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Last Updated on November 16, 2019 by Amy

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.

Our 5 Favorite Street Art Locations in the Melbourne Laneways

Fucking Hippies

Hidden in the Centre Way arcade.

Fucking Hippies Melbourne Laneway Street Art

Everything has Beauty

The Jungle

One Tree

Classic Melbourne

BONUS: ANZ Bank’s GayTM

Political stance? Work of art? Marketing campaign? Who cares! I feel the love.

The Short List

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.

Melbourne Laneways Walking Tour - ACDC Lane

A Word About Hosier Lane

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.

The Arcades

Melbourne also is full of interesting interior spaces. The arcades are beautiful and filled with interesting shops and art galleries.

The Eats

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.

Photo of breakfast at White Mojo cafe in Melbourne.

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.

Peking Duck.
Ribs

The Melbourne Laneways Map

Where to Stay in Melbourne

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.

What Else We Did in Melbourne

Socializing

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.

A Walk in the Park

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.

The Yarra River.
Queen Victoria Statue.
Kings Domain fountain.

Queen Victoria Market

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.

Now go off and have your own crazy laneways adventure!

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.

40 Comments

  1. Really beautiful pictures! I am an art lover and I like to explore Melbourne streets full of graffiti. I am a foodie as well and China town is my favourite place for food and sometimes a quite place with live music. A walking tour is best if anyone wants to see the real charm of Melbourne. your list is really nice.

  2. My parents and I are planning a trip there in March of 2020 for my dad’s retirement. We are from Tennessee US and I have never been to Australia. I am so excited and this post was so helpful Thank you!

  3. Thanks Amy. Always interesting to see your home through the eyes of someone else. Melbourne is home but we too love Tassie and get down there every couple of years. Hobart highlights “Mona” and Daci and Daci bakery

  4. I LOVE street art so this is totally up my alley. Melbourne has been on my list for awhile and now I know the first thing I will do when I’m there, thanks to you! My favorite piece I think is One Tree but it’s so hard to choose! Love the ATM’s too.

  5. I love a city with good street art, and Melbs sure seems to be one! I especially liked ‘The Jungle’ and ‘Fucking Hippies’ 🙂 I’ve yet to visit Melbourne but between the street art, the famous coffee and café culture and avocado on toast, I’m already sure I love it 🙂

  6. Walking through the lanes is the best way to experience any city. It gives us the overview of the culture, the life and the art of that place. Seems like Melbourne is one such place where there is a lot to explore. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Some cities are definitely more walkable than others. Unfortunately, our hometown of Houston is not so walkable. 🙁

  7. I love tours like this!! And this place is so vibrant – good lord. I’ve always thought Melbourne sounded pretty cool, but this is serious inspo!

  8. I’m very taken with the jungle art; it’s so lush and leafy. Man with tree and the crayons also rewarded a lot of examination. I’m glad you had a good exploration time despite the pants nature of the information you were given to go wandering with.

  9. Okay so I have never heard of the term “Laneways” before but I love it! The Melbourne Laneways tour you created or followed or hit by accident looked amazing. I LOVE all the street are you found. I actually stopped for like 5 minutes disecting the one you showed up there with the kid drawing with his/her crayons etc. That was truly amazing. The atm was totally cool too. I just love “discovering” street art.

  10. What a great summary! We were in Melbourne in January, 2017. We are tennis fans so added the Australian Open to walking the laneways and sampling the amazing variety of food.

    A tip for sports fans — When we were back in Sydney the locals told us that the Melbourne Cricket Ground (AKA “The G”) is a shrine worthy of its own pilgrimage. I can’t comment further since we didn’t know until too late but thought I’d put it out there for others on their way to Melbourne.

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