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doing the block

The Block Arcade, Melbourne CBD. Photo: Marleena Forward

Royal Arcade, Melbourne CBD. Photo: Marleena Forward

A hundred years ago, Melbourne socialites would dress in their finest and head into the CBD to ‘do The Block’ on a Saturday afternoon. This entailed strolling around the city’s two fashionable shopping arcades, The Block and Royal Arcade.

While this tradition has unfortunately been lost (I must admit I would love to carry a parasol and walk haughtily around the city), these two arcades are still very much in existence. Today, they’re filled with posh boutique stores and have become one of the CBD’s main tourist attractions.

The Block was built between 1891 and 1893 and has the somewhat random distinction of featuring the largest mosaic tiled floor in the country. Royal Arcade was constructed a little earlier, in 1869, and is known for its large clock flanked by the mythical characters Gog and Magog, which have been in place since 1892. Both arcades are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as particularly fine examples of Victorian-era architecture.

It’s rare to find public buildings in Australia that convey such a strong sense of history, even if that history is the blink of an eye by European standards. Walking through these arcades conjures up a bygone era — one filled with horse-drawn carriages, men in hats and a society still struggling to outgrow its origins as a convict colony.

If you find yourself looking for something to do on a Saturday, why not dress to impress and take a turn about The Block? Sounds like a jolly nice way to spend an afternoon, what.

The Block Arcade

Address: 282 Collins St, Melbourne 3000

282 Collins St, VIC 3000

Royal Arcade

Address: 335 Bourke St Mall, Melbourne 3000

Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne VIC 3000

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