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

Nomada Food & Wine

Restaurant

A warm, Spanish-inflected wine bar.

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Ish

Restaurant

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

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Village People Hawker Food Hall

Restaurant

This busy restaurant mixes Laotian, Cambodian, Indian, Malay, Burmese and Thai flavours without cutting any corners.

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Poodle Bar & Bistro

Restaurant

This double-decker spot is full of cosy nooks. Sink into a leather banquette or one of the gold velvet couches and order zhooshed-up hotel classics (thinly sliced beetroot-dill cured trout, pan-roasted chicken topped with truffle) from a former Cumulus Inc and Marion chef.

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Gogyo

Restaurant

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

Rice Queen

Restaurant

After a redesign, a bigger menu and a karaoke room, Rice Queen is amping up Fitzroy.

Cafes

Archie’s All Day

Cafe

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

Rustica

Cafe

Everything is house-made at this Brunswick Street bakery and cafe.

Napier Quarter

Cafe

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

Calere

Cafe

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

Grub Fitzroy

Cafe

An indoor fish pond and full glass roof make this one of Melbourne's quirkiest venues.

Sonido

Cafe

A kitsch and colourful Venezuelan cafe.

Bars

Marion

Bar

A place for serious grape lovers.

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Builders Arms Hotel

Bar

Under the stewardship of star chef Andrew McConnell, this classic old boozer feels as vital as ever.

The Rochester Hotel

Bar

A pub from the couple behind Vic Bar, The Aviary and Dr Morse.

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Black Pearl

Bar

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.

The Everleigh

Bar

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.

Bonny

Bar

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

Shops

Smith & Deli

Shop

Almost everything at this vegan deli is made in-house, from charcuterie and fresh buffalo mozzarella to take-home lasagnas and crème brulee doughnuts.

Morning Market

Shop

The Covid-19 pop-up Marion Grocer has found a permanent home. Enter for a very impressive salad sanga, $6 Baker Bleu pizza squares, and fancy picnic hampers. Plus, shop for topnotch pantry staples, fruit and veg, tomato seedlings, fresh blooms and more.

Meatsmith Fitzroy

Shop

Andrew McConnell’s fancy butchery.

American Vintage

Shop

Your one-stop shop for the best rare vintage straight from the US.

Hunter Gatherer

Shop

Most of the hunting has been done for you at this vintage and second-hand clothing boutique.

Plane

Shop

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