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. Recent pop-up performances include the MSO’s Secret Symphony series and a preview of Tao Dance Theatre during the AsiaTOPA Festival. It was also the location for Broadsheet’s White Noise creative hub during White Night Melbourne. Find the entrance near the original Alpha60 store on Flinders Lane.
The café 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 past Cherry Bar, and head into Duckboard Place. You will find it hiding in a doorway.
The gallery with the best accidental views of Flinders Street
High above Melbourne on the seventh level of the Nicholas Building, the Blindside Gallery supports the city’s thriving, independent arts community. Over 25 exhibitions are hosted 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.
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. It’s worth finding. Serving addictively fragrant modern African cuisine and beers, then make your way to Glamp cocktail bar after dinner. In an indoor glamping tent, it’s the ultimate romantic spot to hide away. 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. Twelve glass cabinets act as temporary installments for rotating displays of local art. Grab yourself a coffee from hole-in-the-wall caffeine merchants Cup of Truth and browse through the eclectic underground shopping strip. New and vintage records, locally-published zines, independent and local fashion and handcrafted jewellery are among the gems you’ll discover.
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 and it opens out onto an bright and airy eatery with stunning views of Melbourne. Feast on Melina on the rooftop‘s delicious Mediterranean menu and experience Melbourne from above.
The Practical Man
Blurring the line between fashion and activewear, appropriately-named The Practical Man is home to sportswear you’ll love wearing outside the gym. A dedicated men’s store, this two-level fashion-forward haven is crisp and contemporary. Light timber edges, white scaffolding and neon lights give the underground level a buzzing atmosphere.
Boho rooftop (intrepid drinkers need only apply)
Want to seek out more hidden gems in Melbourne? Read Ten more hidden spaces in Melbourne.