Australia's artistic hub, Melbourne is known for its rich down-under subculture. The downtown area is filled with theaters and literally covered in visual art, internationally recognized for its vibrant street movement, which has blanketed alleyways and buildings in colorful mosaics, portraits, and caricatures. Although the designs change weekly, you can hire a tour guide to show you the hottest street art spots, or hunt for gritty graffiti on your own. Here's a handy guide for where to look.
HosierLane (opposite Federation Square)
One of Melbourne’s most iconic streets, sophisticated and detailed works of art are plastered on nearly every available surface. Cafe’s and restaurants dot the area, like Café Hoboken where you can relax over a flat white and enjoy the urban art that envelops you.
Caledonian Lane (off Little Bourke Street)
A small and narrow (4 meter wide) lane with the same eerie aura you see in avant-garde mystery flicks. This is a back alley you don't want to wander down alone at night. Old shoes hang by their laces, hookers smoke cigarettes, and speed-freaks and nervous foreigners plod along this bizarrely depraved strip of Melbourne. Needless to say, the art reflects the ambiance, anyone looking to get their fix of wicked urban murals – this is the place for you.
Union Lane (off Bourke Street Mall)
Between Lake Collins and Burke Street resides the mural covered alley known as Union Lane. Some of the art here was commissioned, while other pieces improvised and uninvited. The commissioned mural was completed in 2008 by a group of aspiring artists and their mentors as part of a city-wide “mentor project,” before being revitalized in 2010 by 70 city council appointed street artists. Today, the vibrant laneway is as intricate and wild as ever and well worth a visit.
Named after the infamous Australian rock group, this street has a somewhat foreboding, abandoned feel. Tucked behind bars and restaurants, the entry to this alley isn’t as tourist-friendly as many of the other street art hotspots, but if you do decide to venture in, you will be glad you did.
This small lane runs alongside the much larger and easier to find, Flinders Street. Known for its “Soho” vibe, the buildings here are old and architecturally stunning in their own rights, but at street level, passersby's will find alleyways and nooks filled with colorful works of urban art. There is a less organized feel to this area that's more haphazard and random, but beautiful nonetheless.
Another section of Melbourne where old buildings stand proudly, the suburb of Abbotsford is a hub for culture and arts – so naturally, copious amount of street art is a feast for the eyes as you explore this quieter area.
Centre Place (between Collins Street and Flinders Lane)
One of the busiest laneways/arcades in Melbourne. Between the cafés, sushi restaurants, and all types of odd shops, there is always something happening on this hip side-street. You will find the street art tucked towards the back. It won’t be hard to find though – bright colors and stencil murals like “street lights” cover the back end of this popular laneway.
This is where you will find Melbourne's masterpieces. The artists who painted this area were all commissioned by the city for their exceptional skills with a spray-can and stencil. Yarra Place is widely recognized as one of Melbourne’s most vibrant laneways.
Almost every alleyway and building in Fitzroy is decorated with wildly creative stencils, hand drawn characters, portraits, and graffiti tags. There are street art tours that just focus on this area of Melbourne – that’s how much art there is here.