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Walking time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 2.5 km
Lanes, alleyways, little streets, arcades, café society and fascinating shops.
Federation Square (1) Under the clocks (2) Flinders Street Station (3)
Melbourne’s little laneways began life as rear access to properties facing big streets. Many were later roofed as ‘arcades’ to provide refuge from the weather and crowds and to provide more space for shops. Today, some lanes have been reborn and hum to the rhythm of daily city life. Others are still waiting to be discovered.
Begin your walk by crossing from Federation Square to a traditional meeting place ‘Under the Clocks’ at Flinders Street Station. Cross Flinders Street, turn left and continue on. Turn right into Degraves Street where William Degraves’ steam flourmill pumped away in the 1850s.
Nowadays, it’s espresso.
Degraves Street (4)
Degraves Street is a mecca for Melbourne’s café society. Check out the healthy delights at the organic shop or the juice bar. Order a coffee at Degraves Espresso Bar, where the seats are recycled cinema seats and benches from a former magistrate’s court.
Majorca Building (5)
At the end of Degraves Street, on the other side of Flinders Lane, is the Majorca Building – still as stylish as in its 1920s heyday. The building’s terracotta has Spanish or Moorish influences, reflecting the exotic destinations that captured imaginations at that time.
Centre Place (6)
Centre Place is a breeding ground for cafes – some so small you can barely stretch to stir your coffee. Ask for the delicious soup of the day at pocket-sized Jungle Juice Bar, squat on the box seats and enjoy noodles at Yen or retreat upstairs to dimly lit Hell’s Kitchen and look down on the passing throng. This area is also a must see for those interested in street art.
Centre Way (7) Block Arcade (8)
Step up to Centre Way (1913) – an early steel-framed building with a post-modern makeover – then cross Collins Street and turn left before entering the exquisite 19th century Block Arcade. The arcade was named after the fashionable Collins Street block between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets where 19th century Melburnians liked to promenade or ‘do the block’. Today, it is still a hive of activity, with its mosaic floors and fascinating shops to explore.
Block Place (9) Royal Arcade (10) Gog and Magog (11)
Pick a table at Block Place and grab a bite to eat before you cross over Little Collins Street to the elegant Royal Arcade (1869) – the oldest shopping arcade in Australia. Don’t forget to look back up to Gog and Magog, the two legendary giants of the Ancient Britons who have struck on the hour since 1892.
Bourke Street Mall (12) Melbourne's GPO (13) Underground Public Toilets (14)
Reaching Melbourne’s shopping heart at Bourke Street Mall, turn left and cross the Bourke Street Mall, pass Melbourne's GPO, then continue along Elizabeth Street. The underground public toilets are historic: the men’s were built in 1910, while the ladies waited longer, until 1927.
Little Bourke Street (15) 23-31 Niagara Lane (16) Lonsdale Street (17)
Go left up Little Bourke Street and cross two laneways before you discover a superb group of 1880s warehouses at 23-31 Niagara Lane. Look for the picturesque barrel hoists. The lane was named in the 1860s after the Niagara Hotel in Lonsdale Street.
Hardware Lane (18)
Round the corner, after a short walk up Lonsdale Street, bustling Hardware Lane epitomises Melbourne’s laneway renaissance. With cobbled stones underfoot and café umbrellas overhead, stay awhile and enjoy the lane’s alfresco seating, fascinating facades and small specialty shops.
Dynon’s Building (19) Hardware House (20)
At 63-73 Hardware Lane, look up through the cafe umbrellas to check the date of Dynon’s Building, a set of four (originally five) warehouses designed by William Pitt, the celebrated architect of Princess Theatre and some of the finest gothic revival buildings in Collins Street. Named after Hardware House in the 1920s, Hardware Lane was built on land formerly occupied by Kirk’s Horse Bazaar.
Galleria Plaza (21) Little Collins Street (22) Howey Place (23)
Stroll back down to Bourke Street cross over and take a short cut through Galleria Plaza – then turn left onto Little Collins Street where the serious fashion begins. Pass a dozen lanes and arcades before reaching the delightful Howey Place. Between the 1890s and 1920s, the western side of Howey Place was part of Cole’s Book Arcade, which stretched from Collins to Bourke Streets and was probably the ‘biggest bookshop in the world’ with over two million books.
Capitol Arcade (24) Capitol Theatre (25)
Continue on through Capitol Arcade to Capitol House, opened in 1924 and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin.
Manchester Unity Arcade (26) Manchester Lane (27) Flinders Lane (28)
Walk through historic Manchester Unity Arcade and then cross Collins Street to Manchester Lane and Flinders Lane. Once the centre of the city’s rag trade, Flinders Lane is now a unique shopping destination for the hip and happening, as well as home to some of the best galleries and bars in the city.
Scott Alley (29) Port Phillip Arcade (30) Young & Jackson’s (31) Chloe (32) Federation Square (1)
As you head back to Federation Square, stroll down Scott Alley and pass through Port Phillip Arcade and turn left at Flinders Street. Your final stop is Young & Jackson’s where the beer has flowed for over a century. Upstairs is the nude portrait Chloe that shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. Enjoy one last drink here as you take in the grand view of Federation Square.