Melbourne is internationally renowned for its street art, but most of the good stuff is hidden in the city’s nooks and crannies. Here’s the lowdown on where to find it and what to look for – but be quick! The art of the street is always changing.
Named after the legendary Oz rock band, AC/DC Lane is a nexus for music and street art. Murals of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young are among this outdoor gallery’s highlights, but the new Bon Scott tribute is the crowning glory. Since March, Mike Makatron’s 3D sculpture of Acadaca’s former lead singer has been bursting through the wall of Cherry Bar. This rock den is one of the best places in town to catch a band, or just have a drink. Hungry? Try Pastuso or Tonka Bar & Restaurant.
The eponymous watering hole that launched Melbourne’s cool laneway bar revolution may be gone, but Meyers Place is otherwise better than ever. One of four thoroughfares transformed by the city’s Green Your Laneway pilot program, it’s now home to a Mike Makatron mural. Admire his beautiful urban jungle, then enjoy city views and a brew at Loop Roof.
The street art here leans toward three dimensions: think small sculptures and images with physical frames. Look down and you might see a whimsical miniature diorama by Liz Sonntag. AKA Tinky, she recently emerged as one of our most intriguing street artists. Speaking of miniatures, this lane is also home to Bar Americano. With room for only 10 standing patrons, it’s one of Melbourne’s smallest bars.
The place where Melbourne’s street art first went gangbusters, Hosier Lane hasn’t quite the same cachet these days. But there’s good reason why it still draws tourists, wedding photoshoots and even Ed Sheeran, who recently did a surprise gig there. Every centimetre is covered in a colourful riot of throwies, murals, stencils, posters, stickers and tags. Stroll along with a coffee from good 2 Go, or get eats and drinks at Movida or their new bodega, Bar Tini.
Big murals cover this lane’s walls, but none are bigger than Steen Jones’ towering tribute to Melbourne. This bold design of roses and a butterfly looks like the wall has got itself a tattoo in honour of the city. On a much smaller scale, there’s also one of the last Banksy rats, which used to lurk all over the CBD. If you like dumplings (who doesn’t!), try Lee Ho Fook’s classy new-style Chinese.
Upper West Side Street Art Precinct
The CBD’s western edge has got out of its drab funk and gone a bit punk thanks to the Juddy Roller collective. Six murals have been created by celebrated street artists Smug, Dvate, Adnate, Sofles, Fintan Magee and Rone. Seven storeys high and 30 metres wide, they mark the first phase of the CBD’s first official street-art precinct. On the corner of Little Bourke and Spencer streets, it’s got the blessing of the city council and Upper West Side redevelopment.
Blender Studios’ mural wall
A well established street-art hotbed, Blender Studios recently moved to The District Docklands, where there’s ample space for artists to get busy – including on a big external wall, which they use to showcase their work. Some of the biggest names in Australian street art hang here, and it’s the end point for Blender’s street-art tours.
This little lane’s a good bet for murals and pieces (short for masterpieces, they’re tags on steroids). As well as this ever-changing parade of street art, Croft Alley’s best known for Melbourne’s first cool bar with a theme. The Croft Institute’s ground level is like your high-school science lab, but without the exams.
This narrow, high-walled laneway’s street art isn’t obvious from either end, so take a stroll and discover its charms. Check out our guide to Tattersalls Lane for tips on where to refuel.
Take a street art tour
Blender Studios’ Melbourne Street Art Tours are the first in Australia led by actual street artists. At tour’s end back at HQ, see artists at work and chat over a drink. Private tours open up all sorts of possibilities, including catering and hands-on workshops.
Hidden Secrets Tours’ Original Lanes and Arcades Walk reveals street art, as well as history, architecture, cafes and independent designers.
Melbourne I Love You walking tours are led by photographer Chris Cincotta. His social media success has spawned a book, Humans in Melbourne, which is packed with beautiful laneway pics.