Quiet Cafes in Melbourne CBD. Where are they?
Quiet cafes in Melbourne CBD are difficult to find. The main problem I have with many cafes in Melbourne is the propensity to play loud music like nightclubs. I want to have a coffee and write a story. I need silence, or at the very least low ambient music without human singing. Humans are programmed to always be distracted by a human voice, and decades of struggling against this conditioning has had me simply giving up and spending countless weeks searching for cafes that don’t have music.
Quiet Cafes for Writing
What I’ve found in my search, unfortunately, is that the cafes without music are invariably empty, don’t open weekends, and don’t open late. Obviously, making money is an important part of running one, and music is necessary. So finding a quiet cafe for writing at the time you actually want to write is difficult too.
Quiet Cafes for Business Meetings
I’ve also noticed that cafes generally don’t want you to stay longer than an hour and would prefer a change over of customers at your table within thirty minutes. Generally, I have always known this from my experience in cafes in Sydney, and so I’m mindful to see how quickly people leave their tables, how crowded the cafe is and how many people may be needing the seat I’m in. If it’s empty for hours, I’ll stay. If it is full of people, well, I won’t be there long for the sake of the business, and also it would probably be too noisy anyway. Of course, if I’m focused on a business meeting, job interview, or some other situation where it is important to remain calm, aware and in deep concentration, a noisy cafe is not going to help.
Quiet Cafes for Freelancers
One of the other things I do, conscious to help businesses, is I will choose a table with a window that can not only let me look out onto the road and do some people watching while looking for inspiration, but also one in which I can show potential customers that the cafe is open. I am usually in a cafe sometime between 7am and 10am and at this time many cafes are closed, so for potential customers looking for a cafe and tired of looking to see whether the sign says closed or open, my obvious display will attract more customers for the business. As many freelancers are up at the crack of dawn ready to write, being able to see others writing would let them know that that cafe could be a place to get work done.
(Always choose a window seat if you can, if it is suitable for you. People subconsciously choose places with more people.)
Quiet Cafes for Bloggers
As there are at least 300 cafes in the Melbourne CBD, I have barely scratched the surface, though what I’ve found is that I will walk into a cafe at 7.30am, get settled and happy because there is no music, and then hear someone say ‘oh, we haven’t turned the music on’ and then need to leave quickly. Or I start queueing at a cafe with a lull in the music, and then need to leave the queue when the screaming 80s music starts. I see many with laptops in cafes and I can only assume they’re all writers or bloggers, struggling to focus on crafting a particularly poignant piece of prose while heavy metal is blasting in the background. I doubt some bloggers would give these noisy cafes repeat business.
And then there are those cafes that play a radio station with incredibly painful repetitive ads or news and traffic reports. Most cafes playing a radio station that I’ve been in have remained empty, or at the very least had customers staying less than 15 minutes. Really, the music license isn’t that expensive. If you must play something, please play something other than a radio station!
So, while I might have only visited fifty cafes so far, I’ve walked into and out of at least a hundred, doing my best to avoid the noise.
Quiet Cafes with Comfortable Seats
On the theme of cafes wanting you out quickly, many have backless seats. If you want to lean back, put your hands behind your head, and take another look at your writing, a backless chair will have you falling over. (Thankfully, I haven’t done this, yet!) So, if I do eventually find a cafe with low music, invariably the chairs are either backless, or the back is at 45 degrees, making it impossible to be comfortable for more than an hour.
Hard chairs are the norm. You wouldn’t want to spend more than half an hour sitting on that hard chair, would you?
So, if you want to spend time in cafes in Melbourne and actually write fiction (which requires a trance state so that you can channel your characters, if you’re really serious) then you need the following:
1. Earplugs (unless the music is really loud, then they don’t work)
2. Headphones (you might need to play some white noise or some isotonic binaural theta beats to drown out what you can)
3. A cushion (for hard seats)
and make sure that you’ve found a place that have seats with a back.
Other things you can look for (especially if you’re looking to set up a cafe!)
1. A dividing wall away from the screaming sound of the coffee machine, and the staff members loudly sorting and dropping metal cutlery into plastic containers.
2. A seat that has a wall behind you so you can focus, without having the irrational fear pop up that your draft might be read by someone walking behind you
3. An electric power point (so you can work longer!)
4. Free wifi (so you can check for your agent’s messages)
5. A public toilet nearby (many cafes in Melbourne don’t have one)
6. Carpet, mats or rough wood to absorb sound
7. Wooden chairs, rather than plastic and metal, to reduce the sound of loud scraping on the floor
8. Tables not covered in menus, utensils and napkins to indicate that even though its a cafe, they really want you to spend money on food
The Perfect Quiet Cafe in Melbourne CBD
Unfortunately, I have yet to find such a place in Melbourne. I’ve of course made this kind of area in my studio apartment, but the attraction about cafes is being part of the city life, part of the amazing culture of Melbourne, seeing the interesting people, interacting, getting different perceptions, points of view, inspiration.
And, of course, the amazing coffee.
However, if you just want to socialise with friends, then all bets are off. Most Melbourne cafes are ideal for that.
Some quiet(er) cafes I’ve found in Melbourne outside peak times (still with noise, but at lower volumes):
Quiet Cafes in Melbourne CBD
- Dymocks Cafe 234 Collins Street
- Cafe Giraffe 302 Lt Lonsdale Street
- Hudson’s Coffee 201 Spring Street
- Chocolate Arcade (inside Capital Arcade) 109 Swanston Street
- Breadkingdom (Deki) 2/346 Lonsdale Street
- Druid’s Cafe 409 Swanston Street
- International Cakes 185 Lonsdale Street
If you know of any cafes in Melbourne that are strictly music-free, please let me know. I’d even prefer rainforest sounds or dolphin and whale songs instead if there was a cafe offering that!
If you’d like to read some of my science fiction stories, please visit Alien Dimensions to find out more