Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Melbourne icon-chevron-right The 7 best-kept secret spots to visit in Melbourne
Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory
Photograph: Emily Godfrey/Visit Victoria

The 7 best-kept secret spots to visit in Melbourne

From hidden bars to secret gardens, Melbourne is a city that likes to play it cool

By Cassidy Knowlton and Time Out editors
Advertising

Given that Melburnians pride themselves on being able to traverse the entire CBD via an intricate system of connecting laneways, it's no surprise the city has a few secrets up her sleeve. Whether it's hidden laneway barssubterranean art spaces or places to go for a little quiet contemplation without crowds of people, these are some of our favourite secret spots. Just don't tell anyone, OK? 

Little Lon
Little Lon
Photograph: Supplied

This speakeasy-style micro-distillery

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

There is no more colourful district in Melbourne than 'Little Lon', the former red-light district and slum between Exhibition and Spring, Little Lonsdale and La Trobe. It included Madame Brussels' famous brothels on Lonsdale Street, but the seedier houses of ill repute were down laneways, such as Casselden Place. The laneway was home to seven three-room brick cottages, and only number 17 remains. Number 17, the only single-storey house remaining in the CBD, definitely has a storied history. It was a seedy brothel (its most famous madam/working girl was a Chinese prostitute nicknamed Yokohama (real name Tiecome Ah Chung), a sly grog establishment and the site of numerous police complaints. Now it's the site of boutique gin distillery Little Lon and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it tasting bar, which can hold maybe 12 people, and only if they're very good friends. 

Need a different kind of fire water? Check out this (admittedly not very secret) whisky distillery.

This inner-city botanic garden

Things to do Williamstown

Of course, you know about the Royal Botanic Gardens, but did you know one of Victoria's first public gardens was actually in Williamstown? A seaside gem, Williamstown Botanic Gardens is a lush green spot to read or hold a picnic. It was originally established by early colonies as a way of assessing how well plants would fare in the Australian climate. As a result, the garden's main features include a plethora of exotic plants, an Edwardian ornamental pond and a formal palm avenue. It's also a stone's throw away from Williamstown Beach if you need some sandy respite.

Here are some of our other favourite secret gardens in Melbourne.

Advertising
Meat Market, Arts House
Meat Market, Arts House
Jaime Murcia

This unknown performance space and art gallery

Attractions Community centres North Melbourne

Given that the Stables is located in the Meat Market complex, itself a bit of a hidden performance gem in Melbourne’s north, it’s surprising that so few of Melbourne’s savviest arts lovers know about it. It’s effortlessly cool, with concrete floors and high ceilings. It’s wonderfully flexible, embraced as an art gallery and performance venue. It’s also bloody hard to find, and therefore has Melbourne written all over it. It’s been a space for hire for the last couple of years, notably for Poppy Seed Festival, and has hosted visual arts exhibitions like Stephen Baker’s Moonshine. It’s a secret weapon for an arts complex that already has an arsenal of them.

Here are six of our favourite hidden art spaces around Melbourne

Fairy bread at French Saloon
Fairy bread at French Saloon
Photograph: Supplied

This savoury off-menu fairy bread

Restaurants French Melbourne

You wouldn’t think that fairy bread could be savoury, but head chef Todd Moses had a nostalgic moment when playing with the five different types of caviar he has on the menu at French Saloon. Each variety is offered individually, but on occasion, Moses takes the cheapest white bread from his supplier, laminates it with whipped cod roe, and rains down a mixture of oscietra, baerii, white sturgeon, gold and Yarra Valley caviar to bring back the party favourite for an older audience. In the past, it’s just been served to friends and regulars. But now, with a nod and a wink, you can request it from the staff if Moses has the ingredients on hand. Keep an eye out on his Instagram. And yes, he cuts the crusts off.

Here are our other favourite off-menu items (and yes, you have to know to ask).

Advertising
People inside drinking at Above Board Melbourne
People inside drinking at Above Board Melbourne
Photograph: Carmen Zammit

This tiny cocktail bar (yes, down an alley, up some stairs)

Bars Cocktail bars Collingwood

In a city packed with secret bars, there's a special place in our hearts for this one. Hayden Lambert (ex-Bar Americano) rules the command centre at the heart of a tiny room, with only a handful of seats facing Lambert as he dispenses drinks that put the art back into artisanal. The menu proudly declares that Lambert delivers cocktails and bad banter: something worth mentioning as he’s had years honing his daggy dad jokes, dry wit and old-man grump. This adds to your experience, rather than takes away, as the offering at Above Board is not just personalised, but personal. Sure, a chat with Lambert will help you determine if you’re after a classic or a signature cocktail (all $21), but you’re also getting a little bit of his life story with every drink.

Once you've visited here, check out more of Melbourne's hidden bars.  

Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory
Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory
Photograph: Emily Godfrey/Visit Victoria

This secret greenhouse inside a popular inner-city park

Things to do East Melbourne

The scenic Fitzroy Gardens are certainly no secret, located just behind State Parliament and smack-bang in the middle of Melbourne's busy cityscape. But not everyone knows about all of the park's secret spaces, like the model Tudor Village created by London pensioner Edgar Wilson back in the 1940s. This miniature village is a replica of a typical Kentish village built during England's Tudor period and was unveiled in 1948. But our favourite secret in Fitzroy Gardens is the Conservatory, a small greenhouse at the bottom of the hill. The air is always warm, moist and heady with the scent of intensely perfumed tropical flowers. Classical music is piped in, and it mingled with the gentle tinkle of the fountain inside for the ultimate in inner-city relaxation. 

NB: The conservatory is undergoing renovations and will be reopened in late 2020. Check out some more of Melbourne's secret gardens in the meantime.

Advertising
State Library of Victoria
State Library of Victoria
Photograph: Roberto Seba

The actual magic room inside the State Library

Attractions Libraries Melbourne

The State Library of Victoria is a cultural landmark that houses books, podcast facilities and an enviable audiovisual collection as well as several exhibitions and galleries with a lot of history. It also has a secret collection of magical paraphernalia, which is about the most Hogwarts thing we can think of. It’s called the William Alma Magic Collection, and it contains approximately 2,000 books, 60 magazines, 1,500 photographs, 300 posters and 400 files about all things magic. If you fancy yourself a bit of a witch or wizard, you can request to view items from the collection – we assume all requests will be delivered by Flu Network straight to your tower.

Find out about the truth behind Melbourne's most famous urban legends.

More secret stuff

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising