Touring Melbourne: Hidden Gems, Laneways and History

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Whether you live in Melbourne, live close to Melbourne or have visited before, I think it goes without saying that it isn’t the case of “what you see is what you get”. If you think that is the case, well this blog will be more interesting for you than you think!

Melbourne - city view
Ruckers Hill, Northcote

So we know all the iconic Melbourne destinations. You must see a sporting game at the MCG, you must visit Flinders Street station, shop on Bourke Street Mall and see the city from above at the Eureka Sky Deck. But there is so much more to Melbourne than Crown Casino and Melbourne Central – although they are great places.

Melbourne - Flinders Street Station
Iconic Flinders Street

Melbourne is about getting lost in the laneways and travelling to the Suburbs – although the burbs are for another blog. You will find the quirky shops, cafes and street art by going down that random laneway or travelling beyond the main streets of the city.

Melbourne - laneways
Centre Place

My best tip to see these types of areas on your own? Well firstly read this blog but also go on a walking tour of Melbourne, even if you live in the city. I can guarantee you that you will learn more than you ever knew about Melbourne like “doing a block” was a term coined from when Sunday afternoons were spent going a walk from one end of Collins Street to the other in your best outfit, also how the Block Arcade got its name.

Melbourne - arcades
Doing the block

Want to know why the Eureka Skydeck has a gold plate at the top and a red strip through the middle? Well, in 1880, after the Victorian Gold Rush, Melbourne became the richest city in the world. The gold is to symbolise the Gold Rush but the red symbolises the blood from the lives lost during the Eureka stockade – a rebellion during the gold rush in 1854. Hence, the name Eureka building.

Melbourne - buildings
Eureka Tower

Or the T&G building on the corner of Russell Street and Collins? It stands for teeth and gums, why? Because that is the building the dentist use to all practice in. Now if you are looking for somewhere quiet to go, they have a huge space for people to utilise. Have an important project or assignment to get done? Go there!

Melbourne - laneways
Degraves Street laneway

Another fun fact about teeth. When the City of Melbourne were digging up the buildings along Swanston Street to build the new railway, they found hundreds of teeth in the pipes. Yuck, why? Well, a dentist once practised in one of those buildings and would put the teeth he pulled out down the sink.

So want to learn more about Melbourne? Well, they offer free walking tours, but for a more specific tour, definitely check out Hidden Secrets Tours, highly recommend!

Melbourne - arcades
The Block Arcade: Beechworth lolly shop

Anyway, why not a quick guide now?

Maybe you don’t have a lot of time, or you don’t want a guide, but you want to see some of the laneways in Melbourne, or the hidden gems?

Melbourne - pay it forward
Donate to the homeless

Firstly, some of the inner city laneways are only within streets of each other. Heading from Flinders Street you can start at Degraves Street. Here is where you will find restaurant after restaurant, seriously that whole lane is food heaven! Also, if you head down under the Flinders Street underpass you will find a little art gallery on the walls and a few shops, some people don’t even know that exists.

Melbourne - laneways
Degraves Street, so many options

Anyway, back to the lanes. Degraves is all about food and eating outdoors. Rain, hail (well maybe not) or shine and those umbrellas still have loads of people sitting under and enjoying food for breakfast lunch or dinner.

From there you can head through Centre Place, a very narrow and dark laneway, but god it’s a good one! Filled with coloured lights and street art, Centre Place is home to a cafe with a big mission and purpose. In A Rush Espresso Cafe has a ‘pay it forward’ initiative, if you add $3.50 to your meal, they will donate a bowl of soup to the homeless. You can write them a note to put on the wall so when they come in, they get a soup, can read your note and enjoy their meal. Loved this so much!

Melbourne - laneways
Pay it forward

Head through Centre Place, through the arcade, which you will find has many hidden shops whether it’s underground or up above, but you will end up on Collins Street, the “New York” end of Collins Street. Head left down to 333 Collins, a former bank turned into one of Melbourne’s hidden gems. Do yourself a favour and go into the lobby, such a beautiful building especially at Christmas time!

Melbourne - buildings
333 Collins

Okay, next stop The Block Arcade, you’re officially doing part of ‘the block’. Before completely going in, see the L’Occitane store and look up. The mural on the roof was painted when an American opened a sewing shop in this store, you can even see the American flag at the front of the mural, such a beautiful roof and one you would never notice.

Melbourne - arcades
Amazing building and great Christmas decorations

Next, to that inside the Block Arcade, you will find probably Melbourne’s most photographed window, the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. Those cakes will have you lining up for sure! I was lucky enough to go there for high tea, you can read about that here.

Melbourne - arcades
Best cake window

Explore the Block Arcade, maybe see a busker or visit the Beechworth lolly shop for some nice treats or Haigh’s Chocolate Shop. Turn right down the alleyway just next to the chocolate shop and you will see some nice cafes, a record store – well an underground one – and the cutest tea shop I’ve ever seen called Tea Tonic. If you’re a tea drinker, do yourself a favour and get the apple one, this is the only store in Melbourne.

The Block Arcade: Tea Tonic

You will end up on Little Collins, where you will see Dane Edner laneway, not much in the street itself but the sign is cute. Here you will also find the opening to the Royal Arcade, the oldest in Melbourne which opened in 1870.

Melbourne - arcades
The Royal Arcade

Don’t forget to wait for the chimes of the Gaunt’s Clock where Got and Magog live! In the Royal Arcade you will find Koko Black, the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, a Harry Potter inspired magic shop, loads more chocolate and cute giftware shops! If there is one thing I can tell you Melbourne is known for, that is chocolate and shoe shops.

Hot chocolate at Koko Black

The Royal Arcade ends at Bourke Street Mall where you can head left down to Hardware Lane for an endless choice of food or if you’re thirsty, Campari House has a fabulous rooftop! Or if you want more options (tapas), I recommend Portello Rosso on Warburton Lane, you can read about my experience here.

Melbourne - Koko Black
Dessert degustation at Koko Black

Want some more hidden gems? Well, we all known Hosier Lane is one of them, all that amazing street art, oh and the amazing restaurant MoVida, but do you know why it is called Hosier Lane? Because it was where clothes were manufactured in this area.

Melbourne - MoVida Restaurant (Spanish)
Seafood risotto at MoVida

Okay, Melbourne is also known for food and drinks. My favourite hidden gem restaurant? Easy, just off Flinders Lane – another amazing laneway to explore – Pastuso, a Perivan restaurant and wow, it is amazing! You can read about my experience here.

Melbourne - Pastuso (Peruvian) Restaurant
Dessert at Pastuso

But what about the bars?! Well, Melbourne has loads of these, I have done many blogs on those you can see here.

Melbourne - laneways and street art
Hosier Lane, street art

But a new one I discovered? Goldilocks! So small, so hard to find – it is next to Cookie and you have to go up an elevator but so cute and an amazing view of the city!

Melbourne - rooftop bar: Goldilocks
Nice view from Goldilocks

Melbourne is so much more than most think, you just have to get yourself completely 100% lost to find all the wonderful bars, restaurants and shops it has to offer! Do you have any favourite parts of Melbourne? Please comment below.

Melbourne - Hosier Lane
Hosier Lane



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