Sleek, modern, minimalist: it’s been called all these things. It’s also one of the comfiest stays in Canberra.
Hotel Realm was, up until fairly recently, one of only two five-star stays in Canberra. A lot has changed in the nation’s capital since the hotel opened in 2008. But despite the fact there are more luxury hotel options on offer, Hotel Realm remains a stylish and sought-after place to stay.
Hotel Realm is tucked away in the precinct it’s named after in a corner of the National Circuit, Barton. The hotel is smart, modern, sleek, stylish and minimalist.
After reading some reviews of Hotel Realm I imagined I’d be staying in a space that resembled a Cold War bunker. Or WikiLeaks’ Swedish HQ. Instead, I find a sophisticated, comfortable, mid-sized business hotel with somewhat of a 1960s spirit. The use of ‘hard’ industrial finishes such as concrete and granite is a cheeky wink to some of the Brutalist beauties that are dotted around Canberra’s cityscape.
The sophisticated foyer interior sets the tone for your stay.
The foyer is dark and moody, and clad in a gun-metal and silver exterior that allows the light to wink through. There is also a stunning art installation: an immense mobile of red squares festooned like autumn leaves around a central atrium, bringing colour and drama to the space.
The style of the rooms
There’s no traditional wall art on display in my suite, but I don’t think pastel landscapes or moody city scenes would add to the already homely style of my Realm Suite.
It has a large king-size bed, fat mattress, plump cushions, soft throw rug, leather furniture, upholstered walls and sheer, white curtains. There is also a balcony, separate lounge room and kitchenette.
Get cosy in the spacious living area.
The decor is beautiful, and minimalist, the textures and colour scheme soft and varied. All up, there are 158 rooms arrayed around the central atrium and they all benefit from the architects’ commitment to creating spaces that are airy and bright.
The carpet is a sophisticated houndstooth pattern and the sand-coloured padding on the walls is balanced against the beige leather and cream cotton furnishings.
It’s a soothing space to chill and big enough to invite friends over for an aperitivo. The bed linen is all white, with a dark-grey throw adding personality. There are also white marble and glass tabletops that level up the luxe feel.
The Realm suite has a classy feel to it.
The ambience of the rooms
My Realm Suite resembles a contemporary, interior-designed apartment replete with a kitchenette. Hotel Realm has a nice, low-key ambience with a sophisticated edge. Despite all those mentions of minimalism, I found the fit-out to be warm and cosy. The use of natural materials, colours and textures renders my Realm Room inviting and cosy. The furnishings have been kept to the bare minimum, which means the colours and textures work to make you feel quite cocooned in the room.
Flatscreen TVs are the only things that adorn the walls in the lounge and bedroom, and they can act as wall art when not in use. However, I’m here to switch off. And I’m much more interested in sitting in a puddle of sunshine on my balcony and drinking in the views over Old Parliament House.
Witness a fiery sunset from your balcony. (Image: Visit Canberra)
As mentioned, my room has a kitchenette. It also has a washer/dryer, which is very convenient over the course of my weekend stay. There is a heated 25-metre pool and a gym.
Hotel Realm is a DOMA Hotel that is primarily aimed at business travellers and so has a rather masculine, no-nonsense, neutral colour scheme of rich browns, tans and charcoals.
Hotel Realm Canberra is an elegant accommodation with modern amenities.
The utilitarian decor is softened by lots of curves: oval designer bedside tables, a scooped easy chair, and rounded floor and desk lamps. A houndstooth wool carpet is soft underfoot. Golden mosaic tiles add drama and elegance to the bathroom. Natural stone floor tiles are as nice to walk on as the bedroom carpet; not cold, and not slippery. I recommend padding about barefoot rather than the slide-in slippers.
There’s a mass of luxury bathroom amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, scrub, body lotion, shaving kit, shower cap, toothbrush, toothpaste, loofah and shoeshine. Wi-fi is complimentary and there are facilities for making tea and a Nespresso coffee machine with pods that are replenished daily. A special shout-out goes to the hairdryer – it’s powerful and actually dries hair reasonably fast.
Take a refreshing dip in the pool.
Restaurants & food available
There is a mini-bar containing Pringles, a bottle of 2008 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, and a bar fridge with Kit-Kats, Mars Bars and soft drinks in it. Don’t forget to check the price list.
Good news: there are chocolate and macadamia Byron Bay Cookies in the room.
Hotel Realm is tucked into the hip, happening Realm Precinct where you will find a cornucopia of restaurants, cafes and bars. Best book ahead if you want to secure a coveted table at any of the restaurants in this precinct. The bar and restaurants get packed with Friday-night revellers. It’s a fun atmosphere and one you don’t often find in hotels.
Take your palate on a journey to Ostani Bar, for Mediterranean-style tapas and pizza, Buvette for fine French fare, Lilo & Tang for inspired pan-Asian, Maple + Clove for coffee and baked treats, and to rooftop Leyla Bar one of the best bars in Canberra for a tipple or two.
Breakfast is included and on offer at Konoba where typical continental offerings include yoghurts – passionfruit, berry or Greek – plus Bircher muesli, cereals, Danishes, muffins and croissants. There is also a range of breads, juice and tea. Konoba is a nice, comfortable sun-splashed space that turns into a Mediterranean restaurant for lunch and dinner. You will find plenty of lounge-style patio seating available too, shared with the Ostani Bar next door, which has a tapas and pizza menu.
Hotel Realm is within easy walking distance of Capital Hill, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and lakefront. Hire a bike to do the circuit of Lake Burley Griffin; it’s one of the best things to do in Canberra.
The Realm Precinct also includes the 4.5-star Burbury Hotel & Apartments, 4.5-star Little National Hotel and the historic 4-star Brassey Hotel. It’s near to the Canberra CBD.
Price of the room & packages
Realm Rooms are priced from $235 for a Friday-night stay. Being a business hotel, prices are higher midweek. The two-storey penthouse Terrace Suite, which has a gourmet kitchen and a large balcony with views of Parliament House, costs from $1225 per night.
A raft of packages have been specially designed to suit a range of travellers. There’s a Foodies Staycation, a Breakfast Package, and a Realm VIP member-only offer which includes welcome drinks and room upgrades.
For business people, Hotel Realm makes a functional and truly convenient base in the capital. For weekend jaunts like mine, it provides a cool, stylish change from a more cluttered home life. And a great place to crash after a day spent exploring the war memorial or one of Canberra’s other top-rated attractions.
Hotel Realm is one of Canberra’s most sought-after places to stay.
That a late check-out of 11am is standard.
The fact there is no obvious place to put your suitcase. There’s a wide-bottomed armchair that could accommodate a carry-on business bag, but not a standard suitcase. You could put your case on the marble-topped console cabinet, but you might knock the LCD TV when you flip up the lid.
18 National Circuit, Barton, ACT; (02) 6163 1800