When it comes to Melbourne, it’s easy to walk around the streets all day and miss the real heart of the city. The city isn’t found on the roads that are we would naturally follow, it’s hidden it laneways, alleyways and on rooftops that we wouldn’t find by accident.
I thought I had seen a few of the laneways already, having stayed in the city for the last few days and done a fair bit of walking. However, it was not until I set out today to discover Melbourne’s laneways and did my research online to see what laneways were a must, that I realised how few I’d actually seen – and I still haven’t even scratched the surface!
The thing I found difficult when deciding where to go was that I found a lot of websites and travel blogs would suggest popular laneways, but few of them provided a map or any real sense of direction. However, I found a map linked into the comments of a travel blog and this was the map I used when doing my laneways walk today, you can find it here under arcades and lanes and you can download it as a PDF to take with you on your phone as you navigate the city, which is what I did.
If you’re like me and have no sense of direction even with a map, you may struggle sometimes to end up in the right place, but you’ll find your way back on track eventually. This was the general track that I followed, although I got lost once or twice and ended up backtracking and going down some lanes twice but that way you can see the things that you missed the first time.
However, this map does miss a few of the lanes that are mentioned by locals as the favourites such as AC/DC lane, named after the boys themselves, still paying homage to rock and roll music with frequent live bands at rock bar Cherry. What really surprised me was that Hosier lane was missing off this list, which I actually added on to the end of my tour because how can you not?
This lane was probably the most iconic for me in terms of street art, and really encompassed the real meaning of a laneway for me. No shops, just uneven cobblestone ground, street art, buskers and bustling tourists.
So what were my highlights from the lane tour?
Well for starters, I didn’t start the way this tour told me to, I went straight to Hosier lane, I knew that’s what I wanted to see and it was by far the best street art I saw during my stay in Melbourne – definitely do not miss this one!
From that point I followed the map and headed down Desgraves street where I found myself overwhelmed with delicious food options from chocolate, donuts and waffles to espresso or italian fine dining, you are spoilt for choice. I nabbed myself a donut for later, but I had my sights set on ShanDong Mama dumplings which I found at my next stop in Centre Place.. once again spoilt for food options here and the dumplings were insane! However, the cuisine here is diverse and there is something for everyone. Entering into centre way the shops becoming less food oriented and more boutique, with jewellers, homewares and skincare.
Block Arcade was an experience all in itself, with Hopetoun tea rooms immediately grabbing my attention due to there being a queue not only out the door of their shop but almost outside the entire arcade, a high tea experience with an audience of salivating onlookers. Amazing aromas were coming from opposing Gewurzhaus, a specialty spice and kitchenware store but the real treat for me was the Art of Dr Seuss gallery next door. Original Dr Seuss artwork on display and for sale none the less! I was told this exhibition is permanent and that there is another one in Sydney for anyone interested (oh and they ship to NZ!).
Hardware lane was also a highlight for me, with the only thing letting it down being the restaurant hecklers out the front asking you to come inside. However, this laneway has a lot to offer in terms of food and beverages and I found a quaint little tea shop, La belle Miette, serving french teas and an assortment of macarons including flavours such as blueberry, salted caramel and even champagne. This laneway also has a rooftop bar, Campari house, offering a reprieve from the hustle bustle of the city, where you can watch the world go by with a birds eye perspective.
Niagara lane was a beautiful walkway, though it offers very little other than photo opportunities, although after Hardware lane and it’s hecklers, a bit of piece and quiet isn’t the worst thing.
The rest on the map are what I would classify as ‘fill ins’ – they’re great to connect the dots to all of the great places but you can skip by them fairly quickly. Just remember to get lost along the way, if you see something else you like the look of, check that out first before returning to your mapped out route. Melbourne is full of nooks and crannies, you never know what you might find!