We’d heard lots about the famous Melbourne laneways. It’s among the top things to see and do in Melbourne for sure. We looked up enough to be completely boggled by the sheer expanse of these crisscrossing streets filled with art and other quirks. Did I just call graffiti art? Yes. Because that’s precisely how it’s seen in Melbourne. Treated with as much gravitas and respect as other forms of art that you’d find in a gallery, the artists here have licenses and walls are commissioned to them. No wonder then that the graffiti is unlike anything anywhere else in the world.
Initially we’d planned to follow a proper tour, to help us find our way through this maze. But when we realized we’d be crossing the lanes enroute pretty much anywhere every day of our stay, we relaxed up a bit and let our friend and host Brett walk us around. The laneways can get so confusing, that even Brett would often find himself before a piece of work and suddenly a flash would go off in his head and he’d exclaim, oh this is the one on my Facebook profile picture isn’t it? Kimmi on the other hand seemed to know her way around. It all looked completely different by night, and we loved looking at it from an entirely different perspective. But after having seen it, I’d have to say two things: It’s a lot cleaner and more professional than I expected and the only way to do it is to absolute lose yourself and follow wherever the art takes you. Naturally, Charles went nuts with the camera, so have fun scrolling through them.
- ACDC Lane: A tribute to the popular rock band from Australia it’s covered with posters of them.
- Hosier Lane: Popular for wedding shoots, this lane also has an arts installation with light boxes. There’s an unnamed lane next door that has a Banksy of a character with a diving helmet.
- Cummings Alley: Now known as Centre Place this alley that you’ve definitely seen photos of before, once had public urinals. Lined with coffee shops, You will find some of Melbourne’s smallest coffee houses, garden balconies, plenty of old stores and of course the art on the walls. The particular stenciling style called City Lights is the work of famous European artists.
- Caledonian Lane: Smelly, filled with restaurant dumpsters, and two of Melbourne’s popular bars – St. Jerome’s and Shit Town which have contribution to a fair share of the work on the walls.
- Heffernan Lane: Signages. Lots of them. Parking, council and more. Most of them, art.
While there isn’t much graffiti to speak of, the stencil art of Niagara Lane, the café filled GPO lane, the Hardware lane buzzing with theatres, jazz bands and street side cafes, the treelined McKillop Streets with its quirky shops, the well designed Howey Place, the delicious French pastries from Laurent’s Patisserie on the Causeway, the crowded cafes of Block Place, the Italian ambience of Block Arcade, the clothing stores on Manchester Lane, Matt Irwin’s Photo Gallery in Scott Alley, the Art Deco of Degraves Street are all worth a stroll. PS: You can also call it “doing a block” like the old Melbournians used to refer to strolling through Melbourne’s Laneways before the graffiti arrived.If you do intend on doing the Melbourne Street Art & Laneways Walking Tour on your own, set aside at least 3 hours.
All of the information is true as of May 2014 when we visited Melbourne.