Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Melbourne icon-chevron-right A local's guide to Collingwood
Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne
Photograph: Josie Withers

A local's guide to Collingwood

Explore all the cafés, bars, shops and attractions to be found in the hip inner north suburb of Collingwood

By Jo Stewart
Advertising

During isolation...

A lot of the great businesses in Collingwood can't trade as normal at the moment, so be sure you support them however you can. Many offer takeaway or have online shops, and you can help them survive the strange times we are living in.

The stomping ground of street gangs in the 1800s, Collingwood has a long, proud, chequered history of giving the middle finger to authority. A stroll around the neighbourhood reveals a hotchpotch of architectural styles that reflect the evolution of the inner-city suburb. There are renovated workers cottages, student share houses, rundown industrial warehouses, modern apartment buildings and public housing towers adorned with murals painted by artist Matt Adnate. Collingwood may be in a state of flux as gentrification transforms the once working-class area, but it’s still holding fast to its reputation as a suburb of scrappers who don’t give a damn. As the footy team song goes, "good old Collingwood forever." 

Jump to a section:

EAT DRINK COFFEE THINGS TO DO SHOPPING


What’s Collingwood known for?

Rowdy footy pubs, refined wine bars, vinyl record stores and Vietnamese bakeries that attract lunchtime crowds – anything and everything goes in Collingwood. While busy Smith Street is the area’s (traffic-clogged) main artery, some of Collingwood’s best finds are located down the side streets. Grungy band rooms are a stone’s throw from slick, upscale eateries. Family-owned grocers catering to the area’s significant migrant population have a place alongside long-standing Aboriginal co-operatives. By night, Collingwood pubs, gay bars and live music joints act like a magnet for Melburnians who like to kick on ‘til the early hours of the morning.

Why do the locals love it?

As general manager of PBS 106.7FM, Adrian Basso knows a thing or two about the neighbourhood that the community radio station has called home for 18 years. He believes the area’s many watering holes and live music venues make Collingwood a standout.

“Collingwood has an almighty pub culture, with one on every corner – well that’s the way it feels,” Adrian says.

How do I get to Collingwood?

Used by a revolving line-up of colourful characters, there’s never a dull moment on the 86 tram. Even the Bedroom Philosopher wrote an album dedicated to the notorious tram route (you've probably heard its most famous song, 'Northcote (So Hungover)' right?) Connecting Bundoora to the Docklands area, the 86 tram will drop you right in the thick of it on Smith Street. Confusingly, Collingwood train station is not in Collingwood, but Abbotsford. Unless you’re heading somewhere near the station, the tram is your best bet.

What’s nearby?

The ‘Great Smith Street Divide’ splits Fitzroy and Collingwood right down the middle of Smith Street. Stand on one side of the tram tracks and you’re (technically) in Fitzroy, hop over the other side and you’re in Collingwood. Abbotsford borders Collingwood to the east and leafy Clifton Hill lies to the north. Head south and you’ll hit the MCG in East Melbourne, home ground of the Collingwood Magpies.

Map of Collingwood

If you only do one thing…

Get along to an AFLW match at the historic Victoria Park Oval to show your support for women’s footy. #Gopies.

Food at Le Bon Ton
Food at Le Bon Ton
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Eat

When it comes to pizza, Lazerpig (9-11 Peel St) knocks it out of the park. Topped with portobello and shimeji mushrooms, confit garlic, and taleggio cheese, the Fun Guy is a must-order menu item at this popular pizza parlour. Home delivery is also available if you prefer to eat pizza while in your pyjamas.

Wholesome, vegetarian lunch bowls made with organic, seasonal veg is the name of the game at Friends of the Earth (312 Smith St). As a food co-op and café focussed on reducing waste, you can also stock up on bulk foods and sustainable items for the kitchen and home. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a burger joint found inside decommissioned Hitachi rail carriages perched on a rooftop is nothing more than a gimmick, but Easey’s (48 Easey St) nails all the elements required for a good night out: big, juicy burgers loaded with extras and a worthy selection of local brews on tap. 

Follow the heady smell of woodsmoke to Le Bon Ton (51 Gipps St), the home of pit-smoked meats, strong cocktails and late-night (well… early morning) eats. Inspired by USA’s Deep South, moderation isn’t something Le Bon Ton does well. Come for the brisket, stay for the absinthe.

Owner and chef Moshe Ittah brings a slice of North Africa and the Middle East to Collingwood at New Jaffa (32 Stanley St) where flavoursome favourites like falafel, fattoush and spiced Moroccan curry deliver the goods in a relaxed setting.    

Join the (physically distanced) queue at no-nonsense Vietnamese bakery N. Lee Bakery (220 Smith St) to order the highly recommended crispy pork belly banh mi. Vegetarian? The marinated tofu banh mi (hold the pate) laced with fresh chilli will hit the spot. All the old-school Aussie bakery classics are also represented here so why not pick up a cheeky jam doughnut or custard tart too?

For a dinner to remember, put your faith in chef Peter Gunn. As the culinary mastermind behind IDES (92 Smith St), Gunn runs a fine dining restaurant that doesn’t feel pretentious. Friendly service, a warm ambience and an inventive menu make IDES a top spot for diners who want adventurous fare, without the posturing. Order online from the special menu to have a unique dining experience delivered to you during lockdown.     

↑ Back to top

The Fox Hotel Clodagh Harris
The Fox Hotel Clodagh Harris
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Drink

“My favourite pubs usually align with Friday knock-off drinks and the hot chips to go with,” Adrian Basso of PBS 106.7FM explains. He goes to the Tote (67-71 Johnston St) “to watch the latest, up-and-coming bands ‘til stumps”. A live music legend in its own right, the Tote’s shabby, graffiti-covered toilets might have seen better days, but that’s a part of its roguish charm.

Adrian describes the Gem (289 Wellington St) as “a welcoming pub perfect for kickstarting any night, with great food and live acoustic acts playing country, blues and everything in between”. 

According to Adrian, the Fox (351 Wellington St) has “the obligatory good chips (and more) as well as DJs and an upstairs beer garden with a great view”. 

A Collingwood institution, the tried and true Robbie Burns Hotel (376 Smith St) is another fave of Adrian’s. 

Craft beer lovers will think they’ve died and gone to beer heaven at Beermash (306 Smith St) where you’ll find much more than bog-standard pub lagers. Stocking an incredible range of tap, canned and bottled brews from boundary-pushing breweries around the world, Beermash is all about sticky date stouts, blood orange sours and cans of cucumber Kolsch.

Feel like a big, boozy beer hall lunch? Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall (100 Gipps St) delivers the goods with burgers, pizzas, steaks and stacks of beers on tap in an industrial setting fringed with indoor ferns and creeping greenery. Bring the brewery to you by ordering a mixed pack of tinnies online.

But it’s not all about beer in Collingwood. Wine and cheese are given the hero status they deserve at Smithward (48 Smith St), a 17-seat, Euro-style wine bar famous for its all-Victorian wine list and impressive cheese selection.  

Regional Victorian producers are also championed at Bar Rosella (107 Cambridge St), a convivial dining room and bar where antipasti, pasta and more can be enjoyed with top drops from Beechworth and beyond.

Want to brush up on your wine know-how? Grab some like-minded mates and book a session at the Moon (28A Stanley St). From Champagne masterclasses to French wine 101, this classy wine bar and bottle shop hosts the best type of wine experiences (read: ones that include snacks). 

For cocktails that will make you sigh with pleasure, have fun finding the obscure entry to Above Board (Level 1/306 Smith St), a stripped-back cocktail bar located above Beer Mash. Enter through Beer Mash or slip in via the back lane for what might just be the perfect Negroni. Takeaway cocktails are an option, too.

Like your pints with a side of drag? Head to Collingwood’s LGBTQIA mainstay the Peel Hotel (46 Peel St) to drink and dance to camp classics ‘til dawn. 

↑ Back to top

Advertising
Coffee at Aunty Peg's
Coffee at Aunty Peg's
Photograph: Paul Jeffers

Coffee

Terror Twilight (13/11-13 Johnston St) makes good on its promise emblazoned on the sign out the front: "nice people, great coffee, food and cocktails." From cold brews to mushroom nootropic coffee and chai, this place has all your java needs covered. If you’re after something to eat, the kimchi quesadilla is a winner.

With an outlet in Portland, Oregon, Proud Mary (172 Oxford St) may have taken the world by storm, but its heart still beats for Collingwood. This much-loved café and roastery gets busy, so order your preferred single-origin brew online ahead of time to avoid the wait. 

Dubbed the ‘cellar door to Proud Mary’ Aunty Peg’s (200 Wellington St) offers roastery tours, free community cupping experiences and one-on-one time with baristas who are happy to share their secrets.

Co-founded by Byoung-Woo Kang (of Market Lane fame), ACOFFEE (30 Sackville St) is a minimalist café and roastery that runs roasting classes throughout the year. Stop by for a filter coffee and pastry, or sign up to learn coffee roasting basics from a highly respected, industry pro. 

Getting your morning caffeine fix at Cromwell STREAT (66 Cromwell St) will do more than get you through a day of Zoom meetings. As a social enterprise working to provide support and training for Melbourne’s at-risk youth, every coffee you buy from STREAT helps to make someone else’s life better. Drink up! 

↑ Back to top

Slow Clay Centre
Slow Clay Centre
Photograph: Supplied

Things to do

Home to many talented makers and artists, Collingwood’s workshops and studios are primed to help you unleash your creative energy on a canvas or piece of clay. 

Book a class at Cork & Chroma (36 Smith St) to paint the night away with a glass of wine in hand or learn the art of printmaking by signing up for a workshop at Jax Studio (209 Johnston St). 

Ceramics more your thing? Make like Demi Moore in Ghost and surrender to the slow, hypnotic power of the pottery wheel at a weekend intensive course run by the Slow Clay Centre (13 Keele St). 

When it comes to street art, Collingwood has been marked by everyone from local up-and-comers to international heavyweights of the arts world. Instead of heading indoors to a gallery, simply wander the graffitied streets to take in some al fresco art. 

The heritage-listed Keith Haring mural (35 Johnston St) was painted by the influential American artist back in 1984. This faded beauty is one of just 31 murals that Haring painted across the world – stop by to see what the fuss is about.

Named after local criminal identity Chopper Read, ‘Chopper Lane’ (off Perry St) is a small back alley that was once covered in graffiti portraits of the man affectionately known as ‘Uncle Chop Chop’. These days, you’ll find street art of all ilk mixed in with enduring depictions of the infamous underworld figure.

The spiritual home of the Collingwood Football Club, a lot has gone down at Victoria Park Oval (Lulie St) in the 140-plus years it’s been around. Okay, so it’s technically in Abbotsford but there’s nothing more Collingwood than a luke-warm pie at Vic Park on a rainy winter’s day. These days, the VFL and AFLW teams still play here at the weekend, so rug up and head to the grandstands like locals have done for more than a century. 

↑ Back to top

Advertising
Meatsmith butcher
Meatsmith butcher
Photograph: Harvard Wang

Shopping

Support an Australian designer by stopping by Captain Robbo (93 Johnston St). Known for making bright, colourful leggings dubbed ‘adventure pants’, Captain Robbo’s Collingwood studio shop is packed with unique, casual fashion made with locally-sourced natural inks and fabrics.

Happy Valley (294 Smith St) makes buying gifts a cinch. While most of the shelf space is dedicated to art, design and cookbooks, there’s also limited edition vinyl, hip home décor, pop culture games (Tiger King puzzle anyone?) and awesome gift cards that put Hallmark to shame. A click and collect service makes it easy to order online and pick up your goodies from the store.

Love hunting for one-of-a-kind vintage and retro finds? Lose yourself in the wonders of Vintage Garage (318 Smith St). PSA: You could easily spend hours (and hundreds of bucks) here. 

A café, grocery shop, and homewares store all in one, CIBI (33-39 Keele St) imports beautiful yet functional Japanese kitchen items like copper omelette pans and miso soup strainers. At the same address, The Plant Society has all your indoor plant and pots needs sorted. 

13 Knives (25 Easey St) proves you never know what you’ll find in the backstreets of Collingwood. US-born Bud Heyser is a third-generation blacksmith who makes hand-forged knives using time-honoured techniques. Stop by to see him in action and order a custom-made kitchen knife that will probably outlast you.

A big grocery shop won’t set you back much at Sonsa Markets (216-218 Smith St), an independent grocery store that stocks fresh fruit and veg, triple the range of spices found in big supermarket chains, and hard-to-find ingredients imported from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Make a beeline for the deli counter to get your fill of hummus, gozleme and Turkish sweets. 

Part-owned by Melbourne restaurant royalty Andrew McConnell, Meatsmith (273 Smith St) is a speciality butcher and provedore where you’ll find more obscure ingredients like bacon jam and smoked maple syrup. 

When it comes to sourcing handmade fresh pasta, Adrian of PBS 106.7FM believes that the Pasta Classica retail store (352 Smith St) “…has lasagne as good as my mum’s – don’t you dare tell her!”

↑ Back to top

Discover more of the city

Love Local
Image: Time Out

Love Local

Support your local neighbourhood with our selection of area guides around Melbourne.

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising