We’ve all been to Chapel Street. To check out the latest cocktail bar, enjoy a world-class meal with friends, or pick up a jaw-dropping outfit for a big night out … oh, and it’s also a fave for people watching. You’ve probably walked our favourite strip hundreds of times … but we bet you didn’t know some of the fascinating history and fun facts about our special quarters. 

Chapel Street
Banksy Woz Ere – Oops.

Chapel Street has a fantastic collection of street art on many walls and buildings, curating international artists to create pieces that turn drab laneways and streets into thought-provoking pieces of art . One of the most famous to leave his mark was Banksy, however unfortunately it was short lived.

In May 2012, a piece of 15-year-old Prahran street art by Banksy called ‘Parachuting Rat’ was destroyed when unknowing builders smashed a hole in the wall for plumbing pipes during construction of a local café in Greville Street. Oops indeed.

Not your usual suspects

Chapel Street is a diverse masterpiece, it has one of the highest percentages of cultural diversity in the world. Even higher than The Big Apple! Making every attempt to steer away from stale and predictable, Chapel Street is known for pushing the boundaries (in the best ways).

Their 2016 Christmas saw Santa Claus dressed in drag doing ‘Chap Laps’ in a convertible while singing Christmas carols. While, the precincts 2017 Winter Festival, PROVOCARÉ, highlighted the distinction between Chapel Street and the vanilla shopping centres of Melbourne. On opening night, they celebrated their Avant-Garde past by featuring ‘burlesque dancers’ in shop windows as part of an adults-only playground. It certainly stopped traffic!

Inspired by their rich history of social progression and inclusion, fashion-forward clothing, and iconic live performance Chapel Street will never have you twiddling your thumbs.

How do you pronounce Prahran?

I love it when tourists tell me they’re heading to Chapel Street and I ask them which part … then wait until they say Prahran. Is that Prar-rhan? Or Puurahhh-Rannn? Or Prrann, like the locals say, dropping half the vowels?

Prahran’s name evolved from the term ‘purraran’, understood to be an Aboriginal word for ‘almost surrounded by water’, which historians believe was given due to the fact the Yarra River is close by, along with nearby Albert Park Lake.  A Government surveyor, Robert Hoddle, decided that Purraran would be titled Prahran in 1840 and that’s what we’ve had ever since. Even though newbies don’t know how to say it, it’s a great part of the world to be seen in.

A spot of bowling on the green

Summer is the perfect time to take off your shoes, grab a beer and enjoy a spot of lawn bowls with mates. The Melbourne Bowling Club was the first bowling club in Australia, founded on 11 March 1864, and still runs today.

The Clubhouse includes the original double storey brick building, with a single storey building added in 1923. The original building had upper and lower verandas with ornate iron-lace work, but these were removed during renovations. If bowls weren’t your thing you could toss some quoits, or if you were a lady, you could try a spot of croquet. How civilised!

You’ll find Melbourne Bowls Club just behind Chapel Street in Union Street (Cnr Bowling Green Street) – a great space to have a drink, hold a function – or try your hand at this classic sport.

Get blessed at Bridie O’Reilly’s

There’s nothing like sitting in the Bridie O’Reilly’s beer garden on a Summer’s day, enjoying a cold beer or wine and watching the world go by. A very different scene to what you’d have experienced back in the 1800’s … as the building was a Baptist Church at the time.  (Is that why you take wine for communion?) Built in the 1850’s, it’s the only surviving church on the street from that time. Chapel Street was also named after the first church in Prahran, who knew it was so virtuous?

Bridie O'Reilly's Chapel Street South Yarra
Sweet treats at The Jam Factory

Ever wondered how the Cinema and Eatery hub got its name? You don’t have to think very hard because, wait for it, they used to make jam there. Stop it.

The Victorian Jam Company produced jam at the Jam Factory from 1876. At the time, they were the largest employer in the Prahran area, employing 230 people at peak times throughout the year. Over the next 90 years, The Jam Factory changed hands and names several times, including the iconic IXL Brand.

In the early 1970s, Elders (owners at the time) made major renovations on the heritage building and turned it into the entertainment precinct we know now, opening in 1979, at an apparent cost of $20 million. Contemplate these historical facts next time you’re lying back in Gold Class, stuffing your face with popcorn.

Jam Factory Chapel Street South Yarra

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