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A Guide to Melbourne’s Laneways and Arcades

Published 05 April 2016

Sandy Dhaliwal

Melbournians have a bit of an unofficial philosophy and it’s that if a place isn’t secret or bit of a struggle to find, then it’s probably not worth the trip anyway. Yes, the city’s natives do love a challenge when it comes to seeking out the best that the country’s capital of culture has to offer. And Melbourne’s labyrinth of charismatic laneways and arcades, located in the city centre, more than accommodates, rewarding the locals with their vibrant array of quirky eateries, stylish boutiques, eccentric street art, decadent drinking holes and more, all tucked away, just waiting to be discovered.

Centre Place Laneway, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

This iconic part of the city also manages to perfectly embody Australia and its people, as its cosmopolitan and eclectic variety of hangouts, shops and attractions are as diverse and contrasting as the population itself.

I have been living in Melbourne for just over a year and have come to regard this colourful district as the one I love most. And while I have my many go-to favourites, it’s also an area where I am constantly stumbling across new finds or getting tips and recommendations from friends. Undoubtedly, it’s going to be hard to fully unearth everything on one visit alone, as there is literally so much to see and do, and it’s constantly changing too. But this all adds to its charm and intrigue, as every visit feels unique and will cater for every kind of visitor.

Royal Arcade, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Now of course, you don’t want to miss the best bits during your stay, so as a bit of an honorary resident, I’ve put together a guide to some of the best destinations for dining, drinking, shopping, exploring and more; to help you feel a bit more in the know. It’s by no means definitive, but if you’re new to Melbourne, it’s packed full of lots of amazing starting points to enjoy.

Centre Place, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Eating

From high-end and contemporary cuisine to late night bites and hole in the wall cafés, the Laneways have it all. The hardest part will be actually making the decision as to where to venture as you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you’re starting your day early, kick off your activities with breakfast at Degraves Street, which is famous for its coffee; or the nearby Centre Place, which has a treasure trove of picturesque, al fresco spots that have a wonderful continental feel about them. Here you will also find one of the original hidden Laneway eateries, Hell’s Kitchen.

If you’re after an Asian food fix, then you’re not going to find anywhere more authentic than Mugen Ramen in Bligh Place or Chin Chin on Flinders Lane; while the atmospheric Chinatown, Liverpool Street and Hardware Lane will each offer even more variety. Pellegrini's Espresso Bar (Bourke Street) is a revered Melbourne institution for its fine Italian fare, while Movida (Hosier Lane) is equally as celebrated for its wonderful Spanish tapas.

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Drinking and nightlife

My favourite place to round off any day is right here in the Laneways, as you can have the perfect evening out, whether you’re after a quiet drink, some live music, hitting a dance floor or maybe even sampling some mixology.

If you’re looking for an afternoon haunt, Chuckle Park (Little Collins Street) is ideal for cocktails in the sunshine, as well as Shebeen (Manchester Lane), which is equally as delectable and also donates 100% of its profits to charity. Robot (Bligh Place) pays homage to Japanese pop culture, as well as offering a welcoming and laid back ambience, while Section 8 (Tattersalls Lane) is one of the city’s most stylish venues, filled with striking street art and fabulous open-air seating. Gin Palace (Russell Place) or Lily Blacks (Meyers Place) are perfect for those looking for a night out with a touch of glamour - though early evenings or in the week are the best times to visit, as they can get pretty packed on the weekends.

If you’re after live music, there is no location better than Cherry Bar, the city’s original rock and roll bar located on AC / DC Lane, or Ding Dong Lounge (Market Lane), which has a healthy roster of live acts most nights of the week. If you’re a jazz lover, Bennetts Lane Jazz Club (Bennetts Lane), Ruby’s Music Room (Little Lonsdale Street) and the Paris Cat Jazz Club (Goldie Place) all host local and international artists in flamboyant, yet intimate settings. For a night of kitsch, cabaret and burlesque, head to the Butterfly Club (Carson Place), or for a trip back to wartime East and West Berlin, enjoy an evening at the plush Berlin Bar (Corrs Lane). The Croft Institute (Croft Alley) is Melbourne’s science-themed bar – yes, there’s truly something for everyone – which is a fun experience with its laboratory style décor and custom designed cocktails.

Block Arcade, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Shopping

Melbourne’s historical Parisian-style arcades are stunning heritage landmarks in themselves, home to striking statues of mythical creatures, opulent walkways, a plethora of chic boutiques and local designers and more. You’ll find a number of ornate tea rooms and the odd gallery (including the wonderful The Art of Dr. Seuss) amongst its lavish stores, which are additionally worth a look too! Dame Edna Place, which is named after the famous Dame from Moonee Ponds, is also situated close by and great for that all important tourist snap!

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Street art

Melbourne is one of the world’s best cities to view street art, and its Laneways offer some of the area’s best examples. As you wander the streets, you’ll be greeted with colourful and ever-changing murals adorning the walls between its bustling venues and sights; and often containing captivating cultural, topical and politically significant messages. While the most famous spaces to explore include Hosier Lane, Croft Alley, AC / DC Lane and Union Lane, you’ll more than likely stumble across many a hidden gem while heading to one of the bars, restaurants or arcades.

China Town, Melbourne

image:Sandy Dhaliwal

Galleries and museums

Unsurprisingly, the Laneways are home to a variety of dazzling galleries which celebrate many of the region’s local artists. See their work at Gallery One Three (Somerset Place), the Fad Gallery (Corrs Lane), No Vacancy Gallery (Jane Bell Lane) and the Dark Horse Experiment (Franklin Street). The Chinese Museum (Chinatown) on the other hand, offers a fascinating insight into Chinese-Australian history, while the nearby Koorie Heritage Trust honours south-eastern Aboriginal culture also. 


If you'd like to explore Melbourne's Laneways, take a look at Round the World Experts' Gourmet Australia Journey, which includes a Lanes ans Arcades tour with lunch. 


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