A walking tour of Melbourne
Head to one of Melbourne’s many laneways to find tiny cafes and hidden bars. (Glenn Beanland/LPI)
Welcome to Melbourne – consistently voted one of the world’s most liveable cities.
Melbourne’s unofficial northern boundary begins at the corner of Swanston and La Trobe streets; all you will need from here are good walking shoes and regular coffee stops.
La Trobe Street is where you can catch the free City Circle Tram, a Melbourne icon and a great way to get a sense of the city. For now, though, walk south down Swanston Street; you will see the regal State Library of Victoria on your left, where you can absorb the bookish atmosphere or seek out one of the exhibitions and informative talks on offer. On the weekend, you will find throngs of people lying on the grass, street dancers breaking down to boombox tunes and soapbox orators ranting.
Continue along Swanston Street past the modern QV shopping centre – a good spot to stock up on groceries or a quick meal. When you get to the corner of Swanston and Little Bourke Street, look to your left to see the elaborate gates of Chinatown. Come back if you are hankering for cheap noodles or dumplings,
Turn right and head west down Little Bourke Street, cross Elizabeth Street and look out for Brother Baba Budan. This tiny little cafe serves up some of Melbourne’s best coffee. If it is too busy, backtrack and go down Somerset Place to Little Mule Co. Grab a latte and check out the cool fixie bikes on display.
Head back to Elizabeth Street and continue half a block past the GPO Building. This former post office dates back to 1859 and now houses upmarket boutiques. You can get fantastic sushi rolls from Kenzan and $10 ramen at Ramenya – both on the eastern side of the building. Follow the commotion and hubbub onto the Bourke Street Mall. Always busy, this pedestrian- and tram-only street is the heart of Melbourne’s central business district. Apart from the flagship Myer and David Jones department stores, you will also find some of the city’s best buskers and great people-watching.
Just off Bourke Street Mall you will find Causeway Lane. Melbourne thrives on its laneways, the arteries that pump lifeblood and culture through the city with one-off boutiques, unique galleries, tiny cafes and hidden bars.
Causeway Lane connects across to Block Place. This is a popular strip filled with al fresco cafes and restaurants. Basement Discs, one of Melbourne’s best music stores, offers free lunchtime gigs. Continue on through the Block Arcade. This elegant shopping arcade was built in 1891 and has some of Melbourne’s best-preserved architectural elements – check out the mosaic tiles, wrought-iron rafters and glass ceilings.
You will pop out onto Collins Street. To the west lies Melbourne’s commercial heart – banks and offices are packed into skyscrapers and heritage-listed buildings. Head in the opposite direction, east, towards the breezy “Paris” end of Collins Street. On the corner of Collins and Swanston streets is the Melbourne Town Hall. You will find many innovative and interesting events held here, such as the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Collins Street soon turns into an uptown tree-lined boulevard, peppered with high-end boutiques and several stand-out Victorian buildings. As you approach the corner of Collins and Russell streets, look out for the Scots’ Church and St Michael’s Uniting Church. Stop to take some photos before continuing up Collins Street, turning right onto Exhibition Street and then taking the next right down Flinders Lane.
Skinny Flinders Lane has an offshoot that is Melbourne’s most famed laneway. Halfway between Exhibition and Russell streets, AC/DC Lane -- formerly Corporation Lane -- is named after Australia’s most famous rock export. Today, the lane is fronted by Cherry Bar, a location that provided inspiration for many Melbourne rock bands.
Stay on Flinders Lane. Once you get past Russell Street, turn left down little Hosier Lane. Do not be surprised to find tourists taking photos of the ever-changing wall of street art along the lane. The world’s most famous (and pricey) street artist, Banksy, once graffitti’d this wall, but sadly, it was painted over by the local council.
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