There is nothing I love more than getting lost in the alleyways, arcades and laneways of Melbourne. Discovering cool cafes, coffee houses and shops in converted warehouses is a big part of the Melbourne experience. But it’s the laneways that link them which really make this city stand out. Like constantly evolving art galleries, the laneways of Melbourne always put on a colourful new show. So I’ve put together a guide of my favourite laneways in Melbourne and what you can expect to find in them.
If you’ve come to Melbourne via a train into Flinders Street Station, Degraves will be your first taste of Melbourne’s laneways. This pedestrianized street directly across the road from the city’s historic railway station is lined with cafes, coffee houses and a cupcakery. Seating is available down the middle of the laneway (kindly heated in winter) and the chatter of diners animates the area. Works of street art are dispersed along the street (look out for the small girl character of Be Free who pops up all over Melbourne and hides under an umbrella on this laneway) and not even the bins escape a bit of decoration.
Also worth checking out is the Campbell Arcade which can be accessed via Degraves and leads straight into the train station. Rather like a time tunnel this underground subway from the 1950’s features retro-outfitted shops and signs, including a vintage clothes retailer and zine specialist. The walls have been turned into display cabinets which feature a rotating display of art installations by the Platform Artists Group – it’s one subway that is definitely worth passing through.
Hosiers Lane, just a short walk from Federation Square, is one of Melbourne’s most iconic laneways. Exceptional, high quality street art (which sometimes has a political agenda) covers every single inch of the lane – including the street bollards!
Union Lane is a convenient passageway between Little Collins Street and Bourke Street Mall (the pedestrianized shopping zone of Bourke Street, which does allow trams so watch out!) Every building that backs onto the alleyway has been decorated with graffiti and it is constantly changing and evolving like an art gallery on rotation.
Croft Alley is a dead end in Chinatown that not many people venture down unless they were looking for the Croft Institute, a cocktail bar loosely themed around a science laboratory which is hidden at the end. Croft Alley is one of my favourite of Melbourne’s decorated laneways, there was an octopus guarding the entrance last time I visited. It doesn’t get the usual amount of foot traffic and photographers coming down here as it is a bit out the way, so you may be treated to some time with the walls all by yourself.
Rankins Lane has had the same colourful characters painted on it for the last few years I’ve visited (which is unusual seen as every other alley seems to get replaced by new work all the time.) It’s not the artwork which puts this lane on my list however but the café hidden down it – Manchester Press. Manchester Press is a converted warehouse at the end of Rankins Lane who serve some of the best bagels I’ve ever tasted – think bacon, mozzarella, avocado, rocket.. yum! In a city full of tiny cafes it’s a space big enough for groups and has friendly staff to cater for them. Also worth mentioning in the vicinity is Brother Baba Budan which sits on the corner of Rankins Lane. Regularly spoken of as the best coffee in Melbourne, Brother Budan has a crowd of loyal regulars who come and go all day long. It was founded by Mark Dundon who also opened St Ali (another Melbourne coffee mecca – see more here) and the décor provides an interesting talking point – the ceiling is covered in chairs.
Have you toured Melbourne’s alleys and laneways? Which are your favourites?