Full of old fashioned terraced buildings, and with a great selection of independent clothing and record stores, this area is ideal for chilling out in a café, attending a gallery show, or just doing some shopping.

HIGHLIGHTS

Both Carlton and Fitzroy are considered Melbourne’s ‘hip’ areas, with an abundance of cafés and local designer stores. With Magic Johnston artist studios and Rose St. Artists’ Markets held in the area, it’s an artistic hub where creative people come to mingle. This vibe is also reflected in the kind of places you can expect to visit on Smith, Brunswick, and Gertrude Streets.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cafes, but you can’t go past Industry Beans on Rose Street. The coffee is top-notch, and the breakfast and brunch offerings have been featured in Lonely Planet’s ‘World’s Best Brunches’, so you can’t go wrong.

On Brunswick Street you’ll find the Melbourne favourite, Vegie Bar. Still crazy popular after all these years, it offers vegan and vegetarian meals at reasonable prices. From your window seat munching on your vego burrito, you’ll be able to spot the Grub Street Bookstore, and Polyester Records, a mainstay in the Melbourne music scene, selling vintage and new vinyl and CDs. 127 Brunswick Street features 5 storeys of different venues, including the Japanese inspired Ichi Ni Nana, coffee spot Coffee Window, and Asian hawker-style food at Village People. Grab a Japanese-style cocktail (try the Hattori Hanzo) while enjoying the spectacular view.

Nearby is Marios Cafe, legendary for its affordable but delicious food, and its welcoming atmosphere. Started by two waiters named Mario in the 1980s as an answer to the cold, expensive restaurants of the era, the must-try dish is the Fettuccine Pesto. If Italian is your taste, Lygon Street in Carlton is a true Italian experience. There are Italian eateries, pasta, and gelato as far as the eye can see. Tiamo and Tiamo II often have a line for dinner, but it’s worth the wait and you’ll feel like a real local. Directly across from your table full of bruschetta you’ll spy Brunetti’s, a late-night eatery with a dessert cabinet to rival the cafés of Rome.

COMMUNITY FACILITIES

In Carlton, you’ll find gym and swimming facilities at The Carlton Baths, along with a work and learning centre that can help you with employment options. If you need a doctor, counselling, or health advice, your best bet is the North Yarra Community Health Centre in Fitzroy.

The Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre provides a range of community facilities, courses, and training to students in the area, hosting a broad range of community-based education services, with the opportunity to participate in education and community networks, meet like-minded people, and give you the chance to volunteer your time and skills to help others.

The Fitzroy Library will help you out with all your studying needs, including free membership, free events, computer and Wi-Fi services, with downloads and streaming of audiobooks and e-books available. For a different kind of community, check out the Melbourne Chess Club in Fitzroy, Australia’s biggest chess club. Beginners Night is held every Wednesday night.

The Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, featuring the social enterprise café Wild Timor Coffee, is an impressive creative, learning and community space. The library includes over 40,000 items in various formats and over 10% of the material is in Chinese, Japanese or Korean.

FREE & FRUGAL

On the first Saturday of every month, you can visit the Rose St. Artists’ Markets for free. A quick look through the Art Almanac ($5 from any good newsagent) will let you know when galleries have shows opening.

Carlton Gardens are also free to spend the day lazing in, perhaps with an ice cream you picked up at Gelato Messina, and from its lush green grass you can wander over to the Melbourne Museum, which offers free admission to students.

Watch the sun set from Naked For Satan’s rooftop bar (Naked in The Sky) and load your plate up with pintxos, a kind of Spanish tapas that you can pick up for under $2 each during selected hours. Bimbos is located a 10-minute walk from Naked in The Sky, and you can grab $5 pizzas during selected times during the workweek, and all day on Sunday.

Carlton’s Cinema Nova is a must-visit, showing lesser known and art house films alongside box office hits, and on Mondays, it’s $6 before 4pm and just $9 after.