I need to nap. Though I rarely actually fall asleep, without a meditative 20 minutes of simulated rest during the day, I’m nowhere near my best. In the past I lived in Tokyo, a napper’s paradise, and worked in an office with a reclining massage chair in one break room and a camp bed in another. They were places to get away from it all, shut the door, close my eyes, recharge. It was nappin’ wonderful.
Melbourne is a different story. I’m sure there are many lovely exceptions, but it’s my experience that break rooms in this city don’t pass muster, nap-wise. Too many odious tuna salads, noisy coffee machines and jarring fluorescent overhead lights. So I’ve had to resort to guerrilla tactics to find my optimal nap space in this town.
And I’ve found that, with a little compromise, you can find a decent public space for a snooze. You just have to know what to look for.
The first thing is atmosphere. It counts for a lot. The upper-level bridge connecting Melbourne Central and Emporium demonstrates this well. Despite hundreds of people moving through it every day, it’s bright, comfortable and highly relaxing. It’s a brilliant nap spot, filled with deep, ergonomic, outdoor-type metal chairs overlooking Lonsdale Street, which peacefully ticks away below. Arched windows let in plenty of natural sunlight.
But atmosphere alone isn’t everything. Online, I saw one person advise, “jump on the free City Circle tram”. I agree, but only partially. Atmospherically it’s a banger – nice light, a bit of local history. But otherwise, a rattling, dinging machine that’s constantly stopping abruptly is less than soporific.
While atmosphere counts for a lot, so does serenity. The Library at The Dock, in the Docklands, is a happy medium. It’s a lot like the suburb itself: richly furnished but sparsely populated. Which, for our purpose, is a good thing. The second-floor’s north-facing corner is a wonderful place to catch a nap, with calm views of the boats along Victoria Harbour against a city skyline backdrop. The Scandinavian-look chairs are comfortable, and you’ll usually only have to compete with the odd student or boat-gazing space cadet to get a seat. Highly serene.
But, looking at the boats and glistening waters of the Docklands d’Azur, I’m sometimes tempted to take my nap outside, weather permitting. Which leads to my third nap criterion: versatility. Sure, parks are preferred during the nicer months. But what about the rest of the year?
I finally came around to Federation Square when I discovered that it has two specifically designated nap spaces. The first – an outdoor option – is at the end of the square, near the stairs leading into the Ian Potter centre. Here you’ll find a dozen or so floppy fabric deck chairs, well positioned either under or away from the sun. It’s a nice and surprisingly tranquil reverie from the fevered CBD, metres away.
And the beauty is that when the weather turns pear, you can head inside the atrium to The Nook, “a place to rest your feet and read a book” as it advertises. While the book selection leaves a lot to be desired, it is a cosy space, designed like a 1960s living room with comfortable padded sofas, kitsch wallpaper, paintings of boats, etc. (All it’s missing is a drunk uncle, swaddled in knitwear and downing a glass of tawny port.) The main downside of The Nook is its size. It only fits about five people. But then, when it comes to guerrilla naps there is one final, all-important lesson. You can’t have it all.
This story originally appeared in Melbourne print issue 26.