Street Art in Melbourne: The Colourful Laneways of the CBD
Melbourne is in itself, one giant work of art. If you’re taking a journey to the city, do spend some time checking out the street art in Melbourne. This guide will tell you where to head to for the best urban art in the city. Read on to find out more.
Melbourne is very much an arty destination, dripping with culture. The city is essentially a living, breathing canvas, with constantly changing art lining its streets, laneways and walls.
This is certainly a drawcard for visitors, as exploring Melbourne’s street art is a cheap and easy way to get a feel for the city.
Even as a local, the ever-changing art scene means that you’ll constantly be delighted.
You can walk down streets you’ve never stepped foot in before and be pleasantly surprised.
Conversely, laneways you may enter frequently hold just as much chance of offering something new.
I personally think some of the city’s best art lies in its outer suburbs, but that’s a different post altogether. My neighbourhood guide to Melbourne highlights some places outside the city centre, which you can head to for fantastic and colourful murals.
For now, let’s focus on the street art in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District), which is both interesting and varied.
Here are some of the best known laneways, and some others that are worth taking a gander at, if you’re in the vicinity.
I’ve named the artists of specific works where possible (i.e., if I actually know who they are) and have included some options to stop for a coffee break, or a tipple.
Walking around, looking at art is thirsty work, after all!
Read more: How to Spend a Week in Melbourne
The Most Interesting Street Art in Melbourne’s CBD
Little Bourke Street
Right down the end of Little Bourke Street, directly opposite Southern Cross Station is a collection of murals by some renowned street artists.
Unlike much of the other street art we’ll cover in this post, these are standalone works that make you feel like you’re walking through a gallery, not a random laneway in a big, thriving city.
Smug, Adnate, Sofles, Fintan Magee, Rone and Dvate all have works in this part of the city and it’s well worth coming to check it out.
I particularly like the works painted on an old substation – it really brightens up what is generally a rather drab end of town.
Grab a coffee at: Nearby Higher Ground. Getting a table can be difficult on the weekend, but they do have an outdoor coffee cart.
Coromandel Place is another favourite of mine and one that few others seem to make the journey to.
It was only recently revitalised in the last couple of years, with works by Al Stark and Ghostpatrol.
Local’s tip: Fancy checking out some secret street art in Melbourne? There’s a really cool alleyway near this laneway, featuring works by renowned street artist Rone. Have a little explore of the area and see if you can find it!
Grab a coffee or drink: At the brightly coloured Oli & Levi.
This laneway was a pilot place for the city’s ‘Green Your Laneways’ project, which I would say is a roaring success.
Standing under Mike Makatron’s bright mural ‘Jungle Funk’ will certainly make you feel like you’re right in the thick of it… and it sure is a jungle out there.
This laneway is right up in the theatre end of town, so it’s easy to check out after seeing a play – particularly at the Princess Theatre, which is currently showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
Don’t miss the art on nearby Mcilwraith Place, either!
You’ll find some truly obscure street art in this little laneway, with a few pieces of brightly coloured artwork.
It’s well worth popping into if you’re in the area.
This laneway’s art deviates slightly from the norm, but this is not an unusual case in Melbourne.
Rather than painted murals, the street is lined with kitschy, framed murals, with some weird rat sculptures hanging from the ceiling.
It’s the ideal laneway for those who like to take a slower approach to their art. It’s like taking in the walls of a museum… a grimy, outdoor museum that smells ever so slightly of urine.
The laneway leading into Presgrave, Howey Place, is also a piece of Melbourne history.
Formerly known as “Coles Walk”, the glass archway is all that remains of famed bookshop Coles Book Arcade.
Grab a coffee or drink: At Bar Americano… if you can get in. It seats only 10 patrons at a time, making it one of Melbourne’s smallest bars.
Acting as a transition zone between the north of the CBD and Chinatown, this is one of Melbourne’s oldest laneways.
It’s the kind of lane you can wander down, take in some art and spend some time bumming around in, with its proliferation of eateries and bars.
Make sure you look up, so you don’t miss the work of Melbourne street artist Adnate.
Rankins Lane is off Little Bourke Street and features a few nice pieces of art.
It’s best known for being home to two of the best cafes in Melbourne, but definitely consider checking out the art, while you’re there.
Grab a coffee: Brother Baba Budan and Manchester Press.
There are still some cool pieces of work in Strachan Lane, but the fun police swooped in and removed the most daring of all.
In 2017, Archibald artist Vincent Fantauzzo painted a 3D checkerboard mural on the floor of this lane, to promote quality street art.
Unfortunately, it was quickly removed by the council when it was deemed to be unsafe.
A pity, indeed.
Here’s another lane that deviates slightly from the norm and an example of Melbourne’s street art that’s on the quirkier side of things.
Drewery Lane is covered in a mosaic of handmade tiles, honouring the nearby Legacy House, who look after the loved ones of those who have lost their lives in protecting the country.
The ‘Mosaic Man’ Sankar Nadeson holds workshops helping families, friends and widows of war veterans to make tiles that are then attached to the wall in the lane.
The project started in 2015 and now boasts over 1000 tiles.
Healing through art. It’s a powerful thing.
Grab a coffee: at Little Rogue.
Up from Drewery Lane is Sniders Lane, featuring some cool murals of its own.
It’s famously the location of the two topless Kardashians, a 9 metre tall mural painted by Lushsux.
Union Lane is another alleyway that feels like an ever-changing canvas, lined with colourful bits of graffiti and the odd mural.
It’s just off Bourke Street, not far at all from the mall.
I highly advise holding your nose while strolling down the street. Judging from the smell, it moonlights as a late night toilet for men, as well as a canvas for street artists.
This is one of the smaller laneways featuring street art in Melbourne, but there are some cool, colourful murals to check out, such as this one by Heesco. The street artist hails from Mongolia and has painted a model of the same background.
There’s a few good pieces of graffiti on the lane too, such as works by Bailer.
Grab a drink: at the Whiskey Den.
This laneway runs right alongside popular restaurant Chin Chin and features an impressive mural by Heesco, of some of the world’s top (male) chefs. Ben Shewry, Joan Roca, Massimo Bottura, Daniel Humm and Heston Blumenthal all make an appearance.
There’s also a fun tribute to AFL player Max Gawn, painted last year when his team, the Melbourne Demons, were playing strong.
Grab a coffee or drink: At Chin Chin, if you can get a table.
Once known by the far more boring title of Corporation Lane, this alleyway was renamed AC/DC Lane by Melbourne’s City Council in 2004. Although the famous Aussie band hail from Perth, they had many strong ties to Melbourne.
So, the entire lane is a homage to rock band ‘Accadacca’, as we call them in Australia.
It features a pretty funky street sign (which was stolen several times before securely fastened in place) and a statue tribute to the late, enigmatic frontman of the band, Bon Scott.
Grab a drink: At Cherry Bar and soak up a bit of rock and roll while you’re at it.
Duckboard is just down from AC/DC Lane and is a bit quieter than many of the other laneways in the area.
It’s got some pretty powerful examples of street art and is home to a towering mural by Fintan Magee, one of my favourites in the city.
Look out for works by Melbourne artist Tinky while you’re in the area.
Croft Alley is best known as being the entry point to a themed bar in the area, but there’s a lot of colourful and fun murals lining its walls.
You’ll find it in a laneway off Chinatown. It’s pretty dead by day, but livens up at night when the bar opens.
Grab a drink: At the Croft Institute.
Another recipient of the ‘Green Your Laneways’ project, Guildford Lane has been greened up in a very literal sense – filled with plants and lined with cafes.
Mike Makatron has painted a fantastic mural on the door of an old electric substation and there are a few more fascinating works to take in.
Grab a coffee: At Brick Lane or the Cat Cafe!
Caledonian Lane is a tiny, blink and you miss it kind of place.
You probably won’t find a great amount of tourists here, but you may find a few interesting pieces of street art.
This is an easy place to explore, just up from Flinders Street Station.
There’s some great examples of street art, along with plenty of bars and cafes to choose from.
Look out for social enterprise ‘The Soup Place’. Patrons can pay for a meal, take a post it and put it in a giant bowl.
Anyone who is hungry and looking for food is able to grab the post-it and take it to the counter, buying themselves a hot dinner without making a scene out of it.
Grab a drink: at Hell’s Kitchen and people watch the street below.
Degraves is full of shops and cafés, but does have a few really cool examples of street art, such as this bright mural.
Grab a coffee: Just about anywhere! Degraves is full of cool eateries and everyone tends to sit on outside tables, Euro-style.
If you’re new to street art in Melbourne and the city itself, you may still have heard of Hosier Lane.
It’s one of the main tourist attractions in Melbourne, being a laneway that the council have opened to street artists and its close proximity to Flinders Street Station (about 2 mins!).
It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of laneway, with works getting painted over, sometimes mere days after they’ve appeared.
Unfortunately, in many cases, great works of art are covered with tags, but you will occasionally see stand out pieces there.
At the very least, this has resulted in an ever-changing canvas within the city and is one of the delights of the laneway – you never quite know what you’ll find there.
Plus, don’t forget to look up and take in the powerful mural by Adnate, of an Aboriginal boy.
Grab a coffee: at Good2Go Coffee, one of the smallest coffee shops in Melbourne.
If you’re in Hosier, it’s pretty easy to access Rutledge Lane as well. Make sure you hold your nose, as it’s lined with delightful smelling garbage bins.
Phew! That is a lot to go through.
Street Art Tours
If you want to learn more about the street art in Melbourne, there are plenty of tours running that will take you through many of the laneways mentioned.
I highly recommend jumping on a Hidden Secrets tour if you’re after a mix of history, art, culture and food. I’ve taken one of their tours and they are excellent.
Of course, you can always just self-tour the street art in Melbourne. Take in as much as you fancy seeing and pop into any cafes or bars that take your fancy along the way!
I hope this guide to the street art in Melbourne has proved helpful. It truly is one of the most colourful and interesting cities in Australia and surely, the world!
Staying in the city for a few days? Look for accommodation here.
Book a tour of Melbourne’s laneways here
Have you seen Melbourne’s street art? What are your thoughts on it?
Other posts about art in Australia