There’s always something new in Melbourne’s laneways and arcades, which boast an abundance of creative, quirky and super-Instagrammable shops and eateries. Make sure you explore these essential locations in your next city adventure.
This is one of Melbourne’s smallest hidden laneways, where the intriguing shops include Roule Galette. A little piece of France in the middle of Melbourne, it’s where the waiters have strong French accents and the ambiance is reminiscent of the bistros in Paris’ Montmartre. There’s also a taste of Hanoi at Heartbaker Bun Mee, a Vietnamese cafe with some of the best banh mi in town. Choose from six versions of this classic warm baguette sandwich, from crispy pork to vegetarian, or other snacks like rice paper rolls.
The historic Royal Arcade‘s grand design includes signature black-and-white tiled floors. Once you’re done Instagramming photos, make your way into Spotty Dot. Filled with hand-crafted designer dolls, wooden toys and children’s décor, it’s the perfect place to get lost in the magic that is childhood. Afterwards, stop by Koko Black or Agathe Patisserie for something sweet.
The Block Arcade
Along with classic Victorian-era architecture, The Block Arcade is home to lots of stylish, eclectic shops. Hopetoun Tearooms is a perfect spot to recharge with tea and cake. Simply follow the trail of smartphones snapping their famous window cake display. If you’ve worked up a sweat darting from spot to spot, pop into Barbarella Gelato & Wine for Gelateria Primavera’s famous gelato and no-fuss sandwiches.
There are more sweet treats at The Beechworth Sweet Co, like handmade fudge, Dutch liquorice and colourful, good old-fashioned boiled lollies. In here, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store again! At Gewürzhaus Block Arcade, spice is nice, as are their herbs, salts, sugars and teas, including the limited edition Advent Christmas Tea. A perfect accompaniment to your gingerbread made with this shop’s superior spices, milled and mixed in small batches. Get some special cards, wrap and ribbons for your Yuletide gifts at Card & Caboodle, whose range includes creations by local artists.
Then, just when you thought this arcade couldn’t be more beautiful, soprano Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez sings Operetta Under The Dome. Her 20-minute sets on Saturdays and Sundays in December offer a heavenly pause in your Christmas and Boxing Day sale shopping.
Waltz down Cathedral Arcade’s narrow, L-shaped structure of graceful arches and stained glass. There’s a range of boutiques, including Kuwaii. All their fresh fashions are Melbourne-made and meticulously designed for functional, lasting wear. To stay on the Melbourne-manufactured trail, check out Obus. They have casualwear, footwear, swimwear, accessories and more, so the modern woman is sure to find just what she’s looking for. And for those of you who dream of taking it back to the 60’s (70s, 80s or 90s), don’t miss Vintage Sole on your way out. Cherry pick that one-off accessory, track down a streetwear classic or dig up a designer find. Discover more in our guide to Cathedral Arcade, the gateway to the Nicholas Building.
Campbell Arcade dates back to the 1950s. Although it might be a little quieter now, the salmon-tiled walkway has a quirky collection of shops including a jeweller named Corky Saint Clair. The Cats Meow stocks independently designed fashion and accessories, and you’ll find vinyl at Wax Museum Records.
If you prefer to avoid the shoulder-to-shoulder bustle of Centre Place, make a beeline for Manchester Lane. A range of independent designers’ creations are tucked into shoebox-sized stores, including Design a Space. There’s bound to be something that’ll catch your eye at this showcase of 100-plus local designers, from fashion to artworks. A little further along, The Sure Store’s range of street apparel is sure to complete your look. Finally, step into Bared Footwear — a one-of-a-kind boutique selling chic shoes designed to provide sneaker comfort.
An unassuming laneway marked by the old-school Pelligrini’s Espresso Bar on its corner, Crossley Street hides its secrets well. Look for the pale baby-blue doorway and neon-red pretzel to enter Lucy Folk‘s jewellery shop, where everything looks good enough to eat. Her ‘foodie jewels’ include popcorn rings, pasta bangles and taco pendants. Cap off your successful shopping expedition with some Asian-style street food at Gingerboy or a Seven Seeds coffee-stop at charming hole-in-the-wall, Traveller.
Centre Place and Degraves Street
Boasting street art, year-round alfresco dining and eclectic boutiques, Melbourne’s two most iconic laneways are hardly inconspicuous. Home to handmade Victorian produce and products, Clementine’s Degraves Street shop is charmingly local. For a beautiful burst of Florence, visit Il Papiro and marvel at their luxurious stationery, including wax seals and handmade paper products. Like the colourful marble effects on their boxes and notebooks? Then sign up for a demonstration that will have you creating carta marmorizzata like the artisans in their Florentine workshop.
For shoe devotees, soleDevotion is exactly what it sounds like – a shop devoted to shoes. And for all the ice-cream lovers, no matter what the season, Pidapipo offers you year-round gelato goodness. On the other side of Flinders Lane, Centre Place is always abuzz with diners, buskers and wanderers – pass through and check out quirky fashion favourite Princess Highway while you’re there.
Mike Makatron’s vivid jungle mural is a highlight of this thoroughfare’s recent transformation under the Green Your Laneway pilot program. Other reasons to stop by Meyers Place include Loop Roof, where cold drinks are extra refreshing with the third-floor city views. Or stay on terra firma while taking a tasty little trip to Buenos Aires at San Telmo Restaurant. Indulge in the flavours of Argentina, including bites from the chargrill and a refreshing La Boca Spritz. Or go Italian at the Waiters Restaurant, hidden up some narrow stairs since long before secret upstairs laneway joints were cool. The décor and food aren’t anything fancy, but that’s why so many Melburnians fancy it. Discover more in our laneway lovers guide to Meyers Place.
Original Lanes and Arcades Walk
If you still use a Melway in the car and Google Maps is your digital enemy, skip the navigational struggle and try Original Lanes and Arcades Walk. This unique city tour runs for three hours, encompassing everything in Melbourne’s city centre from Federation Square up to Lygon Street. Runs six days a week, departing 10am and 2pm.