Melbourne is such a culturally diverse city that locals sometimes joke that people of almost every nationality can be found living there. This multicultural lifestyle is reflected in the food scene and in Melbourne’s art scene. Street art culture in Melbourne is unlike any other city I’ve visited.
Since the 1990s, street artists have filled Melbourne’s by lanes with colorful murals, stencils, paste-ups, and other mixed media elements. The fact that Melbourne has so many by lanes and side streets makes it a very interesting city to explore by foot. You are bound to find many unique pieces of street art every time you walk around, so make sure to keep your eyes open as you go.
Street art should not be confused with graffiti art. Most people agree that street art is artistic work that is commissioned or painted with permission with the purpose of contributing to a vibrant urban environment. Graffiti art, on the other hand, typically involves tagging, writing, etching, or scribbling that is often done without permission.
There are two distinct areas where you can see street art in Melbourne: the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD), which is considered the downtown area of the city, and the Fitzroy area, which is a densely populated suburb of Melbourne. Here are some top spots to see great street art in the Melbourne CBD.
1. Hosier Lane
If you’re looking for the most colorful part of Melbourne’s street art center, definitely visit Hosier Lane. It is always crowded, so be patient. Every wall, trash can, and window on this street is covered in paint or some other kind of art installation. While we were there, we found some artists with spray cans who were just starting to add some additional work to the walls. It was most fascinating to watch the process. If you are tired from walking around and want to take a quick break, check out Bar de Tapas y Vino, which is considered one of the best tapas restaurants in the city.
2. AC/DC Lane
There is a lot of history around AC/DC Lane off of Flinders Lane in Melbourne. In 2004, Melbourne’s City Council voted to change the name of Corporation Lane to AC/DC Lane. This street is the original home of Cherry Bar, which locals consider one of the best rock ’n’ roll bars in the world. It comes as no surprise that this street is filled with images of famous musicians -- and their gig posters.
3. Duckboard Place
This was one of my favorite places on my Melbourne street art walking tour because it was one of the least crowded. Duckboard Place wraps around from the end of AC/DC Lane back to Flinders, so it can be a little hard to find. This street is home to a few larger-than-life works of art including the famous Melbourne sign. These pieces are so big and colorful, and it is quite fascinating to think about what the process must have been like to create these huge art-covered walls. Although Hosier Lane always gets called out for being one of the best examples of Melbourne street art, I think Duckboard Place more than deserves that honor.
4. Presgrave Place
Presgrave Place is home to some of Melbourne’s most unique small-scale street art. It also includes some famous mixed-media works along one of its walls.
5. Blender Lane
Blender Lane runs by The Blender Studios, which is considered one of the most influential art hubs in the city. There are some unique and innovative aerosol, stencil, and multimedia artworks visible along this lane. Sometimes in the summer the artists put up stalls and sell their artwork in a nearby open air market.
6. Drewery Lane
Drewery Lane is home to the Legacy House charity’s art project. The Legacy house is an non-for-profit organization that provides services and support to Australian families who have suffered the loss or injury of a spouse or parent during or after serving in the country’s defense service. Sankar Nadeson, who is known as The Mosaic Man, has been teaching members of the Legacy family to create mosaic tiles along the theme of legacy, and these are displayed along Drewery Lane. New tiles are being added frequently, and this evolving artwork is known as the ANZAC Centenary Street Art Mural.
Reflections And Pro Tips
One unique thing I appreciated about touring street art in Melbourne was finding that, as a city, Melbourne acknowledges the contribution street art and street artists make to its color and vibrancy. The local city government is also working with other surrounding areas to encourage a legal street art ecosystem for the enjoyment and benefit of locals and tourists alike.
Street art in Melbourne is best experienced on foot, so be prepared to do a lot of walking around. The street art walking tours in Melbourne take around three hours and cover a distance of about 2.2 miles. Of course, you can always end early at one of the many restaurants or bars you will find along the way.
Most of the streets mentioned on our list are in and around downtown Melbourne. We started our walk from the Flinders Street train station and spent the better part of the morning just wandering the city admiring the eclectic art and taking lots of photos. As with any walking tour, be prepared for crowds. We found Hosier Lane the most crowded of them all. Most street art tours start between mid-morning and early afternoon, so if you find a street art corner, chances are there will be a lot of people around. Look around, admire the art, and take turns taking photos.
When you are taking pictures, a wide-angle lens is your best bet for capturing the width and the breadth of the street art. If you are just using your phone, back up to encompass the whole view. Or, alternatively, zoom in and focus on the details surrounding each unique mural. There is so much to see, and street art in Melbourne is so very colorful. Even if you don’t end up getting photos, the whole experience is a fun way to spend a day in this vibrant Australian city.