Explore Canberra’s museums and galleries from this perfectly designed hotel.
Little National Hotel is in a prime position near Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle. The hotel was developed by the Canberra-based Doma Group around the concept of affordable luxury, making it a popular crash pad for parliamentarians. The 120-room hotel has an easy-going elegance, with common areas designed for business and pleasure.
From a distance, the Little National Hotel resembles a rather brutal black box. But get up close to the architecturally designed building and you will see it presents as the ultimate 21st-century escape. The hotel is wrapped in perforated panels of dark metal that enable ventilation and provide partial views of the interior. Then, when the day turns to night, strips of bright orange LED lights give the facade a futuristic glow-up.
The Australian capital really is starting to feel cutting edge, partly thanks to a raft of new design-led hotels, architecturally considered on the outside and carefully curated within. The Little National Hotel has, in part, helped change the city’s fortunes. Let’s take a look inside.
Little National Hotel exudes simplicity and charm.
The Little National Hotel is a little like Canberra: small but perfectly formed, and with an eye on things to come. It’s located within Canberra’s Realm precinct, home to some of the city’s best bars, restaurants and cafes. And while the lobby occupies the entire ground floor, all 120 rooms are arranged around the top fifth and sixth floors. The rest of the building takes the form of a carpark, so discreetly hidden you’d never know it was there.
Mathieson Architects have been ingenious with their use of space. The light-filled lobby immediately sets the tone and echoes that of the National Gallery down the road. It has polished concrete floors and is all minimalist chic with travertine walls and translucent glass.
A friendly staff member from guest services efficiently processes our arrival from behind an oversized trestle table. The low-key design of the lobby is deliberate and aims to reinforce the brand’s commitment to ‘affordable luxury’. The hotel is also conveniently located near some of the major Canberra attractions.
The lobby looks spacious and luxurious.
Style of the rooms
Our room, like the building, is a masterclass in space management and simplicity. Wide, dark timber floorboards provide a welcome natural texture underfoot and earthy tones complement a contemporary scheme of muted greys.
Two blinds are activated by bedside switches; one brings down a cream canvas that evokes a traditional Japanese rice paper wall, while the other blocks the light completely. An oriental tea set greets you by the bed. And what a bed it is: a king that fills the space from wall to wall.
The bed extends to the wall.
Ambience of the rooms
The Little National feels somewhat futuristic. Like a Far Eastern utopia. A window takes over one whole end of the room affording views of a bamboo garden, yet somehow the space remains completely private.
The bed was so comfortable we found it hard to avoid napping when we should have been strolling around the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia or admiring Pollock’s Blue Poles. It turns out that the Arms of Orpheus bed is custom-made by A.H. Beard for Doma Hotels and the plush mattress is so popular it is available to purchase. There are also free movies to watch on a TV from bed that invite us to extend our sleep-in.
Sit back and relax on the couch.
A sleek bathroom with a rainfall shower and Apelles products completes a very stylish pad indeed. Remarkably, there’s even room for two wonderful, shared spaces in the Little National Hotel Canberra: The Lounge and the Library.
Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass, both offer views of Capital Hill and are perfect spots to read a newspaper in one of the armchairs. Most of the hotel’s weekday guests are visiting Canberra for parliament so the space has been designed as an extremely luxe co-working space that can accommodate meetings.
You can set up your meetings here.
Paper sculptures by artist Benja Harney, inspired by the life cycle of the golden sun moth, adorn the adjoining corridors. The library is decked out with black-stained joinery and a black granite dual fireplace that divides the lower lounge area from the upper velvet-clad lounges.
Little National Hotel guests also have access to classes at Hale Gym from $20. The gym is home to a state-of-the-art wellness centre featuring Technogym equipment, Pilates and PT training.
With views of the city, the lounge is the perfect reading spot.
Food and drink
Ritual Café is located on the ground floor of the Little National Hotel. It’s a top spot if you want to talk politics over a power breakfast or lunch. The little cafe is known for its toasted sandwiches and consistently good coffee. The all-day breakfast menu will appeal to those who like a lie-in.
There is also a cocktail hour on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 to 7pm in The Lounge. During this time the lounge is staffed and the bartender makes the LN Signature cocktail and pours glasses of Moet & Chandon (package add-ons) or for purchase.
Pop in Ritual Café for breakfast.
Guests of the Little National Hotel will have to head outside to outlets at the hotel’s sister properties to find further food and beverage offerings. We try the Burbury Hotel’s Leyla Bar, one of the best rooftop bars in Canberra followed by beer and bar bites at Ostani, in the Realm Hotel, both located in the buzzy ‘Realm Precinct’. There are packages on offer that include breakfast at Ostani and there are also drinks available to purchase (self-service) in the Lounge.
For those wanting something more, Chairman & Yip is located within the Precinct – a Canberra institution awarded several hats by the Good Food Guide for its fusion of Cantonese and pan-Asian food. LiloTang is nearby and a top spot for Japanese. It also offers a feast for your eyes with a wall dedicated to manga art.
Relish exquisite meals at LiloTang. (Image: Pew Pew Studio)
The bar has been extended both inside and out and features an inventive menu of eclectic dishes such as pork and prawn potstickers with ginger and shallot, or braised Wagyu beef brisket on a bao with lettuce and ssamjung (Korean dipping sauce).
You can wash all of that down with something fabulous off the extensive wine, sake or whiskey menu. Take your time and choose wisely as there are almost 80 whiskey options alone. Guests can place all charges to their rooms when supporting these local businesses. Check our city guide for where to eat, shop and sightsee in Canberra.
Guests can also order take-out and eat their meals in their rooms.
The Little National Hotel Canberra is a sophisticated, perfectly formed hotel; the ultimate place to crash after a day of walking around the State Circle or visiting the city’s many museums and galleries.
Price of a room: The price of a room changes daily and starts from about $174 with a non-refundable Prepay and Save offer. It’s worth noting that room rates peak when parliament is sitting. But there are good deals on packages such as the Date Night, which includes mini Moët & Chandon and chocolates on arrival as well as a $30 food & drink credit and à la carte breakfast for two.
We rated: The calming, Far Eastern-infused suite, and the comfiest ever king-size bed.
We’d change: Nothing. It’s small but perfectly formed.
Notes: A quick hop over the road to Realm and its sauna, steam room and pool is the best way to re-energise legs to do it all again the next day.
All AT reviews are conducted anonymously, and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.
Address: 21 National Circuit, Barton, ACT
This article was originally written by Daniel Down and updated by Carla Grossetti.