How to spend an afternoon ambling through our creative city

We pride ourselves on being the cultural capital of Australia, but sometimes that can be overwhelming. Never fear, ARC ONE Gallery’s Laura Lantieri shares her inside knowledge on how to spend a casual afternoon appreciating Melbourne’s creative side.

When I’m not working at the gallery, I find a Saturday afternoon is well spent ambling down Melbourne’s streets and taking in the abundance of sites rich with art, culture and culinary offerings. With so much on offer each weekend, sometimes just deciding where to go – or even start – is an overwhelming task.

Flinders Lane gems

Flinders Lane gems

Here’s my suggested itinerary to help you on your way:

  • Flinders Lane, teeming with fascinating architecture, boutique stores and restaurants, is a great pocket of the city in which to work. My local strip up near Spring Street and its offshoots – even on a day off – is my first point of call. Browse through some of the beautifully made wares at Craft, and check out the latest shows at ARC ONE, fortyfivedownstairs, and Murray White Room (around the corner on Sargood Lane).
  • If you’re anything like me, you’re probably already peckish. Stop for a coffee and a bagel at the quaint hole-in-the-wall café, Tom Thumb, or if you don’t mind braving the weekend crowd, indulge in lunch at Cumulus Inc. Alternatively, grab a New York-deli-style sandwich replete with pickle for a real NYC experience at Bowery to Williamsburg, a couple of blocks west on Oliver Lane.
  • Meander further down Flinders Lane and you’ll hit the Nicholas Building on Swanston Street, one of the city’s earliest homes of artist studios and creative spaces. Among some of its newest residents are Nicholas Projects (Level 5) and Caves (Level 6); teeny-tiny independent galleries that present curated exhibitions of contemporary art by artists spanning a range of media, subjects and stages. The artist-run-initiative, Blindside (Level 7), also has a diverse program of experimental shows along with fabulous views over Flinders Street Station and Southbank.
The Paperback Bookshop

The Paperback Bookshop

  • Next, hop one block over to the Fed Square Book Market; it’s a treasure trove of new and pre-owned publications for bibliophiles of all walks and genres. And if books are the order of the day, a couple of other favourite haunts are Paperback Bookshop and Hill of Content – you’ll find both at the Parliament end of Bourke Street.
  • Back on the art route: head to the NGV. Both the Federation Square (Australia) and St Kilda Road (International) sites have extensive permanent collections which are worth perusing, and are free too. The galleries rehang their displays over the course of the year so you’ll generally see something different with each visit as well. Of course, there are blockbuster shows such as the current Degas: A New Vision, which will take you further afield to Paris, circa late 19th Century, through the remarkable collections of world-class museums such as Musée d’Orsay.
NGV International

NGV International

  • If you’re not suffering a case of art fatigue by this point, end your day at ACCA in Southbank. Their dynamic program of Australian and international exhibitions of exclusively contemporary art usually leaves me with something to think about.
  • Finally, treat yourself to a tipple next door at the Malthouse, a former brewery-turned-theatre … you deserve it!
ACCA and The Malthouse

ACCA and The Malthouse