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Published July 22nd 2018
A self-guided walking loop through the best graffiti lanes
Follow the path outlined below to experience the best street art in Melbourne in the shortest possible route. The journey kicks off at Flinders Court, near Flinders Street Station, takes you 6 kilometres through 23 graffiti lanes, and loops back to near where it started.
Before compiling this list I walked through all the lanes I could find online. By doing this, I was able to exclude inaccessible or underwhelming lanes and focus instead on the most impressive, eye-catching and unusual.
Enter Flinders Court from Flinders Street. This is across the road from Flinders Street Station. The close end of the lane is underwhelming, particularly with the business bins blocking the artwork. However, walk down to the end and the alley improves, with a range of clean pieces untarnished with tags. This includes sleek text and the nonchalant face of a scary clown.
Once you've had a good look, take a right down Flinders Lane. Many of the best street art lanes come directly off of Flinders Lane, so you'll be following it for a while.
Given you are in the area, it is worth checking out Degraves Place. Turn right down Degraves Street, then take a left onto Degraves Place.
At first Centre Place may strike you as more of a café hub than a street art exhibition, but as you progress you will begin to see art on any of the roller shutters that are closed. In this lane, street art blends in with normal everyday life better than any other, making it the most integrated street art lane.
Follow the lane until you are on the cusp of the arcade and then turn left. There is a little dead end, mostly of hectic and messy overlaid tagging.
Walk back down Centre Place until you reach Flinders Lane again. Turn left and continue until you reach Hosier Lane on your right.
HOSIER LANE AND RUTLEDGE LANE
An artist at work on Hosier, teetering on three crates
Hosier Lane is Melbourne's iconic graffiti lane, so as you would expect it is both impressive and busy. The slightly downhill thoroughfare boasts a variety of amazing pieces in different styles, with a lot of respect shown for the big pieces, meaning minimal tagging. These large pieces include text and imagery. If you are lucky, you might catch artists at work, spraying away before taking strides back to examine how their work is progressing. At the far end of Hosier, the graffiti-surrounded windows into the low-lit restaurants offer unique photo opportunities. Remember to look up, too; there is a huge mural of an indigenous boy's face on the side of a building (this can be seen when facing uphill).
There must be some very tall graffiti artists out there
Rutledge Lane comes off of Hosier; it is to your right as you walk downhill. Rutledge is hectic; its surfaces are intricate with scrawl, including the high walls, the floor and the bins. The fire escape stairs, tall buildings on every side and the grating that protects the multi-story carpark next door combine to make this side lane the peak of urbanity. Hosier and Rutledge together win the award for best overall street art lane.
When you are done taking in the spectacle, walk back uphill until your reach Flinders Lane. Continue right in the direction you've been travelling until you reach Higson Lane on your right.
Higson Lane is considerably quieter than its neighbour, Hosier. Much of the wall space on this downhill lane lacks quality or coverage, although there is a very impressive airbrushed mural at the end, with a variety of celebrities including Hugh Grant and Heston Blumenthal.
Leave Higson Lane and continue right on Flinders Lane, until you reach AC/DC Lane on your right.
AC/DC LANE AND DUCKBOARD PLACE
AC/DC and Duckboard form a U shape to connect again with Flinders Lane. These two feature mostly imagery, with minimal text. The best art will be on your left side for most of the way, with the right wall often made up of windows or covered in posters advertising events.
As you enter Duckboard Place, the style changes; there are a few impressive old school tattoo style artworks, including a ribbon saying 'Melbourne' woven through roses. As you walk out of Duckboard Place, the black and white swirling pattern that covers the majority of the left wall grabs your attention – it channels the beauty of cursive text and the chaos of a stormy ocean.
From here, the lanes become a little more spaced out. For those with limited time, feel free to abandon ship here; for those who are enjoying themselves, kick on and you'll be rewarded for it.
Exit Duckboard Place and continue right along Flinders Lane until you reach Exhibition Street. Here, take a left, and then another left onto Strachan Lane.
Strachan Lane is small, perhaps 15 metres long. It uses its limited space well, boasting four impressive large-scale artworks. One is a smooth greyscale portrait resembling Jesus; another, a colourful dancer in watercolour-style that manages to portray motion.
Head back out onto Exhibition street and continue left for a short distance before turning left again onto Collins Street. When you reach Russell Street, turn left. Shortly after there will be a small lane to your left called Beaney Lane.
A bright streak of orange in case you were feeling blue
Beaney Lane is another small but impressive lane. The wall near the entry combines text and imagery: a blue Avatar with beaded hair meets bold orange wildstyle. Towards the end is an abstract piece that will no doubt split opinion. It looks like the stylisation of text gone haywire, making it either a commentary, or a visually striking and original masterpiece, or a garish hodgepodge: you decide.
Exit Beaney Lane, and head right on Russell Street (thus backtracking the short distance you've already covered on Russell Street). Continue along Russell Street then take a left at Little Collins Street. Next, turn right onto Russell Place.
At first, Russell Place looks like an ordinary lane, but it holds a few hidden treasures deeper within. Eventually, you'll reach a small alcove on your right. Enter it. It has a circular domed ceiling. The walls, even the slanting ones above you, are covered with a diverse range of art, from line work, to block-colour simplification, to grungy realism. The alcove is truly unexpected and there is little else like it in Melbourne, winning Russell Place the award for most unique street art display. As you exit the alcove, look forty-five degrees to your right; there is a huge pencil-drawn mural of a girl holding a magic wand on the side of a building.
Continue to the far end of Russell Place until you reach Bourke Street. Go right here, and then left on Russell Street. Follow for a while before turning right onto Little Bourke Street, through China Town. Follow it along and then take a right into Croft Alley.
Croft Alley has two ninety degree turns, so when you first enter it and face the spray-painted children's toys, it looks deceptively short. Follow it around to unveil a universe of colour. The alley is cramped and a little dirty towards the end, but it is completely covered. Standouts include the side profile of a baboon's face and the simplistic logo on a corner: 'Melbourne Brewed'.
Exit Croft Alley and turn left, backtracking down Little Bourke Street. Continue along it until you reach Tattersalls Lane on your right – be careful, the sign is on an angle and is easy to miss. If you reach Swanston Street, you have gone too far.
TATTERSALLS LANE AND STEVENSON LANE
Tattersalls Lane is a thoroughfare that connects Little Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street, with a connected back lane called Stevenson Lane.
Tattersalls is a little underwhelming; there is a lot of empty canvas. The best part of Tattersalls is the visual access to a mural of a lady's face on the side of a building (on your left from where you entered the lane).
Stevenson Lane feels like it primarily belongs to the surrounding businesses, given the barrels of beer and the four-wheel bins. There is some quality art down Stevenson, but its pollution, litter, grime and bug life win it the award for dirtiest street art lane.
Walk through Tattersalls Lane to Lonsdale Street. Turn left. After crossing an intersection, you will reach Caledonian Lane on your left.
The view of Caledonian Lane from inside Topshop Topman
If you are pushed for time skip Caledonian Lane. Only one side of the lane is fair game for artists, the other side being the shopping complex Emporium Melbourne. The lane's one selling point is that it hosts a relatively Instagram famous piece of textual art: 'everything has beauty but not everyone can see it'.
Walk out of Caledonian Lane. Directly on the other side of the road is Drewery Lane. Use the lights to cross.
DREWERY LANE AND SNIDERS LANE
Drewery Lane has three lanes branching off it; Drewery Alley, Drewery Place and Sniders Lane. Drewery Alley and Drewery Place are bare, but Drewery Lane and Sniders Lane are worth examining.
Drewery Lane features stylised text, as well as a commemoration of Australian soldiers. These latter artworks are not technically graffiti, rather stone/tile collage. Drewery scores brownie points for having artworks that are meaningful and not just visually pleasing.
Down Sniders Lane, you will be faced by the Kardashians, flipping you off and shirtless but for black censoring over their breasts. Look up and be cleansed; there is a Renaissance style image of angels to the right at the start of Sniders Lane.
Tighten up your laces. It's a bit of a hike to the next destination, Blender Lane – although it's definitely worth it. Walk through Drewery Lane to Little Lonsdale Street, where you take a left. Take another right when down Elizabeth Street. Follow this along for a few blocks until you reach Franklin Street, where you turn left. Blender Lane will then be on your right.
Blender Lane is a short, perhaps 30 or 40 metre, dead end with a lot of roller doors. Artistically, it is one of the best lanes, featuring a number of styles we haven't seen yet and heavily referencing pop culture, winning it the award for second best overall street art lane. You will be able to spot Pikachu, Mr T, Daffy Duck and Kochie from Sunrise. There is a refreshing lack of text, with the images done in a range of different styles: Andy Warhol printing, Banksy stencilling, airbrushing, black and white, and cartoon.
Exit Blender Lane and head right along Franklin Street. When you reach a large roundabout, go left onto Queen Street. Follow this for a long time before turning left onto Little Lonsdale Street. Then take a right soon after into Finlay Lane.
Finlay lane is not for the fainthearted. The lane has a ceiling and a 90-degree bend, making it dark and cut off from the city's noise. This, combined with the many recesses and doorways within the dark area, win it the award for Melbourne's creepiest street art lane. The lane does feature some quality wildstyle text art with curving filigree and jagged linework, although it is hard to truly appreciate in the dark.
Follow Finlay lane through until you are back out on Queen Street. Take a left and then another left onto Little Bourke Street. Follow this along until you reach Warburton and Rankins Lanes.
WARBURTON LANE AND RANKINS LANE
Warburton and Rankins are not graffiti lanes per se, so such as lanes with one or two pieces of graffiti. The redeeming factor is that these pieces of art are quality.
On Rankins, you will see a cartoonish picture of a woman, a toucan and a tribal figure, in soft pastel colours with subtle shading, outlined by thick black lines. There is no need to go deeper into these lanes beyond these pieces unless you have time to burn.
Exit Rankins Lane and head right on Little Bourke Street. When you reach Elizabeth Street, take a right. When you reach Bourke Street Mall take a left. Union Lane will be on your right – it is narrow and easy to miss!
The buildings on either side of Union Lane are very tall, which makes it dark. Additionally, it's skinny. To some, the skinniness and darkness will combine to create a grungy mood. Although it is hard to photograph artworks from front on here, the narrowness allows for photographs that take in both walls.
The walls are predominantly covered in blockbusters of text, although there is a lot of scrawly tagging, that either ruins the art or adds to the chaos, depending on your view. Beware, the lane can sometimes stink, scoring it the award for smelliest street art lane, although that is not to detract from its artistic merit.
Follow Union Lane through to Little Collins Street. Take a left, then a quick right onto Howey Place. Howey Place leads to an arcade; turn left onto Presgrave Place before you reach this.
The last lane of the day is unique in the density of its small-scale artworks. These include posters, stickers and frames including photographs and artworks – the best of these are 3D linework animals. The lane incorporates physical material, such as the frames, as well as barbed wire (out of reach), masks, and a series of ragged flags. There is a little bit of traditional graffiti if you follow Presgrave to the end, too.
This is the loop done. To get back to Flinders Street Station, exit Presgrave Place and follow the arcade through until you reach either Swanston Street or Collins Street. From here, it is about a 400 metre walk south to Flinders Street Station.
Wow!! What a great and detailed well researched article. Thanks for your hard work!! Iâ€™ll be saving this up for when I get a chance to do it. Iâ€™ll also share it to my friends who are visiting Melbourne. You just gained a new subscriber here!!