Melbourne excels when it comes to hidden treasures. Discover the best of Melbourne’s secret sights with a fascinating walk that explores the beating heart of the city. We’ve put together some highlights below.
3D street art
Melbourne’s street art isn’t quite a secret, but there’s always a new artwork to see on the endlessly rotating walls. Some of the best street art even pops out of the wall, in 3D.
If you’re seeking classic street art, you can’t go past Hosier Lane. It’s the most famous laneway in the city, known for its vibrant street art which covers every blank space. Scoot up Chapter House Lane to the east of the Cathedral, past the cute Chapter House Coffee to Flinders Lane.
Flinders Lane was historically the rag trade centre of Melbourne, but hungry diners now queue for hip restaurants like the ever-popular Chin Chin and Supernormal. You’ll find Hosier Lane just after you pass Supernormal. You can also uncover peering eyes and cartoonish creatures in Rutledge Lane, an often-missed side laneway off Hosier.
It’s more than appropriate that a 3D statue of Bon Scott looms large in AC/DC Lane. You’ll discover AC/DC Lane just off Flinders Lane. Head around the bend to find Banksy’s parachuting rat hidden in Duckboard Place.
Visit Presgrave Place to admire its framed portraits and other artworks. As you pass Melbourne Town Hall, take a detour left, down Little Collins Street. Take a left onto Howey Place, and another into Presgrave Place. As you enjoy the framed artworks, make sure you find the tiny red door complete with a welcome mat at street level.
For more self-guided street art tours, see the street art walking guide.
Art Deco treasures
Unless you look to the sky, there’s a chance you could miss some of Melbourne’s most loved architectural treats. The city experienced a building boom in the 1920s and 1930s, which delivered some of the most impressive Art Deco buildings in the world.
The Manchester Unity Building is Art Deco Gothic, and the stepped corner tower is a stunner. Built in 1932, it was home to Melbourne’s first escalator. Take a walk through the foyer to admire the mosaic floors and metal elevator doors. It’s on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets, across from the Melbourne Town Hall. Hidden inside is one of the smallest cafes you’ll ever see – the Switchboard Café.
Just down Swanston Street, past City Square, is another architectural find. The Majorca Building is still as stylish as in its 1920s heyday. The apartment building features a blue terracotta façade with Spanish and Moorish influences. Swing by and snap a selfie under the iconic lamplit sign.
The most famous Melburnians you can’t see
Facing Parliament House is the spectacular Princess Theatre, the jewel in Melbourne’s musical theatre crown. It’s haunted by Federici the friendly ghost – an opera singer who died in 1888 after a performance of the opera Faust. A seat is left empty for him on opening nights for luck. Pop into Siglo for the perfect viewing spot and grab a cocktail as you watch the city below.
Pink Alley is a well-known haunted hotspot. There are reports of people seeing the ghost of a young girl, who they believe is the spirit of 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke, murdered in 1921. To get there, turn left onto Alfred Place from Collins Street, just near 101 Collins. Turn right onto Little Collins Street, and right again into Pink Alley.
Even Hosier Lane hosts a spooky guest. A local haunted tour guide told us recently that men relieving themselves after a long night have felt cold hands wrap around their neck. They believe it’s the spirit of Frederick Bailey Deeming – a Jack the Ripper suspect. Shake off the shivers in nearby Movida – it’s sure to cure what ails you.
Hidden treasures in Chinatown
Melbourne’s Chinatown is a haven of delicious, under-the-radar restaurants. Find the Michelin-rated Tim Ho Wan at 206 Bourke Street. Or head to Midcity Centre Arcade, which is full of hidden dining experiences. From Melbourne institutions like Mr Ramen San to ShanDong MaMa, you’d be forgiven if you simply strolled by these unassuming shopfronts.
Grab a drink at the famous hidden shipping container bar, Section 8, or venture upstairs at nearby Ferdydurke for an undercover tipple. Down Cohen Place, the Chinese Museum houses the largest Chinese processional dragon in the world.
Bustling Bourke Street
Exit via Chinatown’s golden gateway at Swanston Street, and head left to the Bourke Street Mall. It’s the city’s pedestrianised retail mecca – but watch out for trams! Spot four copper and gold leaf Weathervanes positioned above tram poles. The horse, pig, fish and bird rotate with the wind.
Multi-level department stores Myer and David Jones are sure to have everything you need. Lately they have been joined by international giants Zara and H&M, and there are also flagship stores for local brands Sportsgirl and Cotton On.
Between Myer and the GPO building, which houses H&M, you’ll find the hidden entry to Postal Lane. Walk through this little laneway to discover bustling restaurants and bars, including Ca De Vin.
Venture further with secret gardens within gardens
Melbourne is packed with beautiful public gardens. But it’s the little things that make these green spaces extra special.
Next time you visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, make a beeline for the recently revamped Fern Gully. It’s bliss to swing in the chair suspended in the Bird’s Nest hideaway. Or you can unwind on a stone seat in the Moss Garden, with its central ‘mother stone’ fountain.
For urban wetlands and plenty of birdlife, head over to Trin Warren Tam-boore in Royal Park. Allow around 90 minutes to follow the walking trail. Learn about the wetland’s role in recycling stormwater and spot one of the park’s endangered skinks.
Queen Victoria Gardens are just a hop, skip and a jump from busy St Kilda Road, but the tranquillity is magical. Watch water tumbling over rocks at the Lake Waterfall. Or try to spot John Olsen’s playful bronze frog leaping out of the gardens’ hidden pond. Find more in the secret gardens and majestic parks walking map.