Thank lux2lessworld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Canberra, Australia
Level Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed March 19, 2012

University House is still far more like the student accommodation it started out as than a real hotel. It benefits from the lush green surroundings of the university, but lacks the comfort and polish even cheap hotels manage.

We stayed in a Queen Suite, which was a very generous size and looked over the courtyard on one side and had a balcony facing out over the university grounds on the other side. The decor is retro, but everything was clean and functional, and the bed was better than I expected. The only room feature I could fault was the couch. This extremely uncomfortable piece of furniture was intended for sipping tea in polite company, not for sprawling out and watching TV, and after standing up all day I really needed somewhere comfortable to relax.

If you are even mildly mobility impaired, I would recommend mentioning this when booking. Ramps connect the common areas, but there are no lifts and even our 'ground floor' room required a half-flight of stairs. Staff were efficient and did what was needed, but I got the feeling that they didn't really care.

Like other reviewers, we did notice the noise. For a place which should be quiet, it isn't. Noise travels easily between rooms and from the stairwell. We also noticed a lot of events, including a wedding, which meant noise from the courtyard until quite late at night. Thankfully it doesn't seem to attract a rowdy crowd, so other than the wedding it was quiet at night.

It feels like a long walk to get anywhere, but this is Canberra and everything is spread out anyway. There are some nice cafes nearby in Acton, and it's still close enough to walk to Civic or Parliamentary Triangle.

We only ate at the cafe for breakfast, but its $20 for a fairly average buffet and we didn't think it was worth it. Walk to Urbanfood and get breakfast for half that price. Internet prices are also extremely steep at $10/day.

Despite the negatives I would still stay here again, mostly because it was clean, the bed was comfortable, I felt safe even at night, and it's really, really cheap.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Shona K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Townsville, Australia
Level Contributor
18 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed March 18, 2012

although dated and no lift to 3rd floor of our north wing suite, service was friendly and nice grounds. the bar and restaurant were next door and great for travel with babies as the outdoor part of the bar/cafe had lots of space and close toilets (no baby change though). walkable to anywhere in the city

Room Tip: the suite was worth the extra room especially with an infant
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  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank angienilsson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney
Level Contributor
15 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed March 2, 2012

I love University House. the renovated rooms are clean conformable spacious and straight out of the 50s, but new. When you first walk into the room you think "this is a funny old room" and then you start to realise that it is a funny new old room. I am amazed that they could re-furbish a 50s room so thoroughly without changing its character at all. The whole hotel is a really excellent piece of design and architecture. It is very very calm, serenely set in particularly leafy and quiet bit of the Australian National University. The breakfast is excellent value - I think it is $15 for a full hot and cold spread (that a normal hotel would probably ask 20 or 25 for).

I have stayed in some of the un-furbished rooms as well and they are not as special nor as good value overall. The un-renovated 'family' rooms are a cheap option if you are sharing as it you get 2 separate bedrooms but you wouldn't want to spend too much time hanging around in your room. I once stayed in a single room with outside facilities and I thought that just too rough - the room wasn't very clean, the bed was old and too short and communal bathroom was pretty rough. I think that was $90 versus $160 for a renovated suite, but it was all that was available that night. The renovated rooms are worth the money though. A family of 4, or even 5, could happily live in a 2 bedroom suite for a protracted period of time.

It is a short pleasant walk into civic from the hotel, or an even shorter one to the Uni Bar.

Room Tip: The re-furbished rooms are worth the extra money
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled on business
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank blindjoe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Geelong, Australia
Level Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed February 24, 2012

This is my second visit to University House. I like the memories it brings of university, the large rooms, the lovely lawn and shady trees, and the convenience to the city and the lake. The breakfasts are pretty good.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Luckenbooth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
York, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
43 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed January 17, 2012

My wife and I stayed here in a Queen Superior Suite in Jan 2012. The accomodation was very good, if somewhat dated. The location is excellent and was keenly priced. Breakfast in the Cafe Bar was also good value. Would certainly go back.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank John T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about University House

Property: University House
Address: Cnr Balmain Cr & Liversidge St | Australian National University, Canberra 2601, Australia
Location: Australia > Australian Capital Territory > Canberra
Amenities:
Hotel Style:
#3 Best Value Hotel in Canberra
#15 Family Hotel in Canberra
#16 Business Hotel in Canberra
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:3.5 star — University House 3.5*
Number of rooms: 105
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Also Known As:
University House Hotel Canberra
University Hotel Canberra
University House Canberra

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