The city of Melbourne boasts a labyrinth of laneways donning an eclectic collection of modern street art. During the day they play host to a myriad of trendy cafes and boutique shops. At night these laneways take on a whole new life as hidden doorways open up a magical world of bars and clubs that tantalise the senses. Melbourne is a city filled with heritage-listed buildings, juxtaposed against a modern architectural landscape and art deco hideaways.
This city is a 'must visit' experience and the following examples from Stephen Crafti’s Melbourne Secrets are likely to entice any would-be visitors.
Discover Melbourne’s Illustrious Past at the Old Treasury Building, located at the very top of Collins Street. In the Basement, you will see how gold was once stored. While the real thing has long gone, you’ll find replica of the bullion in a glass display case embedded into the blue stone floor.
At the top of Little Bourke Street, also known as Chinatown, you find 24 Gordon Place originally called ‘Coppens Improve Dwellings and Lodging House’, and intended as a men's hostel. The 1884 pile, with its Gothic-style windows, was based on the Chelsea housing model, while the internal courtyards offered respite from the bustle of the city; the institutional arrangement of the actual hotel rooms will not appeal to everyone. At the bottom of Bourke Street, duck in and see the art nouveau style of Grossi Florentino, one of the city’s most exclusive restaurants. A Melbourne establishment, this restaurant includes a mural on the first floor by Napier Waller. His murals can also be seen in the Myer Mural Hall, located on the top floor of the Myer department store in Bourke Street.
Flinders Lane, once Melbourne's epicenter for the clothing industry is now a hub for galleries, cafes and boutiques, many of which are located below street level.
The City also includes significant architecture that is worth a look. There's the distinctive Federation Square with its shops and cafes, and it is also home to the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Designed by Lab in association with Bates Smart, Federation Square is a regular drawcard for Melbourne’s festival programmes, and artistic and cultural events. There’s also the RMIT Design Hub, located at the corner of Victoria Parade and Swanston Street; the glass-disked façades have gained attention both locally and internationally. Across the way, also at RMIT University, is ARM Architecture’s Storey Hall. If the hall is open, which is often the case, take the time to explore this building with it’s many rooms that serve different functions, and outstanding city views from the conference room.
Melbourne’s CBD could be seen simply as another large city, with its high-rise buildings and grid-like streets. And yes, there are the malls where you’ll find the large department stores, such as Myer and David Jones. But it’s in the city’s laneways that you’ll find a more bespoke Melbourne, with hidden gems along the way.
Darting down the laneways can bring some relief from the heavy traffic and bustle of the main thoroughfares. The little backstreets are also home to music venues, galleries and boutique fashion stores. A lot of the more interesting and unusual shops of Melbourne are tucked away down the lanes, perhaps because the rent isn’t as high.
The City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commission have given local and international artists the opportunity to create temporary works all over the city. Light Installations, interactive soundscapes, suspended sculptures, and even graffiti have drawn people to stop and look up and over, breaking them from the pattern of modern city hustle.