Melbourne is known for its laneway culture, so it's no surprise that there are some great cafes located down these tiny streets. If you're looking for a great CBD cafe, which is a cafe located in the city centre, then check out one of these places.
They all offer unique experiences and delicious food. Any of them would be the perfect spot to relax and enjoy your time in Melbourne.
Melbourne loves its laneway cafes. And with good reason – they are the perfect place to find a coffee (or something else) that satisfies. But with so many laneways and so many cafes, it can be hard to know where to go. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here is our list of the best CBD laneway cafes in Melbourne. Enjoy!
24 Best Laneway Cafes in Melbourne
In Melbourne, we are known for our coffee and our laneway cafes. The latter, which can often be tricky to find, regularly serve up the aforementioned tasty coffee.
Here, we select our favourite laneway spots to grab a latte or two in the shade.
You’ll find Rustica Canteen tucked into the red brick warren behind Queen St, but you can follow the crowds. The Rustica empire has recently expanded into Richmond and Hawthorn. However, this place is still the OG: a laid-back industrial hotspot known for epic cronuts, seriously good sourdough and a peppered brisket sandwich that’ll make you believe. Get in early—it’s chocked by 12:30 pm.
Raw Trader spruiks itself as ‘decadence without the guilt’, which is pretty accurate. Its specialty is organic, raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free desserts. We know, we know, that doesn’t exactly sell the place, but you’d be amazed what they can create without adding anything even remotely unhealthy.
The almond snickers cake is a particular triumph. Watch yourself, though—the cafe is technically a ‘gluten-free zone’. Anyone who brings in doughnuts from next door's Shortstop will get a stern telling off.
If there’s a more Instagramm’d cafe in Melbourne, we’d like to know what it is. Thanks to a prominent mention on Tripadvisor, Hardware Société is massively popular with overseas visitors, but if you’re happy to wait for a table, you’ll find it justifies the hype.
The fried brioche with rhubarb and orange is a crowd-pleaser, but we recommend the baked eggs with chorizo, potato, peppers and queso Mahon. Good shopping fuel. Société’s been so successful the owners just opened a new one in Paris. Ooh, la…
Hardware Lane is nothing if not bursting with cafes and restaurants, and down the end on Hardware Street, you’ll find Hardware Societe. With a French and European influence, you’ll find more than just your typical breakfast fare. You are likely to have to wait on the weekends, as this bad boy is no well-kept secret. Get there early if you’re in a rush. 120 Hardware Street, Melbourne
5 & Dime
Do CBD bagel fans have one big decision to make: 5 & Dime or Schmucks? The city’s two bagel houses both do an excellent job (the hot cross bun bagels with melted butter at Schmucks are particularly good), but for us, 5 & Dime wins by a nose.
Mostly thanks to their crispy jalapeno and cheese bagel, served warm and stuffed with a good inch of velvety cream cheese. Hands down one of the best breakfast snacks in the city, and you’ll even get change from your fiver.
Centre Place is probably our favourite laneway in the city, and our favourite cafe on the strip is Jungle Juice. It’s been there pretty much forever, churning out fresh-squeezed juices and bagel sandwiches cooked up in a tiny Harry Potter-esque kitchen under the stairs.
For our money, the hero is their Club Sandwich: a fully-stacked behemoth stuffed with chicken, crispy bacon, tomato, rocket and zingy Jungle sauce. Club Sandwiches have become a bit naff over the years (the sort of thing you order at golf courses), but if any Club can make them sexy again, this is it.
This one is small, and as the name suggests, they know their juices. Changing regularly, you’ll often land something different. If you can get a seat, grab a bagel with your juice, or takeaway if all the seats in this little one are occupied. 20 Centre Place, Melbourne
Another Centre Place stalwart, Aix pumps out some of the best, most authentic crepes in the city. Owner John is still behind the counter, spinning wafer-thin dough disks on big black hotplates, just as he’s been doing for years.
No matter the time of day, you’ll be greeted with a smile and a hearty ‘Bonjour’. Capture the little table upfront if you can (it’s good for people watching) and order a big serve of banana and Nutella. Happy days.
There is no ‘quiet time’ to visit Manchester Press. This place is pumping from 7:30 am right up to the last call. Mostly it’s known for coffee (a priceless commodity in the CBD). Owners Nir Kalif and Issy Shaked use a house blend from 8oz Coffee Roasters, and there’s a rotating single-origin and batch brew to keep things interesting.
The menu’s tight and bagel-filled, and you’ll struggle to get a seat come lunchtime: corporate suits and broke-but-hungry uni students making up the bulk of the clientele.
Good coffee, serious legroom and delicious bagels, what more could you want really? Manchester Press, once a gallery is open and spacious and a great retreat from the chaos that is Little Bourke Street. With about ten bagel varieties to choose from, they are your best bet. Venture through the roller door and take your time. 8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne
Captains Of Industry
Up some stairs off Somerset Place, you’ll find Captains Of Industry (just ‘Captains’ to the regulars). This quiet and unpretentious CBD cafe doubles as a barber, cobbler and leather goods store (okay, that sounds pretentious as hell, but trust us, it works).
The décor is warm timber with a vintage touch, and the chalkboard menu usually features a rotating list of sandwiches and occasional sweets—one of our favourite CBD oases.
While you’re on Somerset Place, you may as well check out Little Mule, a bicycle shop cum cafe that’s famous (in a quiet, underground sort of way) for piping hot Proud Mary coffee, seasonal salads and nighttime jaffles.
The crowd is mostly business launchers and RMIT study groups, but after 6 pm, it morphs into a cute little laneway bar, serving up wine, cocktails and a few rare beers (the Vietnamese Huda rice lager is a nice drop).
Cup Of Truth
Not technically a laneway as such, but it’s small and easy to miss, so we reckon it qualifies. Cup Of Truth is a hole-in-the-wall caffeine dispenser in the subway underpass between Flinders St station and Degraves St (near the Sticky Institute).
The place is small, but it punches above its weight: in 2013, its barista Courtney Patterson took out the top gong in The Age Good Food Guide Awards. A quality commuter pit-stop.
League Of Honest Coffee
You know the coffee’s going to be good as soon as you walk in and see the twin custom-painted Slayer espresso machines (Slayer, if you didn’t know, is like the Maserati of coffee machines). But there’s more to the League than just a good cup o’ joe. The space is light and bright, the staff universally lovely, and the Noisette pastries from the counter go down a treat. Try the flaky almond croissants with magic – it’s next level.
From the team behind Padre and the Brunswick East Project, these guys know a thing or two about coffee. You can expect a few choices when deciding on your single origin for the morning. The menu is small, offering a range of noisette pastries for a start. But the real drawcard here is the brew and the relaxed atmosphere that the staff and the space offer. 8 Exploration Lane, Melbourne,
It’s standing room only at Bar Americano, a teensy laneway cafe and Euro-style aperitif bar from Matt Bax (the guy behind Bar Economico and Bar Exuberance). By day this place is all about hooking up caffeine to the vein: you don’t come for a sit-down lunch. You come for a double shot espresso and almond biscotti. At night it transforms into an uber-cute cocktail bar with bartenders shaking gin sours and looking ridiculously cool.
Known for its serious cocktails, little sister of Der Raum – and we do mean little – is also a great stop for a quick coffee and bite to eat. There is only standing room for ten, so don’t plan to linger here. As homage to Harry’s Bar in Venice, Bar Americano embraces the Italian way of sipping on the run. If you can find it, down not one but two laneways; they will sort you out, day or night. 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne
Hiding in the backstreets of Melbourne, Krimper is rightfully a little rough around his edges. With a humble history dating back decades, you’ll have to bypass the aging door that stresses there is “strictly no admittance”. You’ll find actual coffee and actual people behind it, including the so-called mother of all coffee, the Red Eye, which is a force to be reckoned with.
There are not many choices when it comes to seating at Switchboard! You can prop yourself up in a display-like window, curl onto a wooden bench outside, or like most, cue for some of Melbourne’s best coffee. Toasties and fresh cakes are also available for pick up. Yum.
Kinship & Co
A Seinfeld-inspired jaffle cafe in the heart of the CBD? Yep, it does exist. You've probably walked past Kinship a dozen times, but if you haven't been in to check out their Industry Beans roast and Butterbing cookies, it might be time to check it out.
Owners Goran Bozinovski and Matt Cavanagh have put together a smart little jaffle list: there's the Kramer (a burst-through-the-door mix of pastrami, sauerkraut and pickles), The Jerry (neat honey leg ham and Swiss cheese), or The Susan, stuffed with a sweet mix of banana and Nutella. Check out the shelf dedicated to Goran and Matt's ever-growing sneaker collection, too (a legacy of their budget fit-out).
Corner & Bench
Just squeezing into laneway status, with its corner spot on Hardware Lane, Corner & Bench is a popular lunch spot and mid-morning coffee pitstop for CBD workers in need of something hot, tasty and reasonably healthy (at least compared to the Maccas across the street). It gets busy around lunchtime, so hurry in early to try their Mama's Meatballs (house pork meatballs, cooked in aribatia sauce, served with a side of crusty Turkish bread). The Oriental Beef Stew also does wonders on a cold winter's day.
Shortstop is short on chairs, but that doesn't stop the crowds of doughnut addicts who sit outside on the curb of Sutherland St, munching sugary treats with a massive smile on their faces. The menu changes daily, but you can usually count on their epic Early Grey or a classic glazed.
Keep an eye out for exotic combos like red velvet with beetroot and dark choc, or peanut butter and banana. Pro tip regarding Shortstop: don't even bother showing up after 3 pm. All the good stuff will have gone long ago. Duck in early for a double shot latte and one of the best doughnuts you'll ever try.
A cute little hole-in-the-wall from ex-Plantation baristas Leo Lee and Calvin Ko. You'll quickly spot Little Rogue's blue door in Drewery Lane, and the space inside feels like an airy, thanks largely to a big ol' light well next to the espresso machine. Small Batch Candyman beans are the roast of choice, and there's a good range of iced drinks for the warmer months.
The boys have also teamed up with the guys from Penny For Pound to provide a cracking range of pastries and sweet treats. A decent pre-work pit stop if you're looking for an injection of sugar and caffeine. If you spot dark chocolate and raspberry doughnuts, don't hesitate to pounce.
And if you find yourself outside of the CBD...
Vertue of the Coffee Drink
Even with Melbourne’s teensy laneways and trickster exteriors, one of Melbourne’s best-looking cafes takes this competitive game of hiding and seek to a new level. Vertue of the Coffee Drink (it’s supposed to be spelt that way, thank you) opens up from a rusty car park, showcasing open brick walls and perforated geometric lanterns you’ll want to take home. These micro-roasters know a thing about coffee too.
Cibi isn’t exactly a looker from the outside, with its worn chairs, rusty tables and greying paint. But operating a little down Collingwood’s Keele St quietly, Cibi’s boasts some of Melbourne’s best Japanese food in a simple, clean interior. Serving up fresh, seasonal meals, tuck yourself away at this little café for the afternoon to hide from Melbourne’s crazy.
Red Door Corner Store
A north-east treasure, Northcote’s Red Door Corner Store is one of Melbourne’s best local cafes. Neon red features throughout the café (as you may expect), but the low-key milk bar feels what keeps this café bustling in Melbourne’s sleepiest hours.
Silo by Joost
Joost Bakker, the passionate eco-entrepreneur, has created Silo by Joost and has done so with no waste. Food scraps and napkins don’t go into the bin here. They go into the on-site dehydrator out the back.
The menu is small and to the point. Toast, oats, and coddled hens eggs sum it up. Snacks and local alcohol are served into the night. If you want to do your part for the environment, you can start with breakfast at Silo. 123 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Located in the same building as the City Library, this little cafe is sure to make you want to delve into some Austen or Fitzgerald as you sip your espresso. It’s very cozy here, and with the big communal table in the middle, it can feel like everyone is a friend of a friend.
The menu offers simple breakfast fare done well. They also have six bruschettas on offer, both sweet and savoury. 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, journal cafe
Laneway cafes don’t always have to be found in the CBD. Chez Dre, located in a converted warehouse down a little alley at the rear of Coventry Street in South Melbourne, is where you can find some of the best pastries in Melbourne.
With a pastry chef who spent years in Paris honing her art, expect a French influence. If you’re not in the mood for something sweet, hot breakfasts and a range of baguettes are also available. The rear of 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
FAQs About Melbourne Cafes
Melbourne's best laneways and arcades
- AC/DC Lane. Melbourne might be awash with cute laneways, but the one that'll leave you 'thunderstruck' is AC/DC Lane.
- Centre Place.
- Hardware Lane.
- Block Arcade.
- Degraves Street.
- Cathedral Arcade.
- Hosier Lane.
- Tattersalls Lane.
Melbourne is known globally for its coffee obsession. It offers more than 2,000 cafés as well as some of the world's best baristas.
Melbourne's laneways began as rear access to properties with frontage on the main streets, with many later being roofed as 'arcades' to provide refuge from inclement weather and crowds. Melbourne laneways are well-known for rich art culture, one-off boutiques, unique galleries, tiny cafés and hidden bars.
The Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne, Australia, is home to numerous lanes and arcades. Often called "laneways", these narrow streets and pedestrian paths date mostly from the Victorian era and are a popular cultural attraction for cafes, bars and street art.
Melbourne Laneways History
The laneways, or “little streets,” of Melbourne's central business district (or CBD) originated in the Victorian era and were used at the time as lanes for horses and carts.
Melbourne’s laneways have become a bit of a cliché, so we’re not going to insult your intelligence by calling these places ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ (more of them have websites, Insta accounts and marketing teams, so you know...yeah).
Even CBD old dogs can learn new tricks. You think you know the CBD like the back of your hand, but when was the last time you looked at the back of your hand? We mean.
Not all the city’s laneways are enchanting grottos, ala Diagon Alley (most of the time, you’ll find dumpsters and off-duty chefs having a surreptitious smoke), but there are a few gems if you know where to look. We've done the hard yards and tracked down our favourites. We are presenting Melbourne’s best laneway cafes.