“These lanes have been here a lot longer than the media has been talking about them so excitedly,” explains The Signal Express, “and their story is a precious one … the trendy boutiques, the reversing trucks, the crowded coffee joints and photogenic cityscapes, so recognisably Melbourne.”
Melbourne's laneways weren’t part of the city’s original 1837 design, writes Aisha Dow in The Age. They developed in their dozens as property owners sought rear access to buildings and people looked for shortcuts through back streets. In 1874, Edward Oxford (who once tried to assassinate Queen Victoria) wrote this description of Melbourne's small thoroughfares: “Running from the great to the little streets of this city are lanes crowded with human habitations. From some of these lanes there branch off at right angles 'places' containing three of four houses. Those recently built are of brick, for the corporation has long since stopped the erection of any more wooden ones. Others are old tumble-down shanties, packed as closely together as space will allow; without any regard for the convenience of those who dwell in them; dirty, alive with vermin’."
Want to know more?
They’re all across the city centre: here are six of the best laneways (Traveller)
Laneways and coffee: Melbourne’s irresistible mix (Concrete Playground)
Some of Melbourne’s best bars are hidden away in the colourful and malodorous laneways of the CBD (Time Out)
Everything you need to know about Melbourne’s laneways (Only Melbourne)