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

Ollie’s Pizza Parlour

Restaurant

Pizzas that fall somewhere between Neapolitan and New York-style. Pull up for spicy, garlicky clam pies (with chowder-like cream); zhooshed-up Hawaiians; cheesy, anchovy-topped savoury doughnuts; boozy gelati; and natural wine.

Los Hermanos Mexican Taqueria

Restaurant

Half restaurant, half bar and always a party. Owner Bruno Carreto was born in Mexico and did a stint in a taqueria there before opening Los Hermanos. As you'd expect, the tacos and gorditas are the real deal. Don't forget to choose a tequila or mezcal from the blackboard.

Book a Table

Bar Texaco

Restaurant

A former McConnell chef is behind this intimate bar serving Texas-style brisket, pork belly, jalapeño kransky and four types of taco. There’s also a tidy selection of tequila, mezcal and bourbon.

Juanita Peaches

Restaurant

Some of the best fried chicken in town.

GoodDays

Restaurant

Vegan-friendly Vietnamese. Yes, it exists.

Beatbox Kitchen Brunswick

Restaurant

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

Cafes

Ona Coffee

Cafe

This Canberra-based coffee roaster has made a real name for itself on the east coast. Visit this outpost and you’ll understand why. At any time, there are at least 20 outstanding coffees listed on its “freezer menu”.

Thanks Coffee and Sangas

Cafe

A cheery ’90s-inspired cafe selling – you guessed it – coffee and sangas.

Wide Open Road

Cafe

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.

Code Black Coffee Brunswick

Cafe

This cafe and roasting house is one of Melbourne's most established brunch spots. But even after all these years, it's still at the very front of the pack. Dishes are still delicious and creative, the coffee's still great and the space is still slick.

Theodore's

Cafe

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

A1 Bakery

Cafe

An affordable Middle-Eastern bakery, cafe and grocer.

Bars

Howlerwood

Bar

This pop-up Palm Springs-inspired bar, attached to live-music venue Howler, will be around until mid-2021, slinging boozy slushies and woodfired pizzas.

The Cornish Arms

Bar

This pub is renowned for two reasons. One: it's got one of the most vegan-friendly menus in Melbourne – meaning meat-eaters and herbivores alike can enjoy whatever pub classic they feel like. Two: its sunny and expansive rooftop bar is surely one of the best in Brunswick. With its great view of the skyline, it definitely has the best view.

Cult of the Vine

Bar

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

Welcome to Brunswick

Bar

Here you’ll find 4 Pines beer brewed specially for the space, an ever-rotating selection of burgers, tacos, Philly cheesesteaks, and woodfired pizza. And it’s dog friendly, too.

Joey Smalls

Bar

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

Amelia Shaw

Bar

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

Shops

Billy Van Creamy Brunswick

Shop

Classic flavours made with the highest-quality ingredients possible are the draw at this ice-creamery. Pop in for scoops of house-made honeycomb, mint and milk chocolate, and more. Plus: milkshakes, sundaes, ice-cream sandwiches and good coffee.

Hope Street Space

Shop

Find gifts for loved ones, knick knacks for your home, or fun vintage collectables at this delightful Brunswick bazaar.

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

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.

Dejour Jeans

Shop

The best-fitting jeans you’ll ever own.

Mr Kitly

Shop

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