Melbourne Laneways & Arcades

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Many city visitors and locals agree that exploring Melbourne’s laneways and arcades is the best way to discover the true heart of the city.

Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) is filled with a network of lanes and arcades that are host to some of the city’s most intriguing cafes, restaurants, bars, boutique shops, art galleries and indie theatres. These laneways are also home to the best street art in Melbourne.

The past couple of decades have seen Melbourne’s laneways and arcades emerge from the shadows to become an integral part of the city’s identity. These laneways, arcades and malls form the backbone of Melbourne’s cultural identity and hold many pleasant surprises for those who care to venture.

Melbourne’s little laneways began life as rear access to properties facing big streets. Many were later roofed as ‘arcades’ to provide refuge from the weather and crowds and to provide more space for shops. Today, some lanes have been reborn and hum to the rhythm of daily city life. Others are still waiting to be discovered. Spend a day exploring these hidden and unique gems.

Cafe Culture

Melbourne’s European coffee culture has seen its laneways overflowing with expresso bars – the perfect places to kick start your morning or top up your caffeine levels after a long day. Head to Degraves Street or Centre Place for your Melbourne coffee fix.

Dining Delights

Ask any Melburnian for a few of their favourite cafes or restaurants, and there’s a very good chance a laneway dining establishment will make their list. Topping the list is Melbourne’s Chinatown precinct which can be found in and around Little Bourke Street. Degraves Street is famous for its cafes.

A Shopper’s Paradise

The city’s laneways hide a smorgasbord of designers and outlets, all of whom are eager to make you look amazing. Dazzling arcades like Royal Arcade and The Block Arcade constantly hum with activity, but its pays to look for local designers down the city’s alleyways.

Art & Artistry

Art rules in Melbourne, from the bright and overwhelming brilliance of the city’s street artists that colour the laneways to the creative, cutting-edge artists that reside in Melbourne’s many unique galleries. AD/DC Lane, Hosier Lane and Croft Alley are all must-see’s when it comes to embracing Melbourne’s street art culture.

The best way to explore Melbourne laneways and arcades is to take a laneway tour around the city. You can choose to take a self-guided laneway tour or opt for one of the many guided tours through the city’s laneways. We provide both options below for you to decide.

Self-Guided Laneway Tours

This guide forms a great starting point for exploration of Melbourne’s laneways. Let your curiosity guide you to other parts of the city as well, where you may discover your own hidden treasures. Here are a few laneways to get you started.

Cafe Culture

To immerse yourself in a café-style crowd and go with the expresso-scented flow head to Degraves Street and Centre Place. Don’t forget to peer down side alleys to discover an immense street ‘gallery’ and look up to see how city dwellers live – right in the action.

Degraves Street (F7) offers alfresco dining and coffee, along with cool retailers including Little Cupcakes, The Organic Food and Wine Deli, Il Papiro (Italian paper goods), Clementine’s (sells Victorian made produce and homewares) and Signed and Numbered (limited edition prints). Centre Place (F6) is crowded with people, food and flair; offerings include Hell’s Kitchen (bar), Lustre (bar), Fokus (accessories), Jungle Juice and Kinky Gerlinki (shabby chic).

Keep walking and you’ll find yourself in Centreway Arcade (F6), where amongst others you’ll fall in love with Monsterthreads, and Shag will meet all your vintage fashion requirements.

Hardware Lane & Street (D5 & D4) were amongst the first laneways to be received during the 1980s. Make sure to drop by for an alfresco meal during summer or start your day with breakfast at Hardware Societe and watch out for Brothi, a zero-waste café. While you’re there check out Golden Monkey, a bar and dining establishment reminiscent of a 1920s Shanghai opium den.

Down in Somerset Place (E5) you’ll find making time for a coffee easier than normal. Pick up a new skill at Laneway Learning class at Little Mule, enjoy an exhibition at Gallery One Three or have a hair cut, whilst enjoying the scents wafting from the open kitchen at Captains of Industry.

Music Scene

Melbourne’s jazz scene thrives with the assistance of a variety of dedicated jazz venues in the central city. Bennetts Lane (G2) has hosted some of the world’s biggest jazz acts and plenty of local talent as well. There’s also Paris Cat Jazz Club at Goldie Place (D4). If you wanna rock, drop by AC/DC Lane (H6) for a photo op and stumble upon the super smooth Cherry Bar, a venue that exudes authentic rock ‘n’ roll in its attitude and aesthetics (they said no to Lady Gaga). Dame Edna Place (F5) is another laneway worth a visit and a photo opportunity if you’re a fan of that grand Dame from Moonee Ponds.

Hidden Gems

If you have a thirst for experimentation, wander down Croft Alley (H4), (yes keep going) you’ll find it. With its science theme, the Croft Institute is worth going off the beaten track for.

Some might find this drinking hole on Sniders Lane (E3), Sister Bella a little dark and dingy, while others will relish late evenings with like-minded souls. If you need a break from retail therapy then wander past boutiques aplenty and find yourself in Presgrave Place (F5). East meets west here at Corrs Lane’s (G3) Berlin Bar, visit Central America at the House of Maximon or head further north with Bar Americano. Stay closer to home at Fad Gallery which exhibits contemporary artwork and photography.

Understatement is the name of the game in Warburton Lane (E5) and you can hardly hear the name of this place. But name your liquid desire and it shall be yours at Murmur. Whilst in the neighbourhood, don’t miss out on relaxation and rejuvenation at the local fusion spa Sakura Lounge (Japanese and Western therapies) and refuel with Tapas at Portello Rosso.

Asian Dining

Liverpool Street (I3) hosts Asian eateries such as Shimbashi Soba and Saki Bar, Little Malaysia and Saigon Inn Vietnamese Restaurant. The Double Happiness bar serves fusion cocktails in Chinese specialist propaganda surrounds, and Pellegrini’s, a Melbourne institution serves hearty Italian fare. On Crossley Street (I3) there’s an array of shopping options near the popular lunch and dinner spots, Becco and Gingerboy.

Visit Melbourne’s oldest running pub found on the corner of Bank Place and Mitre Lane (D6), the Mitre Tavern, which opened its doors in 1867. Here you will also find wining and dining institution Syracruse, plus other dining options.


The Victorian gold rush of the 1850s drew huge numbers of immigrants to Melbourne, including many Chinese people seeking their fortunes. Some set up shops along Little Bourke Street which grew to become Melbourne’s Chinatown of today. This area remains one of the most intriguing and enchanting parts of the city. Wander down Cohen Place (H3) to learn some local history at the Chinese Museum.

Venture down Tattersalls Lane (F3) to discover Section 8, a bar in a shipping container and its sophisticated big brother Ferdydurke; Shanghai Village, one of the busiest, no-nonsense Chinese eating houses in town; and Gaylord, a flavoursome Indian restaurant with décor that needs to be seen to be believed. Nearby Celestial Avenue (G4) is considered to be the birthplace of Melbourne’s Chinatown and home to the very popular Cantonese-style eatery, Supper Inn. Market Lane (H3) is another lane full of exotic and unusual flavours, including the much awarded Flower Drum, HuTong Dumpling Bar, Hofbrauhaus German restaurant and Shoya, a Japanese restaurant spread over 6 split levels. Also in the area is rock and roll-themed music venue the Ding Dong Lounge.


You could well spend a decent amount of time in just one laneway, Meyers Place (I4), and still claim to have a well-rounded knowledge of Melbourne’s nightlife.

Visit the Meyers Place Bar and sip your preferred beverage in a sophisticated architecturally designed environment that welcomes all comers. There’s also Loop, with superb audiovisual facilities, regular screenings of films and other visual art – plus great music. While you’re there, you may also want to visit the Waiters Club for pasta and drop into 1920s-style speakeasy Lily Blacks for a delicious nightcap. Make sure you check out San Telmos for a taste of Argentina.

Shopping & Dining

Shopping followed by sustenance is a tradition to be respected and undertaken whilst exploring Melbourne’s laneways. Start your journey in one of these special city spots. Manchester Lane (F6) is home to the Design A Space Retail Gallery showcasing 70 independent Australian designers, plus Claude Maus, Plane, The Sure Store and Zoologie. Refuel at Maccaroni Trattoria which offers home-style Italian fare, complete with gingham style table cloths. Stop by at Shebeen, a social enterprise bar, and make the world a better place one drink at a time. Equitable Place (E6) really does have something for everyone in the food stakes, with standouts including Cafenatics, 11 Inch Pizza and Fugazza.

On The Causeway (F5), taste the delights from French-style patisserie Laurent. Choose from fresh sushi and sashimi at the Sushi Monger, where the lunch time queue curls out the door and onto the street and make sure you try some home cooking at hole-in-thee-wall café Local Birds.

Wander down Russell Place (G5) for a great mix of retail, dining and bars. With fashion standouts 123 Shoes and Pieces of Eight complimented by the eclectic Bar Ampere and breakfast to dinner dining haven, Neapoli. Topped off with the Gin Palace and Sarti Restaurant, this unassuming laneway is sure to delight.

Howey Place (F5) is a dedicated fashion laneway, featuring labels such as Oroton, Bisonte and Melko, while Scott Alley (G6) caters to hip young things with Lady Petrova, Life with Bird, Ava & Red and White Moss Florist. Jane Bell Lane (F3) is synonymous with ‘street’ and ‘art’. Deck yourself out in Villain’s street art-inspired streetwear, and check out their range of books and toys. No Vacancy Gallery has a preference for exhibiting the work of Melbourne-based street artists.

Literature Lane (E2) is a lasting legacy of the National Year of Reading. It’s also home to Wonderbao, who serves delicious buns.

Street Art

Melbourne’s street art offers a feast of colour, ideas and energy. These changing galleries enliven the ordinary and change the way we view our city. Common street art forms in Melbourne include large and small commissioned spray painted works, stencilling and papering. Some of the best examples around town can be found in Hosier Lane (H6), which needs to be seen to be believed; Union Lane (F5), Croft Alley (H3), Caledonian Lane (F4), Rutledge Lane (H6) and AC/DC Lane (H6) are also well worth a look.

Guided Laneway Tours

With Melbourne’s different facades, laneways and niche offerings, it’s not surprising that a number of companies have grown to fill the need for walking tours throughout the city. From lanes and arcades tours to specialised chocolate and café culture tours, the walking tours around Melbourne city are designed to suit all ages and interests. 

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