Melbourne is crammed with hidden spaces, nooks and crannies. From secret drinking dens to tiny street art, car-park cafes and rooftop bars – here are some gems you may have missed.
The unofficial Japan-town
Insiders know MidCity Arcade is like a detour to Japan. Drop into Kaneda for a deluxe bento box beneath a giant mural of Hokusai’s Great Wave. Ride the escalator to Sushi Hotaru where all sushi and sides off the train are under $5. Or try Hakata-style house-made noodles at Mr Ramen San. The Japanese atmosphere is authentic, from the staff's chorus of greetings to the Studio Ghibli decor.
The basement cheese cellar
If you’re seeking gourmet goodness, follow Spring Street Grocer’s neon cheese sign down a spiral staircase. Behold! An underground temple of cheese sourced from around the world and stored in fromage friendly conditions. From brie to blue, your heart’s desire awaits at Spring Street Cheese Cellar.
The 'laneway off a laneway' bar
Wedged off Little Collins, Chuckle Park is a sliver of a cafe and bar. And while a lot of Melbourne’s coolest bars can boast a laneway location, this cute spot has its very own mini side street. Complete with vintage caravan bar, bright faux flora and magical lanterns, it doesn't get more Melbourne than this.
The restaurant in a car park
You have to have a bit of grit and a lot of confidence to open a restaurant in a car park. Luckily Soi 38 has both, as the steady lunch queues prove. Boat noodles with beef are an easy choice or opt for braised duck noodle soup for something a little richer.
The century old building hosting sea shanty sing-alongs
The cosy bar in a 160-year-old bluestone brewery cellar
Tucked away in the old bluestone cellars of the original brewery in Victoria Parade is Life’s Too Short Bar. Intrepid foodies should grab a spot at the intimate eight-seat Chef’s Table. You'll feast your way through Chef Sigrid's eight-course degustation dinner. Each inventive menu is themed around a surprise ingredient.
The last Banksy
Before they were tourist attractions, Melbourne's laneways had already been discovered by famous street artist Banksy. Although his work is increasingly difficult to find, you can still see one of his infamous rat stencils. Head down AC/DC Lane and into Duckboard Place. You will find it hiding in a doorway. It's just one of many sights on City of Melbourne's free street art walking guide.
The cult-status brunch spot
In a hidden alley behind a petrol station, Vertue Coffee Roasters used to have a name even more obscure than its location. Inspired by a handbill promoting London’s first coffee house, it began as The Vertue Of The Coffee Drink. A micro-roaster, cafe, kitchen and retailer, the team take their coffee very seriously.
The underground gold vaults
The Old Treasury Building tour is more than a trip down memory lane. It’s home to the original vaults where gold bullion was stored during the Gold Rush era. Explore the vaults with free entry Sunday through to Friday.
The immersive trick art gallery hiding in Docklands
Touch, feel and grab the camera at this one-of-a-kind art gallery in Docklands. ArtVo is the ultimate trick art spot, home to a collection of more than 80 hand-painted immersive artworks. Kids young and old will love the different zones where viewers become the art.
The iconic concept store in an old cathedral
This extraordinary retail space, just next to St Paul’s Cathedral, has to be seen to be believed. Walk up two flights of stairs to an elegant and lofty hall with high ceilings, expansive glass windows and a grand piano. In addition to showcasing Alpha60’s cuts and styles, it’s also a place for artistic collaboration. Previous pop-up events have included the MSO’s Secret Symphony series and White Night.
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