Australia Destinations Melbourne & Victoria

Exploring Melbourne’s Laneways: A DIY Street Art Walking Tour

January 13, 2016

If there’s one thing you have to check out in Melbourne, it’s the alleys.

I know, I know — it’s not the most popular advice for visiting a new city. More often, dark alleys are best avoided, right? Melbourne truly is an exception to this general rule of street smarts. Here, the laneways form the backbone of the city’s cultural heart and soul.

By day, al fresco diners spill into the narrow sidestreets; by night, some of the city’s coolest hidden bars open their doors in the dead-ends of alleyways. Melbourne’s laneways are home to some of the city’s highest-rated restaurants and popular intimate music venues. They even birthed one of Australia’s biggest indie music festivals, the eponymous St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. (It’s since outgrown its roots and spread across the country and beyond. After attending Singapore’s version twice, I’m willing to bet it’s one of Asia’s best music festivals! But hey, I digress…)

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As much as I loved getting to know Melbourne’s foodie side when I lived there, the laneways’ eats and drinks aren’t even my favorite part. For me, hitting the laneways is all about checking out the city’s famous street art.

In fact, exploring the laneways downtown was one of the very first things I did when I moved to Melbourne last year. I went with a group of friends from my hostel, armed with a handy map drawn by a guy who worked there. Sadly, the map is long gone. Luckily for me, my friend Jake has a much better head for remembering directions than I ever will. And so, way back when, before I fled the cold of Melbourne for Broome’s tropical comforts, Jake and I spent a couple of afternoons hitting the CBD to revisit Melbourne’s most popular street art hotspots. If you’re new to Melbourne, these are the laneways you should hit first. For a map, scroll to the bottom of this post.

HOSIER LANE

When it comes to street art, Hosier Lane is by far Melbourne’s most famous laneway. No trip to Melbourne is complete without a stop here. The best part? On Hosier Lane especially, the art is always changing. When I took my sister around Melbourne just last week, I didn’t recognize a lot of the pieces. Most of the art pictured here doesn’t even exist in the laneways anymore — so no worries, you’re not spoiling anything for yourself by scrolling on! Located just a couple of blocks from Federation Square, Hosier Lane is easy to find — an ideal starting point for your walk.

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ACDC LANE

At the end of Hosier Lane, take a right onto Flinders Lane. ACDC Lane will be on your right after just a few blocks. Melbourne loves AC/DC; though the band originally hails from Sydney, playing at Melbourne’s Hard Rock Cafe was big in the development of the band’s early career. Not far from this laneway, which Melbourne’s City Council unanimously voted to rename in honor of the band back in 2004, AC/DC filmed its music video for “It’s a Long Way to the Top (if You Wanna Rock n’ Roll)” from the bed of a truck on Swanson Street. Today, ACDC Lane (the backslash had to be omitted per the city’s street-naming rules) is one of Melbourne’s best-known laneways.

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STRACHAN LANE

Strachan Lane might not have as much to explore as either Hosier or ACDC, but it is home to one of the city’s most impressive pieces of street art. It’s hard to get a photo that does this one justice — it’s huge! — but it definitely ranks among my personal favorites in the city. To reach Strachan, take a right out of ACDC Lane and a left onto Exhibition Street. You’ll see this piece on your left.

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CROFT ALLEY

From Strachan, continue down Exhibition Street and take a left onto Little Bourke Street to enter Chinatown. You’ll come across Croft Alley — one of Melbourne’s street art favorites — on your left. You’ll see some other standalone pieces walking through Chinatown as well. It’s worth mentioning that two of the city’s best hidden bars are around this area, too. You’ll find The Croft Institute (21 Croft Alley), a mad science lab-themed bar, tucked into the end of Croft Alley. Berlin Bar (2/16 Corrs Lane) is one of my Melbourne favorites — a bar inspired by Cold War Berlin and divided into Eastern and Western bloc-themed spaces — is located just down the street.

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TATTERSALLS LANE

If you continue walking through Chinatown, you’ll find Tattersalls Lane on your right. I love this area’s street art, but the reason I love stopping here most is to grab a drink or two at Section 8, an art-filled container bar that might be my favorite of all the bars I’ve checked out in Melbourne’s CBD. It’s perfect for a sunny day in the city, a beautiful outdoor space with lots of local beer offerings and delicious sliders to snack on. If you’re going to stop anywhere on your walk, make it this bar.

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LITERATURE LANE

Last but not least, head to Literature Lane. Named partly in honor of Melbourne’s status as one of the world’s first UNESCO Cities of Literature and located near the university RMIT, the narrow cobblestone streets around Literature Lane are some of my favorites in Melbourne. To get here, take a left onto Lonsdale from Tattersalls and then turn right onto Swanson Street. After a couple of blocks, turn left onto Little La Trobe. Literature Lane will be on your right.

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Hungry after all that walking? After our exploring, Jake and I ended the day with dumplings — just one of the foodie scenes Melbourne is known for. When it comes to cheap dumplings, my Melbourne pick is Shanghai Street Dumplings (342 Little Bourke Street). You can easily loop back here via Elizabeth Street.

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Notes for Visiting

While this walk is only just over two kilometers, I’d give yourself at least a couple of hours to enjoy the walk, linger in the laneways and take photos — and more, of course, if you plan on stopping for drinks! While we’re talking Melbourne laneways, Little Bourke Street and Hardware Lane are two of my favorites for exploring and eating.

Street Art Walking Tour

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Exploring Melbourne's Laneways - A DIY Street Art Walking Tour

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12 Comments

  • Reply Rachel January 13, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Great photography! I’m a big fan of the Ganesh and that Ahh Real Monsters! guy. (Forgot all about him!) And that bar food and those dumplings look amazing. I’m pinning this just in case I can make it to Melbourne.
    Rachel recently posted…How to Make Quito Not SuckMy Profile

    • Reply Katie January 14, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Thanks, Rachel! I was pretty excited about the Ahh Real Monsters guy, too — that was one of my favorite shows as a kid, but I haven’t thought of it in years! The Ganesh was always one of my faves, too. It was something of a permanent piece, having been there for five years, but when I went last week it was actually covered up with tags, not even real artwork. So sad!

  • Reply Jenn Flo Taylor January 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Love this post!! As a Melbourne girl there is so much about my own city that I still haven’t explored! I didnt know Literature Lane existed!! I’ll be checking that out next time I’m in the city!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Reply Katie January 14, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks, Jenn! There are so many laneways to explore in Melbourne, it’s crazy. Seems like there’s ALWAYS something new to discover there!

  • Reply Amy | Toothbrush Travels January 16, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    AMAGAD!
    Such an incredible way to spend a day and such beautiful street art! xo
    Amy | Toothbrush Travels recently posted…A White ChristmasMy Profile

    • Reply Katie January 17, 2016 at 3:11 am

      SO MUCH street art! Gotta love Melbourne πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mary January 19, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Amazing street art !
    I love street art, because it is completely with lots of colors, great ideas and fabulous hand painting. Street art gives quite different looks and makes streets very beautiful, when you are walking in a street you feel very better with those colorful arts.
    Thanks for sharing this nice and colorful images !

    • Reply Katie January 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks, Mary! I completely agree — I love the feeling street art brings to cities!

  • Reply Terra January 29, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Great photos and tips for seeing Melbourne’s street art scene. I just stumbled on your blog recently, and am loving all the posts about Melbourne. I visited for a few days in 2014, and fell in love, so its so nice to see and read about all there is to do there. Your posts are giving me sonmuch inspiration for my next, longer visit. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Reply Katie January 29, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Thanks, Terra! It’s a hard city not to fall in love with. I was just there a few weeks ago, and I’m already dreaming of a return, too! Hope your next long visit isn’t too far away πŸ™‚

  • Reply Birthe (from Wandering.World) February 18, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Wish I had read this blogpost before we visited Melbourne, so I put a link to this post in our blogpost about Melbourne. We only went to Hosier Lane, but I see there’s a lot more to discover! Great pictures!
    Birthe (from Wandering.World) recently posted…What to do in MelbourneMy Profile

    • Reply Katie February 20, 2016 at 4:58 am

      Thanks, Birthe! Honestly, even after nearly five months in Melbourne, I feel that there’s so much I still have to see — there’s heaps to discover there! More reasons to plan a trip back, right? πŸ˜‰

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