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Melbourne's Best Kept Secrets

Melbourne's Best Kept Secrets

Picture of Matthew Clark
Updated: 27 October 2017
Melbourne is Australia’s hub for music, art, literature food and coffee; and, thanks to this richness in culture, there are a lot of things to do and see around the city. We journey to discover Melbourne’s best-kept secrets.

Hidden Cafés and Coffeehouses

The best way to start any day in Melbourne is with a coffee from one of the brilliant cafés that have contributed to Melbourne’s reputation as having the world’s best coffee culture. Some of the best coffee in Melbourne can be hard to find, often hidden down the many laneways or away from the city center. Degraves Espresso Bar on Degraves Street is one such hidden gem. We also recommend one of the cafés just outside of the city centre, such as Market Lane Coffee in Prahran Market, or Proud Mary in the grungy and bohemian suburb of Collingwood. Have a look at The Culture Trip’s guide to the best coffee in Melbourne.

Degraves Espresso Bar, 23 Degraves St, Melbourne VIC, Australia +61 3 9654 1245

Market Lane Coffee, Shop 13, Prahran Market/163 Commercial Road, South Yarra VIC, Australia, +61 3 9804 7434

Proud Mary, 172 Oxford Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, +61 3 9417 1444

Market Lane Coffee | Image courtesy of Market Lane Coffee

Market Lane Coffee | Image courtesy of Market Lane Coffee

Block Arcade

Once you’ve successfully energized yourself with caffeine, you’ll be ready to face the city. Take a tram into the city center and check out the slightly hidden Block Arcade, a shopping arcade erected in the late 19th century that houses one of Melbourne’s most ornately decorated interiors and is a heritage site. Here you will also be able to have breakfast the old fashioned way at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, which provides the proud tradition of quality tea, service, and food in an old-fashioned setting, and is one of Melbourne’s oldest eateries.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Block Arcade, 1-2/282 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC, Australia, +61 3 9650 2777

The Laneways

Now you’re ready to explore some of the laneways and back-streets of Melbourne. In these lesser-known parts of the city, you’ll be able to find some of the best street art in the world, influenced by the hugely diverse culture that makes Melbourne the creative city that it is. If you’re not sure exactly where to go, don’t worry, you’re sure to find something special down almost any of Melbourne’s mysterious side streets, and that’s what gives the city its charm. But if you’d like a little bit more direction, try out Hosier Lane, a central city laneway, not far from Federation Square, famous for it’s ever changing street art, or maybe Degraves Street, a bustling pedestrian-only street that contains some of Melbourne’s best cafés and is a centre for the bohemian culture that Melbourne is famous for.

Independent Art Galleries

As well as having many of the largest art galleries in Australia, Melbourne is also home to many up-and-coming artists whose work is sometimes more difficult to find. Consider visiting some of the many contemporary art galleries around the city, such as Gertude Contemporary, which is located in a large converted warehouse in Melbourne’s premier hipster suburb of Fitzroy. Or maybe the RMIT Gallery, just on the fringe of Melbourne’s CBD, which exhibits some of the fantastic work by Melbourne’s young artists and design students from RMIT University, known for its focus on local, contemporary creativity.

Gertrude Contemporary, 200 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC, Australia

RMIT Gallery, Building 16 344 Swanston Street, City campus, RMIT University, Melbourne VIC, Australia

Amazing Small Live Music Venues

After discovering some of Melbourne’s contemporary artists, check out some of Melbourne’s awesome musicians at one of the many small music venues around the city. The Paris Cat is a small and intimate jazz club that exhibits some of Melbourne’s best jazz musicians in a downstairs bar with walls lined with portraits of history’s greatest jazz musicians. If jazz isn’t your thing, try out 170 Russell, previously known as Billboard. This inner city venue is where you can go to find a great mix of metal, punk and rock music.

Paris Cat Jazz Club, 6 Goldie Place, Melbourne VIC, Australia, +61 3 9642 4711

170 Russell, 170 Russell St, Melbourne VIC, Australia, +61 3 9639 4000

Alternative Bars and Pubs

You can’t come to Melbourne and not visit some of the brilliant quirky bars around the city. The Croft Institute has cool, artsy interior design, based on an old-school science lab, and serves cocktails in syringes, setting itself apart from other bars in Melbourne. You can find a more traditional cocktail bar at The Gin Palace, which serves classic gin based cocktails in a somber, Victorian-styled bar, focussing on quality above all else. Or perhaps try 29th Apartment in St Kilda, a bar and art gallery inspired by the Australian artist Katishe and styled like a New York City apartment.

The Croft Institute, 21 Croft Alley, Melbourne VIC, Australia, +61 3 9671 4399

Gin Palace, 10 Russell Place, Melbourne VIC, Australia, +61 3 9654 0533

29th Apartment, 29 Fitzroy St, St Kilda VIC, Australia. +61 3 9534 0485

The Croft Institute © Jason Tan

The Croft Institute © Jason Tan

By Matthew Clark