Striking it Rich at Melbourne's Gold Rush Era Hotel, the Intercontinental Melbourne the Rialto

Images Credit InterContinental Hotels and Resorts

Melbourne is an electric city with a vibrant culture and rich history. It was the gold rush of the turn of the century that,  in large part, that led to the city’s boom as well as funded its beautiful neo-gothic designed buildings strewn throughout the city in the historic treasures of the churches, banks, and repurposed buildings. On the outside, they still reflect the wonderful facades of yesteryear with ornate widow settings, frightening gargoyles leering from rooftops, and the colorful rust and yellow brick and motor as the signature of the masonry of the era.  Often these legacy structures are juxtaposed next to Melbourne’s recent additions that showcase is status as an uber-modern city with skyscrapers of glass and mirrors creating a wonderful architectural mixture or the old and the new.  In the heart of Melbourne, a short walk away from the city’s main attractions and landmarks, it on such structure. Once the stores and shops of Melbourne’s wool and wheat industry, it is now one of the city’s top luxury hotels. It is the Intercontinental Melbourne the Rialto.

Melbourne is Australia’s culture capital and is internationally known for its hot nightlife, its cool art scene and tasty culinary offerings. Melbourne feels like New York and London had a child and has the edginess, mélange of immigrant cultures that give it an electricity like none other.

The Intercontinental Melbourne the Rialto happens to be in the center of it all located on one of Melbourne’s most iconic main streets, Collins Street. Nearby are plenty of places to shop from posh international brands to trending local fashion designer shops. A fun visit for shopping is to one of Melbourne’s Historic Arcades which are Italianate structures built in 1870 with high arched iron and glass work roofs, black and white mosaic tile floors and are now inhabited by some pretty cool stores and hip cafes.

The other must-see experience in Melbourne is their laneways. Forget anything you know about graffiti; these are outdoor art galleries which happen to house the works of the artist in alleys and on the side of buildings. The art goes from elaborate to simplistic and strolling the laneways is a wonderful way to spend a few hours wandering around and taking in these talented forms. Melbourne mix of people and culture shows its influence with Asian inspirited to edgy creepy gothic to whimsically and foolish offerings.



The other great thing about Melbourne is its public transportation and trams. The hotel is located in the heart of the city or CBD, central business district, and easy to get around to and from to most places you’ll want to go. The trams in the main part of the city are even free and run late into the night taking you to most of the coolest hot spots.

Guests staying at the Intercontinental at the Rialto stay in a perfectly repurposed 1890s neo-gothic building that once housed stores and offices selling and trading the region’s wool and wheat. The heritage building is actually two buildings the Rialto and the Winfield building and the cobblestone street separating the two led to the wharf is now the soaring central atrium and common areas of the hotel. The buildings rise six stories with many of the rooms having balconies and terraces to sit and take in the natural light flooded space or look about on the buzzing activities below.

Photo Credit: State Library of Victoria

The buildings are ornate and impressive and iconic of the architecture from that period when Melbourne was deemed the richest city in the world as a result of its thriving gold rush.  The beauty of the building is that it is uber modern and chic inside tastefully decorated and designed with a façade created over 125 years ago typical of the brick Romanesque style of Australia’s gold boom era.

The Intercontinental Melbourne the Rialto is grand in size as well as 253 rooms and a full array of facilities for the business or leisure guest.   As this is a repurposed building, many of the rooms have unique features and shapes created to fit in with the shapes of a turn of the century structures.   All are elegant, and the amenities and accouterments expected of today’s worldly traveler. 

The hotel accommodates both business travelers as well as urban explorers so there are all the features one would expect from complimentary Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, marble bathroom with a walk-in shower and all the mod cons necessary for a comfortable stay.   Each room has a classical interior designed with sleek luxury and a distinctly local flavor.  

One of the pleasures of a stay at the Intercontinental is exclusive access for their frequent travelers to their Club Level. The VIP treatment includes a warm and welcoming space to relax after the work is done with a lounge similar to what you would find in a sophisticated cigar bar or private club. There are wingback leather chairs, discreet sitting area and a staff that goes the extra mile to meet the needs of these select guests. Throughout the day snacks and refreshments are served from a full breakfast to warm canapés and cocktails each evening.  Their attentive staff is on hand to help with concierge services as well as check-in or assist with the needs of the worldly traveler.  

Melbourne is an international city rich in culture and as such is a foodie’s paradise. One need not go far to experience the wonderful culinary traditions of Melbourne than at the hotel’s, Alluvial Restaurant. The seating is in the open-air atrium of the hotel. The menu features local produce, fresh herbs from the hotel’s rooftop garden and dishes such as Mt. Macedon duck breast or squid inked linguine. 

The gourmet offering are extremely well prepared with haute presentation and exquisite flavors. And as this is Australia, expect an extensive wine list from the regions finest wineries and over 100 hand-selected wines to choose from.

Melbourne is a top destination for a nightlife and entertainment and is considered the cultural center of Australia. The hotel is a great place to start at its  Market Lane Bar. The Hotel guest and the city’s in-crowd gather for drinks before hitting the town after work.   

The bar is an elegant traditional bar where guests and locals gather after work or as a stop on their night out on the town. The bar had the feeling of a rich traditional bar that you’d find in New York or London with cozy nooks to gather and chat about the next big business deal or while on a hot date. The drinks list is extensive with signature cocktails created by their talented mixologists. The bar also features a comprehensive collection of whiskeys from around the world.   

After the long trip to Australia nothing solves jet lag better than rest and relaxation. A wonderful way to accelerate the restorative process and get back to normal is with a tension relieving massage or a tranquil inducing spa ritual. Botanica Day Spa is located at the Intercontinental at the Rialto has a wide range of spa services that cater to the international traveler provided by their talented staff. The spa's tranquil ambiance and elegant interiors are the ideal places to retreat after a long travel or a long day of exploring.   

Once such unique ritual is the Botanical Radiance with begins with a coconut body scrub followed by a full body massage. Guest fall off into another level of relaxing drowsing and drifting between states of awareness and sleep. The ritual is completed with a facial and foot treatment using their signature Elemis spa products. Finally, the Botanical Radiance treatment is followed by a glass of champagne and a gourmet lunch.

What makes this spa so special is the level of professionals and the dedication of their staff. The therapists take the time to get to know the issues of the client and create special massages to get at the core issues to deliver relaxation and rejuvenation and a feeling of overall wellness. 

Melbourne is a must do city for the international traveler with so much to explore. When making that trip down under, an ideal place from which to experience it all is the posh accommodation of the InterContinental Melbourne the Rialto.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)

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