Take a self-guided walk through Melbourne’s laneways, little streets, arcades, cafe society and fascinating shops.
Melbourne’s laneways began life as rear access to properties facing big streets. Many were later roofed as ‘arcades’ to provide refuge from weather and crowds, and more space for shops.
Today, some laneways have been reborn and hum to the rhythm of city life, while others are waiting to be discovered.
This walk is approximately 2.5km and takes around 90 minutes.
Sights on this walk
1. ‘Under the Clocks’
The clocks at Flinders Street Station have been a traditional meeting place for the people of Melbourne for over 100 years.
2. Flinders Street Station
Australia’s oldest train station is a Melbourne icon, with a distinctive facade and green copper dome.
3. Degraves Street
Home to William Degraves’ steam flourmill in the 1850s, nowadays espresso is the stock in trade, with Degraves Street a mecca for Melbourne’s cafe society.
4. Majorca Building
Still as stylish as in its 1920s heyday, the Majorca building features a terracotta facade with Spanish or Moorish influences, reflecting the exotic destinations that captured imaginations at that time.
5. Centre Place
Centre Place is jammed with cafes – some so small you can barely stretch to stir your coffee and is arguably Melbourne’s most photographed laneway.
6. Centre Way
Built in 1913, Centre Way is an early steel-framed building with a post-modern makeover.
7. Block Arcade
Block Arcade is named after the fashionable stretch of Collins Street between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets, where 19th century-Melburnians liked to promenade or ‘do the block’.
8. Block Place
Stop for a rest at one of the cafes in tiny Block Place and watch the hustle and bustle pass you by.
9. Royal Arcade
The elegant Royal Arcade, built in 1869, is the oldest shopping arcade in Australia.
10. Gog and Magog
As you enter Royal Arcade, don’t forget to look up to Gog and Magog, the two legendary giants of the ancient Britons who have struck on the hour since 1892.
11. Bourke Street Mall
Melbourne’s shopping heart is the Bourke Street Mall, home to major department stores Myer and David Jones along with smaller retailers and a lively busking scene.
12. Public Purse
This sculpture by Simon Perry, located outside the Melbourne's GPO (now home to H&M), perfectly reflects its bustling retail district surrounds.
13. Underground Public Toilets
These historic underground public toilets are a century old - the men’s were built in 1910, while the ladies waited longer, until 1927.
14. Little Bourke Street
Several narrow laneways face onto Little Bourke Street including Rankins Lane, once a centre of manufacturing and today home to cafes and impressive street art.
15. Niagara Lane
See a superb group of 1880s warehouses at 23-31 Niagara Lane and look for the picturesque barrel hoists.
16. Niagara Hotel
Niagara Lane was named after the Niagara Hotel on Lonsdale Street in the 1860s.
17. Hardware Lane
Bustling Hardware Lane epitomises Melbourne’s laneway renaissance, with cobbled stones underfoot, cafe umbrellas overhead, alfresco seating, fascinating facades and small specialty shops.
18. Dynon’s Building
This set of four (originally five) warehouses was designed by William Pitt, the celebrated architect of the Princess Theatre and some of the finest gothic revival buildings in Collins Street.
19. Hardware House
Named after Hardware House in the 1920s, Hardware Lane was built on land formerly occupied by Kirk’s Horse Bazaar.
20. Galleria Plaza
An enclosed pedestrian walk within the Galleria shopping complex.
21. Little Collins Street
Where the serious fashion begins, Little Collins Street is home to many Australian fashion boutiques.
22. Howey Place
Between the 1890s and 1920s, the western side of Howey Place was part of Cole’s Book Arcade, which was probably the ‘biggest bookshop in the world’ with over two million books.
23. Capitol Arcade
Walk through Capitol Arcade to Capitol House, opened in 1924 and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin.
24. Capitol Theatre
Upstairs in the Capitol Arcade is The Capitol theatre, the once extraordinary ‘picture palace’ that has recently been refurbished to its former grandeur. Today it’s used for film screenings and lectures.
25. Manchester Unity Arcade
Built in 1932, the historic Manchester Unity Building was home to Melbourne’s first escalator and elaborate mosaic floor.
26. Manchester Lane
This unassuming laneway gained its name from the fabric and softgoods warehouses that thrived there in the 1860s, along with a number of tailors and hatters.
27. Flinders Lane
Once the centre of the city’s rag trade, Flinders Lane is now a unique shopping destination for the hip and happening, as well as home to some of the best galleries and bars in the city.
28. Cathedral Arcade
Stroll through the heritage shopping laneway Cathedral Arcade, beneath the creative hub of the Nicholas Building, with all of its original fixtures in Art Deco style.
29. Young and Jackson
The beer has flowed for over a century at Young and Jackson. Enjoy a drink here as you take in the grand view of Federation Square.
Upstairs at Young and Jackson is the nude portrait, Chloe, that shocked conservative Melbourne in 1909 and made the hotel famous.
Aboriginal Melbourne walk
Discover Melbourne's Aboriginal heritage and culture on this walking tour of significant sites.
Melbourne laneways are filled street art murals, stencils, paste-ups and mixed media.
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The Block Arcade
A lavish 19th century shopping arcade featuring an impressive mosaic floor.
Part of Arts Centre Melbourne, the State Theatre has one of the largest stages in the world.