Centre Place. Image by Adam Calaitzis via Shutterstock

Explore Melbourne's Best Laneways & Arcades

By Beau
Beau is the founder of Apollo Social. He recently relocated to Melbourne with his husband and has begun a love affair with the city.
Melbourne’s laneways and arcades have become an integral part of the city’s identity. With so many of them spread across the sprawling CBD, it’s hard to know where to start. Search no more because we have compiled a self-guided walking tour covering all of the highlights.

To me, Melbourne’s cobble-stoned laneways are paved with adventure. On a late night cab ride through the city, I can’t help but peer down each laneway imagining the bars, restaurants and clubs that could be just out of site.

We've compiled a walking tour of the must-see sites into an easily-walkable tour. The tour includes tributes to famous Melburnians (Dame Edna, AC/DC and Divinyls frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett), queer points of interest, beautiful Victorian architecture and plenty of street art that the city is famous for.

An arcade is a covered laneway. In a city with as much rain as Melbourne, it makes sense to put a roof overhead. Rooves can vary from simple glass to elaborate French Renaissance style.

We focus on laneways and arcades, however the tour includes other must-see sites like Flinders Street Station and Federation Square so it can double as a site-seeing for out-of-town guests.

When to Go

There are no operating hours so technically you can start the tour at any time of day or night. However, if you want to experience the energy and vibrancy of some of these laneways, I recommend starting late afternoon or early evening.


Allow at least 1.5 hours to complete the tour. Add extra time if you want to stop for a meal or a drink or take any detours.

The Route

The route is shown in the map below. We start at Duckboard Place near the intersection of Exhibition street and Flinders lane. Follow the tour with the navigation buttons.

Directions are included in the location descriptions; however, if you need additional directions, open the map in a new window, enable GPS location and follow your location directly in the map - just stick to the blue line. 

To see the description of a location in Google Maps, click on the name of the location or the green camera icon rather than the circular blue icon. It's possible to complete the tour entirely within Google Maps in this way.

The Melbourne laneways walking tour takes you to all the notable laneways and arcades.

The Tour

Without further ado, let's start the tour! Read the description of each location below and then click the Next button to proceed to the next location. Click the directions link for more detailed directions.


A /public/album_photo/f4/33/de812129999da56a2dc1b54ec6c850ee.jpeg /public/album_photo/f5/33/ed0ce154d7c488fbe6cf2bd856bac1d7.jpeg Duckboard Place Map location A Directions

Duckboard Place is a small laneway plastered with street art and gig posters. The area was once a popular entertainment destination for World War II troops – in fact it takes its name from the paths of wooden slats built over muddy ground in World War I battlefields.

When you're finished, continue around the corner to AC/DC Lane

Image: Beau
B /public/album_photo/fc/33/b2648362d12ed14d5bf0c3d0d502f9a1.jpeg /public/album_photo/fd/33/2a05000b1b18760375c3d30089c4cb1b.jpeg AC/DC Lane Map location B Directions

AC/DC lane is a rock n roll themed, graffiti-plastered laneway adjacent to Duckboard Place

In 1976, AC/DC rode along nearby Swanston Street on a flatbed truck to film the video clip for It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll). The band was later immortalised by the renaming of this laneway.

In 2005, Lord Mayor John So launched the renamed laneway with the words, "As the song says, there is a highway to hell, but this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock." Bagpipers then played "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)."

Key artworks include a massive tribute to the band's guitarist and songwriter Malcolm Young which went up soon after his death in 2017. The following year, a 3D sculpture of former lead singer Bon Scott went up which can be seen bursting through the wall.

Read more about AC/DC lane on the next page.

Image: Beau
B /public/album_photo/6e/34/799450a520e8666f0b7876c0a07f69df.jpeg /public/album_photo/6f/34/cfc0e8c9e1221383e76504dba84a11e5.jpeg AC/DC Lane Map location B Directions

The lane also features other rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix, shown here.

The lane’s rock theme comes from the iconic Cherry Bar, which has since relocated elsewhere. Cherry bar has been immortalised in popular culture, most notably in the track “Rollover DJ” by Melbourne band Jet which was inspired by the band’s many late nights at the venue. The bar is also referenced in Airbourne’s song Fat City: "Midnight bite at the Cherry, so sweet is the juice." High-profile international visitors include Mick Jagger, Johnny Marr (from The Smiths), Lady Gaga and Noel Gallagher who was so taken with the place he offered to buy it. Keep your eyes peeled for the many references to Cherry Bar that can be found throughout AC/DC lane.

Turn left at the end of the lane, continue several streets and turn left onto Hosier lane.

Image: Beau
C /public/album_photo/05/34/d47706e1fc50a5f3889a3a695f5234ad.jpg /public/album_photo/06/34/936da4236481a7b2230b0312671855c7.jpg Hosier Lane Map location C Directions

Possibly the most famous of Melbourne’s laneways, Hosier lane is plastered with striking and colourful street art.

The space is constantly being painted over so there is no point in listing anything noteworthy. Look for political commentary, something Melbourne is famous for. It’s entirely possible you’ll hear the rattle of a spray as an artist makes an addition to the constantly evolving canvas. Don't forget to check out Rutledge lane which runs off Hosier.

The laneway once boasted a work by Banksy. However, it was accidently removed by Melbourne City Council.

Hosier Lane is probably the most popular of the city’s laneways and is often crowded . If you’re looking for something similar that isn’t crowded with tourists, check out Union Lane.

Turn right at the end and take the next right onto Chapter House lane to return to Flinders Lane and take a left. Cross Swanston street and enter Cathedral Arcade on the ground level of the Nicholas building.

Image: @malisunshine via Twenty20
D /public/album_photo/0d/34/8f5938944490dc7f92646f5039e447e9.jpg /public/album_photo/0e/34/bebf198effeb133bfa71ad1c08adb488.jpg Cathedral Arcade (Nicholas Building) Map location D Directions

On the corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Lane you will find the historic Cathedral Arcade on the ground floor of the Nicholas building. Built in 1926, the Nicholas Building is the grandest example in Melbourne of what is known as the 'Chicago School' or 'Commercial Palazzo' style, featuring large scale classical elements. The leadlight archway and central domes were built in 1925 at the height of the art deco movement.

The building has been described as a vertical artists’ village due to its eclectic mix of creative spaces and small businesses. Tenants include art galleries, bookstores, fashion designers, jewellers, musicians, recording studios, architects, small start-ups, writers, filmmakers, milliners and tailors. If you have time, you can access the upper floors via Cathedral Arcade.

When you're finished, exit onto Swanston street and turn right. You will come to Federation Square and Flinders Street Station. To continue the tour, turn right along Flinders street until you reach Degraves street.

E /public/album_photo/15/34/729bc01b12c993ad2a218918c650ba39.jpg /public/album_photo/16/34/27672f241e4137ddac9ad5e5bb242646.jpg Degraves Street Map location E Directions

As you turn off Flinders street*, you will enter the darling of Melbourne’s laneways - Degraves Street. This was one of the earliest Melbourne laneways to be revitalised and it is still very loved. The narrow pedestrian-only street has a vibrant, European feel and is lined with cafes, restaurants and artisan-style boutiques. Melbourne is proud of its independent stores so you won’t find any chain stores here.

The street is named after brothers Charles and William Degraves, pioneers and merchants from Hobart who set up a flour mill in the area in 1849.

*there is no need to go via Elizabeth street as shown in the map. This is a glitch with Google Maps.

Take a slight right at the end and continue on to Centre Place.

Image: poomipat via Shutterstock
F /public/album_photo/1d/34/3790a56b4572e1338da2e286d5ad0153.jpg /public/album_photo/1e/34/4f86047d0444ff6ed1b4d763e6e6c78c.jpg Centre Place Map location F Directions

Centre Place is another narrow pedestrian-only laneway close to Degraves street. The two are so close, they can be thought of as an extension of each other. Centre Place epitomises several aspects of the city’s culture - cobblestone laneways, coffee culture, independent stores and street art.

Continue up the stairs at the end of Centre Place and walk through the less appealing Centreway Arcade. Cross Collins street but turn left before St Collins Lane and instead turn right into Block Arcade

Image: Keitma via Shutterstock
G /public/album_photo/3d/34/622765f395ecb47dc053c31db1922dc3.jpg /public/album_photo/3e/34/a909577303d2aa1302e77a9fb18f4349.jpg Block Arcade Map location G Directions

The Block arcade is an ornate arcade in an elaborate French Renaissance style. It is adorned with arches, cornices and decorative tiles. The arcade is full of high-end boutiques and coffee shops including the famous Hopetoun Tea rooms opened in 1894.

It has an L shape with entrances on Elizabeth and Little Collins street. There is an elaborate dome in the middle.

The block arcade opened in 1892 and is named after the 19th century practice of “doing the block” where the city’s elite would dress in their best and stroll Collins street between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets.

Exit towards Little Collins street into Block Place

Image: Blaine Image via Shutterstock
G /public/album_photo/2d/34/d15349a5e1da00c2d09d4a71eba9dae1.jpeg /public/album_photo/2e/34/a5dcf4ad82052e4b0f20b31c7807ec1e.jpeg Block Place Map location G Directions

Block Place is a small lane crowded with hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and eateries perfect for cozy breakfast and intimate lunches.

Turn right when you hit Little Collins Street and the next right is Dame Edna Place.

Image: Beau
H /public/album_photo/35/34/a37804250c3b001b93877767a693ac3a.jpeg /public/album_photo/36/34/b797f870dc77ebb9ab1b3b4d7bef0601.jpeg Dame Edna Place Map location H Directions

Everyone knows Melbourne’s favourite housewife, Dame Edna Everage with her trademark lilac-coloured hair and distinctive glasses, so it’s only fitting that she has been commemorated with her own laneway. This small laneway is decorated with marquee lights that illuminate at night. There is nothing else to mark the significance of the laneway.

The laneway was renamed in 2007 by Lord Mayor John So. Dame Edna was not at the renaming ceremony but was represented by ten look-alike Dames. Everage Street in suburban Moonee Ponds has also been named in her honour. Dame Edna was also awarded keys to the City Of Melbourne by Mayor John So in 2006.

When you're finished, cross Little Collins street to the Royal Arcade.

Image: Beau
I /public/album_photo/25/34/362f674a69d136a974530ef0d63d9cce.jpg /public/album_photo/26/34/f9932ad676d210546e04f9eb5eef5cdf.jpg Royal Arcade Map location I Directions

Royal Arcade is the city’s oldest and was built in 1870. You’ll find boutiques, cafes and vintage stores.

A noteworthy feature is the 7-foot clock and statues that frame it at the Little Collins Street entrance. The statues strike the chime each hour and represent characters in a mythological battle between the ancient Britons and Trojans.

The statues were modelled on similar figures that watch over Guildhall in London. The mythical giants represent Gog and Magog who were captured by the Trojans and forced to serve as porters at the gateway of an ancient palace on a site later occupied by the Guildhall. The clock and statues were added about 20 years after the arcade opened by Thomas Gaunt, a jeweller and clockmaker who had a shop in the arcade.

Exit Royal Arcade onto Bourke Street. Turn left and continue several streets to Hardware Lane.

Image: Marc Dalmulder, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
J /public/album_photo/45/34/ba366e1ed6503fabbacafb62a0cab90b.jpg /public/album_photo/46/34/f5c0483ac073f41a5ebf0c1ccd8843c0.jpg Hardware Lane Map location J Directions

A narrow red-brick lane lined with alfresco dining and specialty shops. Hardware Lane is another standout of Melbourne’s laneway renaissance and can be thought of as an upmarket, sunnier version of some of the grittier lanes like Degraves street. You won’t find any graffiti or dumpsters here, instead a fine selection of alfresco dining and drinking options.

This is the end of the official tour so you can stop for a meal or a drink. Or, you can continue on to several bonus stops. Check the map for directions.

Image: Olga Kashubin via Shutterstock
/public/album_photo/4d/34/4b49f7798c8e55d7850acdd9266df01b.jpg /public/album_photo/4e/34/f3365b60ac1d88287e312c3f2256bcde.jpg Amphlett Lane Directions

Amphlett Lane is a dedication to the frontwoman of the rock band The Divinyls who were responsible for such hits as I touch myself and Pleasure and Pain.

Chrissy Amphlett was born in Geelong and started her career in Melbourne in the 1970s while living in Prahran’s Greville street.

Her and the other band members formed The Divinyls in Sydney in 1980 and went on to have a #1 hit and be inducted into the ARIA hall of fame.

Chrissy passed away in 2013 from breast cancer.

This lane was renamed to Amphlett lane in 2015. Its location behind the Princess Theatre and the former Palace theatre is perfect, as Amphlett performed at both these venues during her singing career.

The laneway features several artworks including the singer’s trademark schoolgirl uniform and a commemorative plaque.

/public/album_photo/55/34/3b5d33e0ce6ec9f1cb6695ff798678c3.jpeg /public/album_photo/56/34/6ef35ee5d9df3df416be50892d3af587.jpeg Rainbow Alley Directions

In 2020, Melbourne City Council installed new signage for Rainbow alley in recognition of its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Apart from the rainbow-coloured sign, there are no other references to the LGBT+ community.

The alley was named prior to 1856 after the nearby Rainbow Hotel, which was situated at the corner of Swanston and Little Collins Streets. If you ask me, this hotel is crying out for redevelopment as a queer bar.

/public/album_photo/5d/34/1eb20de9eee7c29f6aef7022ca35e8df.jpeg /public/album_photo/5e/34/84255589b50355e9516b5750ca1dc150.jpeg Union Lane Directions

Named after a long-vanished pub, Union lane is an open-air canvas spanning 550sqm in total.

If too many tourists are preventing you from getting the perfect shot in Hosier Lane, Union Lane is larger and less crowded and with just as impressive street art.

Image: Beau
Duckboard Place
Map location A Directions

Duckboard Place is a small laneway plastered with street art and gig posters. The area was once a popular entertainment destination for World War II troops – in fact it takes its name from the paths of wooden slats built over muddy ground in World War I battlefields.

When you're finished, continue around the corner to AC/DC Lane

Image: Beau