Carlton and Fitzroy are two lively inner suburbs to the north and north-east of the city. Carlton is the heart of Victorian terrace territory, while Fitzroy is where many young Melburnians would choose to live if they could afford it. Smith Street, a major street to the east, is blossoming with cafes, health-food shops and independent fashion designers.
Lygon Street, Carlton
This is Carlton’s main artery and the centre of Melbourne’s Italian population, with many restaurants, cafes, bookstores, clothing shops and the excellent Cinema Nova. Stop for authentic pasta, pizza, gelato and good coffee at places such as Brunetti, on Faraday Street, an institution that is always crowded with Italian pastry lovers. You can also head to Rathdowne Street, parallel to Lygon Street, which has more cafes, restaurants and food stores.
Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Brunswick Street offers an eclectic mix of cafes, pubs and shops. Anything goes in Brunswick Street – young professionals come here for leisurely weekend breakfasts at cafes such as Babka and Marios. This is a hot spot in Melbourne’s live-music scene (see Entertainment, p. 138).
Royal Exhibition Building
The Royal Exhibition Building is Melbourne’s most significant historic building – and arguably the country’s now that it has become Australia’s first man-made structure to achieve World Heritage status. The building and the adjacent Carlton Gardens were admitted to the list in 2004, joining the likes of Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.
A vast hall topped with a central dome, it is considered an enduring monument to the international exhibition movement that began in the mid-19th century. No comparable ‘great halls’ survive from other international exhibitions held elsewhere in the world.
At dusk each night the building is illuminated, creating a vista that harks back to the heady days of 1880s Melbourne. Tours to view its interior run from the adjacent Melbourne Museum at 2pm daily whenever the building is not in use (bookings 13 1102). The area comes alive during the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (March–April). 11 Nicholson St, Carlton.
Melbourne Museum is housed in the spaceship-like structure of metal and glass next to the Exhibition Building. It is the home of Phar Lap, Australia’s champion racing horse, standing proud and tall in a dimly lit room. This is the museum’s most popular exhibit, although you’ll find most other exhibits here decidedly more upbeat. Bunjilaka is an Aboriginal cultural centre telling the Koorie story from the Koorie perspective – not just an academic selection of Aboriginal artefacts. Other features of the museum include dinosaur skeletons, a living rainforest and impressive displays on science, the mind and the body. Located in the same building is the IMAX Melbourne Museum, screening films in 2-D and 3-D. 11 Nicholson St, Carlton; 13 1102; open 10am–5pm Mon–Sun.
This is Australia’s oldest zoo, and the single iron-barred enclosure that remains is a testimony to the days when animals were kept in minuscule cages. Today things are rather different – take the Trail of the Elephants, for instance, where elephants live in a re-creation of an Asian rainforest, complete with an elephant sized plunge pool (and Asian hawker stalls for visitors). Another perennial favourite here is the Butterfly House, where butterflies are quite happy to land on you as you pass through. From mid-January to mid-March the zoo runs a popular program of open-air, evening jazz sessions called Zoo Twilights. Elliott Ave, Parkville; (03) 9285 9300; open 9am–5pm daily, to 9.30pm for Zoo Twilights.