Our insider shares five lesser-known laneways you must experience.
This dogleg off Chinatown’s main artery of Little Bourke Street houses the Chinese Museum, which doesn’t get close to the attention it deserves. Five floors of exhibitions chronicle two centuries of Chinese immigration and culture in Victoria, from evocative displays on the 19th-century goldfields to the world’s largest processional dragon.
It’s a laneway but, crucially, also the name of a bar in the laneway that captures contemporary Melbourne history with its design (by cult firm Six Degrees) and the fact it pioneered the Victorian capital’s thriving bar culture 22 boozy years ago. Neighbours include San Telmo, the city’s best Argentine grill, and The Waiters Restaurant, famous for its Italian food and indifferent service.
Once a huddle of boarding houses for “celestials” (early Chinese migrants), this dead-end alley’s most notorious tenant today is Supper Inn, a late-night Cantonese diner and hangover prevention centre. Don’t be deterred by the dingy alley and shabby stairwell where diners mill while waiting for tables – tough it out for solid suckling pig, congee and pipis in XO sauce.
15 Celestial Avenue
Captains of Industry is proof that Melbourne has the Southern Hemisphere’s most evolved café society. This daytime café takes its coffee seriously but also harbours an old-school barbershop (razor shaves a specialty) and a high-end cobbler – where custom footwear, handmade with kangaroo leather uppers, can be yours from $1200 a pair.
Basement Discs is the soul – and the blues, jazz, folk and country – of Melbourne’s underground music scene. A lifeline for fans of vinyl and rare tunes, it also stocks newfangled CDs and Blu-rays alongside a covetable election of restored stereos, turntables and speakers. There are instore performances most Fridays.