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Ask any Melbournian* what to do in Melbourne, and the answer is pretty causal. “Oh just walk around!”, “Check out the laneways”, “Get a feel for the city”. But what exactly are the Melbourne Laneways and where do you go?
Armed with a laneways map from the Visitor’s Information Centre, David and I set off to explore the city on foot. Well, the map turned out to be rubbish. We’d go down a designated “laneway” to find no interesting art or businesses. There was no recommended route, so we had to make up our own. But still, we walked for several hours, admiring this unique part of Melbourne! And thanks to technology, I was able to record all of our favorite parts and share them with you!
This Laneways tour is a circle and can be started at any point. If you power walk, you can probably pass the whole thing by in an hour. Sometimes the attraction is the businesses operated in the laneway, particularly a look at Melbourne’s cafe culture. Sometimes, the attraction is the art on the streets itself. Or, the architecture. Given all the variety, it’s easily the top thing to do in Melbourne.
Hidden in the Centre Way arcade.
Political stance? Work of art? Marketing campaign? Who cares! I feel the love.
No time for a full-on walking tour? Don’t worry, the best use of your time (maximum art, minimum walking) would be ACDC Lane. It is chock full of street art, including one of my favorites (the Classic Melbourne), and tons of music-themed street art.
Hosier Lane is probably the second most popular Melbourne Laneway around, but it’s definitely more of a rough-and-tumble place. When we visited, there were two guys having an altercation on the street, a group of what I assume was homeless people, and the art is much more graffiti than street art. You have been warned.
Melbourne also is full of interesting interior spaces. The arcades are beautiful and filled with interesting shops and art galleries.
According to TripAdvisor, there are about 3,500 restaurants in Melbourne. Between Degraves and Hardware, which are on this Melbourne Laneways tour, you’ll find Melbourne’s best cafe scene, with pedestrian-only traffic squeezed between cafe tables. Or, if you started near the Visitor’s Centre as we did, mid-day will find you in Chinatown, where international university students reign, and there’s every variety even remotely Asian that you can think of.
One of my favorite breakfasts was at White Mojo on Hardware Street. My breakfast was an egg and bacon roll with corn on an ink bun. It was HUGE and the eggs had (I think) sweet chili sauce in them. Very hipster.
I originally read about Flower Drum in my book What Chefs Eat. Not only is it reputed as one of the best restaurants in Melbourne, but one of the best in Australia. We managed to snag a last-minute reservation on a Monday for lunch, and thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Peking duck and honey-marinated ribs were awesome.
All of these hotels are directly on or inside the route we took.
Luxury ($150 USD +): Grand Hyatt Melbourne is your classic cookie-cutter hotel, though it’s five-star rated. For more modern options, the Adelphi Hotel is four and a half stars and located less than a block from Hosier Lane and Punthill Flinders Lane Apartments, the most expensive of the bunch, is right across from Centre Way on the corner of Degraves and Flinders Lane. Adorable cafes abound.
For more moderate accommodations, the Causeway Inn on the Mall is located in the Bourke Street Mall right on the walking path.
Australia’s got plenty of backpackers running around with their Working Holiday Visas, so there’s no shortage of backpacking hostels, a very inexpensive way to stay in the city. Check out Greenhouse Backpackers Melbourne for one near the walking path.
We had a great meetup in Melbourne, even getting to meet a fellow Helia owner.
We caught up with our cruising friend Jessie, from S/V Red Thread.
The Yarra River has it’s own riverwalk, with interesting city views. Across from downtown is a large green space, made up of the Alexandra Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens, and the Kings Domain. It’s a lovely place to walk on a comfortable day.
I had a blast picking up lunch and dinner one day at the QVM. Some parts of the market are tourist trinkets and clothes, but the buildings that house most of the food are awesome to walk through. It reminded me of European food markets.
Did I miss your favorite laneways spot? Tell me about it!
Looking for more things to do in Melbourne? Here’s a 7-Day Melbourne Itinerary.
We stayed near Chinatown, but there are plenty of interesting places to stay in Melbourne.
Want more Aussie street art? Here’s how to find Sydney’s Best Street Art.
*Slightly disappointed it’s not Melbourites.