Our guide Sonja is a big fan of Melbourne’s trendy Flinders Lane. She’s been living in Melbourne for four years and is a big fan of the city’s famous coffee culture. Here she gives you her tips on what to see and do in one of Melbourne’s top shopping and foodie streets:
Flinders Lane is one of the vibrant little streets in Melbourne’s CBD. It differs in name from the other narrow streets in the city grid, which are all named Little after the name of their bigger neighbours running parallel to it, such as Collins St, then Little Collins St and so on. It’s thought that Flinders Lane is one of the original lanes of the settlement and pre-dated the naming of the little streets in 1837, just two years after Melbourne was founded.
Flinders Lane is tucked away from the main vehicle thoroughfare of Flinders St and the main pedestrian thoroughfare of Swanston St. It runs the entire length of the CBD grid, around two kilometres, and is jam-packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, local designer shops and beautiful buildings, dating back to the gold-rush of the mid 1800’s.
It’s a narrow street and is sometimes hard to navigate with the mix of cars and pedestrians. But I always try to remember to look up and see the gorgeous architecture of its heritage buildings. It’s impossible to get a bad cup of coffee in Flinders Lane, and while I may need to line up for one, especially in the early morning, it is always worth the wait. I love to fossick (an Aussie word, meaning to forage) around in the vintage and retro stores, on the look-out for that item of clothing I have to have, but never knew I needed.
1. Line up with the locals to experience Chin Chin, an Asian fusion restaurant which doesn’t take bookings for fewer than 10 people. Chin Chin is an institution in the city, with some visitors making a special trip to Melbourne just for a meal there.
2. Explore Cathedral Arcade, with a vaulted glass ceiling and eclectic tenants. It’s part of the Nicholas building, built for the inventor of the Aspro. The sprawling Retrostar shop is on the second floor and is a bargain hunters delight. Kuwaii and Obus are two Melbourne designed-and-made clothing shops, and Harold and Maude sells Victorian gothic curiosities from its level 2 store.
3. Head downstairs to Bartronica Arcade Bar for a cool beer and chance to relive childhood memories. It has authentic pinball machines, arcade games and original Nintendo cassette games such as Super Mario Kart.
4. Stand in awe at the lofty, church-like space of Alpha60, a stunning clothing shop upstairs in the Chapter House. The building belongs to the Anglican church, and is next door to St Paul’s Cathedral. The clean lines and limited colour ranges may be Japanese influenced but the design and manufacture is all Melbourne.
5. Be like a local and grab a coffee from Chapter House Café in the laneway next door. Typically Melbourne, it features excellent coffee and uncomfortable seating.
6. Work your way through the Om Nom’s dessert degustation at Australia’s only dessert hotel – the Adelphi. On Friday nights in summer, they open the glass-bottomed rooftop pool to the public for an entry fee.
7. Check out 333 Collins St for a great example of how Melbourne repurposes heritage buildings while keeping their integrity. Built in 1893 as a bank, a skyscraper was added in 1991 but the mosaic floor, copper doors and magnificent dome were all retained.
8. Spot the music references in the street art in AC/DC Lane, named after one of Australia’s greatest bands. The laneway is known for its large murals and tributes to late band members Bon Scott and Malcolm Young.
9. Try alpaca croquettes at Melbourne’s Peruvian restaurant, Pastuso, in AC/DC Lane. It features a grill, cevicheria and pisco bar.
10. Shop for locally designed contemporary jewellery downstairs at e.g.etal, downstairs near Adelphi. The store is 20 years old and features Australian, New Zealand and occasionally international jewellery makers.
Flinders Lane is a five minute walk from the Flinders Street Railway Station or a free tram ride from Southern Cross or Melbourne Central Railway Stations. The main shopping and dining district is between Spring St and Queen St.