Melbourne Laneways Street Art: Art or Graffiti? You Decide

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Melbourne | 18 comments

Everyone who visits Melbourne is told to visit Melbourne’s laneway street art. While living in Melbourne I often visit the street art on my ventures into this part of the city so I regularly see the art on the laneways change. Sometimes it doesn’t look like street art, but graffiti. So come with me on a walk through the laneways and you decide whether Melbourne’s laneway street art is art or graffiti.


Melbourne Laneways and Street Art FAQs 


What is a Laneway in Melbourne?


A laneway in Melbourne is defined as a street less than 9 metres wide. They are too tight for cars to drive down so they are foot walkways.


Why are there so many laneways in Melbourne?


Melbourne CBD was built from an urban plan in 1837 known as the Hoddle Grid. In that period there were no toilets, so lane ways were designed into the grid as access routes to service properties that front the major CBD streets. You will also find many Melbourne suburbs have laneways which is where the ‘night carts’ would come to collect waste. With the advent of plumbing, the cobbled laneways of Melbourne sit there with not much reason, until now. Some bright soul decided that the laneways should be dollied up with street art rather than be graffitied. So most of the laneways are now happy places that people use as shortcuts to other streets plus, attract many people to look at the brightly painted street art.


How Many Laneways are there in Melbourne?


I’ve read there are around 40 laneways and arcades in Melbourne. Many of the laneways such as Hardware Lane and Flinders Lane are known for their restaurants and boutique shops. While Tattersalls Lane is known for its funky bars. If you are looking for somewhere to eat I can highly recommend Max on Hardwareat 54-58 Hardware Lane. But for street art you cannot go past Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane.


Hardware Lane, Melbourne has many restaurants with tables and chairs set up in the laneway.

Hardware Lane, before the busy lunch rush!


Is it Art or Graffiti?


To combat graffiti in the laneways, Melbourne City Council have a graffiti policy where it is illegal to put writing or images on property without permission. However, the same council commissions and gives people permission to create art on the walls of the laneways. And this is why, much of the artwork on Melbourne’s lane ways is spectacular and renowned around the world.


Do You Need to Be an Art Lover to Love Street Art?


I don’t think you need to be a lover of art to love Melbourne’s street art. Do stop to smell the roses while looking at the street art, and you may love it more than you thought you might!


Where are the Lane Ways with Street Art in Melbourne?


There are laneways all over Melbourne however, to see a concentration of street art, the best laneways are Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. They are easy to find and are a short walk from Flinders Street Station and are one of the many free things to do in Melbourne. Hosier Lane is first, and opposite Federation Square. To get to AC/DC Lane, walk to the top of Hosier Lane, turn right, cross Russell Street and walk past Oliver Lane and you will find AC/DC Lane. At the bottom of AC/DC Lane is Duckboard Place that is worth visiting also.


How long does it take to see Melbourne’s Street Art?


This will depend on how much you like street art! Anywhere from 5-10 minutes if you don’t appreciate street art and up to an hour or two if you do. There is plenty more things to see and do in Melbourne to fill your day in Melbourne or perhaps you can go on a day trip from Melbourne. 


TIP: Most of the laneways in Melbourne are cobbled laneways so wear comfortable shoes. As the cobbles aren’t flat, you can lose your balance if not wearing appropriate shoes. This is particularly the case when looking up at the walls of art, and you must look up, and not looking where you are going!


Hosier Lane Street Art


Hosier Lane is by far the most famous Melbourne street art laneway. It opened as a street art gallery in 1998. Every centimetre of it is covered. Back to my question whether it is street art or graffiti, I have found if you walk fast through the laneways the art looks very much like graffiti. But if you stop and look at the walls of the laneway you will see, and then appreciate the art work that is there. Have a look at my photos of Hosier Lane. If you look at the lane way as a whole, I think it looks quite messy. But if you stop, and look at the walls, like I did, you will notice the artwork, like I have noticed this skeleton leaning against the wall!

Off Hosier Lane is Rutledge Lane which has plenty of street art too. It is more like an extension of Hosier lane.


Skeleton art work on Hosier Lane.

Look up and look down to see the street art as you never know what you will see!

Rutledge Lane street art, Melbourne.

Rutledge Lane, off Hosier Lane, has plenty of street art too.

AC/DC Lane Street Art


It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rockn’roll…….. yes, only Melbourne can name a laneway after one of Australia’s best known and loved rock bands – AC/DC. Previously known as Corporation Lane, the laneway was officially renamed on 1 October 2004. Full of artwork, like Hosier Lane, don’t miss the sculpture of Bon Scott, microphone in hand bursting from the brick wall. It is opposite the sign, so don’t forget to turn around and look at both sides of AC/DC Lane.


AC/DC Lane sign with street art.
AC/DC Lane street art.

AC/DC Lane


Is Melbourne’s Street Art Art or Graffiti?


Have you decided? I think it a mixture of both. But I will leave it up to you to decide after you have made your own visit to see Melbourne’s street art culture. If you are looking for other things to see and do after visiting the Melbourne’s street art lanes, well, there is plenty more to see and do in Melbourne. 

It is easy to follow a map and visit the laneway street art independently however, there are walking tours you can take. You can book a Melbourne Laneway Street Art Tour here.


Melbourne laneways street art PIN. Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane.


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  1. Lorraine Caputo

    Interesting. I would say Hosier lane is a mix of graffiti and street art. On the other hand, AC/DC Lane defintely has some fantastic works of art.

    (FYI: I am also an artist and studied art history.)

    • Sharyn McCullum

      If you studied art history you would definitely appreciate the street art in Melbourne.

  2. Megan J

    Thanks for the tips! I’d love to see this street art in person one day.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I hope you get to see the street art. Plus there is plenty more to see in Melbourne.

  3. Terri

    I love seeing street art when I visit a new city. It is really great of you can find a walking tour so the local guide can provide background on the “art by/of the people”!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Absolutely. I didn’t take an organised walking tour but I do know there are those that will take you on the tour and tell you about the artists.

  4. Anna Schaeffer

    I love street art! (#teamART!) I had no idea Melbourne had so much!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Melbourne has plenty of street art. I hope you get to appreciate it.

  5. Kateryna

    Some would argue Graffiti is art :). Those are very cool, thank you for sharing!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Interesting! But agree. Everyone is an art critic in some way!

  6. simplyjolayne

    I had the chance to discover some of the street art, apparently there was so much more that I didn’t see.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Yes, the street art is throughout the city with many laneways having street art / graffiti. But the concentration is around Hosier Lane and AC/DC lane.

  7. Laureen

    I’ll be in Melbourne next winter…gonna definitely check this out. Thanks for the tips..saving.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Excellent. The art will have changed by then – but that is street art!

  8. Goya Galeotta

    Okay, I have to be honest, I had never heard of this until I read your post.. but I love it!! Would love to see in person some day.. Australia is soo high up on my list!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Good to hear. I think you will enjoy it. I hope you get to Australia.

  9. Ashley

    Interesting! I bet it’s a neat area to walk through. It does look like a mixture of both!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      It is a great area to walk through. Full of character and characters.


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G’Day! Sharyn here, an Aussie who loves discovering Australia. Let me show you around so you can discover Australia now too.  Read more about me here.

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