For a suburb so close to the city, North Melbourne is deceptively suburban. It’s spacious, tight-knit and much less developed than other pockets of the inner city. At most times of day finding a park on its wide streets is no hassle.

The broad, wedge-shaped area is bordered by Royal Park in the north and Queen Victoria Market in the south. At the height of Melbourne’s boom in the 1880s, it was the most densely populated part of the city, filled with blue-collar workers who favoured its ease-of-access to the factories in the city and out west.

Although the population has changed markedly since then, those early residents left their architectural footprints on the area. Closer to Parkville, stately Victorian and Edwardian-era terrace houses line the main streets. Approaching the city you’ll find intact weatherboard workers’ cottages, or simple stone constructions.

The proximity of the main strip, Errol Street, to the Queen Victoria Market has stymied the growth of food-retail in the suburb. Luckily, that’s translated to an upsurge in dining options in the area. And because only 40 per cent of North Melbourne’s population was born in Australia, those options are broad. Excellent Italian, Mexican and Vietnamese restaurants are all in close range of one another.

Restaurants

  • Sosta’s owners show their Italian roots through house-made pastas, elegant mains and Italian wines. But they nod to their new home through native ingredients – which might show up in kangaroo carpaccio or Spanner Crab linguini.

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  • At this 1857-built art deco pub, enjoy a meal cooked on the hotel’s parilla grill and English-style ales served from hand pumps. Plus, stunning Sunday roasts and a record player spinning Dolly Parton and the Beatles.

  • This intimate wine bar and diner is helping to put Mauritian food on Melbourne’s culinary map. Try quintessential Mauritian dishes (which go hard on okra, pickled produce and seafood) with curated natural wines.

  • The Fitzroy North institution is now open in North Melbourne. Find many of the classics including the cult chickpea bake, and the ever-changing share banquet – which takes inspiration from owner Assafiri’s Moroccan, Lebanese and Turkish heritage.

  • A quaint Vietnamese eatery where pho is the hot ticket.

  • A relaxed, wallet-friendly pizzeria.

Cafes

  • A light and bright cafe serving stacked breakfast buns with pillowy omelette and cheese, and Swedish-style cinnamon buns. Plus, Seven Seeds coffee, key-lime-pie shakes and natural wines.

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  • A bean-to-cup hot chocolate experience.

  • This is one of the few spots in Melbourne that blends traditional French baguettes with bold Korean flavours. You might find jambon-beurre sandwiches alongside a beef bulgolgi-inspired cheesesteak.

  • In the site once home to one of Melbourne’s best-loved cake shops, you’ll find knafeh, “Melburnian cheesecake”, Nutella cookies and pizza made with 96-hour slow-fermented dough.

  • At this Japanese cafe, almost everything revolves around fluffy-house baked shokupan (which you can get to take away). You'll also find fried-chicken katsu sandos, teriyaki fries and airy sponge cake.

  • Market Lane sets up in the bustling Dairy Hall at Queen Vic.

  • This buzzing, industrial-chic spot is one of the area's most popular spots for brunch, for good reason. The coffee's great and the dishes – which aren't as revolutionary as they were when Auction Rooms first opened – are well-executed.

  • Gentle pace, cosy atmosphere and quality staples.

  • Home to some of Melbourne’s most creative breakfasts.

  • Like stepping into Grandma's kitchen, complete with 1970s courtyard.

  • The main-event Code Black site is in North Melbourne.

Bars

  • Locals are treated like royalty (and remembered by name) at this fuss-free spot. Devotees return for perfected pub classics in the undercover beer garden. And it dips a toe into Americana with fried chicken and chilli fries.

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  • Set opposite Queen Vic Market, this classic pub makes the most of its access to local produce. Come for house pasta and steaks from the grill, and check out the basement whisky bar. Or spend the night in its “micro hotel rooms”.

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  • If Keith Richards were a pub, the Townie would be it: weathered by years of partying, yet somehow still as good as ever. It’s open till late, which means there’s a high chance of catching some live music and a late-night pint.

  • An eclectic, ’70s-inspired wine bar by the team behind La Cave, Melbourne’s only wine shop in a car park ticket booth. Nab the rotating tiger-print bed inside and enjoy lo-fi drops from boutique wineries with simple snacks.

  • A Victoria Street classic, with decades of lived-in, kitschy charm.

  • Take one look behind the bar and you’ll see these guys don’t mess around with cocktails.

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Shops

  • A destination for pre-loved designer bags – from Vivienne Westwood to Prada and Fendi. The impressive range is hand-picked at auctions across Australia, Asia and the UK. Plus, there’s plenty of designer clothes, accessories and shoes that are equally hard to resist.

  • Two French bakers are making classic sourdough, fruit loaves and three-ingredient baguettes and getting creative with banana-split croissants and blood-orange doughnuts in an airy, mint-green space.

  • For decades, members of Melbourne’s Polish community have come to this tiny shop in Queen Victoria Market for traditional sausages, smoked pork loin and handmade pierogi.

  • Caffeinate while updating your cycle kit at this bike hub and cafe in a converted warehouse.

  • Try and buy aged, fermented Chinese tea direct from Yunnan.

  • Metal and classic rock since 1992.