Shandelle Battersby checks into an impressive Cathedral Square hotel

Location:

A 20-minute drive from Christchurch Airport, right in the heart of the city's CBD on Cathedral Square.

History:

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The hotel is housed in a category one historic building dating from 1913. It was designed by Joseph Clarkson Maddison in an Italianate Palazzo style, and is known these days as the Old Government Building. For years it housed public servants, eventually becoming the home of the Ministry of Works, which moved out in 1989. Heritage has owned it since 1995, and it survived Christchurch's devastating 2011 earthquake thanks to strengthening work done by the city council in the 90s.

It retains its heritage features including ornate floors, the grand stairwell running through its centre, wide landings, and the ornate stained-glass windows designed by Frederick Nash — the hotel won the top honour in the luxury historical category of the World Luxury Hotel Awards for Australasia and Oceania last year, and last week was announced a winner in this year's awards — although the exact category win will be announced at the awards gala in Switzerland in December.

Check-in experience:

It's very impressive when you pull up outside to the stone entranceway — a doorman in a bowler hat and a smart suit is there to greet you and help with your bags, lights are blazing, a vintage car is in situ, and patrons of the onsite OGB Bar have spilled on to outdoor seating, kept warm with gas heaters. The lobby is beautiful (don't miss the loos behind heavy vault doors) and bustling.

Parking:

There's not a lot of on-street parking available so your options are either valet parking ($20) or the council carpark across the street (about $7, with time restrictions).

Room:

There are three floors of spacious suites — mine, on the second floor, had two levels of its own, with two bedrooms and a bathroom on the mezzanine level, and a fully equipped kitchen, laundry, bathroom, dining and lounge areas downstairs. There are also one-and three-bedroom suites available.

Price:

From $250 but it pays to check rates as this varies depending on the time or year and day of the week.

Food and drink:

There is an expansive mini-bar but if I were you, I'd head down to the OGB Bar, which is manned by bartenders in natty ye olde dress, and was absolutely cranking. There was a singer/songwriter in the corner crooning away with an acoustic guitar and there were espresso martinis being consumed left right and centre. This is one of the best hotel bars I've been to in New Zealand — I have no idea how many people were actually guests and how many were locals.

There is also an on-site restaurant, Maddison's, but we drove over to busy Victoria St, the nightlife hub, to dine at the excellent King of Snake — a buzzing, fun restaurant serving a mixture of Asian cuisine that was also packed to the hilt. Think zingy, fresh flavours and delicious food; order the stir-fried chilli prawns — yum!

What's in the neighbourhood?

The poor old cathedral is across the road, the Isaac Theatre Royal is close by, as is the art gallery, the Avon River, and plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes.

Toiletries:

Heritage Hotels' Manuka Spa line.

Facilities:

In the basement is a 20m heated lap pool, a spa pool, sauna and small gym — unique to the Christchurch CBD.

Free Wi-Fi?

Yes.

Perfect as:

A unique and memorable city stay in a central location. Plus that bar is a rollicking good time.

CHECKLIST

is at 28 - 30 Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand. Phone: (03) 983 4800.

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