When I cuddle up in a silky soft waffle robes and little white slippers, you might think I’m sitting in a fancy spa hotel.
But no, I just checked into one of Manchester’s cheapest hotels, where rooms start at just £ 30 a night. night – and I really can not quite believe what I got for the money.
I was testing what was on offer at The Gardens, one of the city’s most plum-centric hotels, just across from Piccadilly Gardens.
READ MORE:“I paid £ 299 to stay in a windowless room at the Britannia Hotel”
It’s in the heart of Manchester’s ‘golden mile’ of extremely cheap, at times cheerful hotels competing in the basement for good bets against people like Sachas and The Merchants at the back of Back Piccadilly and The Britannia just opposite on Portland Street.
The Gardens is one of the quirks of Manchester – which you may have never even realized was a hotel thanks to its unobtrusive doorway sandwiched between a bunch of shops on one of Manchester’s busiest pedestrian crossings.
Although of course there is the large retro “HOTEL” sign on the upper floors if you are thinking of bracing your head upwards.
Once you’ve negotiated through the human maelstrom outside on Piccadilly (and be warned that it’s getting busier day by day now that the Christmas markets are up here) it’s all really pretty quiet inside The Gardens.
Festive decorations welcome me into the arched entrance hall that leads through to the main reception.
The decor is a bit dated in this room, but it is clean and bright and there is no queue to check into the reception when I arrive just after noon.
You can regularly find rooms on offer from as little as £ 30 in The Gardens at booking.com – although the price is for the hotel’s lowest room – the dreaded windowless option.
However, I decided to invest a little more in my stay and for £ 67.50 I managed to get not only a room with an actual window here, but an executive double room for the price of my stay on Thursday night in November .
I am greeted by a friendly lady at the front desk and asked to show photo ID, which is standard for all guests here.
I then go up the elevator to the second floor to find my room, where a pretty nice silver bench on the door signals the stylish decor that is to come.
I was amazed at how lovely this room was at such a great price.
It is obviously very recently renovated, it is clean, bright and super stylish for a hotel very square located at the budget end of the market.
The bathroom looked like it had just been fitted, so spotless was every tile and crack with a pile of soft, fluffy towels at my disposal.
Much thought had also been given to creating the interior of the master bedroom, with a nod to Manchester on the headboard, quoting the late, great music impresario Anthony Wilson in his famous words: “This is Manchester, we do things differently here”.
Meanwhile, a desk in the room celebrated one of his Factory Records’ successes with the iconic album cover of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.
And then, look, inside the sleek black wardrobe, there was a plastic bag that contained most of the extras of hotel extras – a super-soft bathrobe and slippers to wear during your stay.
My jaw was about to fall to the floor at this point – I must tell you – at the price I had paid for such luxury.
There was also a fridge with two bottles of water and mini milk cartons plus a selection of tea and coffee and even biscuits as well as a stylish light yellow kettle to make your brew with.
They had really thought of everything. Maybe even thought about a few things – there was a large fan and extra heater in the corner, presumably to cover any possible complaint that the room was either too hot or cold.
In that case, I did not need any of them, and the room had a comfortable temperature throughout my stay.
The Gardens Hotel is housed inside two merged textile warehouses, the oldest dating back to 1868, and it was later to become the offices of the Manchester Corporation Tramways division.
The upper floors of the building were converted into a hotel at the end of the 19th century, while the ground floor of the building became various shops.
I went for a little walk around the corridors and found some beautiful old tiles on another staircase and even an old fashioned metal lift in the older half of the hotel building.
Of course, the downside of being in a listed building is the single-glazed windows at the front of the hotel, which presumably cannot be changed to add a bit of modern noise protection.
I could hear the low volume of traffic and the general hub of the city center as soon as I walked into the bedroom, so I was mentally prepared for a noisy night ahead – especially considering the proximity to the city center bars.
I mean, first of all, there are the giant Wetherspoons on Piccadilly right next to the hotel.
I hit the sack at 11pm only to be woken up half an hour later by a number of police sirens outside.
When they were cleared, I fell back to sleep and was awakened again half an hour later by even more sirens, but after that I was able to fall asleep again and had a nice, comfortable sleep in the big bed.
On the way down to breakfast in the morning, there were happy greetings from the front desk, and a friendly staff member even complimented the fun little boots I was wearing – which of course get big brownie points from me and put a feather in my crotch.
I told her what a lovely room I was staying in and she told me it was one of a number of newly renovated rooms with plans to convert more soon.
My room rate of £ 67.50 did not include breakfast but I decided to try it for £ 7.50.
This also turned out to be a really old trade.
The full continental buffet included a small oven with baking cakes and pain au chocolate inside, there was fresh fruit and yoghurt and a coffee machine that squirted out with a really nice cappuccino while a friendly waiter accepted my order for a freshly cooked breakfast .
Again, the decor in the “Le Jardin” restaurant is a bit dated, and as rooms with views go, isn’t it the greatest view of our beautiful city to look out on the trash cans in Back Piccadilly?
However, the view was completely enhanced upon the arrival of my cooked breakfast with its generous cuts of bacon, sausages, mini hash browns and freshly poached eggs.
The staff could not have been friendlier during my stay, and were enthusiastic to tell me about the history of the hotel, which was so lovely to see and hear.
Having stayed with many of The Gardens’ closest competitors in recent years – Sacha’s, Britannia, The Merchants and EasyHotel, the room I stayed in here was by far the best budget stay I’ve had in the city – in terms of service , value, decor and breakfast offerings.
But from a quick look at TripAdvisor, I can see that not all rooms at The Gardens have received the stylish renovation that I experienced.
During my stay, I got a sneak peek at the room opposite, while the cleaning was hard at work, and could see that it was a much more dated, traditional bedroom style with dark red carpet and boxy furniture compared to my chic interior. .
When I booked my room, I had specifically requested a Piccadilly Gardens view, if possible, on my booking form, which I now wonder may have helped me get this nicer room style.
It is worth noting that now, in mid-December, in the ever-swinging world of hotel prices, prices are creeping up – especially with the location of the Gardens Hotel next to the main Christmas Market Center in Piccadilly’s Winter Gardens.
For a stay in the executive double room on a Monday night, December 6, you look at paying £ 81, while on a Saturday night, December 18, it jumps to a whopping £ 230 on Booking.com.
But we found the best starting prices at £ 30 (for a windowless twin) and £ 68 for the executive double, which returns for sale on a host of selected dates in January.
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