Carlton Gardens  photo

Photo by melburnian

Why Visit Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens – Best places to see in Australia

The Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens were designed for the great international exhibitions of 1880 and 1888 in Melbourne. The building and grounds were designed by Joseph Reed. The building is constructed of brick and timber, steel and slate. It combines elements from the Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance styles.

The property is typical of the international exhibition movement which saw over 50 exhibitions staged between 1851 and 1915 in venues including Paris , New York , Vienna , Calcutta, Kingston (Jamaica) and Santiago (Chile). All shared a common theme and aims: to chart material and moral progress through displays of industry from all nations.

Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens – How to get there

By car: Most of the City Center’s north-south streets extend into Carlton. Lygon Street is an extension of Russell Street in the city, Rathdowne Street is the extension of Exhibition Street, while Nicholson Street is connected directly to Spring Street. The city-end of the Eastern Freeway which goes out to Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, is in Carlton. In Parkville, Royal Parade is the extension of Elizabeth Street.

From the airport, the easiest way to get to Carlton/Parkville would be to get off the City Link toll expressway at Flemington, proceed along Flemington Road to Grattan Street, which intersects Royal Parade (for Parkville), Lygon Street and ends at Rathdowne Street.

For those walking to Carlton, the best route to take is to continue from Russell Street to Lygon Street, where you get to start from No. 1 of this popular street. It is a little too far to walk to Parkville, especially to its attractions like the Melbourne Zoo, from the city center.

What to see in Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens

Lygon St. Lygon Street has the biggest selection of Italian restaurants and cafes in Australia and was the first suburb in Melbourne to promote eating outdoors and tables and chairs on footpaths. It is also the home of the yearly Lygon Street Festa, one of Australia’s largest outdoor street festivals. It also comes alive with Ferrari red and yellow banners during the Australian Grand Prix. The northern end between Grattan and Elgin Streets is the place to go – the southern end near Victoria Street is a notorious tourist trap.

Rathdowne Street offers a smaller, elegant stretch of cafes and restaurants.

Carlton Gardens. Just north of Victoria St/Victoria Parade and between Rathdowne St and Nicholson St, on the fringe of the CBD. Within its grounds are:

Royal Exhibition Building. A World Heritage listed building, the Royal Exhibition Building was completed in 1880 and was the site of Australia’s first Federal Parliament in 1901. With its meticulously restored interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome, it offers a magnificent setting for trade shows, fairs and cultural events.

Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St. Every day 10AM-5PM, except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Opened in 2000, the award-winning Melbourne Museum houses a permanent collection in eight galleries, including one just for children.

Royal Park is a huge park in Parkville, just north of the city centre. As well as parklands and sports facilities, it contains: Melbourne Zoo, Elliot Ave. Open daily 9AM-5PM. Open until 9:30PM on selected summer evenings. A very popular Melbourne attraction, it contains a large collection of native Australian and exotic animals, birds and butterflies. Admission from $21 adult, $10.50 child.

Carlton Gardens  photo

Photo by melburnian

What and where to eat in Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens

Carlton’s main eat street is Lygon Street , largely Italian interspersed with the odd Asian restaurant and pub. Unsurprisingly, there are also some tourist traps. While it is difficult to generalise and there are exceptions to these rules, the more established, authentic and affordable eateries are generally found at the northern end of the strip, between Grattan and Elgin Streets. The western side of the street (on the left heading away from Central Melbourne) is generally better. Finally, look for the eateries -without- a spruiker outside: the enthusiasm of the spruiker is generally inversely proportional to the quality and value you will find inside.

  1. Trotters , 400 Lygon Street. Tel: +61-3-93475657. Favoured by Carlton residents and Melbourne Uni students, Trotters offers laid back ambiance and wholesome, traditional fares such as big breakfasts and hearty Italian pastas.
  2. Lygon Food Store 263 Lygon St, 9347 6279. A Lygon Street institution, it has an expansive deli section with delicious varieties of cheeses, antipasti and a tempting array of breads.
  3. Brunetti, 194-204 Faraday Street, tel. +61-3-9347-2801 (fax: +61-3-9347-9152), . A large Italian cafe, Brunetti does cake and coffee on a huge scale, with multiple counters and a ticket system to ferry you around. The Italian hot chocolate is worth the fuss.
  4. Koko Black, 167 Lygon Street, tel. +61-3-9349-2775. Koko Black is a chocolateria. You can order expensive chocolates by the kilo here, but most people visit for the hot chocolate. There are no reservations, and on busy winter nights, there can be a 20-30 minute wait for a table, so rug up and bear it!
  5. Il Dolce Freddo, Lygon Street. Offering a mouthwatering selection of icecreams, sorbets and gelati.
  6. Pizza a Metro, 29 Grattan Street, tel. +61-3-9663-4778. Pizza a Metro serves pizza and pasta. The pizza is Italian-style: simple but tasty toppings. Unusually, the pizza is sold by the meter, in 20 centimeter (8 inch), 50 centimeter (1.6 foot) and 1 meter (3.2 foot) servings, each 20 centimeters across. Students claim that the appropriate pizza ratio is about 1.5 meters of pizza for every 6 people; diners will definitely want to stick to a 20 centimeter serve unless they’re sharing.
  7. Tiamo 2, 305 Lygon Street. Consistently crowded, it rates highly among the locals for its modern Italian food and attentive service. Be sure to try the ‘spaghetti don giovanni’, it always delivers.
  8. Kumichan 400 Lygon St. Provides good value Japanese in a ubiquitous Italian cuisine street.
  9. Lazzat, 112 Lygon St, tel. 03-96395951. Affordable and tasty Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian food.
  10. Thai Thalia, 86 Lygon Street, North Carlton. Behind its unassuming exterior contains what some locals regard as the best Thai food in Melbourne. Extremely cheap, but tasty and leaves you feeling like you unearthed one of Melbourne’s hidden gems.
  11. Shakahari’s, 201 Faraday St, tel 9347 3848. For fancy but not overpriced vegetarian food that will have even the meat lovers savouring every bite.
  12. Cafe Alleri, 400, Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, tel. +61-3-93473726. M-F 6AM?3:30PM, Sa 7AM?2PM. Great sandwiches, breakfast, good coffee and selection of sweets. Lunch specials includes soups and curries made daily.
Carlton Gardens  photo

Photo by jason ilagan

Where to sleep in Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens – from budget to best lodging

Three recommendations on the lodging:

  1. Rydges Carlton Melbourne, 701 Swanston Street ph 1300 857 922. An easy walk to the charming atmoshere and bustling cafes of Lygon St, the Rydges offers 107 boutique rooms with a heated pool, spa and even a BBQ on the rooftop.
  2. Boutique Stays, Parkville Terrace. Lovely 2 bedroom apartment in the historic precinct of Parkville.
  3. Arrow on Swanston, 488 Swanton Street, Carlton VIC 3053 Australia, tel. (613) 9225 9000, . Affordable short and long term apartments located in the heart of the CDB with plenty of services to offer. Enjoy Melbourne at Arrow On Swanston.