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.
Alpha60 concept store in Chapter House
This extraordinary retail space, just adjacent 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 quirky, distinctly Melbourne take on classic cuts and styles, it’s also a place for artistic collaboration. Previous pop-up performances have included the MSO’s Secret Symphony series and a preview of Tao Dance Theatre during the AsiaTOPA Festival.
The noodle shop 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 restaurant in Parliament House
Parliament House’s little-known restaurant, Strangers Corridor, is open for business on non-sitting parliament days. Pass through a security check and walls lined with political portraits before arriving at the dark maroon and timber room. The seasonal menu showcases boutique, fresh regional produce.
Where Banksy left his mark
Before the city laneways were a bonafide tourist attraction, they had already been discovered by the world’s most famous street artist. Although Banksy’s work is increasingly difficult to find, you can still see one of his infamous rat stencils. Head down ACDC Lane and into Duckboard Place. You will find it hiding in a doorway.
The gallery with the great views of Flinders Street
Find Blindside Gallery, high above Melbourne on the seventh level of the Nicholas Building. Over 25 exhibitions are hosted here each year, with showcases open to the public five days a week. With stunning city views, the natural light beaming through open windows is a hidden extra.
Christine on Collins
Tucked away in a hidden space at the top of Collins Street, Christine’s is a city icon that’s spanned decades. The lady herself is a legend among the fashion world, with a history with Georges as an accessories buyer and a dedication to sourcing the best, most unique items for her store. Where else can you find skincare brands started in the 12th century by Dominican monks next to beautiful bags from Aboriginal designers?
The airstream hotel on a car park rooftop
Six chrome airstream trailers, completely refitted as designer urban accommodation, are perched on the roof of a nondescript Melbourne car park. Welcome to Notel, a hotel unlike any other. Each trailer (or ‘suite’) features its own deck, a lounge area with WiFi and an iPad Pro (for Netflix indulging), and a bar fridge stocked with complimentary local craft beer, bubbles, water and snacks. Book for the ‘Airstream with benefits’, to get your own a private open-air spa overlooking Flinders Street.
East and West Germany, in a bar
A nod to Berlin’s historical past, the Berlin Bar is hidden up a staircase behind a locked door. Ring the doorbell and enter a bygone era when the German way of life – and architecture – was starkly divided. Make sure you have a drink in both rooms. The west offers opulent, kitschy luxury, while the east is minimalist, with touches of communist propaganda.
Out of Africa, in a bar
Sandwiched between two retail stores along Little Collins Street, it’s easy to miss the neon rhino sign for Polepole Bar and Kitchen, but it’s worth finding. Once inside, indulge in addictively fragrant modern African cuisine and beers, then make your way to Glamp cocktail bar after dinner. Housed in an indoor glamping tent, it’s the ultimate romantic spot to hideaway. Grab a seat, warm up and be transported to another world.
Subterranean shops in Campbell Arcade
A subterranean secret in Melbourne, Campbell Arcade has plenty to offer for those who take the time to look. Grab yourself a coffee from hole-in-the-wall caffeine merchants Cup of Truth and browse through the eclectic underground shopping strip. Check out the twelve glass cabinets acting as temporary instalments for rotating displays of local art and shop for new and vintage records, locally-published zines, independent and local fashions.
Hidden vaults in the Old Treasury Building
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.
Hosier Lane’s little sister
Rutledge Lane first came into prominence when it was overhauled and painted entirely blue by local street artist Adrian Doyle. These days, the tiny street off Hosier Lane is a quiet spot for Instagrammable pictures away from the crowds. Find directions to both lanes and other locations to visit in our map of street art hotspots.
The Greek Taverna on a rooftop
Catch the lift up to the 13th floor above the Greek Centre on Lonsdale Street to find a bright and airy eatery with stunning views of Melbourne. Feast on Melina on the rooftop‘s delicious Mediterranean menu and experience the city from above.
Boho rooftop bars
On the rooftop of Jimmy Watson’s is Wolf’s Lair, the city oasis you need to visit. Head here for a beer on the rooftop garden, decked out in green astroturf and quirky decorations.
Want to seek out more hidden gems in Melbourne? Read Ten more hidden spaces in Melbourne.