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

Ish

Restaurant

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

Village People Hawker Food Hall

Restaurant

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

Book a Table

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.

Book a Table

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.

Vegie Bar

Restaurant

Melbourne's mecca for vegetarian and vegan food.

Cafes

Grub Fitzroy

Cafe

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

Archie’s All Day

Cafe

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

Sonido

Cafe

A kitsch and colourful Venezuelan cafe.

Gabriel

Cafe

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

Mile End Bagels

Cafe

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

Napier Quarter

Cafe

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

Bars

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.

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.

Milney's

Bar

A lush courtyard-diner from a seasoned hospo crew.

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.

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.

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.

Aesop

Shop

High-quality botanical skin, hair and body products.