A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding Carlton Gardens were built for the 1880 International Exhibition. Designed by Joseph Reed, the building is an eclectic, photogenic piece of architecture. The site still houses a range of exhibitions today, including the Melbourne International Garden and Flower Show.
The grand dome and opulent Victorian gardens make the Royal Exhibition Building a Melbourne landmark. Many visitors choose to appreciate both the building and Carlton Gardens as a photo-stop, which is easy to do on a tour. It’s a regular stop on city tours by bus and bike, as well as on private Melbourne city tours.
Depending on what exhibitions and events are being held in the building, Royal Exhibition Building tour runs at 2pm on most days. There is a charge for the tours, which start from the foyer of the Melbourne Museum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Allow time to wander UNESCO-listed Carlton Gardens with its splendid fountains.
- The bohemian suburb of nearby Fitzroy has a range of indie bars and restaurants and is a good stop for lunch.
- Both gardens and building are wheelchair accessible. Ask at Melbourne Museum cloakroom if you want to use a provided wheelchair to tour the Royal Exhibition Building.
How to Get There
The Royal Exhibition Building sits at the north of Melbourne city center, adjoining the vibrant central suburb of Fitzroy, a little over a mile (1.8 kilometers) from Flinders Street station. You can catch the free City Circle tram to Victoria Parade from stops including Flinders Street and Melbourne Central station; the best train station is Parliament.
When to Get There
The Carlton Gardens are best enjoyed during Melbourne’s late spring and summer (roughly, November to February), although the trees also put on a splendid fall display. Visit at 2pm to take a tour of the Royal Exhibition Building, or in the late afternoon or early morning for the best photographic light.
The Age of Exhibitions
Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building is one of the most complete surviving remnants of the Age of Exhibitions (1851-1914), when the technologies of the industrial revolution and the spoils of colonial invasions were displayed in grand halls worldwide. Architect Joseph Reed created another Melbourne landmark, Melbourne Town Hall, as well as the State Library of Victoria.