An Instagram guide to Melbourne
Want to see the city in a new light? Here’s where to take the best photos in Melbourne.
Melbourne is not only one of the world’s most liveable cities, it’s also one of the most photogenic. Walk a few metres in any direction and you're practically guaranteed to stumble across a snap-worthy laneway, vintage arcade or heritage building sandwiched between modern skyscrapers.
It’s a city of juxtapositions, where classic and contemporary, hipster and mainstream, history and progress have been woven into an ebullient cultural tapestry that brings to life Melbourne’s past, present and future.
From Degraves Street to Princes Pier, Federation Square to the State Library, the city that was almost Batmania is a beguiling labyrinth of lens-worthy lures that offer style and substance.
If you’re looking to up your social ante, or you just want to explore the vibrant history of this photogenic city, these are 15 of the most impressive – and Intagrammable – icons in Melbourne.
The neon lights and cosy sidewalk cafes of Centre Way, in Melbourne’s CBD, make for a pretty picture.
An Instagram guide to Melbourne
Degraves Street and Centre Way
Melbourne has become known for its bustling laneways, but it was Degraves Street that really cemented the city’s laneway love affair. Enter via Flinders Street and you’ll find yourself meandering through a maze of laneways cafes, coffee shops and boutiques. Tourists sit at sidewalk tables sipping their morning coffees, while suit-clad city slickers dart easily through the crowds. Cross over Flinders Lane and you’ll find yourself in the even narrower Centre Way, which links up with Collins Street via Centreway Arcade. You can even join a walking tour and step your way through some of the city's hidden attractions.
La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library
Forget books, people are flocking to the State Library of Victoria for a photo of its iconic, domed reading room. The State Library, which opened in 1854, is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world. Though its collection spans more than two million books and 350,000 photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts, the striking La Trobe Reading Room, which reopened in 2003 after a four-year refurbishment, claims more than its share of attention.
Queen Victoria Market.
Speaking of arcades, the Campbell Arcade, (aka the Degraves Street Subway), is an underground shopping precinct that was built in 1956. It is home to a range of indie boutiques, including cult coffee shop Cup of Truth, as well as the singing barber of Melbourne, Michele Iorio, who has been serenading patrons and passers-by from his underground barber shop, Touch of Paris, for 35 years. The arcade is set to undergo a major redevelopment as part of the $11 billion Metro Rail Project.
Queen Victoria Market
This is the longest-running and most intact 19th-century market in Victoria. And, being set over seven hectares, it is also the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. The Queen Victoria Market was established in the 1860s and has cemented itself as one of the city’s must-see, snap or eat-your-way-around attractions. Plus, the skyline setting makes for the ideal photo backdrop. RACV members can even get discounts on guided, foodie tours. Hello, hot jam doughnuts.
Royal Arcade gets into the festive spirit. Photo: Lisa Luscombe.
Glyn Davis Building at the University of Melbourne
It is now the face of the Glyn Davis Building at the University of Melbourne, but this gold rush-era facade, designed by architect Joseph Reed (who we also have to thank for the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Town Hall and State Library), was originally part of the Bank of New South Wales building in Collins Street. After the bank was demolished in 1932, the heritage facade was presented to the University of Melbourne, where it has become a stunning centrepiece for its eco-friendly Melbourne School of Design building. And trust us, the building is just as impressive on the inside.
Wandering through Royal Arcade is like taking a time machine back to the 1920s. Chequered corridors slink past brightly lit boutiques selling vintage wares, while mythical creatures Gog and Magog help busy shoppers keep track of time, striking Gaunt’s Clock on the hour every hour since 1892. This ornate, heritage-listed arcade in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD opened in 1870 and is the longest-standing arcade in Australia. It was designed by English architect Charles Webb, whose other masterpieces include Melbourne Grammar School, Tasma Terrace in East Melbourne, and the renowned Windsor Hotel.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in South Yarra are an idyllic escape from the bustle of the CBD.
Royal Botanic Gardens
This is the ultimate urban oasis. The Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1846, is a green wedge that spans 36 perfectly manicured hectares and showcases nearly 50,000 individual plants. Meander through lush rainforests, discover a cactus wonderland, enjoy a picnic by the lake or bring your binoculars and do some bird watching. Or, if a leisurely stroll is more your style, the perennially popular Tan Track is a 3.8-kilometre walk around the gardens’ perimeter. With endless flora and fauna, as well as sweeping views over the city’s skyline, there will be no filters needed when you whip out your camera at this picture-perfect spot.
From fresh produce, to art, to artisan wares, there’s a market to suit all makers in Melbourne. And the Fitzroy Mills market, housed in an old knitting mill, is about as cool as it gets. The point of difference at the weekly wellness festival is the market’s health focus, with more than 70 stalls boasting everything from organic eggs and hydroponic vegetables to raw chocolate, vegan deodorant, native superfoods and all-natural beer. There’s even a canine wellness kitchen – Melbourne’s first doggie-dedicated food truck. Snap a picture of the market’s wrought-iron sign on the graffiti-covered entry wall, then go for broke buying up all the gourmet goodies. And if you want to walk off the indulgence, the Rose Street Artists’ Market is a short stroll away.
Coop’s Shot Tower at Melbourne Central.
Southern Cross Station
It’s not the oldest train station in Melbourne but it’s definitely one of the most impressive. It began its life as Batman’s Hill Railway Station in 1859 (there was even a public holiday declared so people could watch the first passenger train depart from its sole platform), before being renamed Spencer Street Station. After a major redevelopment was completed in 2006, the newly minted Southern Cross Station won several awards for its futuristic, architectural design, which includes an undulating, wave-like roof.
Coop’s Shot Tower at Melbourne Central
It’s nearly impossible to miss the towering focal point of Melbourne Central. Coop’s Shot Tower, which was erected in 1889, is perhaps most famous for its guest appearance in the opening sequence of Jackie Chan’s 1997 film Mr. Nice Guy and, after being saved from demolition in 1973, has become one of the most photographed buildings in the city. The tower stands 50 metres tall, nine storeys high and has 327 steps to the top and, perhaps most impressively, sits under a conical glass-domed roof. It was decommissioned in 1961 when the demand for lead shot (small pellets made of molten lead which were used as ammunition in shotguns) dwindled.
The city casts an iridescent shadow over Princes Pier at sunset.
This eerily pretty Port Melbourne pier was built in 1915 and, until 1969, was a major arrival point for new migrants. It was originally known as the New Railway Pier, until being renamed Princes Pier after a visit from Edward VIII – then Prince of Wales – in 1920. The 580-metre driftwood dock, now a collection of picturesque stumps, is part pier, part open-air museum and is at its most stunning at sunrise or sunset.
It cost $450 million to build but this now-iconic arena takes the cake for being one of Melbourne’s most controversial public spaces – mainly thanks to its angular, geometric design. Since opening in 2002, Federation Square has had more than 100 million visitors and, in the first year of its life, became the most awarded project in the history of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) Victoria, receiving five major awards for architectural and design excellence. It was even ranked sixth in a top-10 list of the world’s best public squares in 2014. Over the last 200 years the site has been home to the city morgue, a fish market, corporate offices and rail yards. These days, with myriad restaurants, bars, galleries and specialty stores, it is well and truly part of the city’s cultural psyche.
Rutledge and Hosier lanes.
Shrine of Remembrance
This majestic monument was built in 1934 as a tribute to lives lost in World War I, but now serves as a memorial to all Australians who have served in war. It was designed by architects and World War I veterans Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, and inspired by the Parthenon and the Tomb of Mausolus in Greece. The avenue of cypress trees – many bearing commemorative plaques – is a popular spot for photo takers. Inside, you can wander through the santcuary, crypts and even galleries, or take in the views of the lush memorial gardens from the balcony. RACV members receive discounts on guided tours.
Melbourne has become synonymous with street art. And what better place to capture it than the city’s world-famous Hosier Lane – the vibrant bluestone thoroughfare that put Melbourne on the map for its urban art scene. It’s painted from wall to pavement and nothing is off the palette, with dumpsters, windows and wheelie bins given the technicolour treatment. Continue paying your hues on Rutledge Lane, another animated alley that horseshoes off Hosier.
If there is any place that is part of the fabric of Melbourne’s cultural DNA, it’s Luna Park. Who hasn’t taken a photo in front of its flamboyant, gaping entrance? The popular amusement park opened its, er, mouth in 1912 and has been operating almost continuously ever since. But while many rides have come and gone over its 100-year history, one has remained through all the ups and downs – the Great Scenic Railway. This heritage-listed rollercoaster, which dips and dives around the perimeter of the park, is the oldest continually running wooden rollercoaster in the world. The iconic coaster is currently hibernating for winter (while heritage preservation works are under way) but will be back up and running in time for the September school holidays. Plus, RACV members save 10 per cent on ride tickets when pre-purchased online.