Melbourne/Inner north

Melbourne's inner north is a vibrant and diverse area, home to a number of cultural and social icons of Melbourne. It is famed for the popular Lygon Street Italian district, while next door lies the University of Melbourne, the best university in Australia by many rankings. Numerous backpackers subside in the residential and cosmopolitan area of North Melbourne, just outside the city centre. Additionally, major tourist attractions such as the Melbourne Museum, Royal Exhibition Building and Melbourne Zoo exist within its boundaries. Much of the area is covered by parks, including the huge Royal Park in the north, the UNESCO-listed Carlton Gardens and popular Princes Park.

The area is bounded by Brunswick Road in the north, Victoria Street in the south, Nicholson Street in the east and the CityLink freeway in the west.

Understand

Carlton Gardens

Carlton is the largest locality, and is the traditional home of Melbourne's many Italian residents, most of whom settled in the city in the wake of the Second World War. The area's epicentre is restaurant-lined Lygon Street. Besides dozens of Italian restaurants and pizzerias to choose from, the street is also home to countless cafés, making Carlton somewhat of a pilgrimage destination for Melbourne's caffeine addicts. Interspersed amongst these eateries are theatres, museums and numerous sellers of fresh food produce, which have ensured the street remains one of Melbourne's most liveliest places. Melbourne Museum occupies a huge post-modern complex in the otherwise tranquil Carlton Gardens, which along with the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building forms one of only two of Australia's cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites.

A large part of the inner north forms the city's University district, housing the world-renowned and prestigious University of Melbourne in Parkville. The strong student population enjoys the university's wide variety of architecture, ranging from grand old colleges from the 1800s to ultramodern structures of glass and steel. Parkville's north is covered by the massive expanse that is Royal Park, which offers a peaceful spot for a picnic in an otherwise busy city. Melbourne Zoo resides within the park, housing hundreds of species in generous enclosures from both Australia and the world.

North Melbourne is another cosmopolitan locality that is still finding its feet as one of Melbourne's cultural hotspots. Mostly a residential area of wide, grassy avenues, it is the site of an old town hall, an upmarket strip of cafés and hidden bars and a variety of budget and backpacker accommodation.

Get in

Lying a kilometre or two north of the City Centre, Carlton, North Melbourne and Parkville can be easily reached by road, tram, bus, bike and even on foot.

By tram

Carlton is well connected by tram from the City Centre. All Swanston St and St Kilda Rd trams travel north to Carlton, with most terminating at the University of Melbourne tram stop, a short walk to Lygon Street. Routes 1 and 8 continue along Lygon Street (albeit a little north of all the action) to East Brunswick and Coburg in the north.

Nicholson Street (for Melbourne Museum) is served by Route 96 towards East Brunswick from along Spring Street, Bourke Street and Spencer Street in the City Centre. Nicholson Street also represents the division between Carlton and Fitzroy.

For Parkville, Route 19 runs along Royal Parade from Elizabeth Street, continuing to North Coburg. Alternatively, Route 55 from along William Street travels past the Parkville Hospital precinct, through Royal Park and passes by Melbourne Zoo.

To reach Brunswick, the 112 tram runs from runs from the CBD along Collins street right up along Brunswick Street. The number 19 tram, which runs on Elizabeth Street in the CBD is an easy and scenic way to get to Brunswick. The tram passes through Royal Parade on its way to Sydney Road, passing many historic buildings, some of them part of the University of Melbourne. The 55 tram, which runs through West Brunswick is not recommended for those wishing to do travel activities in Brunswick; it mostly passes through boring suburban streets, with the exception of the Royal Zoo.

By bus

The busiest part of Lygon Street is served by buses 200 and 207 from Lonsdale and Queen Streets in the City Centre, which operate at a 10 minute frequency between them; these routes also link the area to Melbourne's inner east along Johnston Street. Rathdowne Street is served by buses 250 and 251, which can also be caught from Lonsdale and Queen Streets.

Alternatively, the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle operates via the inner north, stopping at Melbourne University on Grattan St and Lygon St.

By train

Carlton is not served by Melbourne's suburban railway network, while Royal Park station on the Upfield Line is the only station in Parkville, adjacent to Melbourne Zoo.

By bike

Due to the high student population, cycling is a very popular mode of transport, which has pressured the government to provide the appropriate infrastructure. A segregated cycleway runs along Swanston Street from the City Centre to the University of Melbourne. Additionally, many streets have painted bike lanes, including Royal Pde, Queensberry St, Rathdowne St, Arden St, Flemington Rd and Elgin St. Although it is legal to ride on any road, Lygon and Grattan Streets are generally unsuited to bikes due to their busy nature. Additionally, bike trails are plentiful in Royal Park.

By car

Most of the City Centre's north-south streets extend into Carlton. Lygon Street is an extension of Russell Street in the city, Rathdowne Street of Exhibition Street, while Nicholson Street is connected directly to Spring Street. In Parkville, Royal Parade is the extension of Elizabeth Street.

From the airport, the Flemington Rd exit off CityLink is the best way to reach the inner north.

Get around

The inner north is generally very walkable, although covers a large distance. Trams and buses serve the main north-south thoroughfares, although it can be difficult getting east-west by public transport. The Route 402 bus operates at a 10 minute daytime frequency, providing an east-west link between Footscray and East Melbourne, through Macauley Rd in North Melbourne and Grattan St in Parkville and Carlton, past Melbourne University.

See

  •   Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton (Tram routes 86 or 96: Stop 12),  +61 3 8341 7777, 13 11 02 (domestic). Australia's only World Heritage listed building, it was completed in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition and was the site of Australia's first Federal Parliament in 1901. With its meticulously restored interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome, it offers a magnificent setting for trade shows, fairs and cultural events. Tours are available, although you need to call in advance to confirm dates. $5 adult, $3.50 concession.
  •   Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton (Tram routes 86 or 96: Stop 12),  +613 8341 7777, 13 11 02 (domestic). 10AM-5PM daily. Opening in 2000, the award-winning Melbourne Museum houses a permanent collection in eight galleries, including one just for children. $10 adult, children and concessions free.
  •   Melbourne Zoo (Royal Park Station or Route 55 tram),  1300 966 784 (local rate), e-mail: . 9AM-5PM daily. This very popular Melbourne attraction opened in 1861 from the proceeds of the Gold Rush, making it the oldest zoo in Australia and third-oldest in the world. There are over 320 species of native Australian and exotic animals, birds and butterflies. The enclosures are spacious and engaging for the animals, as well as visitors. Particularly good are the lion exhibit, trail of the elephants, butterfly house, aviary and seal enclosure. Feeding and entertainment shows also run regularly throughout the day, but find out the time and plan in advance. $30 adult, $13.20 children (4-15yrs; free on weekends/holidays), number of concession and family discounts available.

Do

Events

Like the rest of Melbourne, there is always something going on in the inner north.

Buy

While Lygon Street is a foodies paradise, apart from buying scrumptious desserts and paying for quality coffees, Lygon Street offers a unique range of stores and products. There are bookshops, music stores and specialty outlets that provide shoppers with a wide range and variety of goods to shop from.

Eat

Carlton's main eat street is Lygon Street, largely Italian interspersed with the odd Asian restaurant and pub. Unsurprisingly, there are also some tourist traps. While it is difficult to generalise and there are exceptions to these rules, the more established, authentic and affordable eateries are generally found at the northern end of the strip, between Grattan and Elgin Streets. The western side of the street (on the left heading away from Central Melbourne) is generally better. Finally, look for the eateries -without- a spruiker outside: the enthusiasm of the spruiker is generally inversely proportional to the quality and value you will find inside.

Drink

Coffee

If Melbourne's coffee culture has a home, it is the Italian precinct surrounding Lygon St. There are numerous outlets, almost too many to list. Here are some of the more outstanding ones worth trying:

Bars

Sleep

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