Universities, hospitals and Victorian-style terraced houses dominate the northern reaches of Melbourne. Explore historic markets, sip a coffee on Errol Street, or stay outdoors in Melbourne’s largest inner city park.

HIGHLIGHTS

North Melbourne has a strong migrant history and has retained that close-knit community feeling. The Queen Victoria Market (‘The Queen Vic,’ as the locals call it) is a great way to experience the neighbourhood. Packed with bargains and eager shoppers, there is a buzz that is infectious. Grab a hot jam doughnut from one of the food stalls while you pick your cheap fruit and vegetables, and check out the low price fashions and homewares.

After a morning at the market, stroll down Errol Street for lunch. The most popular street in North Melbourne, it’s also the area’s historical centre and home to Auction Rooms, a rustic-feeling cafe and coffee roastery. The humble building contains hip industrial decor and a commitment to serving up seriously good coffee.

Perhaps the cosiest spot on Errol Street though is Hot Poppy. In the 1800s it was a barber’s shop, but now its owners spend their time dishing up breakfast and lunch. Their BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) bagel is only made better when you add avocado and rivals the best of Manhattan delis.

For a night out you have to try local mainstay, Prudence. A famous Melbourne venue, it offers a huge range of drinks, including cocktails under $10, and the friendly bartenders will even create a drink to your unique tastes.

If you’re feeling like a bit of a walk on the wild side head over to the Melbourne Zoological Gardens. Holding the title of Australia’s oldest zoo, it was opened in 1862 and modelled after the London Zoo. As well as hosting a variety of wild and wonderful animals from around the world, between January and March the Melbourne Zoo holds their annual Twilights Summer Music Programme, which features a variety of national and international music acts.

COMMUNITY FACILITIES

The Centre, in North Melbourne, delivers short courses, community forums, exhibitions, and activities. The University of Melbourne runs a psychology clinic in North Melbourne that provides discounted mental health services including counselling. This is one of the cheapest ways to access this kind of service and is free for University of Melbourne students.

Parkville is home to the Royal Melbourne and Royal Children’s Hospitals.

The City of Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub is a friendly place, where people from Melbourne’s many different cultures can get together to work, share and learn in a safe and supportive environment. North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) delivers formal and informal learning and support to empower the culturally and linguistically diverse communities of North Melbourne. NMLL provides for very diverse groups of adult learners from twenty-six different language backgrounds.

For a quieter moment, the North Melbourne Library, on Errol Street, is a relaxing space to read, connect with others at one of their Book Clubs, and learn, using their free public lending service.

FREE & FRUGAL

For the cheapest fruit and vegetables around, head to The Queen Vic for some early morning shopping, before the crowds gather up all the best selections. Open Tuesdays, and Thursday-Sunday, it’s a fun and cheap day out and is free to browse year-round.

On a budget but prefer someone else to prepare your food? Grab a toasted sandwich and coffee from Auction Rooms’ little sister, Counter – but get in early as it closes at 2 pm.

For a dose of the outdoors, you can’t go past Royal Park, Melbourne’s largest inner city park. Measuring at almost 480 hectares, with such wide, open spaces you’ll find it hard to believe you’re still in the city. Choose your sport for the day, or pack a picnic and soak in the unique Australian bush landscapes and wetlands – you might even see some native wildlife while you’re there.