Melbourne’s Laneways | A Self-Guided Tour

Melbourne laneway filled with street art

Melbourne’s bustling, vibrant thoroughfares have become modern icons of its quirky art scene. These small street decorated in street art wind their way throughout Melbourne’s CBD. But where did they come from and whats the best route to see them?

street art of Kendal and Kim Kardashian

History of Melbourne’s laneways

Melbourne’s laneways haven’t always there, so how did they appear and how did they become such an important part of modern Melbourne? Well, when the city of Melbourne began to take shape in 1837, a rectangular grid design created by surveyor Robert Hoddle was laid out alongside the Yarra River. This building grid pattern soon became more complex, as the original allotments of land were subdivided and re‑subdivided many times. This created the need for smaller streets to provide access to properties at the back of buildings. Hence, the laneways were born.

street art mural of two men

Pretty soon, a network of over 260 lanes and alleys was established, creating a bustling hive of activity with its own character and culture. These laneways quickly became a canvas for the inhabitants of Melbourne to paint their creativity onto. From stencils and paste-ups to murals and decorative painting, Melbourne’s street art is legendary, mapping bursts of artistic flair as well as social commentary and activism.

street art mural of child's face
political street art mural women ticking of light of rights

So how can you see all that the laneways have to offer by yourself? Easy, just follow this self-guided walking tour, and you’ll see Melbourne’s best street art for free!

  • Start in Hosier Lane, the most famous of Melbourne’s laneways.
  • Then head to AC/DC Lane. Go back to Flinders Lane via Duckboard Place
  • Walk up Exhibition Street until you reach Bourke Street
  • Go along Bourke Street until you get to Crossley Street. Go up Crossley Street, then up Liverpool Street.
  • From the top of Liverpool Street, walk along Little Bourke Street until you reach Tattersalls Lane.
  • Go back down Tattersalls Lane, then walk along Little Bourke Street until Caledonian Lane.
  • Go up Caledonian Lane, and continue up Drewery Lane
  • Reach the top of Drewery Lane, then walk along Little Lonsdale Street until you reach Hardware Street
  • Go down Hardware Street, then continue down Hardware Lane.
  • At the end of Hardware Lane, go down Little Bourke Street until you get to Warbuton Lane
  • Go down Warbuton Lane, then down Rankins Lane.
  • After you’ve gone down Rankins Lane, continue down Little Bourke Street until you reach Postal Lane
  • Go down Postal Lane, then along Bourke Street Mall until you reach Union Lane.
  • Go down Union Lane, then down Howey Place
  • From Howey Place, go down Manchester Lane.
  • At the end of Manchester Lane, you’ll find yourself on Flinders Lane, where the walking tour ends.

There you have it, an easy, self-guided tour of Melbourne’s laneways. Along these streets there is lots of wall art to take in, so don’t rush when walking around. There are plenty of foodie stops and cafes on the way, so make sure to stop and have a break now and then.

If you’re looking for ideas on what to do in Melbourne, check out the Australia Travel section. There you’ll find lots of ideas and inspiration for your trip. Or if you have a question, put it in the comments below!


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