We always love visiting Melbourne to visit family and for someone like me, who rarely ventures near a city, it feels a bit like being set loose in another universe. No matter what time of day or night, there are crowds of people in the suburbs and where we stay in Fitzroy North, this seems especially the case.
This suburb is a hive of activity with plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops of every kind to seek out while you’re there.
We’ve had a whirlwind weekend visit again and while we were there, tried a few new places to eat, drink and shop. As with everywhere in Melbourne there is street art galore so I will cover that in a separate blog post, but here’s a quick look at ‘Doing Melbourne like a local’.
Pub night Friday
The Empress Hotel is on Nicholson Street in Fitzroy North and is a great casual pub for drinks, excellent food and live sports on the large screen. It is super family friendly and the heated beer garden is a really comfy spot for a meal.
They have special food nights, Monday pizza night, Tuesday parmi night etc… and going by the meals on the night we were there, I think you’d have to be satisfied with any night. The wine list was terrific and despite a big crowd, service was quick and friendly. Bonus points for a fabulous mural by Ian Mutch in the beer garden too.
You can find a local market in many suburbs for something quirky and unique to buy from makers and artists and one of the good ones is Rose Street Market. There is plenty of muralt art to find down the street too on the walls and the road itself.
We were lucky to be in town while the Finders Keepers market was on at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton, a building I’ve been wanting to see for a while. The market had a $5 entry fee and once inside you could browse and shop with a huge range of small independent artists and designers selling everything from clothes, candles, foodstuff, plants and art just to name a few. There were also food stalls and of course a coffee bus, this is Melbourne after all.
The Royal Exhibition Building is an amazing structure inside and out. It was built in 1880 and is one of Melbourne’s iconic buildings with a dome, portal entries, viewing platforms, towers and fanlight windows. Over the years the building has had many uses including housing the opening of the first Parliament of Australia in 1901, and in 1919 it was used as an influenza hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic.
These days amongst other purposes, it’s used as a venue for students to sit their high school and university exams. The building is registered on the World Heritage list and renovations are protecting and conserving its history. The 68 metre high and 18 metre wide dome as well as the ceiling, columns and walls are adorned with murals and stencilled patterns that are worth visiting alone. There will be another huge Spring/Summer Finders Keepers market will be held in the same venue from 14-16 October this year.
Shops and Laneways
Just taking a wander in the Fitzroy area will give you a good snapshot of the ‘vibe’ of this suburb. Take a look inside the many weird and wonderful shops, laneways full of art and buildings that although you may think they’re derelict, probably house a hole in the wall coffee shop, or a record store and who knows what else.
One shop to drop in to see and buy from is Dig Emporium, a garden centre in Fitzroy with a huge range of lush healthy plants at great prices. The shop is run by passionate plant lovers who are happy to impart great advice on plant care and choices. They shop can be found at 219-223 Smith Street.
They have a wide range of plants to see, indoors and out, as well as great gardening gifts, books, pots, cushions and more.
Wine Bars and Food
We tried a few different places while in Fitzroy including Moosa Bar which is technically in Carlton North because Nicholson Street divides the suburbs. Only in Melbourne could you get away with a small cosy bar which specialises in German and Belgian craft beer with a Japanese twist.
It has a 70s lounge room vibe and you can relax on a couch while you enjoy a beer, wine, spirit or cocktail and play a board game as you listen to whatever record is playing at the time. Outdoors there is another area to sit in, which doubles the size of the bar.
Neighbourhood Wine is another cool venue to try with a huge selection of wines from around the world. The entrance is in Reid Street Fitzroy North and the interior is a complete contrast to the derelict disused looking façade of the building. Inside is really warm and inviting and the choices of drinks include low and no alcohol varieties. The food menu is very special and fancy too.
If on the other hand you’re looking for cheap and cheerful, you can’t go past Good Times Pasta. They can be found on St Georges Road in Fitzroy North and are open Thursdays to Saturdays for good wholesome classic pasta dishes, garlic bread and drinks. It’s hard to fault a meal for two with a half carafe of red wine for under $50, even if we did have to drink the red wine out of water glasses, and trust me, you’re not paying for the décor, just tasty value for money food.
To finish off the meal visit Billy van Creamy right next door for handmade ice cream made from fresh ingredients with no additives.
My favourite food was probably from Absolute Thai on Nicholson Street. The takeaway was very tasty, freshly made and authentic, and judging by the number of Uber delivery bikes constantly coming and going it’s a popular choice for many. You can also dine in at this small little restaurant which sits next to Moosa Bar.
Trams and Toasties
You can’t visit Melbourne and not take a tram to the city. It’s such an easy option with a Myki card loaded with money that you can top up easily online. You simply then use it to tap on every tram trip and the cost of the ride is deducted from your balance.
The list of what to see in the city is limitless but check to see what current events or exhibitions are on when you visit. Football is always a drawcard and maybe if you’re lucky your team will win, but even if they don’t, the atmosphere and spectacle is a lot of fun. At some stage make sure to see the city at night with the building lights providing a type of artificial starlight display.
Finally a tip for a good way to spend a relaxing Sunday, is to grab a takeaway coffee (there are plenty of options and don’t forget those hole in the wall places), and a good old toastie. I can highly recommend Aphro and Wolfe café on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy North for a delicious gourmet toastie.
Then take your toastie and coffee to the nearby Edinburgh Gardens and watch the passing parade of people and pooches.
Now it’s up to you! Enjoy Fitzroy like a local.