This city is famous for its eclectic little businesses tucked into unexpected places, from lanes to basements. It’s not all about bars and eateries though. Rare, playful and curious treasures like fossils and procrastination pencils await in stores that are often as unusual as their wares.
If the endless shelves of cartoon themed joy doesn’t impress you, then the giant shimmering unicorn in the middle of the floor definitely will. Irregular Choice is a brand new shoe and accessory store from the UK that has all your glittery, sparkling and OTT needs covered. Where else can you get a platform wedge with an entire Buzz Lightyear figurine embedded in the heel?
Stranger Than Paradise Gifts
Need a distinctive toy for that special kid or playful presents for your favourite fun-loving adults (maybe even you)? Stranger Than Paradise Gifts has got you covered. Little ones will love everything from jars of unicorn snot to a contraption that turns random bits of paper into beads. For kids at heart there are R2-D2 keepcups and procrastination pencils (as well as grown-up gifts that are more nice than novelty).
The most famously obscure of Melbourne’s shops, Wunderkammer is a showcase of “scientific curiosities, artefacts and ephemera”. Named after the German word for the cabinets or chambers of wonders popular in centuries past, it’s like a little museum. From antique medical equipment to fossils, it’s all for sale, so you’re sure to find something for the person who has everything.
Harold & Maude
The Nicholas Building is integral to Melbourne’s reputation for hidden spaces filled with unexpected delights. It’s home to lots of eclectic little studios and small businesses, including Harold & Maude. Victoriana meets Victorian Gothic in this unique boutique of found objects and recycled materials remade and renewed.
Quirk & Co
This shop lives up to its reputation with a quirky range of homewares, accessories and gifts. We’re talking cat-shaped lamps and a hardcover book hiding a hip flask. Donald Trump toilet paper and David Bowie-inspired socks. You may not need any of these things, but there’s surely something at Quirk & Co you must have.
Do you want an umbrella decorated with cartoon animals riding bikes? A tiny camera-shaped USB made of wood? Or sweet little ladybird socks for baby, who will be enchanted by the way they rattle (yes, rattle and socks in one!). Basically if you’re searching for things cute and quirky, you need to check out Monster Threads in Centreway Arcade or QV.
Their motto is “the latest games first and fast.” So if you’re into board games, card games, word games, role-playing games or puzzles, get yourself to Spieledeluxe. The name reflects this shop’s focus on European-style and traditional products – ‘spiele’ means ‘games’ in German. Expect the highest quality, like puzzles handmade by Australian artisans using local woods.
For decades, this has been the go-to shop for Melburnians who have a passion for model planes, trains and automobiles. Tucked away in a Bourke Street basement, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of hands-on grown-up toys. From radio-controlled boats to the Millennium Falcon model kit you always wanted, plus hobby supplies of every kind, Metro Hobbies has it.
Royal Arcade is not quite Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, but there’s some magic in the air, especially when you walk into Spellbox. This shop is full of wands, spells, crystals and talismans, cards for divination and books on witchcraft and wizardry. Readers working with everything from tarot cards to rune stones can guide your way, or ask about classes in such mystical arts.
Look for the neon-red pretzel above a baby-blue doorway. Step inside. The first thing you’ll see in Lucy Folk‘s diminutive jewellery and eyewear shop are dinner plates stuck all over the distressed-brick walls. Her rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and friendship bands will soon catch your eye though, because they’re as distinctive as they are beautiful.
The National Opal Collection
Hidden in plain sight on busy Swanston Street, this basement store is a wonderland of colourful opal jewellery. The National Opal Collection is also home to a free museum, where you can see opalised fossils of prehistoric plants and animals. After that, you’ll surely be tempted by everything from opal pendants to cufflinks.
For one off gifts for the young and the young at heart, look no further than the charmingly old world Spotty Dot. Designer dolls, wooden trains and colourful pinwheels provide perfectly timeless gift ideas for bubs and children. Find them at their Queen Victoria Market and Royal Arcade lotions.