Melbourne is known for its colourful laneways, but also for its majestic arcades. The city is home to several amazing arcades – all of which are in the city centre. Here’s the ultimate list of which ones to visit.
Arcades in the city
Bourke St, City
Built in 1870, The Royal Arcade is not only Melbourne’s most popular arcade, but also the oldest in Australia. The Royal Arcade is a marvel to walk through, with its checkered tiles and glass ceiling, making it a great location for Instagram photos.
At the Little Collins end, there are two giant carvings of the mythical figures, Gog & Magog: biblical figures that were said to be allies of Satan. They stand flanking a large clock that was designed by Thomas Gaunt, once ‘the only watchmaker of the Australian colony.’
Collins St, City
The Block Arcade is the finest example of a 19th-century shopping arcade in Australia, and a popular tourist attraction. Spanning from Collins to Little Collins, The Block Arcade – originally called Carpenter’s Lane – features a mosaic floor, carved stone finishings and a beautiful glass dome centerpiece.
Inside are a collection of boutique retailers, including the iconic Hopetoun Tea Rooms. Opened for The Victorian Ladies’ Work Association in 1892 by wife of the Victorian Governor – Lady Hopetoun – these tea rooms provided a place for women to relax in between their day of shopping.
The most magnificent feature of The Block Arcade is the glass dome. Architect David C. Askew, was asked to take inspiration from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, Italy’s oldest active shopping centre.
Swanston St, City
The Catherdral Arcade is only small, but definitely worth a visit. On Swanston St and just opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, this tiny arcade acts as the entrance to the Nicolas Building.
Featured on both the heritage list and the national trust, the L-shaped arcade is home to several boutique clothing retailers.
Built in 1926 in the Greek revival palazzo style, The Nicolas Building is now a creative hub, home to boutiques, design studios and small start-ups. You’ll also find the much loved Retrostar, known for its large collection of vintage clothing.
Manchester Unity Arcade
Collins St, City
The Manchester Unity Building is by far one of the city’s most striking buildings. Built in 1932 during the great depression, it was a symbol of hope during a time of despair. Upon completion it was the tallest building in Melbourne, standing at 64 metres. It was also the first building in Melbourne to have escalators, taking shoppers to the first floor ‘without hassle.’
At night the tower lights up, and it has become one of the most popular sites for visitors during Melbourne Open House.
On the ground floor is a small arcade, which houses a cafe. The interior is beautiful, with the walls made of Australian marble, and the elevator doors of bronze.
Little Collins St, City
Just off Little Collins St is Howey Place, an arcade that stands in stark contrast to most others; It looks a little dingy, but it has its own secrets.
Originally a non-descript back alley, Howey Place was revitalised in the late 1800’s when Edward William Cole – owner of Cole’s Book Arcade – decided to use his own money to give it a new life. He added a glass and wrought iron canopy as well as adding glass-fronted stores that ran along the lane.