Destinations

The Sofitel Melbourne has just completed its long-running refurbishment

The $15 million renovation of each of the 360 rooms, which took 18 months, has given one of Melbourne’s best-known hotels a beautiful spruce-up.

By Callum McDermott
Photo: Sofitel Melbourne
I've seen Melbourne and its skyline from pretty much every good vantage point there is (and more than a few terrible angles). But the city has never looked as good to me as it did from my room in the Sofitel. Sitting on my armchair, looking through the windows, I couldn't stop watching the Yarra – languidly winding its way through Abbotsford and Richmond, skirting the MCG, past the runners doing a lap of the Tan and the rowers bringing the boats back into their sheds. Believe it or not, from the 44th floor the river actually looks blue, instead of the muddy brown it's famous for.
But everything looks better up here – from the Arts Centre spire, to the NGV to Fed Square and Flinders Street Station. You're basically staring at every landmark you'd see on a Melbourne postcard in a souvenir shop. I could even make out Luna Park, all the way over in St Kilda.
I should also mention that the room is nice, too. That's because the Sofitel has just completed an 18-month, $15 million refurbishment of each of its 360 rooms. When the Collins Place building that houses the Sofitel opened in May 1981, it changed the Melbourne CBD indelibly. The precinct, designed by renowned architect I.M Pei, revitalised the Paris end of Collins Street, and the hotel, then known as the Wentworth – it became the Sofitel in 1996 – was the building's crown jewel (the day before it opened, The Age called it "Melbourne's hotel in the sky").
But despite numerous renovations over the years, the hotel was beginning to show its age. And the pandemic – and the lack of guests, international and domestic – presented an ideal opportunity for a head-to-toe spruce-up.
The view out over the Arts Centre and out to the bay. Photo: Sofitel Melbourne
So many excellent new hotels have opened in Melbourne over the last two years: The W, The Lancemore, Next Hotel, The Quincy, The Hilton and Ovolo South Yarra to name a few. It's a lot of new competition, and established players like the Sofitel Melbourne need to stay match-fit to keep up with the new kids on the block.
This refurbishment is their answer to the challenge. The redone rooms are crisp, well-appointed and keep with the Sofitel's French-themed design. The beds are ludicrously easy to sleep in, and the pillows – of all kinds of firmness for all sorts of snoozers – are as comfortable as they come. In my room, the walls were a cool dark gray, offset by the stark pop of the royal blue armchair.
Dining at in-house restaurant No35, for dinner or for breakfast – remember buffets? – is a pure pleasure, too. During my stay, Melbourne was busy reclaiming its mantle as the live theatre capital of the country: Moulin Rouge was finishing its run at The Regent, while Hamilton was just starting at Her Majesty's Theatre. All throughout town, comedians were working on their sets for the upcoming festival. The Sofitel has always positioned itself as the place you go when you're seeing a show, and many of the guests I spoke with were in town for just that reason.
If you're a fan of the Sofitel brand, and you've enjoyed staying at this Melbourne location in the past, you'll be very pleased with what they've done with the place. And you get the sense that this refurbishment was really done with those fans in mind. It's an important hotel, that's important to a lot of people, and it's nice to see it freshened up; ready to keep doing what it does best.
Sofitel Melbourne
25 Collins St, Melbourne, Vic
sofitelmelbourne.com.au