Northcote and Fitzroy make a strong case, but Brunswick is Melbourne’s biggest centre of alternative culture. Walk the streets and you’ll spot more tattoos, piercings, lurid hair colours and op-shop clothes (from Savers on Sydney Road, probably) than anywhere else. Every night of the week, local bands play at venues such as Howler, the Brunswick Hotel, the Retreat and the Spotted Mallard. Vegan food is plentiful and everyone seems to ride a bike.

That’s one part of it, anyway. Brunswick also has a strong multi-cultural character. Greeks and Italians have been here since the ’60s and more recently, immigrants from Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East have clustered around the north end of Sydney Road, making it one of the best places in town to eat falafel; smoke a shisha pipe; or shop for ingredients such as za’atar, rosewater and Aleppo peppers.

Neighbouring Brunswick East has much of the same character, but swaps Sydney Road for the less-hectic end of Lygon Street and its cafes, restaurants and boutiques.

Restaurants

Beatbox Kitchen Brunswick

Restaurant

Melbourne’s original burger truck, in bricks-and-mortar form.

Sig. Enzo

Restaurant

A very cool, very Italian bar with $20 grazing Sundays and famous meatballs direct from NYC.

Los Hermanos Mexican Taqueria

Restaurant

Still hungry for more Mexican?

Miss Moses

Restaurant

It’s beer, sandwiches and 1960s Americana at this laid-back spot.

Juanita Peaches

Restaurant

Some of the best fried chicken in town.

Bhang

Restaurant

From the owners of Tom Phat, Bhang serves Indian street food in the north.

Cafes

Ratio Cocoa Roasters

Cafe

Here, a single bar of chocolate takes four weeks and eight steps to make - and you can watch it all happen.

Project281

Cafe

Japanese- and Korean-inspired food, coffee roasted in-house and 97 seats.

All Day Donuts

Cafe

The best doughnuts in Brunswick.

Lobbs

Cafe

It’s attractive enough, but this cafe is less about flashy Instagram-ready food and more about simple things done well.

Small Axe

Cafe

Pasta for breakfast?

Tom Phat

Cafe

All-day dining at this Thai-infused cafe on Sydney Road.

Bars

Joey Smalls

Bar

It’s not quite a nightclub and it’s not quite a bar. But it’s definitely good for a dance.

The Cornish Arms

Bar

A pub where vegans are VIPs.

Spitfire

Bar

The front bar to Stay Gold is more than just a waiting room. Thanks to its serious food and drinks offering, Spitfire's a destination in its own right.

Cult of the Vine

Bar

At this bottle-o you'll find a small, intensely focused selection of natural and minimal intervention wines.

Amelia Shaw

Bar

Shoot pool on a round table, sipping cocktails and admiring the Art-Deco decor between shots.

Thunder Road Brewing

Bar

Old-school philosophy. New-school quality.

Shops

Dejour Jeans

Shop

The best-fitting jeans you’ll ever own.

Harper & Blohm Brunswick

Shop

Enter for oozy gourmet toasties, take-home cheesy meals and towering “cheese cakes”.

Ovens Street

Shop

This bread and pastry shop is open on Sundays only.

Mr Kitly

Shop

Petite and hidden away, Brunswick space Mr Kitly eschews the standard retail experience.

Mediterranean Wholesalers

Shop

If you want pasta shaped like bells, hats or flowers, this huge Italian supermarket is where you'll find it.

Concrete Jungle

Shop

Looking for a friendly neighbourhood sneaker store?