Melbourne’s tangle of gritty narrow laneways and opulent historic arcades captures the true essence of the city. From alfresco dining, quaint boutiques and cosy cafés in Degraves Street and Centre Place to the vibrant urban canvases of Hosier and AC/DC Lanes, Culture Trip explores Melbourne’s Arcades and Laneways.
With exquisite mosaic floors and a glass canopy, the historic Block Arcade is an awe-inspiring shopping precinct which dates back to 1893. The L-shaped shopping arcade links Collins Street, Elizabeth Street, and Little Collins Street and features Melbourne’s Golden Mile heritage walk. The Block Arcade contains over twenty retailers including Haigh’s Chocolates, Dafel Dolls & Bears, Alpaca Collection, Gewurzhaus, Basements Discs and many others, but the biggest attraction has always been Hopetoun Tea Room. Never without a queue, the opulent tea room dates back to 1891 and features a decadent display case arranged with cakes and a wide variety of English, organic and exotic teas.
Opened in 1870, The Royal Arcade is the oldest surviving arcade in Australia and connects Little Collins, Elizabeth Street, and the Bourke Street Mall. Ornate and flooded with sunlight, the Royal Arcade is a heritage listed shopping precinct comprising boutiques and gift shops. Watch the mythical statues of Gog and Magog strike the clock every hour at the southern entry, before treating yourself at one of Melbourne’s best chocolate cafés – Koko Black – and indulge in their signature Belgian hot chocolate.
Named in tribute to the Australian rock band AC/DC who filmed their 1976 music video “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” along Swanston Street, the laneway is located off Flinders Lane. Home to ‘the best rock ‘n’ roll bar in the world,’ Cherry Bar is the go-to after party venue for touring musicians and bands such as The Black Keys, and the New York Dolls have performed there. Keep walking, and you’ll hit Peruvian restaurant Pastuso before the laneway wraps around and becomes Duckboard Place, which is recognised by a mammoth Melbourne mural.
Positioned across from Federation Square, Hosier Lane is a sloping, bluestone laneway featuring a tapestry of local and international street artists who add their own murals, stencils, and tags to the collection. After admiring the impressive artwork grab a coffee at Good 2 Go, which is located halfway down the lane.
Built in 1955, Campbell Arcade is somewhat of rabbit hole beneath Flinders Street which allows commuters between Flinders Street Station and Degraves Street. The Art Deco pedestrian arcade still features its original salmon pink tiles and black marble pillars and is home to eclectic shops including fashion stores The Cat’s Meow and Subject to Change; jeweller, Corky St Clair; record shop, Wax Museum; the tiny Cup of Truth Coffee Bar; and hairdressing salon, Touch of Paris. Campbell Arcade is also one of Melbourne’s most fascinating exhibition spaces with Dirty Dozen display case exhibits.
Branching off Flinders Street and connecting it with Flinders Lane, Degraves Street is a narrow passageway which encapsulates Melbourne’s café culture and street art scene. Packed with alfresco cafés, the bluestone laneway oozes European charm and has become one of the top tourist attractions in Melbourne. Get your coffee fix at Degraves Espresso and indulge your sweet tooth at Waffle On, Doughnut Time or Little Cupcakes. If you’re after Mediterranean cuisine, then stop by Il Tempo, The Quarter, or RMB Café Bar. Degraves Street is also home to a number of hidden shopping gems including WMR records, the Florentine paper merchant Il Papiro, soleDevotion and Clementines.
Just metres from Degrave’s Street is Centre Place which leads directly through to Centreway Arcade before spilling out onto Collins Street. Crammed with hole in the wall cafés, Centre Place is quintessentially Melbourne and features an ever-changing array of street art and graffiti. Culinary highlights include dumplings at ShanDong MaMa Mini and the panini from Cafe Vicolino. Jungle Juice is also worth the squeeze and Hell’s Kitchen is a great place for lunch or a late night beer.