Exclusive specialty shops – Iconic Block Arcade – Business centre of Melbourne

Entrance to Block Arcade Collins Street City Centre Melbourne

Entrance to Block Arcade Collins Street, Melbourne, Business Centre

Block Arcade – Melbourne – Business Centre

On my last trip to Melbourne I managed a day in  the business centre to visit the iconic Block Arcade.  The Block Arcade is a heritage shopping arcade built between 1891 and 1893. A Melbourne financier Benjamin Fink requested architect, David C Askew to produce plans for a shopping arcade similar in design to the Galleria Vittoria in Milan, Italy. David Askew  had already visited the Galleria Vittoria in Italy and was suitable impressed with the design concept.

Block Arcade famous for its etched glass roof,wrought iron work,mosaic tiled floors

Block Arcade – etched glass roof,wrought iron work, mosaic tiled floors

The Arcade renowned for its elegant and classy interior

The iconic Block Arcade is the finished result of the designs produced by David Askew. The Arcade became the most richly decorated interior of a retail establishment in Melbourne’s business centre at that time. The Block Arcade renowned for the etched glass roof, delicate wrought ironwork, elegant lighting (originally designed for gas), stone faced block, and rich timber supports throughout the arcade. The mosaic tiled floor is the largest such floor in Australia. Even though the floor now shows signs of wear, as you would expect after a 100 years or so of foot traffic,  it is still a beautiful mosaic floor.

Melbourne city centre - The Block Arcade beautiful enduring mosaic tiled floors

Beautiful enduring mosaic tiled floor –  Block Arcade,  Melbourne, Business Centre

The  two main advantages of the arcades were the increased number of shop fronts, this in turn increased the returns for the Landlord’s. You will notice the design concept of ‘arcades within an arcade’ incorporated into our modern shopping complexes of today (all those shop fronts).

In the 1890’s the design of the arcade provided ladies with a classy retreat to enjoy their shopping, away from heat, dust and noise of the busy streets in the business centre of Melbourne. Shopping in the arcade then, as it does today, offered elegant fashions and exclusive items not found elsewhere in the business centre of Melbourne.

‘Doing the Block’ – in the fashionable business centre

The Block Arcade became one of Melbourne’s most fashionable arcades in the business centre and considered the ‘place to be“. In the late 1800’s  ladies and gentlemen in all their finery would be seen ‘doing the block‘. ‘Doing the Block’ meant the ladies and gents strolling around the block (consisting of  Collins, Elizabeth, Swanston and Little Collins Streets) ‘to be seen’ in the most fashionable area of Melbourne. Promenading around the block was a way of socializing with their peers.

Melbourne city centre - The Block Arcade Exit/Entrance Elizabeth Street

The Block Arcade Exit/Entrance Elizabeth Street, business centre.

Today high fashion and exclusive specialty shops in this iconic Arcade

The Block Arcade today, renowned for its exclusive specialty shops for jewellery,fashion, giftware, handmade toys, lingerie, shoes and more. Visit the Hopetoun Tea Rooms for a ‘High Tea” or Haigh’s Chocolate Shop in the Block Arcade. Haigh’s chocolate established since 1919, is the oldest family owned chocolate manufacturing retailer in Australia. Divine chocolate!

Exiting from the Block Arcade to Elizabeth Street, I couldn’t help but notice what a popular lunchtime alfresco dining area this is. Warm sunshine filtering through the etched glass ceiling. Small intimate cafe’s offering light appetizing meals with a glass of wine. It so looks the ‘place to be’; however, having just had a sumptuous morning tea in the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade, it will have to wait until next time!

Exterior facade Block Arcade Elizabeth Street,Melbourne Centre,(BotMultichillT)

Exterior Elizabeth Street, Melbourne Business Centre (photo courtesy of BotMultichillT)

Elizabeth Street facade of the iconic Block Arcade

Not forgetting the Elizabeth Street facade of this gracious old six-story building. The Block Arcade is one of Australia’s best surviving examples of Victorian Mannerist style. The iconic Arcade complex classified by the National Trust,  is on the register of the National Estate.

Although the design and architecture of the Block Arcade is very elegant and more intimate,  it remains a poor cousin to the Galleria Vittoria in Milan, Italy.

Block Arcade-Interior view - natural light from etched glass roof Iconic Block Arcade marble posts,wrought iron stairwell to lower arcade

Tours for the iconic Block Arcade in Melbourne Business centre

Tours of the Block Arcade are on Tuesdays & Thursdays. The two-hour tour commences at 1:00pm and includes a short stop for Devonshire Tea. For bookings phone:  +61 3 9654 5244.

Address: The Block Arcade; 282 Collins Street Melbourne through to 100 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne business centre.

How to get there:  Melbourne City Tours cheapest travel around the CBD

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About Lyn


  1. Widow Beth was 90. ”I’ll be 91 next Saturday,” she told startled manager Don Parsons. And that is how Beth Jackson, 10 years at the controls of the Block Arcade’s lift four then 30 years as the arcade’s first tour guide, decided to retire.

    • Hi Dick, True story. A remarkable women and so youthful at 91 years.Certainly an example to us all. I wonder if CQ10 is her secret? Thanks for dropping by. Lyn

  2. These buildings are so gorgeous. Wish I was there. I’ve never visited Melbourne, but it’s always been a dream of mine. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos and the lovely stories 🙂

    • I agree, some of the old buildings are really lovely. I hope you get to visit Melbourne some time soon. Thanks for your comments. Lyn

  3. Nice writing. I like your idea. Thanks for sharing.

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