What to see and do at the Festival of Independents

The streets surrounding Flinders Lane make up one of Melbourne’s most vibrant precincts. On Thursday 6 December, it’ll be home to the ultimate neighbourhood party – the Festival of Independents.

Wander the laneways and celebrate all things local with extended hours, open artist studios, eclectic boutiques, live music, DJs and an abundance of tasty treats. Here are some tips for where to start your journey.

People walking along a crowded city laneway at night

Join the celebrations at the Festival of Independents, the ultimate neighbourhood party in Flinders Lane and surrounds

Explore the labyrinth of open artist studios, shops and galleries at Nicholas Building

More than twenty of the inhabitants of Melbourne’s famous creative hub Nicholas Building, will open their galleries, shops and studio doors for you to peer inside.

Starting on the ground level at Cathedral Arcade, local label Obus will have $50 off shoes and free champagne. There’s also more Melbourne style at nearby Kuwaii and a myraid of retro treasures to discover at Vintage Sole.

Stroll to the second floor and explore Japanese culture and design at Kimono Housevintage haberdashery at L’uccello, quirky ephemera at Harold and Maude or a tarot reading at Muses of Mystery.

Up on the eight floor, there’s hat-making demonstration from Louise MacDonald Milliner, with one on the hour from 5pm to 8pm. While you’re there make sure you take in the amazing view of Flinders Street through her windows. Other makers opening their studios include Vikki Kassioras, creator of handmade contemporary jewellery, and shoe maker Brendan Dwyer Custom.

An old arcade with shops and a stained glass ceiling

Discover the hidden galleries, shops and artists studios inside the Nicholas Building

Flinders Lane

The artists at Nicholas Building are also making their presence felt on Flinders Lane, with Journal Café hosting a special installation from some of the buildings most creative talents. You’ll also be close to newcomer Weirdoughs – who are all about French style vegan pastries and doughnuts. They’re offering a teaser of their after-dark menu.

Find an open boutique, refreshments and styling sessions at V and J Menswear from 6-7pm or  stop for a glass of sparkling upon arrival at Tiffany Treloar, while you mingle with Melbourne designers.

Centre Place

Up the fun and quirky vibes at eccentric clothing boutique Kinki Gerlinki in Centre Place, where an in-store DJ will be spinning discs as you shop. Then make a stop at Hell’s Kitchen upstairs for a wine and views of the festive ‘river of lights’ sprawling across the laneway.

A crowd of people walking under lights in a city laneway at night

The festive decorations in Centre Place

Degraves Street

Clementine’s, a long time champion of Victorian-made makers, will have in-store tastings during the evening. Try Melbourne Rooftop Honey and other artisan treats while browsing their range of locally-made knitwear, toys and homewares.

A few shops down, Il Papiro will be holding paper marbling demonstrations straight out of the 16th century, while serving Prosecco and Panettone. If you want to add a vintage touch to your gift wrapping, this is the place to go. Buy a Christmas card on the night and they’ll even wax-seal them with your initials!

Once you’ve shopped up a storm, refuel with the $45 two-person grazing platter at Mediterranean café and bar The Quarter, and pair it with a pale ale or French martini. Don’t forget to stop for a selfie on the Christmas throne!

People sitting on a throne in a city laneway

Stop for a selfie on the throne of Degraves Street

Campbell Arcade

Tucked underground in Campbell Arcade, artist-run zine shop Sticky Institute will host a live band, exhibition by Thom Nguyen and a badge-making station. Independent boutique The Cat’s Meow, Lost and Found Bar and Wax Museum Records are also open late, with the latter serving up tunes courtesy of in-store DJ GMS.

A man holding a vinyl record and surrounded by racks of vinyl records in a shop

Wax Museum