When you think about Melbourne a few things probably come to mind. Our coffee, our insistence on waiting 4+ hours at some of the best restaurants (and our obsession with food in general), our art scene, our trams, Victorian terrace houses and of course, our laneways.
I’ve often wondered whether tourists to my beloved city get the most out of their visit. I wonder if all their dreams for good food and coffee were dashed because no one took them by the hand and said “you really have to leave Swanston Street if you want a life-changing latte.”
Save for a few mainstream tourist attractions, everything that makes Melbourne great is tucked away out of sight. Many of Melbourne’s little gems are hidden down some of our many laneways but the laneways alone are something special. Many of the inner suburbs have a similarly enviable laneway culture but I’m going to be focusing on Melbourne’s CBD. So here is my list of 10 laneways you must visit in Melbourne.
1. Flinders Lane
Flinders Lane isn’t quaint by any standard but rather the gateway to many of the other lanes you’ll find here. One block north from Flinders Street, Flinders Lane connects Spring Street with Spencer Street, stretching the width of the CBD. There’s plenty to do on Flinders Lane. You can gallery hop from Anna Schwartz to Mailbox Art Space, Flinders Lane Gallery, Arc One and Fortyfive Downstairs. Shop at Craft Victoria (also a gallery) and if you’re peckish grab a bite to eat (although there may be a queue) at Chin Chin, Supernormal, Cumulus Inc or Coda.
2. Centre Place
Centre Place is the quintessential Melbourne laneway that connects Flinders Lane with Collins Street. It doesn’t matter which cafe you choose, you’ll get a good cup of coffee along there.
3. Degraves Street
Just opposite Centre Place is Degraves Street. This one connects Flinders Lane with Flinders Street. Tables run down the centre of the laneway served by several cafes. Degraves is terribly photogenic and though it can seem a little touristy, it is still at the heart of Melbourne’s laneway culture. Though lately small businesses are being replaced by the big chains and the street is losing some of its charm.
4. Chapter House Lane
Chapter House Lane is both the name of the laneway running behind St Paul’s Cathedral between Flinders Lane and Flinders Street, and the name of the small gallery space situated on it. It’s one of the smallest laneways on the list but do stop by and grab a coffee at the aptly names Chapter House Coffee.
5. Hosier Lane
Hosier Lane is without a doubt Melbourne’s most famous laneway for street art. I personally think it is best approached from the south along Flinders Street. Everytime I go, something new catches my eye. The beauty of a laneway dedicated to street art really is that it is always changing.
6. AC/DC Lane / Duckboard Place
My personal favourite laneway for street art however is AC/DC lane. It is a tad less frequented than Hosier lane but in many ways is a lot better. Get to AC/DC lane from Flinders Lane but don’t be fooled by thinking the laneway stops at Pastuso. It curves around to the left and becomes Duckboard Place which beside being home to some more excellent eateries is also home to one of, if not the last remaining Banksy stencil in Melbourne. Banksy visited Melbourne in 2003 where he left a number of stencils around the city. Last year another one in AC/DC Lane was destroyed by construction workers. Prior to that someone poured paint behind a sheet of perspex that was protecting another stencil again. There have been calls to protect the remaining Banksy’s around the city but nothing has been set in stone. So check out the remaining AC/DC Lane stencil while you still can.
7. Block Arcade/ Block Place
The two most famous arcades in Melbourne are the Block and the Royal. The arcade connects Collins Street with Elizabeth street and you can walk through Block Place to get to Little Collins Street. Enjoy the 19th century architecture and indulge in chocolates from Haigh’s.
8. The Causeway
The Causeway connects Little Collins Street with Bourke Street Mall. It’s a very narrow, very tall street that’s always bustling around mealtimes. Blink and you’ll miss it but the best place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat is Local Birds. With only a handful of seats it’s dwarfed by all the other restaurants there but in my opinion is the better option.
9. Royal Arcade
In many ways the Royal Arcade is very similar to the Block Arcade. Its architecture and shops promise to take you back in time and it’s close by, located between Bourke Street, Elizabeth Street and Little Collins Street. If you haven’t already eaten enough chocolate, stop by Koko Black.
10. Union Lane
Union lane is another lane known for its graffiti and street art. It’s situated between Bourke Street and Little Collins Street.