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

Riso

Restaurant

This all-day diner and wine bar is from an ex-Vue De Monde chef known for his sell out vegetarian pop-up dinners. Come for an a la carte menu that changes daily (pastas are the star of the show) and a wine list curated by an ex-L'Hôtel Gitan and Movida sommelier.

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Afghan Gallery

Restaurant

This Brunswick Street institution is one of Australia’s oldest Afghan restaurants. Adored by homesick Afghanis and BYO-loving uni students alike, the veggo- and vegan-friendly spot is one of Fitzroy’s most unique dining experiences.

Belles Hot Chicken Fitzroy

Restaurant

The Colonel’s got nothing on this fiery Nashville-style fried-chicken joint.

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Gaea

Restaurant

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 could find anything from cured wallaby to brined and charred dandelion flowers served with a pumpkin puree made from fermented pumpkin juice.

Bontempo

Restaurant

From the team behind Fratellino Pizza in South Yarra.

Evie’s Disco Diner

Restaurant

It’s an ’80s referencing, more than 50 per cent vegan American diner with a dance floor.

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Cafes

Moon Cruller

Cafe

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.

Archie’s All Day

Cafe

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

Sonido

Cafe

A kitsch and colourful Venezuelan cafe.

Calere

Cafe

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

Napier Quarter

Cafe

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

Gabriel

Cafe

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

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Bars

Mono-XO

Bar

Submerged in a warm white glow, this 22 seat Japanese-influenced diner and natural wine bar serves small shareable plates and a host of natural wines by the bottle and glass.

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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.

Near & Far

Bar

150-plus craft beers in a laid back atmosphere with a “no pretension” rule and food delivered from your favourite local spots.

The Rooftop Bar

Bar

This rooftop bar above Ichi Ni Nana and Cappo Sociale is the perfect place to start an evening in Fitzroy, perched as it is at the top of Brunswick Street. Come here Asian-inspired cocktails or some good value wines.

Marquis of Lorne

Bar

This classic pub – which has stood on its corner for over 150 years – is one of Melbourne's best. The three-level hotel is the ideal place for a good feed or a knock-off pint in the sun, whether you're downstairs in the front bar, upstairs in the dining room, or soaking in rays on the rooftop.

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Little Hop

Bar

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.

Shops

Meatsmith Fitzroy

Shop

Andrew McConnell’s fancy butchery.

Fatto a Mano

Shop

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.

Gelato Messina

Shop

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.

Smith & Deli

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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.

American Vintage

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