5 places to experience Melbourne's laneway culture

The best way to get your cultural fix for the day.

In the heart of the city, between the main streets of bustling traffic and clanking trams, lies these narrow pathways. Some are so narrow that you couldn’t turn around without crashing into the next person, but you forgive them, for the sake of the wafting aroma of coffee beans. Some are splashed out with graffiti, of brightly sprayed murals twice the size of you, with the hissing of aerosol cans in the background.

As international students (or really, anyone who likes strolling around and getting lost), these laneways are the best way to explore and experience Melbourne’s culture.

Each laneway offers its own quirky backstory, and AFIS will tell you what they are and where to find them.

1. Centre Place

Centre Place, Melbourne

Just a few metres away from well-known Degraves Street, this laneway’s crammed with hole-in-the-wall cafes, small coffee joints, and grab-to-go bites. You could lounge on one of the stools by the cobblestones and people-watch your day away. If you’re lucky, you’ll be sipping at your coffee while a busker croons a few tunes in the corner. 

It’s worth catching sight of Majorca Building, at the corner of Flinders Lane. Although just eight storeys high, its striking façade dates back to the 1930s – back to when the buildings along Flinders Lane were the centre of Melbourne’s rag trade.

2. ACDC Lane

ACDC Lane, Melbourne

Named after Australia’s famed rock band, ACDC Lane is rife with bars and nightlife joints. Ripped music posters flutter in the wind, pasted over street art that leads you all the way to the corner of Duckboard Place. Make a turn there and you’ll see fusion Indian restaurant Tonka and contemporary Chinese restaurant Lee Ho Fook.

Also, make sure to check out Cherry Bar for regular live rock ‘n’ roll gigs that showcases independent Australian artists and international musicians.

Fun fact: When the lane was christened ACDC Lane in 2004, Lord Mayor John So reportedly said: “As the song says, there is a highway to hell, but this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock.”

3. Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

All laneways have a decent spread of street art but Hosier Lane is the epitome of urban art. Famed British street artist Banksy had once stencilled in a parachuting rat but this has been long gone since the city council accidentally painted over it.

Every square inch of its walls are covered in graffiti, with some that are political in nature. Even during daylight hours, it’s likely that you’ll hear the faint hissing of an aerosol spray can. Melbourne encourages graffiti for its cultural value but tagging (slur words and indistinguishable scrawls) is a no-no.

It’s a tourist hotspot, since it’s right opposite Fed Square, but it’s well worth bringing your own camera to snap a few of your own shots – the graffiti changes all the time, so no visit is ever the same.

4. Hardware Lane

Hardware Lane, Melbourne

Located between Bourke Street and Little Lonsdale Street, Hardware Lane is famous for its numerous cafes and restaurants. This little laneway is always busy from day to night. If you are a fan of brunch, you should come and try Hardware Society which is famous for its Baked Egg and Lobster Egg Benedict. If you are visiting at night, why not try the Baby Cauliflower Flower at Miznon which is a popular restaurant with Mediterranean street food. If you are a wine lover, then Kirks Wine Bar is definitely your choice.

5. Tattersalls Lane

Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Hiding inside the bustling Chinatown, Tattersalls Lane is hardly discovered by people. You will only know it is special after exploring its treasures from Asian eateries to cool bars and street arts. Shanghai Dumpling House offers you cheap and delicious Northern Chinese food, including noodle soups and a variety of dumplings. There is a special shipping container sits on the lane, which is the Section 8 Bar. In addition to the drinks, you will be surprised by the unique decorations as the space is full of graffiti and has old wooden pallets strewn about in place of chairs.

Of course, there are many more laneways in Melbourne that are worth exploring.

Take the next weekend off to slowly make your way through OR try the Breakfast City Walking Tour that starts you off with breakfast, before bringing you through the famous laneways.