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

Los Hermanos Mexican Taqueria

Restaurant

Still hungry for more Mexican?

Beatbox Kitchen Brunswick

Restaurant

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

Miss Moses

Restaurant

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

Sig. Enzo

Restaurant

Italian Cool with $20 grazing Sundays and famous meatballs.

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

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?

Project281

Cafe

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

Tom Phat

Cafe

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

Home.one

Cafe

A dedicated porridge, bagel and coffee bar supporting Melbourne’s homeless, and distributing free school lunches.

Steam Junkies

Cafe

A family-run cafe that’s serious about coffee.

Bars

The Cornish Arms

Bar

A pub where vegans are VIPs.

Cult of the Vine

Bar

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

Mr Wilkinson

Bar

Sophisticated and cosy wine bar in the north.

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.

Howler

Bar

A former wool store turned bar, arts hub and live music venue.

Shops

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?

Pachamama Wholefoods

Shop

A friendly supermarket alternative, catering to all your allergy and dietary needs.