Fitzroy is Melbourne’s oldest suburb, and consequently, one that many communities feel connected to. Walk any of the main streets – Smith, Gertrude, Brunswick or Johnston – and you’ll see a suburb struggling with its identity. Tattooed 20-somethings sail by on skateboards; downsizing Baby Boomers sip coffee on the footpaths; and newly arrived African migrants walk their kids to school. Many backpackers and interstate arrivals also find their first share houses here.

In its earliest days the area was working class. Most of the small terrace houses from that era remain, alongside pubs such as the Rose, Napier, Union Club, Rainbow and Labour in Vain. The backstreets often have a quaint feel. That is, until you stumble on a massive piece from one of the many graffiti artists who paint in the area.

Zoom out and skyline is dominated by four Housing Commission towers built in the 1960s, though upscale restaurants and designer boutiques have gradually surrounded them. Right now, there really is no better place to take the pulse of Melbourne’s dining and fashion scenes.

This is a relatively new development, but the area has had a strong bohemian population since at least the ’60s. Even with gentrification and escalating property prices, second-hand shops, live music, independent galleries, artist studios and community theatre shows remain a fixture.

Restaurants

Naked In The Sky

Restaurant

This Fitzroy rooftop bar offers some of the best views of Melbourne.

Pizza Farro Fitzroy

Restaurant

Spelt pizzas and vegan cheese are menu staples at this modern pizzeria.

Ish

Restaurant

A modern Indian eatery serving curry risotto, lassi cocktails and gluten-free naan.

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Bimbo

Restaurant

It’s Bimbo, but not as we knew it. Terrazzo floors, pale pink fibreglass booths and a commanding American oak bar now dominate the space. And yes, the $4 pizzas are still the stars.

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Tamura Sake Bar

Restaurant

This jazzy Fitzroy 30-seater blends Japanese izakaya, craft sake bar and record store.

Smith & Daughters

Restaurant

Ballsy vegan fare, tattooed babes and a rock‘n’roll vibe.

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Cafes

Napier Quarter

Cafe

An all-day Parisian-style diner taking you right through from morning croissants to late-night cheese.

Egglab

Cafe

A place where gooey eggs in various forms – stuffed between two slices of bread and served in three minutes – are the hero.

Cafe Louis

Cafe

Originally city stables, then an art gallery, this Moor Street site is a beautiful place for brunch.

Lune Croissanterie

Cafe

Wait-in-line-worthy pastries, cruffins and twice-baked croissants are served fresh out of the oven in this converted Fitzroy warehouse.

Archie’s All Day

Cafe

This all-day diner serves the goods any time you need.

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Addict Food and Coffee

Cafe

This friendly local punches out bold eats and a balanced cup of coffee.

Bars

The Rose

Bar

Fitzroy’s oldest and best-loved pub still has its soul after a refurb.

The Rum Diary Bar

Bar

A Brunswick Street bar wholly dedicated to rum.

Mono-XO

Bar

Submerged in a neon-lavender glow, this 22-seat cyberpunk grotto has KISS on the stereo, highball cocktails from one of Melbourne’s best, and charcoal-grilled skewers from a chef who’s spent time at Momofuku Seiobo and The Town Mouse.

Marquis of Lorne

Bar

A classic pub in Fitzroy for a good feed and a knock-off pint in the sun.

The Lame Duck

Bar

Phil Collins Singalongs at a ’70s-inspired disco dive bar

Amarillo

Bar

Pairs a mid-century European fit-out with modern, effortless cool. Try toasties and coffee in the morning; and oysters and wine at night.

Shops

Aesop

Shop

High-quality botanical skin, hair and body products.

Aunt Maggie's

Shop

Harking back to an era when 'organic food' was simply called 'food'.

Wine Republic

Shop

An egalitarian bottle shop where you’ll find $2500 wines next to $10 cleanskins.

Northside Records

Shop

Satisfying Melbourne’s soul and funk cravings since 2002.

Compa

Shop

Dense, chewy, Sicilian-style gelato from the duo behind Westgarth's Il Melograno.

Thread Den

Shop

A treasure trove of handcrafted vintage-style frocks, with a sewing classes held up stairs.