Featuring intimate architecture and street art galore.
Melbourne wouldn’t be Melbourne without its laneways or “little streets,” the colorful threads linking together a bustling, revitalized city. With over 40 laneways and arcades, or shopping centers, to choose from, you can spend a full glorious day lost in the street art, soaking in the Victorian-era architecture of the Royal Arcade, poking your nose into shops, and enjoying the local foodie scene. The laneways are a hugely popular tourist attraction, but they’re also a regular destination for locals. To get a real taste of the city, this is where you want to be.
The laneways, or “little streets,” of Melbourne’s central business district (or CBD) originated in the Victorian era and were used at the time as lanes for horses and carts. Starting around the 1990’s, as the city began to gentrify, the laneways, pleasingly intimate in scale and tucked away from the busier streets, became famous for their street art and are now highly popular locations for shops, restaurants, bars, and, of course, tourists and residents. Check out Hardware and Goldie lane for examples of still-intact early 20th century warehouses, and head over to Duckboard Place—where World War II troops once partied—to enjoy a glass of vino (or two) at a nearby wine bar.
Melbourne is known for its fantastic internationally-recognized street art, and although it covers a lot of the city, there are a few places in particular where you can soak in the best bits. And the best part? It’s free! Centre Place, between Collins St. and Flinder Lane, features some excellent stencil work. There’s a lane plastered with imagery of musicians (and renamed after one of Australia’s best-known bands). Croft Alley features some astonishing animal imagery as well as an (in)famous and (warning) slightly creepy hospital-themed bar. And be sure to check out the mural on Johnson Street, one of the city’s most popular pieces of public art.
Right at the heart of Melbourne’s street art scene sits Hosier Lane, known for its dizzying constellation of sophisticated graffiti. Just a two-minute walk from Flinders Street Station and running opposite Federation Square, Hosier Lane is one of the most popular destinations in Melbourne. Go early to avoid the crowds! Street art covers just about every surface, and take care to look closely—often the smaller pieces are the most eye-popping. For an energy boost, grab some caffeine at a nearby coffee shop and social enterprise that links young people with vocational training; if you’re hungry, head over to either Bar Tini or Movida on Hosier Lane for some delightful Spanish tapas.
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The Melbourne Block Arcade was constructed in the late 19th century and is considered one of the best shopping arcades of the Victorian era. It is, unsurprisingly, another highly popular tourist destination! Located in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, the arcade features gorgeous Victorian architecture and boasts skylights, stained glass windows and mosaic tiles. Oh, and the shops! There’s a little bit of everything, from authentic crepes to artisan spice shops to Australian-made designer wares. Have at it.
The glamorous Royal Arcade, also located in Melbourne’s central business district, is the oldest surviving arcade in Australia. In 1868 an architect won a competition to design the building, and the arcade is built in the Italianate style, featuring domed glass ceilings and iconic black-and-white floors. Today, this charming destination houses a diverse mix of stores and attractions, as well as two somewhat imposing statues of the mythical characters Gog and Magog. Enter from either Little Burke Street, Little Collins Street, or Elizabeth Street and peruse the wares at your leisure—check out high-end threads at Marais, snag some chocolates at Chocomama, or get your Tarot read at Spellbox.
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