Olivia discovers “cool” Canberra at Hotel Hotel

So, this weekend I learnt a very valuable lesson: Canberra is no longer the boring old country town I remember from my Year 6 school trip! It’s actually become (dare I say…) quite cool, with a flurry of cafes, shops and hotels having opened up that look more suited to the streets of Sydney’s Surry Hills than Australia’s capital city.

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Leading Canberra into the next phase of its stylish new life is NewActon, the arts and culture precinct. Home to some of the best hotels, restaurants and bars in the city, as well as having an active arts scene thanks to festivals, exhibitions and a cinema, NewActon is a grand feat of architecture and design. It has won more awards (local and national) across architecture, property development and urban design than any other in Canberra’s history, and that’s no surprise.

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But the pinnacle of New Acton has to be Hotel Hotel, which prides itself on being not just another boutique art hotel, but an ‘intense collaboration of 56 (and counting) artists, designers, and makers’. Having visited just last weekend, I can honestly say that it is wonderful! The detail is superb, from the grand staircase made from salvaged local timber, all the way down to the glassware and ceramics, absolutely everything in this hotel is carefully considered. Walking around you’re in a constant state of awe and that’s before you’ve even hit the bedrooms and bathrooms. And my my when you do, get ready to be amazed!

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I stayed in The Meandering Room, their most spacious, but with four room sizes, plus multiple types of apartments, there’s plenty of choice. My room was on the first floor and only had the one smallish window that looked into an internal atrium populated with ferns from a Tasmanian forest destined for clearance (they’re big on sustainability). While the lack of light would have normally been something that would have annoyed me, this time it didn’t, with the raw materiality of the room: the clay rendered walls, natural fibre wallpaper and salvaged oak beds actually making it feel cosy and warm.

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The rooms, which have all been furnished in their own unique way, are filled with salvaged and re-upholstered mid-twentieth century furniture, one-off designs made by local artisans and curious and beautiful objects collected over ten years. However, it is the bathrooms that take them to the next level: think a deep polished concrete bathtub, double rain showers, double vanities and a heated floor!

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And while it is easy to see why you may want to stay in your room all day, if you do dare to venture outside, you won’t be short of things to do. There’s Monster, the kitchen and bar on the ground floor, serving delicious food from 6.30am to 1am, the most gorgeous little library where you can enjoy a cocktail and a read, and some super stylish Goodspeed bikes you can rent for free and cycle the 10-to-15 minutes to Parliament House if you’re so inclined.

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While Canberra has never been top of my places to revisit, I can honestly say that my stay at Hotel Hotel has changed my mind. It may still be a bit of a sleepy town but with hotels this good, I’ll be trying to think of an excuse to return ASAP!

Disclosure: I was a guest of Hotel Hotel and did not pay for my accommodation or meals. Positive coverage was not guaranteed.

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