From Gothic gargoyles to decadent deco and modern museums. A wander through Melbourne delivers design inspiration at every turn. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, this Classic Design Icons walk is an excellent way to spend the day. Here are just some of the fascinating stops along the trail.

Manchester Unity Building

One Gothic beauty in Melbourne’s bustling CBD is the Manchester Unity Building. Built in 1932, it was the first building in Melbourne with an escalator. The stunning entry level is lined with marble and mosaic, punctuated with copper plated elevator doors. Book a tour of the building to visit the lovingly restored eleventh-floor boardroom. You’ll also get a rare peak at the rooftop terrace, once the location for a buzzing café and tearoom.

The inside of an old-fashioned boardroom
The Manchester Unity Building boardroom

Melbourne Recital Centre

The swirling wooden interior of the Melbourne Recital Centre may look beautiful but it also serves an important function. Lauded as one of the best in the city for its state-of-the-art acoustics, it has earned its tagline as ‘the best place to hear’. The honeycomb exoskeleton and bubble-like glass exterior were designed to look like gift wrapping. Protection for the delicate ‘gift’ inside.

The Capitol

This cinema was brought to life by architects Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin in 1924. Today it stands as a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. Its intricate interior attempts to capture the feeling of being inside a glittering cave. A geometric ceiling houses thousands of coloured lamps. The Capitol has been recently revived with a five-year restoration by RMIT and Six Degrees Architects.

The outside of an old-fashioned theatre
The Capitol

Old Melbourne Stock Exchange

The former stock exchange building is also a Gothic glamour. It’s decorated with gargoyles, carved stonework, and stained glass. Mid-1800s architect William Wardell designed the cathedral-like ANZ Gothic Bank building. Look up and spot the gilded ceilings that adorn the sandstone building.

Arts Centre Melbourne

The Arts Centre combines a twinkling spire resembling a ballerina’s tutu, with the stark, concrete curves of Hamer Hall. Inside the partly-subterranean building are a series of stages and performance rooms. Academy Award-winning costume designer John Truscott designed the lush gold and red interiors.

An aerial photo of a city at night
Arts Centre Melbourne from the sky


The monolithic exterior of the NGV International building betrays its airy, light-filled interior. Enter via the much-photographed water wall, and head towards the Great Hall. It houses the world’s largest stained glass ceiling. The gallery regularly hosts some of Australia’s best exhibitions, as well as events in the pretty rear garden.


With its striking red rusted exterior, you can't miss the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. It was designed to resemble the warehouses and foundries that once occupied the site. Its shed-like steel and metal appearance is a sculpture in itself; a nod to the art it contains within. Speaking of art, look for the giant, yellow sculpture by Ron Robertson-Swann, and snap a picture within the walls of its geometric structure.

More historic sights in Melbourne

Mission to Seafarers

Melbourne's maritime history is on display in this heritage-listed building.

Old Treasury Building

Built during the gold rush, this heritage icon is now a museum of Melbourne history.

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Last updated on Fri 18 Jun 2021

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