Shopper's guide to laneways and arcades

Seek out the unexpected boutiques and shops tucked away in the CBD’s historic arcades
Photograph: Graham Denholm
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Melbourne is world-famous for its cobbled laneways and arcades, many of which peek out curiously from intersections, underpasses and gaps between buildings. Inside these narrow corridors await all kinds of quirky shops; these are our favourites. For more undercover gems, see if you can find these hidden bars or these underground things to do in Melbourne.

CBD laneway and arcade shopping

Shopping, Boutiques

Babushkas

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Ever played with a set of Russian nesting dolls as a kid? Ever wanted to as an adult? Now you can: Babushkas sells sets of hand-painted wooden dolls ranging from three for $17 all the way up to 10 for $700. Add a few to your shopping bag.

Shopping, Boutiques

Card & Caboodle

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Cards and postcards and knick-knacks, oh my! This family-owned shop has everything from wrapping paper to ornaments to postcards. Fancy a spot of DIY cardmaking? Supplies are all here. Go on, surprise someone special with a heartfelt message and make their day.

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A necklace made by Corky Saint Clair
Photograph: Corky Saint Clair
Shopping, Accessories

Corky Saint Clair

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This is where you want to go to shop for your best friend’s birthday. Or your birthday. Or because you missed your train at Flinders. With everything dangly and shiny and fun, Corky’s jewellery ranges from signet rings to sterling silver unicorns. You can also pick up a painted skull – or how about a wooden pinball machine? The trip underground is worth it just to see the brain necklaces decorating the terrarium.

Shopping, Boutiques

Gewürzhaus

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You scoop, you score! At this spice/herb/salt emporium, you’ll want to buy little bags of things you never even knew existed. St. Nicholas Spekulaas? Lebkuchen Spice? Fill our little bags, stat! We had a hard time deciding which we wanted more, the Vintage Merlot Salt or one of the rarest salts in the world, Persian Blue. Your recipes will never be the same.

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Shopping, Boutiques

Lenko

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Just off Flinders Lane (or Swanston Street, depending on how you enter Cathedral Arcade) sits Lenko, the eponymous brainchild of Donna Lenko. Filled with an ever-changing array of clothes, jewellery, and accessories, people who stumble upon this shop are sure to return many times for more shopping goodies.

Things to do

Sticky Institute

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For less than it takes to re-charge your Myki, you can pick up a copy of the “Zine About Super Awesome Things” ($2.50). Or how about a zine that fits into a matchbox for a measly $4? It’s all here, from 100% free to $100. Don’t know a zine from a magazine? You will after five minutes here.

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Shopping

Suga

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We promised you candy, and here it is! After all this shopping, you’ll need a sugary pick-me-up. Watch the candy craftspeople hand-make the rolls of passionfruit- and watermelon-flavoured drops, then grab a jar for yourself. You’ve earned it.

More of Melbourne's best shopping

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