Melbourne is known (and loved) for its magical and secret laneways. They are home to restaurants, bars, cafes, street-art, and unique boutiques.
When Surveyor Robert Hoddle designed the city, he never planned for these thoroughfares to hold their own charm. The laneways were used for, deliveries, rubbish disposal, public uniranls, and even brothels! It’s no surprise they were often associated with vice and crime.
Since the 1980’s, Melbourne’s laneways have evolved independently and organically. So here is the definitive list of the best laneways in Melbourne. Get the camera ready and start exploring.
Hosier Lane is the darling of the Melbourne laneway scene. Regularly featured in tourism campaigns, it's come to symbolise Melbourne's entire laneway scene.
Filled with ever-changing street-art, tourists flock here looking for the perfect photo opportunity.
The most impressive artwork is 50 meters (164 ft) high on the back of an office building. This untouchable portrait of an indigenous boy is by local artist, Adnate.
Down Hosier Lane you’ll also Movida and Bar Tini - both Spanish tapas bars from the same operator.
Yes, Hosier Lane is the most 'commercial' laneway in Melbourne. But due to its central location just across from Federation Square, - it's super easy to check off your bucket list.
Degraves Street is another Melbourne icon, known and loved mostly for its cafe scene. Visit during the day and it's filled with seating and cafe canopies, giving it a strong Parisian feel.
It's named after Charles and William Degraves, two pioneer merchants from Hobart who built a flour mill at the corner of Flinder's Lane and Degraves Street in 1849.
Aside from the cafes, there's Pidapippo - serving an array of authentic Italian Gelato with Nutella on tap.
And Clementine's, a fine foods and gift store that only stocks Victorian made products - perfect to find some Melbourne souvenirs.
Centre Place was the beginning of Melbourne's laneway scene and is still its quirkiest; it could easily double as Diagon Alley from Harry Potter.
In the 1980's it was the first Melbourne laneway to be revamped by the city council, and is now an integral part of the city's identity.
This dark and narrow laneway is filled with cafes - serving baguettes, dumplings, soups, and smoothies. Jungle Juice and Shandong Mama Mini get our recommendation.
Grab a bite and pull up a milk crate - yes we're not kidding - and watch the world go by. There might even be a busker to play you some tunes.
Hardware Lane spans from Bourke Street to Little Lonsdale Street (that's long!) and is a nightlife hot-spot.
The land was formerly occupied by Kirk's Horse Bazaar, an auction house that once sold hundreds of horses a week.
With its unique red pavement, its strong European feel is only further strengthened by its many Italian and Spanish venues.
Most of the restaurants will have a spruiker out front, doing their best to win your service. Feel free to haggle with them to get a better deal, or avoid it entirely and research your destination before you go.
AC/DC - arguably one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll bands - spent their early days in a share house in St Kilda.
In 1976 they drove down Swanston St and shot a film clip for It's a long way to the top on the back of a ute. Needless to say, they are Melbourne icons.
Previously 'Corporation Lane,' this laneway was renamed ACDC Lane in the early 2000's. It is now a hub for street art and fine-dining.
Among the graffiti there is a 3D installation of Bon Scott 'bursting' through bricks. As well as a 30 metre painting of a young man carrying a tree.
You'll also several restaurants, including Pastuso (Peruvian,) Tonka (modern Indian) and Hereford Beefstouw (Danish Steakhouse.)
Duckboard Place is attached to ACDC Lane, and together they form a horse-shoe shaped detour from Flinders Lane.
Named in 1953 after the neighbouring Duckboard House - a venue that would entertain the troops during the interwar period - the term ‘duckboard’ was used to describe the slatted timber path laid out in the muddy trenches.
Duckboard Place has less to offer than ACDC Lane, but it does contain Melbourne’s last remaining piece of artwork by Banksy.
In the early 2000’s, Banksy painted several pieces throughout the city - but unfortunately, most have been destroyed.
But, you can still find two Banksy stencils of parachuting rats at the end of Duckboard place - one on either side of the doorway in the bend.
There is another Banksy to be found on the ceiling at Revolver on Chapel St - Melbourne’s most infamous nightclub.
You could visit Meyer's Place several times and have a completely different experience; very few laneways in Melbourne can pack in this many reputable venues.
Wander down to find San Telmo, an Argentian steak house with an authentic parrilla charcoal grill. Then grab drinks at Lily Blacks, an art deco cocktail bar serving classic concoctions.
Maybe try Loop Bar, with their two-level rooftop bar. Or grab a slice of New York from Pizza Pizza Pizza - then ask to enter their secret cocktail bar.
Make sure to look up and admire the vertical garden hanging off the side of Loop; Meyer's Place was one of the first candidates for the councils 'Green Laneway' project.
Previously called Juliet Terrace, this laneway was part of the red-light district back in the early 19th century; It’s here that women would sell their trade.
Liverpool Street is now a food and drink destination.
Rice Paper Scissors is a southeast Asian restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, while SPQR is loved for its authentic Pizza Napoletana.
After you’ve eaten, find the unmarked door with the old bicycle hanging above it. Push it open and head upstairs to New Golden Mountain for a drink or two.
This Asian/Australian inspired cocktail bar takes its name from the gold rush of 1851, when Chinese immigrants referred to victoria as ‘New Gold Mountain.'
Crossley Street is better known as the corner of Pellegrini’s. This old school Italian cafeteria is said to have welcomed the first Espresso machine to Melbourne in 1954, the start of Melbourne’s coffee craze.
Little has changed since the cafe opened in 1954, the decor and style of menu remain old-school; it's a local favourite for a quick bite.
Crossley Street was previously named Romeo Lane, and part of the red light district, while local lore says that it was also home to an opium den.
Like many laneways, it hides a cocktail bar; Romeo Lane is a cosy drinking den with a small courtyard - taking its name from Crossley St's previous incarnation.
Market Lane will take you from the wide road of Bourke Street, and into the jostling, tight laneways of Chinatown.
This laneway has several of its own restaurants, including Hutong, a widely regarded dumpling house. You can watch the cooks making their own dumplings; a good way to guarantee your dumplings don't come from the freezer.
There is also Hofbräuhaus, a slightly out of place German eating house - known for its giant beers and huge sausages. Every Octoberfest this place gets wild.
If it’s fine dining you want, then there is Flowerdrum, an award-winning Cantonese restaurant often booked out months in advance.
Tattersall’s Lane joins two worlds together; the north end of the city and Chinatown. Walking through this nightlife hub is like teleporting to another dimension.
Midway down you’ll find Section 8, one of Melbourne's many laneway bars that opens 365 days a year. Originally a pop-up bar in an empty car park, it was so popular that it soon became a permanent fixture.
Next door is its sister venue, FerdyDurke, a more conventional but still hipster bar.
Union Lane has nothing but street art; no bars, restaurants or cafes. This laneway connects to Bourke Street Mall and is simply a thoroughfare that’s been co-opted by the local art scene; with its 550 square metres of wall space, it’s the perfect canvas.
Visit it for some photo opportunities, but be aware, it can get a little smelly down there.
In 1890, shopkeeper and resident of Russel Place, Charles Elliot penned a letter to the council requesting that they install street lighting as well as a greater police presence.
He complained of many men that would urinate in the laneway, sometimes even 20 at a time. Thankfully that doesn't happen today (or at least not as much.)
Russel Place now houses several bars and restaurants, including Gin Palace and the late-night Bar Ampere. Thankfully they both have bathrooms.
Block Place is a cafe filled laneway that leads to the heritage-listed Block Arcade. In the 1890’s it was privately owned, but the council gained permission to install a roof and create an undercover route connecting The Block Arcade and The Royal Arcade.
It's a great place for a coffee while exploring the nearby arcades.
Guildford Lane is a secluded oasis, wedged between 21st-century century apartment towers.
This rare pocket of industrial buildings is part of the city’s ‘Green Your Laneway Campaign’ - which has seen the red brick walls covered in plants and creepers.
The buildings have mostly been converted into residential apartments, but there are several cafes on street-level; Bricklane and Krimper are both popular choices.
It’s here you’ll also find Australia’s first cat cafe, where for a small admission fee, you can hang out with some friendly felines.
This laneway attached to Chinatown is easily overlooked. The walls are covered in graffiti, the bins are overflowing, and restaurant workers crouch to enjoy a smoke break.
But if you follow the laneway to its end, you’ll discover The Croft Institute, one of the city’s original hidden bars.
This science-themed bar stretches over three levels, and is filled with test tubes and other high-school science equipment. During the day, Croft Alley isn’t much, but it’s secrets are revealed come night.
Presgrave Place is covered in unique street art. This laneway (off a laneway,) is covered in frames and other installation art.
Get in close and you’ll be surprised by the detail, from tiny people, small messages and tongue-in-cheek references to Banksy.
At the end of Presgrave Place is also Melbourne’s smallest cocktail bar. Meet Bar Americano, a standing-room-only bar by Melbourne artist Matt Bax.
Inspired by America’s golden age of cocktails, they focus on the classics; visit Bar Americano n for an expertly crafted old fashioned or Negroni.
They don’t take bookings and have a maximum capacity of around 10 people.
Sniders Lane runs alongside Melbourne Central, and provides an entrance into the shopping complex itself.
The main attraction in Sniders Lane is the giant mural of Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski, painted by the meme lord that is Lushux.
Manchester Lane was once home to the manchester and linen trade of Melbourne. In acknowledgment of its history, the council created a giant zip pattern in the pavement. The old factory buildings have been converted into apartment buildings.
Ridgeway Place runs alongside the towering brick wall of the Melbourne Club, the city's oldest men's club.
Formed in 1838, the club boasts former prime ministers, world-renowned artists and mining magnates as its members. Behind the wall it a private English-styled garden, home to the oldest and largest plane tree in Victoria.
Also down Ridgeway Place is the Lyceum Club, a women's only club with a focus on art and culture.
If you have a membership for neither, enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes instead. Ridgeway Place is a convenient thoroughfare and will take you from Collins Street to Little Collins Street.
Olive Lane is an overlooked laneway, especially when the nearby Hosier Lane takes all the attention.
But it's here you'll find Lucy Liu, a pan-Asian restaurant and bar with a modern fit-out - a similar experience to Chin Chin and Supernormal, both of which are minutes away.
There's also Bowery to Williamsburg, a New York diner-style joint serving American sandwiches.
The horse-shoe shaped Melbourne Place is a small detour from Russel Street.
Along that detour you'll pass the Kelvin Club, a private club over 150 years old. Open to both men and women, they have a bar, restaurant and massive pool table.
Sezar is next, a modern Armenian restaurant serving lamb kebabs, glazed pork and tabouleh.
Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, Bank Place is lined with buildings built during the pre-war period, from the 1860's until the 1920's. Now many of those buildings have ground-level restaurants and bars.
Blink and you'll miss it; Postal Lane runs directly off the Bourke St Mall, alongside the old GPO (General Post Office.)
The entrance is via Ca De Vin, a pizzeria and trattoria, but don't worry you can walk straight through. The back end is home to Vietnamese restaurant, Mama's Buoi.
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