Adelaide Architecture: A walking tour

This walking architectural tour of Adelaide takes in the new and the old and everything from state-of-the-art research centres to stately mansions.

A Quick word on Bluestone

Many of Adelaide’s buildings are from the colonial era or were built in the Victorian style. Local bluestone (slate) was a popular building material used by Adelaide’s early architects between the 1850s to the 1920s because of its decorative appearance. The inside of the stone is pale grey or beige with an array of colours on the surface caused by mineral deposits such as ferric oxide. The slate is laid in masonry with the mineralised surfaces exposed. 

A bluestone wall in Adelaide showing the colors caused by mineralization.

In recent years, contemporary architectural gems are sprouting throughout South Australia’s capital. Here are some highlights taking in the old and the new that make an easy walking tour of Adelaide’s architecture. Free bikes are available along the way and helmets are provided. Trams are also a great way to get around. I have mapped each building below.

Part 1: From St Margaret’s to Torrens River


Part one of our tour starts amongst the Victorian mansions of North Adelaide, across to St Peter’s Cathedral, The Adelaide Oval, and across the River Torrens Footbridge.

St Margaret’s Mansion

BUILT: 1890s
LOCATION: 24 Brougham Place, North Adelaide
ENTRY: This is a private residence. No entry. But you get a good view from the street.

St Margaret’s is a bluestone building that includes the main building and a coach house.  The mosaic floor on the front porch was apparently brought to Adelaide from an excavation in Greece. The roof was originally slate but was replaced by corrugated iron. More information.

St Margaret’s

Bishop’s Court Mansion

BUILT: 1851 – 1856
LOCATION: 41-50 Palmer Place, North Adelaide
ENTRY: This is a private residence. No entry.

Bishop’s Court is a two-storey steep-roofed stone building  with a Tudor-Gothic influence. It was built to serve as a residence for the first Bishop of Adelaide. The building is constructed in limestone, cut stone and brick quoins.

Bishop’s Court was designed by architect Henry Stuckey and remained unaltered until 1906 when Bishop Thomas had the present chapel built. The arcading which went right around the house was removed to accommodate this.

Bishop’s Court

Christ Church Rectory

BUILT: 1849
LOCATION: 35 Palmer Place, North Adelaide
ENTRY: Free. Open 9.00 – 5.00, Mon – Fri.

Christ Church is a beautiful pioneer church built in the Anglo Norman style. A four-part choir sings every Sunday at the Choral Eucharist (10.00 – 10.30 a.m.) and Evensong (5.15 p.m.).

The church organ, installed in 1873, evolved from a small organ of 12 stops  to today’s organ of 43 speaking stops distributed over 3 manuals and pedals and around 2,300 pipes, making it one of the larger parish church organs in Australia. Concerts and organ recitals are held regularly. Dates are available on their website.

Christ Church

St Peters Cathedral

BUILT: The foundation stone was laid on St Peter’s Day, 1869
LOCATION: King William St and Pennington Terrace
ENTRY: Open to visitors from 9.30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday and Sundays between services and 12.00pm to 4.00pm

Designed by English architect William Butterfield, the spires are an Adelaide landmark. Influences of French Gothic architecture can be seen in the West front, which features a rose window. Butterfield was interested in polychromatic patterns of brick and stone. Two examples of this are found in the reredos in the Lady Chapel and in the Font near the front door.

Historic photographs of the construction of the Cathedral and a copy of the Butterfield plan, can be seen on the wall in the passage to the sacristy on the southern side of the Quire. More info.

The Stained Glass Windows

The Cathedral’s windows range from mid 19th century to early 21st century. A leaflet about these windows is available on the stands by the doors.

St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide.

The Bells

The famous bells of St Peter’s Cathedral were installed in 1946. The tenor bell, named ‘Great Frederick’ for the benefactor Frederick Lakeman, weighs 2096 kg and is second in weight only to the bells at Sherbourne Abbey in the UK. The bells are rung by experienced bell-ringers in the change ringing style from 10:00am – 10:30am prior to the Choral Eucharist every Sunday morning and for special services and civic events. There is a regular bell ringing practice on Tuesday evenings from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. More info.

Free Guided Tours and Self-guided Tours

Learn about the history and religious symbolism of the building and the beautiful artworks from a knowledgeable tour guide. Tours are offered every Sunday 12.30pm and Wednesday 11.00am.  Bookings not required.

Information booklets are available at the back of the Cathedral in various languages to allow visitors to take a self guided tour.

Organ Recitals and Concerts

Check the website for upcoming events, which might include orchestra performances, choirs, organ recitals, carols by candlelight and theatre performances.

St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide. Photo: You-Zi

Adelaide Oval

BUILT: 1870s but it has been through many transformations since then and is currently undergoing a redesign.
LOCATION: Victor Richards Rd, North Adelaide
ENTRY: Mon – Sat for tours on non-event days. See tour times below.

Adelaide Oval is a state-of-the-art venue with many requirements factored into its design: crowd circulation and facilities, shade and weather protection, audio quality, wheelchair access, viewing quality, player facilities, views of the surrounding city, and aesthetics all factored into its design.

Upcoming design features include BBQ decks, outdoor hospitality on the Village Green, standing room on the famous grassed Northern Mound, and views from the dining areas into the stadium and out to St Peter’s Cathedral and the parklands.

Adelaide Oval has hosted cricket and football since Colonial times and more recently has provided a music venue for such well-known performers as Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, KISS, Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elton John and Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Pearl Jam, AC/DC and the Foo Fighters. More info.


The Adelaide Oval Tours take you behind the scenes to the inner workings, bringing it to life with stories. Tours run on non-event days Monday to Friday (10am, 11am and 2pm) and on Saturdays (10am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm).
COST – $25 adults, $12 child.

Roof Climb

From March 2016 you will be able to climb the curved roofline of the stadium for birds eye views of the city and surrounding parklands.
COST: From $69 children (12-15) and $99 for adults (15+)


River Torrens Footbridge

BUILT: 2012
LOCATION: Links Adelaide Oval to the Dunstan Playhouse
ENTRY: Open all day every day.

Built by the designers of Taylor Cullity Lethlean and the architects of Tonkin Zulaihka Greer, River Torrens Footbridge has a gentle curve with a white painted underside to catch the shimmering light reflecting of the river in the day. The triangular support midway along the bridge is lit different colours at night. The bridge is a popular route for cyclists.

River Torrens Footbridge

PART TWO of the Architecture Tour: From here you can walk through Elder Park to the Victorian Rotunda before heading west to modern architectural masterpieces: Hawke Building, Kaurna Building, SAHMRI, and the New Royal Adelaide Hospital.

More Information


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