From local graffiti to exhibitions of famous ‘80s-era street artists, Melbourne is the place for modern art aficionados.
You’ll find inspiration down alleyways, atop buildings, within train stations and even hidden in plain sight at street level, in gardens and disused spaces. Art really is all around in Melbourne.
Here’s how to tap into the creative energy on a weekend in Melbourne.
Friday, 5pm: The Blackman
Check-in to The Blackman, an Art Series hotel in St Kilda. The boutique hotel on St Kilda Road is named for local painter Charles Blackman, who is considered to be one of the most influential and significant contributors to the Melbourne and Australian art scenes. His romantic works feature prominently in 209-suite hotel within rooms, the lobby and even in the lifts. Book a Deluxe Studio Suite Balcony room for a great view of the city lights at night.
6pm: NGV International
A 20-minute walk or short tram ride away from The Blackman, hightail it to this renowned space for NGV Friday Nights where you can pair libations with art appreciation to the tunes of DJs in an ambient atmosphere. Until 13 April, 2020, you can catch the epic Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat Crossing Lines exhibition – a celebration of the art, muse and friendship of the two NYC-based artists in their ‘80s heyday.
The well-curated show is complimented by ‘80s pop music, club Polaroids, drag performances and NYC street food for a fantastic immersive art experience that will have you wishing for a time travel machine.
Saturday, 10:30am: Aunty Peg’s Brew Bar
Melbourne is famous for its coffee culture, so start your day with a cuppa from Aunty Peg’s Brew Bar. Jump in a 20-minute Uber to the Collingwood cafe for a free weekly cupping event at what’s essentially the cellar door to Proud Mary Coffee Roastery and taste a range of micro lots brewed fresh for you.
12pm: Urban Adventures tour
Fortified with some of the best coffee Melbourne has to offer, it’s time to get among the art at street level. Book a private Urban Adventures tour and your local guide will take you to the backstreets and laneways and clue you in on the evolution of the city’s street art on a two- to three-hour walking tour. Spy colourful murals – some by world-famous artists – and graffiti tags in hotspots such as Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, Union Lane and Caledonian Lane, and that’s just in the CBD.
Make sure to stop at cafes and bars along the way for a foodie fix – we like the Insta-worthy Rainbow Toastie in Sutherland Street, or Shortstop Coffee & Donuts for artisan donuts that are also pretty as a picture.
5pm: Noisy Ritual
After a few hours of walking around on a street art tour, you’ll want to sit down somewhere. Make it here – Noisy Ritual is a 20-minute Uber from the CBD, and as Melbourne’s urban winery, it’s the ideal spot for a local drop made in Brunswick from grapes sourced from Victorian vineyards. Try a tasting flight of six wines served in test tubes that are designed to be sampled from a wine glass one at a time. The communal tables within this light-filled space makes for the perfect place to ponder the artworks you’ve seen.
Sunday, 8am: Proud Mary Cafe
Check out and head to the ‘burbs for brekky at an actual breakfast hour and another fix of Proud Mary coffee. A 20-minute Uber from The Blackman, the Proud Mary Cafe in Collingwood doesn’t take bookings on Sundays, so it pays to be an early riser for the delish dishes (including vegan options) on the all-day breakfast menu here and the fresh roasted coffee (of course).
10am: Melbourne laneways
For the full Melbourne experience, you have to hop on a tram. Take the number 86 tram to the CBD and alight at GPO for an art-filled shopping spree. Head to Metropolis Books on Swanston Street to peruse an excellent selection of art, architecture and cultural books; marvel at the Art Deco beauty of the Block Arcade (remembering to duck into Haighs for a chocolate pick-up) and grab a bite at Centre Place, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare dotted with eclectic boutiques, eateries and street art.
Cobblestoned Degraves Street is another favourite – descend to the Campbell Arcade/Degraves shopping subway and unearth a trove of art on display, vintage gear and even the Sticky Institute zine shop. The zine scene harks back to the art created by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the nascent days of the photocopier, and a fitting finish before you jet home.
Ready to explore one of the world's most liveable cities? Check out our Melbourne Travel Guide!
Feature image: Getty Images