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.


  • A homey Sri Lankan buffet where $25 gets you meat and veggie curries, rice, sambol and more.

  • A kitschy, maximalist diner with Franco Cozzo furniture and truly original pizzas. Thin-crust numbers feature creative combos like smoked ham and caramelised pineapple. Plus, share-friendly wines and fun cocktails.

  • 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.

  • A moody, minimal-waste ramen diner with an evolving menu informed by the seasons. The one constant? Thin, wheat-based noodles, aged overnight for the perfect consistency. Come for the ramen, stay for Japanese-accented spins on classic cocktails.

  • Shuki Rosenboim and Louisa Allan opened this spot in 2016 on a strip packed with other options. Its secret to standing out? The chickpeas: Allan’s dad grows them in the Mallee. Here, they’re ground daily and fried to make crispy golden falafel for pitas and platters.

  • From the eco-conscious team behind Small Print Pizza comes this vegan-friendly pizza bar. The menu has plenty of plant-based swaps (including for pepperoni and feta) alongside meat-topped classics. Plus, there are beers from nearby breweries and a “cheeky” selection of Australian rums.

    Book a Table


  • Even though it opened back in 2009, this cafe and roastery is still one of the most popular cafes in Brunswick. The interiors are spacious, with comfortable chairs and cosy booths. And the food is adventurous, but it won't veer too far away from anyone's comfort zones. The coffee is, predictably, excellent.

  • Carlton’s Ima Project Cafe – the city’s standard-bearer for Japanese breakfast – is now a day-to-night cafe and izakaya, serving dishes like kingfish chirashi and shokupan slathered in mentaiko (cod roe).

  • Find all the handheld brekkie classics from the Fitzroy original – including a cheesy stacks-on of hash brown, gooey fried egg and bacon. And if you’re after a hangover cure, add on a Korean pear juice.

  • Come for pour-over coffee from 10 different Japanese roasters and espresso from local suppliers. Pair your brew with yuzu cheesecake, emoji-perfect chiffon cake and prawn katsu sandos.

  • Order up at Walrus, a low-key spot inspired by America’s west coast diner scene. It boasts a menu of pancake stacks with whipped butter, crisp US-style bacon, pecan pie by the slice and more in a lo-fi, *Twin Peaks*-style fit-out.

  • The couple behind this bakery lived in Copenhagen for three years, and wanted to bring their love for Danish bread culture to Melbourne. Visit for sticky-sweet cardamom buns and an artisanal loaf as large as a cushion – served with a hearty helping of hygge.


  • This corner pub is from some of the crew that revamped the Royal Oak Hotel and The Marquis of Lorne. Visit for a retro menu filled with fun takes on pub staples – plus an outdoor bar with a retractable roof.

  • A petite, dimly lit wine bar serving classic French bistro fare, like sweet and savoury tartes tatin, crème brûlée and coq au vin with a twist.

  • This live music bar spot feels a bit like a house party. See a gig in the bandroom, drink in the all-weather beer garden, or hide out in its quiet front bar for classic cocktails. It even has a 3am license, so there’s no mass exodus when the show ends.

  • A simple backstreet boozer that harks back to the pubs of old.

  • Here you’ll find 4 Pines beer brewed specially for the space, as well as food trucks with an ever-rotating selection of burgers, bao, and woodfired pizza. And it’s dog friendly, too.

    Book a Table
  • Hop-forward IPAs are the main game at this soaring warehouse brewery, but sours, saisons and dark beers are also on frequent rotation. Pair with a charcuterie box or pizza and you’re all set.


  • This second-hand consignment store has been on the scene since 2015 and now has counterparts in Collingwood and Prahran. Still, this original location remains the flagship and brims with vintage designer labels as well as other quality garments and accessories. Up to 1000 new pieces arrive each week.

  • Walk into a sea of colour, pattern and texture at Mutual Muse, a playful consignment store selling age- and size-inclusive clothes, shoes and accessories. Find pieces from Alpha60 and Lee Mathews right through to Marimekko, Ganni and Marni. Bags of your (high-quality) clothes are also welcome for resale here.

  • 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. And just like any good gelato shop worth its scoops, it's all prepared from scratch and churned daily.

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

  • This farm-to-freezer ice-creamery has a pastry chef behind the counter who’s done time in a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants. Inventive seasonal flavours are added weekly, so there’s always something new to try.

  • The best-fitting jeans you’ll ever own.