Few places in the world can take dank, garbage-filled inner-city alleyways and turn them into 'must-see' tourist attractions; Melbourne is one of them.
Museums and galleries not really your thing? Fair enough; they’re not everyone’s taste. What about street art? The typically dark and dingy laneways of a thriving metropolis spring to life in the city of Melbourne, with a veritable bounty of commissioned art pieces.
The walls of the CBD are an ever-changing canvas of spray paint, etchings, murals, stencils and sculpture art. This creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, from multi-storey portraits to miniature picture frames. The best part is, you don’t even need to look for it; it’s just there! Go for a short stroll through the city and you’ll likely stumble across an artful alleyway or graffiti-filled lane.
I spent several hours, and a couple of coffees, drifting in and out of Melbourne’s laneways attempting to absorb all of the CBD’s creative offerings. It’s fair to say I didn’t even get close. I did, however, manage to burn through the caffeine trekking from the Queen Victoria Markets down to Federation Square; recording my favourite alleys as I went.
The bittersweet aspect of street art culture is that nearly everything is temporary. Whether they’re destroyed by vandals or the weather, or replaced by new commissions, no creation lasts forever. So, under the proviso the lanes may look different next time you or I visit them, here is a brief rundown of my 8 favourite Melbourne street art laneways.
1. Queen Street / Alley
Spitting distance from the Queen Victoria Markets, this nameless alley is a smart little starter. Don’t mind the bins and endless piles of cardboard, admire the colourful wall portraits with a brew of the markets’ finest in hand.
2. Drewery Lane
No, this isn’t where the Gingerbread Man lives (that’s ‘Drury’). It is, however, home to a ceramic tile mosaic dedicated to the charity ‘Legacy’ and a pop culture piece of Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski shirtless. Yes, there’s plenty of diversity.
3. Tattersalls Lane
My advice when you arrive, look up. There are some spectacular towering pieces, which you may inadvertently miss, as you pass through this narrow little laneway. The street also receives extra marks because of the kick-ass bibimbap I devoured at its hole-in-the-wall eatery.
4. Croft Alley
This dogleg alleyway, branching out from the nearby Chinatown chaos, is one of the most colourful streets I discovered during my time scouring Melbourne’s streets. Mostly decorated with eye-catching tags, the area was surprisingly clean for a notoriously lively area.
5. Union Lane
This tall, graffiti-sprayed lane engulfs its visitors on their stroll from Bourke Street Mall to Little Collins Street. Even the pavement gets involved, covered in chalk scribbles lining the 500m-ish long pathway.
6. Flinders Court
One of the few art-focused streets to the west of Elizabeth Street; this court doesn’t disappoint. Intense colours, spread across diverse styles, created by varied artists.
7. Hosier Lane
Probably the most famous, and easily the busiest, lane in Melbourne’s CBD. This cobblestoned corridor offers art on every scale. Keep an eye out for the gigantic portrait of an Indigenous Australian child; I almost missed it!
8. ACDC Lane
Anybody with, at least a limited, knowledge of Australian music should recognise the street name. True to form, multiple musical motifs line the walls. The lane is also home to the rock n’ roll inspired Cherry Bar.
Get the lowdown.
Free trams run throughout Melbourne’s CBD, making it easy enough to jump on and off at your favourite street art laneways.