A big heart beats outside Degraves Street. “I love this place,” says Marcus, pausing to sell a copy of The Big Issue to a passerby. “I love that I can have a coffee and a smoke outdoors.” His smile is huge, eyes sparkle like his fluoro jacket. A busker sets up her guitar nearby and her soft voice is lost in the throng of people. I buy a copy of the magazine, thank Marcus and make my way down Degraves, dodging tables and feet. People dine back to back in the middle of the bluestone alley reminiscent of the cluttered lanes of Europe. The buzz is infectious; the people a mix of casual and corporate like the lane itself. When you sit here, there are no souvenir shops of Swanston Street to anchor you in Melbourne. Here, apron clad waitresses weave in and out of cafes and moments are captured over coffee and laughter. This is where you fall in love with Melbourne.

Opposite the steely chaos of Federation Square is Hosier Lane. Cartoons, sketches, words take centre stage on walls, bins, doors, ceilings until your eyes are coloured red, green, yellow and blue. It may reek of urine and garbage, but Hosier Lane’s brilliance lies in art, a space where different worlds collide to transform drab walls into humour, horror, and fantasy. This lane has fish with big teeth, flying skirts, butterflies, vampires, wagging tongues, a mix of vibrant cultures that typifies Melbourne and ignites the imagination. Home to restaurants and bars, this lane dazzles with its kaleidoscope of colour.

Melbourne is more than the hustle and bustle of Elizabeth, the glitz of Collins Street, the stony mess of Federation Square. Melbourne is the shimmering backstreets, the screaming alleys, the small boutiques, the art and the stories that pulse with life. You just have to look.

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