Northcote and Fitzroy make a strong case, but Brunswick is Melbourne’s biggest centre of alternative culture. Walk the streets and you’ll spot more tattoos, piercings, lurid hair colours and op-shop clothes (from Savers on Sydney Road, probably) than anywhere else. Every night of the week, local bands play at venues such as Howler, the Brunswick Hotel, the Retreat and the Spotted Mallard. Vegan food is plentiful and everyone seems to ride a bike.

That’s one part of it, anyway. Brunswick also has a strong multi-cultural character. Greeks and Italians have been here since the ’60s and more recently, immigrants from Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East have clustered around the north end of Sydney Road, making it one of the best places in town to eat falafel; smoke a shisha pipe; or shop for ingredients such as za’atar, rosewater and Aleppo peppers.

Neighbouring Brunswick East has much of the same character, but swaps Sydney Road for the less-hectic end of Lygon Street and its cafes, restaurants and boutiques.

Restaurants

Kevabs

Restaurant

All-vegan kebabs, halal snack packs and boreks in Brunswick. Plus, there are gluten-free options, colourful salads, dukkah-dusted chips and cardamom-spiked Turkish coffees.

Bhang

Restaurant

From the owners of Tom Phat, Bhang serves Indian street food in the north.

Beatbox Kitchen Brunswick

Restaurant

Melbourne’s original burger truck, in bricks-and-mortar form.

Sig. Enzo

Restaurant

A very cool, very Italian bar with $20 grazing Sundays and famous meatballs direct from NYC.

Los Hermanos Mexican Taqueria

Restaurant

Still hungry for more Mexican?

Miss Moses

Restaurant

It’s beer, sandwiches and 1960s Americana at this laid-back spot.

Cafes

Small Axe Deli

Cafe

From the team behind Small Axe Kitchen, this spot has a seven-metre terrazzo bar and floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with Italian cold cuts, cheeses, pickles and take-home meals such as gluten-free lasagne.

Theodore's

Cafe

Hidden away in this relaxed Brunswick warehouse space you’ll find pretzel sandwiches, hotel-buffet-inspired brunches and great coffee.

Union St Brewers

Cafe

A friendly stop for bagels and coffee next to Jewell Station.

Sweet Evelyn

Cafe

Brunswick’s sweet spot for specialised cakes and macarons.

Book a Table

Lucy Lockett

Cafe

Lucy Lockett may have lost her pocket, but Brunswick’s found an all-day gem.

Juanito's

Cafe

The new home of old Rue Bebelons' famous pastrami roll.

Bars

Joey Smalls

Bar

It’s not quite a nightclub and it’s not quite a bar. But it’s definitely good for a dance.

The Cornish Arms

Bar

A pub where vegans are VIPs.

Spitfire

Bar

The front bar to Stay Gold is more than just a waiting room. Thanks to its serious food and drinks offering, Spitfire's a destination in its own right.

Cult of the Vine

Bar

At this bottle-o you'll find a small, intensely focused selection of natural and minimal intervention wines.

Amelia Shaw

Bar

Shoot pool on a round table, sipping cocktails and admiring the Art-Deco decor between shots.

Thunder Road Brewing

Bar

Old-school philosophy. New-school quality.

Shops

Dejour Jeans

Shop

The best-fitting jeans you’ll ever own.

Bico

Shop

A father-and-son team is serving up tartufo, plus scoops of house-made salty Snickers, fior de banana and "Franjaffico" gelato. And there’s gelato-filled cannoli, too.

Ovens Street

Shop

This bread and pastry outfit supplies some of the best cafes in Melbourne. Head here if you want to go straight to the source.

Mr Kitly

Shop

Petite and hidden away, Brunswick space Mr Kitly eschews the standard retail experience.

Harper & Blohm Brunswick

Shop

Enter for oozy gourmet toasties, take-home cheesy meals and towering “cheese cakes”.

Mediterranean Wholesalers

Shop

If you want pasta shaped like bells, hats or flowers, this huge Italian supermarket is where you'll find it.