Royal Exhibition Building. Public Building in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Royal Exhibition Building

Public Building in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, Melbourne Photo © Charlievdb

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Royal Exhibition Building

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Royal Exhibition Building - Royal
	Exhibition Building
Royal Exhibition Building - Royal Exhibition Building. Photo by M Kuhn
The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located adjacent from the Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens in the northeast of the city’s Central Business District. It is surrounded by Victoria Street, Rathdowne Street, Carlton Street and Nicholson Street. Finished in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition, it is now the last remaining 19th-century Great Hall that is still in use in the world. Additionally, it is also the world’s most complete building that survives from the age of International Exhibitions (1851-1914).

Nowadays the Royal Exhibition Building, with its elaborate interior, huge galleries, paintings and dome, is a well-used location for tradeshows, exhibitions, fairs and other cultural happenings. It became Australia’s first UNESCO World Heritage listed building in 2004.


The founding stone was laid in 1879 by George Bowen, Governor of Victoria. Only a year later, in 1880, the building was completed and ready to host the Melbourne International Exhibition in that same year. It hosted another major exhibition in 1888, the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, which celebrated a hundreds years of European colonization in Australia.

1901 was the year when Australia became an independent country and on May 9 the very first Parliament of Australia was inaugurated in the Royal Exhibition Building, a major event in the history of the nation. The Federal Parliament then moved to the Victorian State Parliament House and the Victorian Parliament took its place in the exhibition building, where it stayed for more than a quarter of a century. Later in 1901, on September 3, the new and official Australian flag was unfolded and raised over the Royal Exhibition Building.

In later decades the building held another exhibition, the 1902 Australian Federal International Exhibition, and was a venue during the 1956 Summer Olympics. It became a World Heritage Site in 2004.

	exhibition building melbourne - Royal Exhibition Building
royal exhibition building melbourne - Royal Exhibition Building. Photo by debra


The architect who designed the Royal Exhibition Building was Joseph Reed, well-known in his time and also the designer of the Melbourne Town Hall and the State Library of Victoria. His design included influences from various architectural styles. The main style of the building is Rundbogenstil, which features many round arches, completed by elements of Romanesque, Byzantine, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance styles. The building’s massive dome was inspired by the 15th-century Florence Cathedral that was designed by Brunelleschi. The main pavilions on the site were influenced by a variety of buildings in Paris, Caen, Normandy and other places.

When it was finished, in 1880, it was the biggest building in Australia, the Great Hall alone covering 12,000 square meters. The structure is set on a base of bluestone – bluestone being a much-used construction material in the city – and consists of long naves and transepts. Each side has its own triumphal entrance portico.

Visiting the Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building still serves its original purpose; it still is an exhibition building. Although it isn’t the largest exhibition center in Melbourne anymore – that is the modern Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre on Southbank - it does host major events, fairs, exhibitions, community gatherings and tradeshows on a regular basis. Besides serving as an exhibition venue, the building is also an exam hall for several schools, including the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The building can also be visited on guided tours that start at Melbourne Museum. They run on most days at 2pm, but are subject to availability. Tickets cost A$10 ($8.20) for adults, A$8 ($6.56) concession and A$7 ($5.74) for Museum Victoria members and children.

Museum Victoria also manages Melbourne Museum, the Scienceworks Museum and the Immigration Museum.

	Exhibition Building, Melbourne - Royal Exhibition Building
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne - Royal Exhibition Building. Photo by Boobook48

How to Get There

Located in Carlton Gardens in the northeast of the Central Business District, the Royal Exhibition Building is easily accessed on foot, by bicycle or by public transport. It lies only a few minutes’ walk from Federation Square and Flinders Street Railway Station. When traveling by car, you can park your vehicle in the car park underneath Melbourne Museum, which is open between 6am and midnight. Public transport includes Trams 86 and 96 to the corner of Gertrude Street and Nicholson Street; Stop 5 on the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle; the free City Circle Tram to Victoria Parade; the City Loop Train to nearby Parliament Station; and Buses 250, 251 and 402 to Rathdowne Street.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Other major landmarks in Melbourne are the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Eureka Tower and the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Interesting museums and public buildings in the city include the National Gallery of Victoria, Old Melbourne Gaol and the State Library of Victoria.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 24, 2015

Pictures of Royal Exhibition Building

Exhibitionism - Royal Exhibition Building
Exhibitionism - Royal Exhibition Building. Photo by Paul Hocksenar


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