Melbourne Central is a shopaholic’s fantasy, it’s conducive to shop all day and like the great adage, shop, till you drop, is really a dream. The stand-alone shops old and new are prodigious.
I realized looking for anything that catches your fancy must be snapped up immediately. The alleyways for the uninitiated is difficult to trace back, it’s a maze so just proceed on to the next lane and discover more shops.
What caught my fancy and repeated visits were two iconic malls, more so heritage malls. The grander and easy to locate of the historic malls is The Block. Opened in 1892, a news board at an unobtrusive corner of this mall declares that of the two entrances at the mall, Collin street side of it was first purchased for a mere 18 pounds. The original George store catered to the well-heeled and maintained its art deco interiors reflecting the clientele of Melbourne society. Construction of the Elizabeth street wing proceeded in 1893.
The beauty and splendor of The Block have made it a landmark in Melbourne’s cityscape, surprisingly the locals took quite a while directing my 2nd time around (it’s between Russell and Swanston street). Most of my friends from Melbourne were surprised that I chanced upon this stately arcade and flippantly dismissed it as too exclusive to shop.
Craven,(UK) designed the Victorian mosaic floor at The Block. Tiles from Italy cost 600 pounds when laid. During the Second World War, the floor was covered with heavy felted carpet to prevent any wear and tear from Military shoes. What you see from the classic arcade’s original flooring dates back several centuries. Don’t miss the Art deco ceilings, the arches, the dome, and Do Not miss the paintings on the ceiling especially shop front from the main entrance.
The Block is round the clock bustling with tourists and shoppers and hangers around. The café is the best place to sit and soak in the history. I checked to see which of the 29 stores at The Block existed since inception but wasn’t surprised to learn that many changed hands.
The patisserie appears to be longstanding, even has a teahouse with quintessential cozy English tea parlor ambiance. Named after its founder Lady Hopetoun, The Hopetoun Tea Room is a heritage corner within a heritage building. When
I enquired regarding the long queue outside, one of the guests explained that the Tea Room was built for the Victorian ladies Association. The fine teahouse experience is maintained to this very day!
THE ROYAL ARCADE- is another historic shopping arcade designed by Charles Webb located central Melbourne, on Bourke Street. Though a comparison to The Block is non-obligatory, both are such hallmarks of the city, both exude old world charm.
Opened in 1870, The Royal Arcade is the oldest enduring mall in Melbourne. Bourke Street is the main entrance to the chequered floor arcade, one can’t miss the stately dark building, a tramline prevented me from getting the perfect shot of the entire building. The famed laneway network connecting to this arcade has another leading to Little Collins Street and an extension leading to Elizabeth Street.
The Royal arcade has some very interesting features that categorize this visit under heritage walks. The high glass ribbed ceiling exemplifies light filled, airy feeling. Each store has an arched niche large window embedded above the neatly laid out shop front. The arched niche is a regular feature that distinguishes Royal Arcade, it is even emphasized on the main building.
The most coveted feature of The Royal Arcade is the dome ceiling far end of the south entrance. Don’t miss the most famous mythical Gog and Magog strike the giant clock. An eager crowd hangs around this spot to witness the two flanking figures strike the clock every hour. I was keener to slip into yet another, adjoining Hub Arcade!
(to be cont)