Melbourne’s Iconic Carlton Attractions

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Walking distance from the city centre of Melbourne is the iconic suburb of Carlton. This historic area is one of the oldest parts of the city, dating from the beginning of the Victorian gold rush era in 1851. It’s one of my favourite parts of Melbourne, as there is so much to love here for locals like myself, as well as tourists visiting the city. I recommend spending some time in Carlton, checking out these 4 popular places.

1. Melbourne Museum

The first site is the Melbourne Museum, housed in a modern, architecturally designed building, located near the central business district. Built in 1998, this is a perfect start to any site-seeing itinerary in Melbourne. Here you can learn all about Australian and Aboriginal culture, and history of the city.

What to see

Great for all ages, the Museum has many different sections and exhibitions to see, including a forest gallery with live animals and plants, areas on science, bugs, history, the mind, a children’s gallery, Imax Cinema and heaps more. There’s always something new to learn here. The huge rubik’s cube you see on the outside is a main attraction. I know what you’re thinking, and no, you can’t twist the squares. 

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View of the city from Museum

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Main entrance of the Museum

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Rubik’s cube part of the Museum

The Museum is open almost every day of the year. Cost is A$15 per adult.

By the way, if you’re looking for a wedding venue, how about here? Yep, they even host functions and social events at the Museum for gatherings of up to 2000 of your closest friends! The place is massive and has lots of glass and high ceilings.

Interesting fact: This is the largest museum in the southern hemisphere.

2. Royal Exhibition Building

Located right next to the Museum is the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building. This monument is an important Melbourne landmark and much loved by locals. A very cool and historic site to see in Carlton.


The building dates from 1879 and is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. It’s one of the oldest remaining exhibition buildings in the world. Also known as the “Palace of Industry”, it was designed primarily for international exhibitions and trade fares and was a symbol of industrialisation in the 19th century worldwide. Many purpose built pavilions of this type were only temporary and have since been demolished. This one came close on many occasions, but luckily was saved and renovated.

An important moment in history was held here – Australia’s first Parliament in 1901 after the country became part of the Commonwealth. The building has also been used for Olympic Games events in 1956, exam hall for universities and high schools, dances and shows. However, it is no longer Melbourne’s main exhibition centre. New, much larger and more modern exhibition and convention facilities are located at Southbank.

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Entrance to Exhibition Building

4 cool sites in Carlton

colourful interior of a building

Inside the dome of the Exhibition Building

The architectural style of this building is an interesting blend of Byzantine, Romanesque, Lombardic and Italian Renaissance architecture. In fact the huge dome was inspired by the Cathedral in Florence, Italy. Inside, murals adorn the walls and ceiling which have been lovingly restored and maintained.


You can take a tour, on days when it’s not being used for events, where you can learn about the history and the people that have shaped this much-loved Melbourne icon. Cost is A$10 per adult. 


Hosting many cultural and lifestyle events, fairs and festivals throughout the year, there is always something here to see. Such as, the annual Motorclassica, Baby & Toddler Show, Dog Lovers Show, and one of my personal favourites, the fabulous Flower and Garden Show in March.

If you get the chance, I recommend you check it out. What a treat! The beautiful displays at the Flower and Garden Show never disappoint.

Melbourne Flower and Garden Show

Have a look at these stunning floral and garden creations.

There is also plenty of eating and refreshment options available at the show. You can choose from formal High Tea indoors, to a variety of casual takeaway outdoors.

I thoroughly recommend attending if you’re in Melbourne in late March.

Cost is A$30 per adult.

3. Carlton Gardens

City buildings and garden

Aerial view of City and Carlton Gardens By: Andrew Lukaris

Carlton is full of gardens. It has 5 gardens within its precinct in fact. But the Victorian style Carlton Gardens are a delightful sanctuary on the edge of the central business district. They provide a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of the city to stroll, relax and admire local trees and wildlife. There are 2 lakes and 3 fountains on an area of 64 acres. The gardens are also Heritage listed for some of the rare plantings located here.

fountain and garden - Cool sites in Carlton.

Hochgurtel Fountain

Cool sites in Carlton.

Cool sites in Carlton.

4 cool sites in Carlton

There are numerous gardens and parks around the city of Melbourne, but this is one of the most lovely, with treed avenues, shaded walking paths, lots of grass, water features and a children’s playground and maze.

Located right next to the Museum and the Exhibition building, it is open to the public and is free.

4. Lygon Street

My fourth cool site in Carlton you have to visit is Lygon Street, an iconic cafe and dining precinct of Melbourne, where it is always lively.

4 cool sites in Carlton

Lygon Street, Carlton has been known as ‘Little Italy’. People have always flocked here for authentic Italian meals and village style atmosphere. There is plenty of ‘al-fresco’ dining, cafes, gelati shops, and continental delicatessens selling all manner of yummy Italian produce, and more.


Many Italian migrants first settled in Carlton when they arrived in Melbourne in the 50’s and 60’s. They brought Italian cuisine to the country and of course it became popular and flourished. Many restaurants opened up all along Lygon Street, including the first Pizzeria in Australia, called Toto’s Pizza House, in 1961, which still exists.

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Apparently, Australia’s very first coffee machines were right here in Lygon Street at the University Cafe, which has been going for 60 years. This is where Australia’s famous coffee culture began and is still going strong, or weak, depending on how you like it. Haha, sorry.


Nowadays, there are still many Italian establishments in Lygon Street and neighbouring streets of Carlton, like DOC Pizza Bar, Donnini’s, Il Cantuccio, La Spaghettata, Il Gambero, Criniti’s and heaps more.

If it’s gelato you love (who doesn’t?), a great Italian ice cream shop you must try is Pidapipo Gelateria. Here they serve homemade gelato, where people queue out the door. It’s absolutely to die for.

Cool sites in Carlton.

Pidapipo Gelateria

If you’re after cake, do I have the place for you! My all time favourite pasticceria/cake shop, in the whole of Melbourne, is Brunetti. It is iconic to Carlton, and a veritable mecca for authentic Italian cakes and sweets. The biggest problem is making a choice from the massive selection tempting you, in the biggest cake display you are likely to ever see.

Cool sites in Carlton.

Brunetti cake display

It has been around for decades and has now become a chain, with stores even in Dubai and Singapore. If you love Italian desserts – cannoli, tiramisu, sfoglia, biscotti, amaretti – you will think you have died and gone to dessert heaven!

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So, please don’t miss out on spending time in the fabulous area of Carlton when visiting Melbourne.

Have you been to these sites in Melbourne’s iconic Carlton?

Please leave me a comment below.

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5 thoughts on “Melbourne’s Iconic Carlton Attractions

  1. By Land and Sea says:

    A trip to Australia has long been on my bucket list! I’ve never heard of Carlton before, but am glad to learn about what it has to offer as a destination. Seems like a cool place to check out!

  2. mindy silva says:

    My daughter would absolutely love the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show. Whenever we travel we try to find a garden to visit. This woukd be perfect!

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