I don’t know about you, but I spend far too much time pondering about city break hotel stays. More often than not, you’ll end up with an expensive hotel that doesn’t really offer great value in terms of the room rate. Recently when visiting towns and cities in the UK, I have opted for the lower budget chain hotels. If it’s for a night or two, I find that a Travelodge is perfectly acceptable. They’ve come a long way in the last few years. The rooms are still fairly functional, but with much improved décor they are now a nice space to spend time in. I guess the whole point of a city break is that you are not going to spend much time in your room? It’s somewhere to sleep, shower and leave your belongings. Every now and again though, you stumble across a little gem in the sea of hotel options on sites like Booking.com. We did that exact thing on a recent visit to Manchester when I booked a two night stay at the Motel One Manchester Royal Exchange.
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Now, for me, the word motel conjures up an image of a two storey, L-shaped bland building with a car park in the centre. Somewhere a little bit sketchy and nothing particularly glamorous or enticing. So, when I did stumble across the Motel One Manchester Royal Exchange online I scanned past, caught a glimpse of nice looking shots showing the décor and went back to have a second look. This place looked quite fancy. And what’s more, the room rate was £69.00 per night for a Friday and Saturday. What’s the catch, I thought? There had to be something. Was it in a rough area of the city? Were the promo shots of the best rooms only? I scanned TripAdvisor reviews and all seemed legitimate. So I went ahead and booked.
Motel One is a German based chain of 71 Design Hotels across Europe and the UK, with the majority located in Germany. Founded in the year 2000, the ethos of the company was to create high quality interiors and design within superb city centre locations, with attractive prices. The hotels take care in bringing hints of the local area history into the design of the interiors, creating beautifully stylish and modern spaces.
There are two Motel One hotels in Manchester – we stayed at the Royal Exchange. With a nod to this area of Manchester’s industrial past, there is a heavy focus on Cottonopolis. The city was known as Cottonopolis during the 19th century due to it being at the centre of the cotton industry. The commercial centre for cotton was the trading hall of the Royal Exchange, and there are plenty of nods to this within the design of the hotel.
Located within a beautiful brownstone building on the corner of Cross Street and New Market Street, the four storey hotel features a large open plan foyer, bar and breakfast area. Reception desks are located on the left hand side, and directly opposite is a foyer seating area with a large wall of printed cloth. A mix of comfortable seating near the large floor to ceiling windows make it a light and airy space.
Heading further in to the space, the bar is located on the right hand side with a row of high stools. Directly opposite is a mix of seating booths on two levels, which are ideal for relaxing with drinks, or stopping to do some work if needed. The hotel has free WiFi throughout. Beyond the bar is a large leather banquette seating area with a fantastic art installation titled ‘Cottonopolis’ by paper artist Andy Singleton. The installation is a beautiful wave like flowing piece created by a large number of single threads. It’s really quite impressive.
To the rear of the area is a large breakfast room area with plenty of seating. Looking around, all of the detailing and décor is created in some way to reference the cotton industry, or the industrial processes around it. The light fittings above the bar are based around large cotton reels. There are historical sewing machines in the imagery. The printed cloth wall of the foyer features detail reminiscent of cotton plants. It’s all carefully planned and designed to respect the history of the building and the area.
There are four different types of room at the Motel One Royal Exchange Manchester. Queen Rooms, King Rooms, Superior Queen Room and Superior King Rooms are all available. The standard King and Queen rooms are 16sqm, whereby the Superior Rooms are 20sqm, giving you slightly more space. We booked a standard Queen Room, which was perfectly big enough for a weekend break for two people. With a comfortable bed, large flat screen TV, and granite bathroom with rainforest shower, I was definitely impressed.
A small window in the corner of the room provided us with views of Manchester. Given the location, and the fact that there are plenty of surrounding high rise buildings, don’t expect the most impressive of city views that you will have ever seen. We did luck out with a small gap in the high rises providing us with a lovely view of the stunning Manchester Town Hall.
The décor in the room was a reflection of that in the public areas. There was a focus on industry and the furnishings were of a similar colour scheme to the foyer and bar area.
I still question the pricing of this hotel when I look back. Sitting alongside the likes of Travelodge and Ibis, cheaper than a Premier Inn and certainly way less expensive than most city centre chain brand hotels, I can honestly say that my experience of the staying in the Motel One Royal Exchange Manchester was far better than some £200+ per night city centre hotels I have stayed in. The service was perfect, all staff were super friendly and in general it was a fantastic base to explore the city.
Located directly in the city centre, there is so much on offer within walking distance. For historical buildings, you are within walking distance of the stunning Manchester Cathedral and The John Rylands Library. If you are looking for cool restaurants and bars, then the Spinningfields area is only a short walk away. We didn’t have breakfast at the hotel – we very rarely do in city centre hotels. It’s always nice to explore the area. We found a couple of awesome little breakfast joints. First up was Moose Coffee, a diner style breakfast restaurant with American style breakfasts. We also ventured to LEAF on Portland Street, an airy café with a huge selection of teas, great coffee and a good breakfast menu.
There’s plenty of nightlife in Manchester – there’s no point delving too much into that here, it deserves a post of it’s own. I will say though – if you are looking for something a little quirky, you could do a lot worse than heading to Albert’s Schloss. A huge Bavarian style beer cellar with a huge range of pilsners and beers on tap, there’s a great vibe and with cabaret style acts late into the evening, things can get a little crazy!
Venture slightly further afield and you can admire the awesome architecture and street art of the Northern Quarter. There is something for everyone in this city. I have only visited a few times, but I fall in love with the city more and more each time.
For a detailed look at the architecture and street art of the Northern quarter, check out my previous post here.
What do you look for in a city centre hotel? Have you stayed at a Motel One?
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