Can there be a better way to arrive at a hotel late on a hot afternoon than for someone to welcome you with a cold beer? After a trip through the mountains of Washington state, and a couple of hours' tangling with Seattle's rush-hour traffic, I turned up in the chic, conspiratorial foyer at 5.40pm.

Despite my dishevelled appearance, I was warmly greeted by the Hotel Monaco's always-smiling reception staff, who pointed out that the nightly happy hour was in full swing, and before 6pm I could enjoy a complimentary drink. Bliss – though in half measures. Rather than being given a whole bottle of beer, a half-glass was carefully poured. On the dot of six I went to ask for a top-up, but the staff could not be seen for dust.

The Hotel Monaco is part of the Kimpton chain, which has city-centre Monaco hotels in seven large US cities. I had previously stayed at the Chicago Monaco, which proved outstanding, and that's why I splashed out on a night at the Seattle version.

The sense of understated style was the same. But by the time I checked out, I felt that the happy-hour experience summed up the Monaco: well-intentioned, yet stopping short of delivering a joyful experience.


Hotel Monaco Seattle, 1101 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98101, US (001 206 621 1770; – as good a claim to be in the middle of downtown as anywhere. Pike Place Market, complete with the original Starbucks, is a few blocks north-west, and the rejuvenated Pioneer Square area is a few blocks south.

Time from international airport: 28 minutes by frequent bus 194 to University Street – an underground station for buses one block away.


You won't be sleepless. "Comfort" involves more than just the quality of the mattress, which was perfectly fine. It also covers the warm colours that soothe your stay – and the welcome fact, for the weary traveller, that you need not learn a new technological regime to do something simple like switch the light on, rather than performing tricks with cards and electronics. For a US hotel, though, the room was distinctly compact, and you wouldn't want too many members of a Seattle grunge band partying in there, too.

Freebies: besides the small beer in the lobby, a modest and unexciting range of toiletries. Oh, and I was loaned some shoe polish and a brush to shine up my footwear after a long trip.

Staying in touch: free Wi-Fi (more generous than many US hotels, which demand $10 or more), direct-dial phone, and TV with far more channels than a normal person would ever need.

The bottom line

I paid the "web special" rate of $277 (£145), room only. This requires advance booking at and is non-refundable. Usual rates are significantly higher.

I'm not paying that: the Green Tortoise Hostel is just along the road at 105-and-a-half Pike Street (001 206 340 1222;, and has dorm rates starting at $25 (£13), including breakfast and free Wi-Fi.