Discover Melbourne: River and Laneways

    Alex resized
    10923557 1377931822514111 7468811433355633826 n
    30 Mar 2016
    Clock 40min      Length2mi
    1 rating

    Tourdescription About the audio tour

    This walk will give you a feel for Melbourne via its laneways, arcades and the riverside. You can walk the whole tour in under an hour, or take things at a more leisurely pace by pausing to enjoy the sights and stopping at some of the numerous cafés, bars and restaurants along the way.

    Image credit: Derek Midgley, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0. The image has been cropped from the original.

    Majorlandmarks Major Landmarks

    Flinders Street Station, Hosier Lane, Degraves Street, Block Arcade, Royal Arcade, Manchester Unity Building, Yarra River.

    Startingpoint Directions to starting point

    The tour begins on the corner of Flinders Street and Russell Street, opposite The Forum Theatre. To get there, take any tram along Swanston Street. Stop at Flinders Street Station and walk about 300 metres to the theatre.

    Tips Tips

    Places to stop along the way:

    Movida Next Door (Fri-Sun afternoons), Australian Centre for the Moving Image (10am to 5pm), The Organic Food and Wine Deli (TOFWD), Princes Bridge, Ponyfish Island. The tour can be extended by adding a river cruise at the end or a visit to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at the start.

    Best time to walk:

    Begin this tour by mid afternoon if you want to visit the Block Arcade before closing time. Start earlier if you plan on doing side trips like a river cruise or a visit to ACMI. Some arcades do not open until 9am.


    Be aware of your surroundings when entering quiet laneways and underpasses. The smaller laneways are not recommended after dark if you are on your own in an unfamiliar location. Please note, the tour includes a number of flights of stairs.

    Discover Melbourne: River and Laneways

    10923557 1377931822514111 7468811433355633826 n
    30 Mar 2016
    Clock 40min      Length2mi
    1 rating

    Forum Theatre

    Forum Theatre
    Discover Melbourne: River and Laneways

    Hi, my name's Alex. I've lived in Melbourne nearly all my life and I'm going to be guiding you through some of my favourite spots in the city.

    The tour begins here, outside the Forum Theatre. You should be standing outside the entrance to this magnificent building. The theatre is sadly run down, but is in the process of being restored. It's still functional, featuring big name comedy and music gigs. The Box Office is open 90 minutes before each show, so you might want to come back here for a spontaneous show later.

    Now look across the road, opposite the theatre. That collection of impressive looking modern buildings houses the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, where you can see free art exhibitions. It's a nice place to spend an afternoon, when you have some free time.

    Before we get going, let me tell you how this works. VoiceMap uses GPS to pinpoint your location and trigger the relevant audio. This means you can put your phone away now and relax. I will tell you where to go.

    Turn so that the theatre is on your right hand side. Then walk straight down the road. We're going to have a look at some graffiti in the alleyway next to the theatre.

    Hosier Lane

    Hosier Lane
    Discover Melbourne: River and Laneways

    Now turn right and walk into Hosier Lane, the little alleyway just after the theatre. We'll spend a few minutes in the lane, before returning to the street. You can walk down the lane while I tell you about it.

    This is street art central.

    The lane is host to an ever-changing array of art. Last time I visited this lane during the day, there were artists at work, so you might be lucky enough to see some.

    About halfway down the lane, there's a gap in the tall buildings on the right hand side. When you get there, look up at the huge portrait painted by Australian artist Matt Adnate in 2014. The work is 23 metres tall and was inspired by a boy from Melbourne's northern suburbs.

    When you're ready to move on, return to the street we came from. Then continue walking in the same direction as before. I'll meet you when you reach the huge cathedral, further along the street.

    Flinders Street

    Flinders Street
    Discover Melbourne: River and Laneways

    Keep walking straight.

    To your right is St Paul's cathedral.

    The large open space across the road on your left is Federation square. Continue straight, crossing the road and the tram tracks, while I tell you about it.

    You could spend a whole day enjoying the square with its restaurants, clubs, free activities and art. You might see people running up and down the steps in their workout gear, or doing yoga and tai chi before or after work.

    Carry on down the road on the right hand side.

    Flinders Station

    Pay wave

    Carry on straight.

    On your right is the pub, Young and Jackson. The domed building on your left is Flinders Street Station, in all it's golden glory. The steps under the clocks are a common meeting place for locals.

    The cathedral, the pub and the station: together, they form the heart of old Melbourne.

    Keep walking straight.

    Campbell Arcade Entrance

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a moment.

    Ahead of you, on the footpath, is a wrought iron barrier. It's wrapped around a set of stairs descending into the pavement. Above the stairs is a sign saying 'subway to station' in capital letters. It might be a bit hard to spot amongst the crowds at first. But, when you find it, go down the stairs. We're going to go take a look.

    This is Campbell Arcade and it's one of a number of underground passageways throughout the city. Most of them are closed to the public.

    Because we're going underground, you're going to lose your GPS signal. This means that I won't be able to guide you, but you can't get lost. It's a very small arcade.

    At the bottom of the steps, you'll see another set of narrow stairs going up right in front of you. When you've finished exploring, walk up those stairs to the surface.

    To Degraves Street

    Pay wave

    You made it! Now turn around so that the large, old train station building is on your right.

    Then walk straight for a few metres, before taking your first left into the narrow alleyway. It's called Degraves.

    I'm going to guide you through some of my favourite laneways.

    Degraves Street

    Pay wave

    Carry on walking straight down this narrow lane.

    This is Melbourne laneway central. Tables and chairs block off the traffic and there's lots of street art tucked away in little nooks and crannies.

    This is a good place to stop for lunch or coffee and cake. You might want to try The Organic Food and Wine Deli, which is on your right, just after you cross the small lane ahead. As you walk, look for the shop with a sign saying TOFWD. Their signage looks a bit like garbled letters. It's small and not as flashy as the other cafes, but that's exactly what makes the place interesting. Order a "flat white" and you'll get yourself a cup of strong, fair trade coffee with milk. They also do great vegetarian and vegan food.

    Keep walking to the end of the alleyway.

    To Centre Place

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a second. Look across the road, and a little to the right. Can you see another narrow alleyway? This one has a metal arch over the entrance saying Centre Place.

    That's where we're going next. Now cross the road at the pedestrian crossing and walk under the arch, down the lane. I'll meet you there.

    Centre Place

    Pay wave

    Welcome to Centre Place. We're going to walk straight down this lane and through the covered walkway until we reach the main road on the other side.

    Take your time and enjoy the atmosphere. As we walk, you might spot some more graffiti on the roller doors in between the shop fronts. Don't forget to turn around and look back, just before you go up the steps ahead. There's usually some stencil art on the walls which you can see best from this angle.

    Just keep going straight, down the lane and through the covered walkway. I'll meet you at the road on the other side.

    Cross the Road

    Pay wave

    Now cross the street in front of you via the pedestrian crossing. When you get to the other side, turn left and walk down the road.

    Block Arcade

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a second.

    On your right is the entrance to the Block Arcade. There's a carved stone sign above the entrance showing you the way, which simply says 'The Block'. It has the biggest mosaic floor in Australia, and is full of impressive stores, including some great chocolate shops!

    Feel free to explore, while I tell you a quick story. Otherwise, just keep walking down the road in the same direction.

    In 1889, on Friday the 13th, a spectacular fire broke out on this block. Smoke poured out the windows of all the upper storeys. People gathered with their water carts all along this pavement, and struggled to put out the flames. After the fire gutted the existing site, a group of businessmen commissioned architects to design the current arcade, which is based on the Galleria Vittoria in Milan.

    When you're ready to move on, return to the street and keep walking in the same direction on the right hand side. I'll meet you at the end of the block.

    Turn Right into Elizabeth Street

    Pay wave

    Turn right and keep walking on the right hand side of the road.

    This is Elizabeth Street. It might be hard to imagine, but this is the site of an old creek. In 2010, after a ten year drought, heavy rain turned this street into a raging river. People stood and filmed as objects were swept down the road in the fast-moving water. You can see footage of the flood online. Hopefully it hasn't been raining too hard in the last couple of days!

    Just keep walking straight. I'll meet you at the end of the block.

    Turn Right into Little Collins Street

    Pay wave

    Now turn into the small street on your right. Stay on the right hand side of the road.

    Royal Arcade

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a second. There's one final arcade waiting for you. On your left is Royal Arcade. It's underneath the red-brick building with the columns, and there are five golden leaf designs above the entrance. The pedestrian crossing leads you right to it, so use it to cross the road now, and walk straight down the arcade. We're going to walk straight through until we reach the road on the other side.

    Once you get into the arcade, turn around, look up. You can't miss the biblical figures Gog and Magog who guard the clock, which chimes every hour. And, as you leave, you will see Chronos, also known as Father Time.

    This is the oldest arcade in Melbourne. It was completed in 1870 and refurbished in the early 2000s. In the arcade, you'll find more chocolate, more natural lighting and some curious little shops. My personal favourite is called Babushkas, and you'll see why when you go past it on your left.

    Keep walking straight through the arcade until you reach the road on the other side. I'll meet you there.

    Bourke Street

    Pay wave

    Now turn left and walk to the end of the block. I'm going to show you something, and then we're going come back this way.

    Public Art

    Pay wave

    Now stop and turn to your right, facing the huge old building with the clock tower.

    On the ground, just in front of it, is an oversized purse, although it might be hidden by a passing tram. Cross the tram lines, go over to it, and have a look.


    This is the 'Public Purse'. The building with the clock tower is the old General Post Office, and the Public Purse has been lingering outside since 1994.

    Now, facing the grand old post office, turn right and walk back the way we came. Stay on the left hand side of the tram tracks.

    Next to the old Post Office, sandwiched between the two buildings, is a small alleyway. This is one of my favourite snack spots. Pop in and grab a drink if you want. Then keep walking with the tram tracks on your right.

    Keep Walking Straight

    Pay wave

    Keep walking straight, with the tram lines on your right. I'll meet you on the corner at the end of the block.

    Walk to the Corner

    Pay wave

    Now cross the tram lines to the opposite corner, on your right. We're going to walk back again in a second, but first I want to introduce you to some people.

    Skinny Men

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a while.

    Do you see any odd looking skinny men standing around here? They're just next to the traffic light. Maybe they're not moving much. They might be ignoring a busker sitting at their feet. They're statues, and they really are impossibly skinny.

    These are the 'Three Businessmen Who Brought Their Own Lunch: Batman, Swanston and Hoddle' by Alison Weaver and Paul Quinn. Their names are taken from Melbourne's three pioneers. The first pioneer is Batm'n, spelt like 'Batman'. We often joke that the Caped Crusader founded Melbourne. If only that were true.

    After saying hello to the skinny men, double back the way we came and follow the tram tracks. Walk back towards the Post Office, staying on the left hand side.

    Union Lane Street Art

    Pay wave

    On your left is an extremely narrow little laneway. Turn left into the lane and walk down it. Can you see why I brought you here? The answer is on the walls.

    The other day, I heard someone say 'I don't do laneways'. They thought they were dirty and ugly. Well, they are wrong. There might be a few puddles, and it might not smell the freshest, but some of the work here is spectacular. Much of it was produced as part of a mentoring program run by the city.

    Walk through to the end of the laneway, taking your time and being aware of your surroundings.

    Turn Left into Little Collins Street

    Pay wave

    Turn left here, and keep walking.

    I'll meet you when you reach the road with tram tracks in it.

    Turn Right into Swanston Street

    Pay wave

    Now turn right and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing. Then continue straight, keeping the tram tracks on your left.

    Manchester Unity Murders

    Pay wave

    Keep walking on the right hand side.

    We're going to visit the Manchester Unity Building foyer, which is a little gothic art deco gem, hidden amongst the shops. The building has a flamboyant history to match its architectural style. It's the site of an unsolved murder, dating back almost 40 years.

    On St Patrick's day 1978, a mysterious customer visited three jewellers working on the eighth floor. The jewellers were later found murdered in room 804, with $30,000 worth of diamonds missing. Today, the murder doesn't seem to have deterred people from the building, and there is a cafe on the ground floor, as you will see.

    Continue straight.

    Manchester Unity Building

    Pay wave

    Stop here for a moment.

    On your right is the entrance to the Manchester Unity Building, tucked between other shops opposite the Town Hall. The sign on the awning reads 'Manchester Unity Arcade'. It was formerly known as the Headquarters of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

    Walk into the foyer for a little slice of art deco heaven, if you'd like. Inside the foyer, on your right, are the original lifts with their copper plated doors.

    When you're ready, turn so that the Manchester Unity Building is behind you. Then cross over the road towards the grand Town Hall.

    Town Hall

    Pay wave

    In front of you is the magnificent Town Hall. Facing it, turn right and start walking down the street, staying on the left hand side.

    In the 1850s, Melbourne had a smaller Town Hall. But just ten years later, flushed with money from the gold rush, the city knocked down the old hall and built this more elaborate version. These days it's a performance venue for music and comedy.

    Keep walking straight. We're going to continue down this road until we reach the bridge.

    Optional Tram Ride

    Pay wave

    On your left is the tram stop. You can jump on a tram for one stop if you like. Otherwise, just keep walking straight down the road.

    The trams are free here. You don't need a ticket. If you do get on a tram, make sure you get off at Flinders Street Station, which is the next stop. I'll meet you there, to remind you.

    Continue Down Swanston Street

    Pay wave

    You're on the right track! Just keep going straight until you reach the bridge ahead.

    Back at Flinders Street Station

    Pay wave

    You're back at Flinders Street Station. If you boarded the tram, get off now and walk along the platform, in the same direction as the tram.

    We're heading to the bridge going over the river. It's a great spot to take photos - just watch out for other pedestrians and bikes!

    If you're on foot, you're doing great. Keep walking straight, with the tram tracks on your right. We're almost there.

    I'll meet you just before you reach the bridge.

    Cross at the Lights

    Pay wave

    Now cross over the road to your right via the pedestrian crossing. We're going to walk over the bridge, staying on the right hand side. I'll meet you about halfway across.

    Princes Bridge

    Pay wave

    Stop here on the bridge for a second.

    Look straight ahead, in the direction you've been walking. Slightly to your right, that tall metal spire rising above the circular building is the Arts Centre Spire. The spire was accidentally set on fire in 2012 after a New Year's Eve fireworks accident, but it seems to have pulled through OK.

    [small audio pause]

    Now, facing the Arts Centre Spire, turn right and look off the bridge. The tallest building you can see, on the left of the river, is the Eureka Tower. It was named after a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush, called the Eureka Stockade. The tower has gold plated windows on the top floors.

    [small audio pause]

    If you look off the opposite side of the bridge, you'll notice the lights of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne's favourite sporting venue, poking above the trees.

    [smaller audio pause]

    When you're ready to move on, keep heading across the bridge towards the Arts Centre Spire.

    Steps Down to Southbank Promenade

    Pay wave

    On your right is a set of steps going down towards the river. Go down the steps now.

    At the bottom, turn left and walk along the river, away from the bridge. We're going to walk along this path for a while, with the water on our right.

    Southbank Promenade

    Pay wave

    Keep walking straight, along the river.

    This is Southbank, where people spill out from the concert hall or the casino and come to eat and drink, or to stroll along the river. As you walk, you'll see signs for river cruises along the bank.

    Continue straight. We're almost at the end of the tour. I'll meet you at the next bridge.

    Ponyfish island

    Pay wave

    Now stop here.

    We're at the bottom of another bridge. This is Ponyfish Island, the floating bar, and it's where we will end our tour. If the smell of food is making your stomach rumble, this might be a good place to spend the rest of the afternoon.

    Or, if you'd like to pay for a view of the city from above, the Eureka Tower is really close by, just behind the row of restaurants along the river. At the top of the tower is an observation deck with 360 degree views.

    Otherwise, cross the bridge to get back to Flinders Street Station for trains heading out of the city.

    I hope you enjoyed the tour! Thanks for coming along. Bye!

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