Melbourne’s alternative side is full force in Fitzroy, the inner-city mecca for all things cool and kooky. Wander along Brunswick Street, Fitzroy’s main drag, for tonnes of vintage clothing stores and second-hand bookshops. Take your pick from an array of cafés and restaurants or stop into The Everleigh for some of Melbourne's finest cocktails. Just minutes north of the CBD on the 112 or 86 tram, you can get to know the artsy heart of Melbourne.
Best things to do in Fitzroy
The Everleigh has the look of a 1920s speakeasy and is a proper American-style cocktail bar, run with an Aussie sensibility, which means you’re getting some of the best drinks in the country, without the side of attitude that you get on Eldridge Street. Plus, it was our Bar of the Year for 2019 so you know you're in good hands.
Melbourne, meet your new favourite snacking spot, where a seafood-centric bar menu offers breaded abalone with tonkatsu sauce sandwiched in the kind of high-GI white bread your doctor warned you about. There are oysters so screamingly fresh you wonder if the rest of the Melbourne restaurant world is being dudded, and Padron peppers flashed in sherry vinegar play their sinister game of Russian roulette.
This large graphic mural, which declares "Welcome to Sunny Fitzroy", sits on the side of the long-standing live music venue The Night Cat. It was painted back in 2009 by Melbourne street art crew Everfresh, and can be found on the corner of Johnston and Young Streets in Fitzroy.
Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry. Come early if you want to nab a twice-cooked almond croissant or the lemon curd cruffins, piped to the gills with a tart curd and sprinkled with citrus sugar.
There are four escape rooms at Mystery Rooms: the Footsteps of the Pharaohs, the Ned Kelly Experience, Secrets of Camelot and A Grimm Finale, which can only be played once you've completed the other three. Get ready to truly challenge yourself here.
The vibe is electric in this darkly red-lit boudoir of a band venue and it's not hard to fathom why. The Night Cat has become a bit of a Fitzroy institution, with live jazz, funk and raggae among its diverse line-up. Entry is usually free, unless time is money and you can't afford to wait in the queue that snakes down Johnston St.
Industry Beans is situated behind Rose Street Artists' Markets and next to a boot camp studio, and they’re as serious about coffee here as Captain Pain next door is about a regulation push up. Attentive staff hand you your bible as soon as you take your seat: a fifteen-page coffee menu featuring single origins from as far afield as Honduras, El Salvador and Burundi. Go the Honduras single origin through the AeroPress. It's like jumping into a hydrangea bush – floral and just a little bit spiky.
This 50-metre outdoor heated pool is the perfect place to swim a few laps. Head down on a scorching hot day and you'll be greeted with hundreds of Fitzroy locals trying to cool down pool side. But with a gymnasium, spinning studio, group fitness classes, spa, sauna and steam room, the Fitzroy Pool has a little something for everyone.
Unlike any other bar in Melbourne, Black Pearl combines party-smashing-knees-up good times with some of the best cocktails in town. The Attic upstairs is serving classic drinks out of crystal-cut Royal Doulton glassware, while downstairs is the place for beer or a whisky.
Le Labo never advertises, and it doesn’t need to. The perfume brand that started out in NYC’s trendy Nolita district in 2006 has created a cult following with its unisex scents, stripped back aesthetic and personalised service. The Gertrude Street store is unassuming for a perfumery with such a fervent following. The main focal point is the fragrance lab in the back of the room. This is where perfumes are blended on purchase, to ensure that the fragrances are at their peak when customers take them home. To finish, labels can be printed with the recipient’s name or a custom message.
Fitzroy’s Laundry Bar is a stalwart of Melbourne’s late night club scene. Having seen the death of many of its Johnston Street neighbours, Laundry Bar stands, beer in hand, saluting to the weekend. Over two levels, Laundry drops rap and hip hop three nights a week. This crowd loves to get down and dirty on the dancefloor – expect anything from resident DJs to major touring acts to up-an-coming Melbourne artist to be slinging tunes as you slosh your way through the night.
We dare you to gaze into Alimentari’s deli cabinet and resist buying something special to take home. Whether it’s a wedge cut from a wheel of Grana Padano cheese, thin slices of cured salumi or a handful of marinated peppers, you can be sure that every Italian delicacy is premium quality.
Fitzroy’s Smith & Daughters looks like an old-school rock’n’roll bar, but the cross-shaped neon sign on the wall tells you why you’re really here: to ‘eat vegan’. Aiming to dispel the myth that vegan cuisine is lacklustre, they started with a Latin-tinged menu but did a switcheroo to Italian, and the results are bellissima.
The best of new and second-hand, Northside Records is all about the vinyl. For collectors, for people wanting to dabble – a serious collection of funk, hip-hop, soul, dubstep, dancehall, disco – rare releases and 45s. The staff will help you find what you are looking for as they have their finger in the pie with distributors all over the world.
Among Fitzroy’s profusion of elaborately decorated, vintage-strewn bars, a person might begin to feel a little cloyed. Enter the Workers Club, enviably situated at the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Streets, to act as a cleanser for the jaded palate. It’s not just a pub – it’s a band venue, an art space and a project.
Vintage lovers across Melbourne lust after Lost and Found, a huge cavern of pure vintage heaven drawing in second-hand fans like moths to a flame. There's clothes of course (men and women), as well as furniture, books, lights, toys, records and bric a brac.
The bartenders at the Rooks Return are putting Melbourne bar staff on notice. The new gold standard is introducing yourself by name. And what a difference a warm welcome makes in a neighbourhood known for often taking the slacker vibe too far. There’s a courtyard out back, but the indoor space is where it’s at thanks to a small stage where jazz hepcats and bluegrass outfits do their thing.
Vegie Bar isn’t the newest kid on the block, but she still manages to lure in southsiders across the river. Dishes that have been on the menu forever, like the mee goreng, tagine and burrito, would cause a riot if they every disappeared. But as vegetarianism has become more mainstream than counterculture, new dishes like tacos made with fried jackfruit in place of meat, on-trend poke bowls and a burger inspired by the golden arches has kept the spotlight on this 30-odd-year-old restaurant and guarantee a full house every night.
This specialty butcher and wine store is a one-stop-shop for dinner in a pinch. The meats are sourced from personally selected farms, which they smoke, age and process in house. The staff are incredibly well-versed on everything from rare breeds to cuts.
Not the largest in town, but we think it’s one of Melbourne's best contemporary art galleries. Due to its size, it only exhibits one artist at a time and is well worth a visit on a lazy Saturday afternoon followed by a few beers on Brunswick Street.
A striking and always vibrantly window-dressed Victorian corner terrace has been home to this Fitzroy institution for over 25 years. With 10 colourful rooms of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling costumes, wigs, hats and accessories you’re pretty much guaranteed to find what you’re looking for, and have a ball searching for it.
Probably the best gay and lesbian culture bookshop in Australia, and quite possibly the world, Hares and Hyenas is a warm and friendly place that welcomes even the timidest and unsure young gun yet to explode from out of that closet. It’s a gorgeous space on Johnston Street and they make a mean coffee while you peruse everything from queer fiction to glossy coffee table books full of big cocks.