Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city and capital of the state of Victoria. The second you arrive in Melbourne, you’ll immediately be swept off your feet by its infectious energy; at times brazen, often funky but always omnipresent. You can’t miss it. If you delve further, you’ll find a hidden Melbourne that’s full of little surprises!

The Melbourne skyline as seen from the banks of the Yarra River.

On my previous visit to Melbourne in 2008, I remarked:

Melbourne is a city with aspirations and you can tell. It’s a large city with loads of character, a laid-back pace and a lifestyle that oozes quality. Magnificent Tudor and Victorian buildings graciously reflect the city’s colourful history while impressive skyscrapers and other buildings by world-renowed architects boast the city’s prosperous present. Upon arrival, the visitor might notice the car license plates which read: “Victoria: The place to be”. I wouldn’t disagree.

Since then, the city has developed in leaps and bounds, with an astounding array of cultural and culinary offerings. I was really impressed back in 2008. This time, I was simply blown away! The culinary, fashion and design landscapes in particular have flourished beyond recognition. And the coffee scene is arguably second to no other!

Melbourne’s hidden lanes and arcades

Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) is a vibrant grid of boulevards and lanes. The main streets are lined by a dizzying array of grand Victorian buildings and shiny skyscrapers. These are packed with an equally impressive variety of shops, restaurants and cafés, but venture into the lanes and arcades that connect the main streets and you’ll discover some of Melbourne’s best secrets!

Stunning architecture in Melbourne.

Melbourne Lanes and Arcades tour

If you don’t have much time to explore the back lanes and arcades on your own, I can highly recommend the Melbourne Lanes and Arcades tour! The tour, which lasts a whole morning and ends with lunch (optional) is the ideal way to learn more about Melbourne’s heritage and discover its many hidden gems (think amazing street art, quirky cafés, independent designers and historical tales). I would rank it as the best tour of Melbourne CBD. Follow me on the tour:

The tour started at the city’s main square, Federation Square. Our first stop was the underground passage in Flinders Street Station where we discovered a traditional hairdresser and some of Melbourne’s best coffee!

Centre Place

The tour continued above ground, along Degraves Street and Centre Place, both packed with quirky retail shops, restaurants and cafés. Loved the laid-back atmosphere in these lanes.
Melbourne’s back-alleys are home to amazing street art, like this electric piece in Centre Place.
From the lanes of Centre Place, we entered into a gleaming arcade: the Centreway Arcade, with its designer shops.

Block Arcade

We crossed Melbourne’s main street, Collins Street, and found this gorgeous arcade: the Block Arcade, also home to one of Melbourne’s best-loved tea rooms.
The Hopetound tea room cakes!

Royal Arcade

Our next stop was the stunning Royal Arcade, where we stopped at Suga, a fab candy shop, and had a delicious cup of hot chocolate at Koko Black.
Design your own candy at Suga!
A dazzling array of chocolates at Koko Black – and their hot chocolate is absolutely divine!

Street art in Union Lane

We passed more terrific street art; this one’s in Union Lane.
Our guide entertained us with historical tales and anecdotes.
Our guide showed us lots of fascinating shops like this hidden haberdashery…
… and Melbourne’s largest vintage clothing store.

Along the way, we passed many intriguing shops, cafés and restaurants – I was just bowled over by the great variety and eclectic styles. I was equally excited by the thriving independent retailer scene – small shops selling all sorts of clothing, furniture, ornaments and jewelry. Add to that the gorgeous architecture of the arcades and the terrific street art! This lanes and arcades tour truly opened my eyes to a side of Melbourne that I, perhaps, would not have seen due to the limited amount of time I spent there – four days are simply not enough to explore this incredible city!

Read about my first solo road trip which started in Melbourne and my visit to Sovereign Hill.

Note: this trip is part of the iambassador #MelbourneTouring project in partnership with Tourism Victoria and Royal Brunei Airlines. Velvet Escape maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site.

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