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

  • This restaurant, which started as a pop-up in Sydney, serves Nigerian staples in the inner north. It's cooking plantains, “puff puff” doughnuts and goat stew – and supporting creatives and Black-owned business along the way.

  • Cowboy boots line the wall and Latin music plays over the speakers at this laidback Mexican spot. Order the signature is pozole, a hearty hominy-based Mexican soup that’s hard to find in Melbourne.

  • This double-decker haunt is full of cosy nooks. Sink into a leather banquette or gold velvet couch and order zhooshed-up hotel classics (vol-au-vents or charcoal-grilled steaks) from a former Cumulus Inc and Marion chef.

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  • Gaea is a degustation-only restaurant with room for just 16 guests. There's an intense focus on local ingredients, expressed through eccentric riffs on classic European techniques. You might find anything from cured wallaby to brined and charred dandelion flowers served with a pumpkin puree made from fermented pumpkin juice.

  • The flagship of celebrated chef Andrew McConnell’s restaurant empire is a lesson in refined elegance. From the leather booths to the chic front bar, it’s a perfect spot for a special occasion. Experience McConnell’s renowned fine-dining experience with the degustation.

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  • This is one of Melbourne’s most underrated pubs, where veteran chef Sean Donovan blends French techniques with Aussie barbeque. The historic hotel has a casual front bar, two dining rooms and an untouched wine cellar.

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  • The permanent home of popular Italian sandwich pop-up, Rocco’s – with the addition of big bowls of pasta, house-made Italian liqueurs and a vibe reminiscent of an Italian nonna's house.

  • Chances are you haven’t had these in Melbourne. Deep End’s owner studied in the US and brought its pizza back here. Choose from thin New York-style; crispy-cornered Detroit-style; and hulking Chicago deep-dish pizzas.

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  • This laid-back diner specialises in home-style south Indian food. Come for dosa stuffed with curried potatoes, caramelised pork fry and owner-chef Mischa Tropp’s fiery fish curry (best tempered with a boozy Darjeeling iced tea).

  • The relaxed diner – inspired by the intimate trattorias in Italy's northwest – specialises in cuisine and wine from Piedmont. Go for vitello tonnato, steak tartare and the region's two signature pastas. Plus, choose from an encyclopaedic leather-bound wine list of barolo, dolcetto, and more.

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  • This Brunswick Street institution is one of Australia’s oldest Afghan restaurants. Adored by locals and tourists alike, the veggo- and vegan-friendly spot is one of Fitzroy’s most essential dining experiences.

  • Pass under the glowing neon sign to find this vibrant North Indian diner. Go for crispy honey-chilli cauliflower, fig and pomegranate kofta, and Punjabi butter chicken that (importantly) isn’t sweet. Plus, find Indian-leaning cocktails levelled-up with ingredients like turmeric, mango and cardamom.

  • Find classic Japanese snacks and party-friendly cocktails at this sprawling izakaya. Across two levels, go for karaage and gyoza alongside natural wines, cocktails made with Japanese whisky and Stomping Ground rice lager on tap.

  • True to its name, this ’80s-referencing, queer-friendly, vegan-leaning American diner packs a nightclub-quality soundsystem and a mezzanine DJ booth. Drag trivia and bingo are held regularly here, alongside glitzy techno and pop parties.

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  • Transforming the perception that meat-free is mediocre since 2015. Roll into this refurbished electrical factory and feast on chickpea panisse, crispy oyster mushrooms and bahar-braised eggplant. For extra fun, add an Aperol Dill Spritz.

  • This colourful cantina-style space is full of Mexican classics, each with a meat-free twist. Go for loaded tacos – like the tofu asada with cheese, chargrilled tofu, salad, salsa and lime. Or find hefty meat-free burritos, cheesy quesadillas and crispy taquitos. Pair it all with a Margarita or Sangria jug.

  • Japanese goes vegan.

  • Traditional recipes made with topnotch ingredients make this one of the better Indian diners around. Sample ultra-thin dosa, slow-cooked biryani and all the curry favourites.

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  • From the team behind South Yarra’s Fratellino Pizza comes a northside counterpart. Thin-crust Neopolitan pizzas are served hot and oozing from the imported Valoriani pizza oven and can all be made gluten-free. Non-pizza options include pasta and chargrilled fish.

  • A schmick Mexican-style taqueria serving up tacos, hulking tortas (Mexican-style sandwiches), imported Mexican beers and house-made horchata. There are banquettes and high tables to sit at, or you can get your lunch to take away.

  • For a quick bowl of comforting, home-style broth and noodles – look no further. Start with the iconic bao before moving to the tight yet complex ramen menu. Standouts include the shoyu, tantanmen and veg miso. They all go down nicely with an ice-cold beer.

  • A modern Indian eatery with a dark, sultry interior. Here they inject dishes like dal and chicken tikka with foreign techniques and ingredients. There’s also lassi cocktails and gluten-free naan.

  • The colonel’s got nothing on this fiery Nashville-style fried chicken joint. Choose your cut, heat and condiments and let the good times roll. You’ll also find a fluid list of excellent wines from around the country.

  • Some places like to keep it simple: breakfast all day, coffee with full-cream milk and spaghetti with Napoli sauce. That’s exactly what you get at Marios. It’s as unpretentious as an Italian joint gets, with a neon-red sign that’s been buzzing day and night since 1986.

  • Uncomplicated, fuss-free and laid-back. It’s mostly about pizza here – everything from pork to porcini (plus choose from a hefty list of extras to make it your own). Roll in after work for a few local beers, or gather a group for an intimate reserved meal.

  • Not your average French bistro. Think steak frites, French onion soup and crème brûlée – but forget the waistcoated staff. The wine list covers the major French regions and follows on with whiskies and classic cocktails.

  • A bright, buzzing diner with kitsch interiors serving a creative pan-Asian menu. Dinner might include nam jim kingfish, Sichuan eggplant or pork dumplings. Pro tip: book the karaoke room out back for a night to remember (or forget).

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  • Melbourne’s enduring mecca for nourishing vegetarian fare (including vegan, gluten-free and lactose-intolerant). Enjoy the down-to-earth vibe, infectious bonhomie and broad range of dishes with an Asian influence. Stake your claim early.

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  • Gluten-free gourmands will feel at home. Spelt flour pizzas and pastas (farro means spelt in Italian) and vegan cheese are menu staples at this modern pizzeria, which caters to those with dietary intolerances. Fans always return for the house-made tiramisu.

  • Go on a journey through Andalusia with charcuterie, moreish tapas and house-made paella. The southern Spanish staple has built a loyal following over the years, and its longevity in an area of ever-changing restaurants helps to explain why.

  • There are no ovens, just fire at this flaming restaurant from two former San Telmo chefs. Naturally, the steak is stellar. But they’re also propelling carrots from sidekick to hero status.

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  • Naked In The Sky is where you bring friends from out of town. Sure, there’s always a crowd, not to mention the added uncertainty of actually getting a seat. But this place has some truly gobsmacking panoramas of the city that are absolutely worth showing off. The excellent food and drinks are just a bonus.

  • A large, colourful restaurant with a menu that touches on nearly every aspect of Japanese cuisine. Here you'll find sushi, gyoza, tempura, plus hearty bowls of ramen and don. Plus a fun drinks list that includes sakes, Japanese-influenced cocktails and craft beers from Tokyo.

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  • Three levels, two restaurants, a rooftop bar, outdoor gardens, breakfast and a 3am license - this venue wants you to have it all.

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

  • Swing by for a bowl of the signature burnt-miso ramen at lunch, or izakaya-style snacks and cocktails after dark.

  • True, authentic Malaysian flavours.

Cafes

  • Single-origin coffee and a tale of cold-blooded murder come together at this long-standing Brunswick Street Cafe.

  • This progressive cafe by a mother-son duo is in a bright yellow, plant-filled space. Come for brunch classics with Mediterranean flavours, from Jenga-like polenta stacks to family-recipe meatball subs.

  • Sweet, wood-fired, Montreal-style bagels are what sets this bakery apart from the rest of Melbourne’s bagel merchants.

  • A place where fried and scrambled eggs – stuffed inside brioche-adjacent buns and served in a jiffy – are the hero.

  • A tiny daytime coffee nook, using beans from one of Australia's best roasters.

  • A rustic Mediterranean deli and eatery in the heart of the action on Brunswick Street.

  • A kitsch and colourful Colombian cafe.

  • A Melbourne sandwich institution in a northside backstreet. You might go for a chicken schnitzel sanga with an undersized potato bun, a decadent egg-and-cheese breakfast muffin or the standout vegan sanga.

  • The floor is quite literally paved with sour-strap lollies. The flavours include grape Aeroplane Jelly, Vegemite-white choc and smoked Cherry Ripe. And you can go on a sampling spree before you commit to any one scoop.

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

  • Lune is synonymous with croissants. And world-famous ones at that. But Moon orbits around crullers – deep-fried choux pastry that’s twisty and crispy on the outside, and not at all what you’d expect on the inside.

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

  • A white, bright successor to the famed Melbourne coffee roasters old flagship site down the street. Single origins and ground-breaking brunches still reign supreme, served within a skylit warehouse splashed with greenery.

  • Daytime cocktails and an Old World feel are the hallmarks of this elegant cafe.

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  • Asian-inspired brunch on the corner of Johnston and Brunswick Streets.

  • An old furniture warehouse transformed into a polished and welcoming daytime diner.

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

  • It’s not the newest. It’s not the most obvious. But it is one of the most loved local cafes in Fitzroy.

  • A cheerful, sustainable, organic cafe in Brunswick.

  • Proving that good things come in small packages.

  • Community and coffee meet in this Fitzroy espresso bar by Dimattina.

  • A vegan sweets bar from the team behind Vegie Bar and Transformer.

  • Coffee and a minimalist menu, served from some pretty prime real estate.

  • Sourdough and croissants baked in an old recording studio.

Bars

  • This old-school bar is all about rum and champagne. Find rum from around the globe and a Daiquiri-centred cocktail list. Plus, snacks like bread, tinned fish and cheeses with Wagyu bresaola and mortadella.

  • The laidback younger sibling to Alta, a Nigella-approved wine bar. Come for a glass or two with snacks (including a full section of Italian bread) and bigger bites like pork-rib meatballs. Or choose a bottle to have here or take home.

  • Pick a bunch of shared dishes from the day’s menu on the wall. Order some wine with help from the switched-on staff. The format’s simple, but as we’ve come to expect from Andrew McConnell’s restaurants, everything is just right.

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  • A night of tapas and wines at this glowing wine bar is cheaper than a ticket to Spain. Order Iberian share plates (including plenty of seafood) and Jalapeno Margaritas, while Grace Jones plays in the background.

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  • If Johnny Cash and Nick Cave had a drink together in a Melbourne bar, it would probably be here. The menu maintains a simplicity ethos (including pizzas, parmas and burgers) alongside a succinct list of decent wines and beers.

  • While a new wave of revamped pubs adopts the retro look, this old boozer has no need. Its old paintings, retro couches and warm red walls fit the bill. But it’s the pool table and cheesy parmas that locals return for.

  • This three-level pub – which has stood for more than 150 years – is one of Melbourne’s best. It’s an ideal spot for a feed or knock-off pint, whether you’re in the front bar, upstairs in the dining room, or soaking rays on the rooftop.

  • Fitzroy’s dense with pubs, but The Standard commands one of the suburb’s fiercest followings. Rusted-on locals pack the all-weather beer garden (the owners claim it’s Melbourne’s biggest), and the front bar feels warm and lived in.

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  • Fitzroy’s oldest pub is for the old guard and the new. You’ll find footy fans gathered around the TVs on game days. When the vibe’s right, it’s like you’ve got 100 mates, 16 beer taps and better-than-usual food in your lounge room.

  • Formerly The Rochester Castle this place has never lost its party pub reputation. DJs own it on weekends, but the slick pub mains means it’s equally suited for a quiet midweek feed.

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  • Locals get misty-eyed when you mention the Napier, such is the respect for this backstreet corner pub. The menu is pure comfort, and the interior is full of pressed metal and Australiana kitsch. It’s the kind of local every suburb needs.

  • Under the stewardship of star chef Andrew McConnell, this classic bar and dining room in a heritage building feels as vital as ever. Throw back easy-drinking lagers and cocktails with a burger or the rotisserie of the day.

  • This 19th-century spot has an Italian gastropub menu and a calming atmosphere. Come for the fried pepper chicken with ranch, hand-stretched pizza and crab linguine. Stay for the imported Italian trinkets and top-tier tiramisu.

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  • The Sydney staple’s first Melbourne outpost is pouring wild ales, natural wines and sour Negronis. Come to the hybrid bottle shop and bar for beer-infused cocktails, Belgian lambics and a snack-driven menu.

  • This suave cocktail bar is consistently recognised in global polls, and for good reason. There's no drink the staff here can't make to perfection.

  • This cocktail bar's eye for detail is second to none – it even has an in-house ice company to ensure every drink gets the perfect block.

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  • Industry experts from Rockwell and Sons and Attica joined forces for this stylish drinking den. The best way to sample the changing dishes is through the set menu (don’t skip the sourdough flatbread). Plus, an extensive wine list offers everything from buzzy pét-nats to classic chardonnays.

  • One of the area’s classics – it’s loud, fun and good value. Visit during happy hour for well-priced pizzas, tapas and sangria jugs. It still serves vodka from an old Fitzroy distillery. Don’t forget to head up to the rooftop for inimitable city views.

  • Ascend three flights of stairs to reach this convivial loft, where arched windows offer views of Collingwood. The bar menu offers refined snacks, while the slightly quieter restaurant serves heartier, modern Australian dishes of market fish, oysters and meaty share plates.

  • No cocktail shakers, no ice, and everything is served in the same wineglass. With some serious technique, the team wants to broaden our ideas of what a cocktail can be.

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  • Indie craft beers are king at this unpretentious bar and bottle shop. Visit for hazy and wild brews, plus decadent French dip sangas by permanent pop-up, Jolly Good Sandwiches.

  • The best-named pub in town is focused squarely on two of Fitzroy’s biggest obsessions: live music and beer. There’s no kitchen or TV here, making it a no-frills hangout with good local tunes, lively conversation and many games of pool.

  • Perched high above Hotel Fitzroy, this timber-clad bar is the perfect place to kick off an evening on Brunswick Street. The cocktail list is classic, the wines are affordable and Ichi Ni Nana downstairs will ferry sushi and Japanese pub-style snacks to your table.

  • House, techno and a trove of Australian whiskies.

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

  • A comfortable and understated local pub with live music.

  • The first bar in Melbourne – and still the best – to ditch all international spirits in favour of a 100 per cent Australian list.

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  • A sleek, minimalist bar with craft beers, natural wines and food made to complement the booze.

  • A lush courtyard-diner from a seasoned hospo crew.

  • This taqueria is a simple kind of place, with just two beers on tap and tunes spinning away on the turntables behind the bar. Local hospitality workers like to stick their heads in for a quick chat and a taco before their shift. It’s open until late on weekends, so many return for a wind-down drink after work too.

  • An outdoor drinking spot in Fitzroy that’s more relaxed, and smaller, than its older sibling.

  • The drinks at this dive-y spot range from booze-free to “boozy AF”. Choose wisely – there’s a potent fairy floss liqueur and green Chartreuse combination on the list.

  • Like drinking at your cool grandma’s house.

  • An easygoing cocktail bar from two former nightclub bartenders. With local brewers on tap and syrups brewed in-house.

  • Seinfeld fans, this one’s for you – a bar themed entirely around George Costanza.

  • Choose from 1500 beers to take home, or drink in and match with a cheese plate

  • A whisky bar with 300-plus rare bottles, including one-off releases never to be made again.

  • This Brunswick Street institution has been mixing cocktails for two decades, and it has just as much character as you'd expect.

  • Pinball machines, table tennis, pool and bocce with decent cocktails? Believe it.

  • Take everything you think you know about tequila and shelve it.

  • A good old late night bar sporting character in spades.

  • More cocktails by The Everleigh in a dark, candlelit bar next door.

  • A historic Fitzroy pub with a modern interior.

  • Cocktails, fine liquor, obscure beer and sport aren’t obvious bedfellows, but it works here.

  • An unpretentious spot for great beer, live music and authentic Philly cheesesteaks.

  • A live music staple in the centre of Fitzroy.

  • A local’s bar for locals and visitors alike.

Shops

  • Melbourne-born label Suku makes bold and dreamy loungewear, homewares, bedding and ready-to-wear clothing that’ll elevate any room or outfit. At its flagship store, find bold patterns that look like an acid trip and buttery-soft fabrics that make it hard to leave empty-handed.

  • There’s good reason why Florence Welch, Anthony Kiedis and Eddie Vedder have visited. Around since the ’90s, it stocks quality clothes and accessories from the ’60s through to Y2K. Find Levi’s denim, vintage tees, trenches and more.

  • You'll find this tiny sandwich joint by a former Gimlet chef next door to Fitzroy craft-beer bar Near & Far. Wrap your hands around a French-dip, NY-deli or chicken sanga with a hazy Victorian beer on the side.

  • Enter this Euro-style grocer and cafe for an impressive salad sanga, Baker Bleu pizza squares and fancy picnic hampers. Plus, two-person cakes (including Marion’s Basque cheesecake), produce, seedlings, fresh blooms and more for home.

  • A high-grade sushi bar and an impressive pantry of hard-to-find Japanese groceries. Stop in for fresh sushi, sweet daifuku, noodles, pickling starter packs and more. Or pick up Japanese ceramics, konro barbeques, glassware and knives for your own kitchen.

  • Since 1992, this family-run Lebanese bakery has served up affordable Lebanese pies, pizzas and falafel platters in Brunswick. At its city-side outpost (which is mostly takeaway) go for spinach triangles, haloumi pies and chicken pita wraps, alongside flakey baklava and hot coffee.

  • Set on one of Melbourne’s most iconic strips for second-hand shopping, American Vintage is a one-stop shop for rare vintage straight from the US. Expect to find reams of original tour T-shirts, vintage workers or Harley Davidson jackets, cowboy boots and much more.

  • OTC has been a mainstay on Melbourne’s premier vintage shopping strip since the early ’90s. Expect to find mostly ’80s and ’90s pieces spanning denim, branded sportswear, blouses, windbreakers, boiler suits, cowboy boots and more. Its underground CBD store also warrants a visit.

  • A vintage clothing and furniture mecca in the heart of Fitzroy. Expect killer pre-loved clothes from the ’60s through to Y2K-era, alongside mid-century furniture, records, bric-a-brac, and more.

  • Most of the hunting has been done for you at this vintage and second-hand clothing boutique, which is organised by dedicated volunteers from the Brotherhood of St Laurence. The racks are tight with pre-loved clothes (both vintage and contemporary), accessories, shoes, homewares and plenty of knick-knacks.

  • It’s a full-blown dessert destination. As well as experimental, exclusive (and excellent) new gelato flavours, there’s a dedicated chocolate room, a pasticceria offering, nostalgic gelato cakes and a rooftop honey operation.

  • A veritable treasure trove of delightful products.

  • The place for mid-century Scandinavian design in Melbourne.

  • Melbourne’s very own outdoor furniture and homewares brand, keeping our homes stylish on the outside.

  • Hand-made beautifully simple, yet deceptively intricate porcelain homewares.

  • A clubhouse of hand-crafted, luxury menswear.

  • Andrew McConnell’s fancy butchery.

  • This organic bakery is a northside institution, that's especially beloved amongst Fitzroy workers for its lunch options. There are a range of classic bakery sandwiches and big, fat slices of pizza to choose from. There's also a regularly changing line-up of pies with traditional fillings to order, too.

  • High-quality botanical skin, hair and body products.

  • Sydney's favourite gelato chain is just as popular in Melbourne. Sometimes going for an ice-cream here – with the big crowds, cool staff and house music blaring – feels more like waiting in line at nightclub. It would almost be frustrating, if the gelato here weren't so good.

  • A clever play on the everyday "plain" clothes we all need.

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

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

  • Satisfying Melbourne’s soul and funk cravings since 2002.

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

  • A much-loved ceramics shop offering locally made wares and workshops.

  • This Melbourne fashion label's store has exposed brick, plenty of natural light and is filled with minimalist, carefully considered and sustainable pieces.

  • A place you won’t forget, and not just because of its catchy name.

  • A destination for hard-to-find European and US menswear labels, and custom-made pieces.

  • A psychedelic boutique filled with Georgia Perry’s colour-happy accessories and favourite objects.

  • Honest, heritage workwear keeping the lights on for a vanishing industry.

  • Held every Saturday, this is a prime spot to pick up fresh produce for the week ahead.

  • Asuza is not just a clothing line.

  • Craft and DIY focused ... but not exclusively for to nannas and crafters.

  • Two ancient grains, one awesome store.

  • An extensive collection of vintage spectacles.

  • Double Monk shelters some of the world’s most famous men’s shoes.

  • Quality hats for the elegant modern gentleman.

  • Three of our favourite denim labels – NEUW, Rolla’s and Abrand – come together for the love of jeans.

  • The first store of the high-quality, local label.

  • A treasure trove of high-end European fashion.

  • The easiest place to fill your wardrobe with high-quality basics.

  • Hundreds of varieties of beer, wine and cider.

  • Understated basics that won’t clean out your account.

  • Find over 1000 brand-new records at this labour of love.

  • Clothing for every occasion and every type of shopper.

  • Hardy indoor plants that anyone can keep alive.

  • Authentic Hispanic ingredients and smallgoods since 1975.

  • The popular Sydney store brings its curated, understated style to Gertrude Street.

  • Nearly 10,000 records await jazz, hip-hop, Afro and soul fans.

  • Contemporary casualwear for every day.

  • High-quality turntable-based sound systems and records to play on them.

  • Hand-stitched Australian leather products made to last a lifetime.

  • You’ll need to make good use of the rolling ladder in this music library.