Hotel Of The Week: Sofitel Melbourne

Set on the top floors of a 50-storey tower, with views of the city's cricket ground, the Sofitel Melbourne is the choice of visiting sports stars

Melbourne is the arts and sports capital of Australia and far less superficial, claim its residents, than rival Sydney. Its appeal can be slow to appreciate because it lacks the sexy setting of Sydney and its city beaches are more Bournemouth than Bondi. But get to know the place, and Melbourne will reward you. It's proud of its diverse ethnic mix - it has a large Italian quarter, for example, where you should stop for an espresso and ice cream at the famous Brunetti coffee shop. Then there are the trams, which add another touch of European style. And, of course, there's the architecture, which includes Victorian masterpieces and sleek modern skyscrapers. The city is a major sports centre. It hosts the Australian Open (Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Serena and Venus Williams and Pat Rafter have all stayed at this hotel) and earlier this year, staged the Commonwealth Games - the Sofitel was the official hotel for all the world's dignitaries and officials who attended. The city will host the World Swimming Championships in March.

The comfort factor

In preparation for the Commonwealth Games, the hotel underwent a thorough makeover. Without being too stark, the rooms have been dragged into the 21st century with the introduction of DVD and CD players, digital movies on demand, plasma-screen TVs and bedside control panels for every light and gadget. The décor is the obligatory upmarket mix of taupe paint, cool marble and soft silks. Best of all are the beds. Sofitel has pioneered its own My Bed, which is dressed with a luxury down-filled duvet on top and a down cover for the mattress. A treat. As the hotel occupies the top floors of a 50-storey tower (there are offices and a shopping mall underneath), all the rooms, but especially the corner suites, have great views. You have an eagle-eye view of the courts used for the Australian Open as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground where the Test season kicks off on Boxing Day. Breakfast is average hotel fare.

The comfort factor

Business folk in the week and leisure travellers at weekends. Many people come here from other Australian states for a couple of days of cultural activities - visit the art galleries, see a show, and eat great food. Joan Collins has stayed here and Prince Edward holed up here during the Commonwealth Games - but don't let that put you off.

The comfort factor

The Sofitel is in the heart of the city, surrounded by offices and upscale stores. (Try Little Collins Street.) That said, the centre of Melbourne is compact; set out on a grid network, it feels like several blocks of Manhattan have been transported to the southern hemisphere. To see the less corporate side of the city, you'll need to catch the tram out to the beach at St Kilda (grab lunch at the Stokehouse) or go shopping on Chapel Street. The new arts complex at Federation Square is just a short walk from the hotel, as are the Botanic Gardens.

The access

All areas of the hotel can be used by people with wheelchairs and five rooms are equipped with showers for people who have disabilities. There are also interconnecting rooms for families and baby cots and high chairs are available.

The damage

Standard rooms from A$250 (£100), suites from A$400 (£160) with breakfast.

The address

Sofitel Melbourne, 25 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia (00 61 3 9650 4261; sofitel.com).

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