The hotel’s development followed the growing need for hotel accommodation in Adelaide’s early years. It also includes one of the very few remaining large rooms (the Ballroom) that were attached to many 1850s and 1860s hotels in South Australia. These were used as theatres or assembly rooms before town halls, institute halls and theatres were built. They provided important social spaces in the young colony.
The Tivoli Hotel was popular with Adelaide’s German community. In the 19th Century it was one of Adelaide’s leading theatrical venues. Its name was probably taken from the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, a world-famous public amusement park that opened in 1843. Evening theatrical performances at the Tivoli only ended in 1916, when a six o'clock closing time was imposed on all hotels. The main hotel building facing Pirie Street dates from 1878. It was designed by the architect Rowland Rees. The balcony, with its coupled wooden posts and delightful balustrade, rests on carved wooden brackets. The hotel at the front of the site once was also known as the National Hotel.
The Tivoli’s Ballroom was one of the last of its kind anywhere in Adelaide or South Australia. It was reborn as a popular live music venue from the 1970s to the 1990s. "The Tiv" hosted many of the top acts of the time, most notably Adelaide’s own rock group legend, Cold Chisel.
The hotel was extensively renovated in 2008. It still offers live entertainment and a range of dining options. The Ballroom has been transformed into an upscale restaurant.