The Architecture and Design of the Royal Arcade

The Architecture and Design of the Royal Arcade

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 12/13/2016

Reading time: 3 mins

Head into Melbourne’s city centre and discover the historic shopping arcade in the central business district!

Explore the charm and history of Melbourne City in the Royal Arcade, one of the city’s premier shopping destinations that are filled to the brim with designer boutiques, cafes, and must-visit stores. Set in the Central Business District of the city, it dates back to 1870 when its grand opening took place. It is now one of the oldest surviving shopping arcades in Australia and is best known for its opulent interior and the impressive carvings of mythical figures Gog and Magog that guard the southern entrance.

The Architecture of the Royal Arcade

Opened by the City Lord Mayor on 2 May, 1870, the architecture of the venue is by far the most stunning thing of the arcade, and is the reason for it’s past and current popularity. It was designed by Charles Webb in 1868 after he had won a competition. The judges asked for entries to visualise and bring to life this opulent shopping complex, and Webb’s high glass roof and grand arched windows added a sense of royal charm to the shopping experience. These days, many visitors and locals adore the picturesque design that is usually stunning in the city filled with concrete buildings and flashy skyscrapers-making visitors feel as if they have stepped back in time to the 1970s!

Gog and Magog in the Royal Arcade

By far one of the most prominent architectural features of the arcade is the famous carved figures of Gog and Magog who guard Gaunt’s clock. The arms of the figures come to life every hour as their arms strike bells to mark the time. Added to the design in 1893, the figures have become a pivotal part of the arcade.

There are a number of myths surrounding the historical figures of Gog and Magog, including one story that tells of them being guards of the underworld and gods of dark spirits. The story says that, once Gog and Magog return to war, the war will end.

There are a couple of other carved statues at home in the arcade, too, including a symbolic feature piece of Chronos, a Greek mythological character known as Father Time, who sits to by the northern entrance.

No matter what the real reason for the feature is, it is a glorious architectural site within the busy district of Melbourne’s city.

The Royal Arcade Today

Between 2002 and 2004, the Royal Arcade went under a major refurbishment that saw it restored back to its former glory. Extensive work was carried out on its grand skylights and its elegant storefronts to fully reflect its historic charm.

Today, the arcade remains a beautiful reminder of the city’s past, largely untouched by modern goings-on. Its Renaissance Revival style remains in a pristine condition, promising a stunning backdrop for any shopping experience.

If you’re in the area and fancy hitting up the shops, the Royal Arcade brings consumers a historic and charming touch to their day.

Related article: What to Do in Melbourne This Weekend!

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.