Melbourne has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the most livable cities in the world. Prior to visiting I knew it was home to Dame Edna, the Aussie Tennis Open and a killer coffee culture. A proud member of the guidebook-free travelling generation, it was thanks to walking the streets and exploring alleyways in search of Melbourne’s finest flat white that I stumbled upon what is fast becoming one of Melbourne’s greatest tourist pulls; its mesmerising street art.
A little additional research reveals that the city’s council has long been famous for its liberal approach to street art, aside from a temporary policy change in the run up to the Commonwealth Games in 2004, and in the right circles Melbourne has long been Australia’s, and possibly the Southern Hemisphere’s, street art champion. Guidebooks finally caught on a few years ago and it now features as one of the mainstream top things to do in this culturally rich city. Its fame was certainly accelerated somewhat when arguably the world’s most famous street artist Banksy left a stenciled drawing of a diver there in 2003 only for it to sadly be destroyed by vandals in 2008 (who painted over it with the bittersweet words “Banksy Woz Ere”).
The most famous road for admiring all forms of street art is Hosier Lane, helpfully positioned close to Melbourne’s main station Flinders Street Station and across the road from popular meeting hub and home to many more traditional art galleries, Federation Square. Though you will have to battle with likely groups of snap happy tourists, there is still much to be seen on this road with virtually every square inch of road, floor, gutters and brickwork boasting street art of various forms.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Within the grid of Melbourne’s CBD and city centre, which is helpfully circled by the free City Circle tram, there are many side streets and alleyways serving as street galleries for graffiti, graphics, prints, patterns, typography, stencils and for even more traditional style painting of portraits making all manner of political, social and creative statements.
My favourite roads for stumbling across thought, laughter and smile provoking street art were Desgraves Street near Flinders Street, Caledonia Lane (off Lonsdale Street), Croft Alley (in Chinatown) and the alleyway down the side of 110 Franklin Street, which is the home of long-time player on the Melbourne street art scene, Blender Studios. There is also street art worthy of a walk and look in central suburbs the Carlton and Collingwood and in the popular southern areas of St Kilda and Balaclava.
It is only too easy to incorporate appreciating Melbourne’s street art with a gentle stroll around the city centre’s historic buildings and excellent shops. Furthermore don’t be surprised to see the creativity continue inside many of Melbourne’s cool cafes, which proudly scatter themselves in and around the street art. In fact you will struggle to find a city that places more value on both graffiti and caffeine than Melbourne, and nowhere else have I enjoyed getting lost down alleyways as much in search of them both.
This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.Tweet