Hidden away amongst the buildings and high streets of the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne there is a unique trove of graffiti art. Often nestled away, backstreets and alleys intersect the city. Turn down any of them and for a moment you are transported to another place. So very different from the bustling city which continues around.
The graffiti laneways are a must see for any street art fan. Already boasting a reputation as one of the best places in the world to see urban art, it’s alleys are key to it’s success. Dotted throughout the city it is within these spaces that the local scene is kept alive. Indeed for many, they’ve become a tourist attraction in their own right. Take Hosier Lane as an example and the throng of people which descend on that particular laneway on a daily basis.
So for this post we’ll take you on a bit of a tour around some of the main spots to see Melbourne laneway art. Starting from the main railway station station on Flinders Street and then working our way up through the heart of the CBD taking in some of the best graffiti and street art spots in Melbourne along the way.
A short walk from Flinders Street station this is, by some way the most popular graffiti tourist spot in the city. Hosier Lane is a bit of a tourist magnet. Presumably this isn’t anything to do with the actual quality of the art though. Rather, this laneway is the closest one from the railway station. It’s just a short walk over and up along the road. Pop along here at most times of day and you’ll see crowds of selfie taking tourists and many an artist painting the walls with their Instagram handle on display. Certainly if you want your art to be seen and photographed then this is the street to go to.
Walk to the top of Hosier Lane, turn right and a short walk around the corner along Flinders Lane is the entrance to the bustling alley of ACDC Lane. The name, as it suggests, is a tribute to the famed Australian rock band ACDC. It’s also the location of the Cherry Bar, a famous rock and roll venue in its own right. All in all this is a place known as much as for its musical history as for it’s graffiti. Look around and you’ll see plenty of references to the Aussie rock legends as well as nods to other cultural references. Mural wise, of particular note, is the giant mural from Fintan Magee at the end of the lane.
Keep wandering down ACDC Lane and the road turns into Duckboard Place. Running parallel, it is a place full of eateries with graffiti and street art all around. Both lanes blend in to one another and are full of graffiti, street art, stencils, paste ups and stickers. There’s a lot to see just walking in between these two lanes both of which are accessed and exited via Flinders Lane.
Just around the corner from Duckboard Place and accessed via Exhibition Street is Strachan Lane. A small alley, it’s purpose mainly serves as access to the back of the buildings which surround it. Here can be seen some lovely pieces, with a special bias towards the work of Vincent Fantauzzo. He at one point co-owned the Harley House restaurant which accesses onto the lane. As a result a particularly striking collaboration piece from himself and Adnate can be seen at the entrance to it.
Turn out from Strachan Lane. Head down Collins Street, up Swanston Street and then left down Little Collins Street. Once there look out for Howey Place. Turn down and hidden away in a little turning off it, in a shopping arcade, is Presgrave Place. It’s an unusual little alley. Filled with street art this is a graffiti laneway with a difference. The majority of art on these walls are in frames and hanging on the walls like some old school ‘expo de rue’. A street gallery in quite the literal sense.
Back to Little Collins Street and pretty much opposite Howey Place is the thin, long laneway of Union Lane. Hidden in the centre of the CBD, it serves as a handy cut through from the south of the city along the side of the popular David Jones department store. It is of course also absolutely full of graffiti. Walking straight up will take you to Bourke Street one of the busiest shopping streets in Melbourne.
At the top of Union Lane turn right at Bourke Street. Then left along Swanston Street and right on Little Bourke Street. Tattershall Lane will soon be on the left and it’s such a fun spot to stumble upon. At day a convenient cut through but at night a vibrant space playing host to the Section 8 bar. There are a few murals of note here too. A mural from Adnate is unsuprisingly one of the main draws. This though had recently been joined by a recent piece from the UK’s Fanakapan who has been in the city for his first Australian solo exhibition at the VS Gallery. Keep walking up Tattershall Lane to arrive at the busy Lonsdale Street.
At Lonsdale Street turn left and you’ll soon cross Swanston Street. Soon after, look out for Drewery Lane. A unique addition to the laneways of Melbourne can be found here with the ANZAC Centenary Street Art Mural. Brought to life by mosaic artist Sankar Nadseon it was started in 2014 to honour Australian service men and women on the anniversary of the start of World War I. The mural contains hundreds of small tiles created by members of Melbourne Legacy, an organisation which supports the families of Australian servicemen and woment.
Then, hidden away a little further down, a recreation of a topless selfie from Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski has been painted by LUSH on a little offshoot alley called Sniders Lane. The Melbourne artists work can be seen all over the city as well as around the world. We previously featured a lot of his work on the West Bank Barrier in Israel. You can read that here. Carry on along the lane until Little Lonsdale Street.
From Little Lonsdale Street turn left and walk towards the junction with Elizabeth Street. From there turn right to the north of the city. Look out for Franklin Street on the left and turn down there. Blender Lane will soon appear on the right. Here is another laneway packed full of art. Apparently there were Banksy stencils at one point towards the back of the lane. I couldn’t find any, but with the amount of different types of art here they could well have been missed.
Undoubtedly Melbourne is one of Australia’s top street art cities. Indeed it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to place it along with the top places in the world for urban art. It has a history all of its own when it comes to the art form and the graffiti laneways are absolutely central to that.
The graffiti laneways of Melbourne on 13 and 15 November 2019. The visit was part of a month long trip to Australia. Other posts in the series include these on Brisbane, Adelaide, Port Adelaide and the Silo Art Trail.