The inner north of Melbourne consists of a number of suburbs and localities to the north of Melbourne's City Center. Carlton is the largest and most well-known of these, being the traditional home of Melbourne's Italian residents. It is also commonly known as the University district, housing the world-renowned University of Melbourne in Parkville, resulting in a strong student population. North Melbourne is another old suburb west of Carlton.
The area's epicentre is the restaurant-lined Lygon Street. Besides numerous Italian restaurants and pizzerias to choose from, the street is also home to countless cafés, making the Carlton somewhat of a pilgrimage destination for Melbourne's coffee addicts.
Melbourne Museum, previously on Swanston Street in the City Center, now occupies a modern building in the pretty Carlton Gardens. Melbourne Zoo is also in the far north of Parkville, and houses hundreds of species from Australia and the world. The beautiful Royal Exhibition Building and the Carlton Gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of two of Australia's only cultural sites.
The University of Melbourne is home to countless buildings and facilities, both old and new. The University is open to the public, or else it is possible to get a tour of the site.
Lying a kilometre or two north of the City Center, Carlton, North Melbourne and Parkville can be easily reached by road, tram, bus and even on foot.
Most of the City Center's north-south streets extend into Carlton. Lygon Street is an extension of Russell Street in the city, Rathdowne Street is the extension of Exhibition Street, while Nicholson Street is connected directly to Spring Street. The city-end of the Eastern Freeway which goes out to Melbourne's eastern suburbs, is in Carlton. In Parkville, Royal Parade is the extension of Elizabeth Street.
From the airport, the easiest way to get to Carlton/Parkville would be to get off the City Link toll expressway at Flemington, proceed along Flemington Road to Grattan Street, which intersects Royal Parade (for Parkville), Lygon Street and ends at Rathdowne Street.
For those walking to Carlton, the best route to take is to continue from Russell Street to Lygon Street, where you get to start from No. 1 of this popular street. It is a little too far to walk to Parkville, especially to its attractions like the Melbourne Zoo, from the city center.
Carlton is well connected by tram from the City Center. Trams which serve Carlton are trams 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 64, 67 and 72, all of which can be caught along Swanston Street and St Kilda Road in front of Flinders Street station. All except trams 1 and 8 end at the University of Melbourne tram stop, which is just a short walk to Lygon Street. Trams 1 and 8 continue along Lygon Street (albeit a little north of all the action) to East Coburg and Moreland respectively in the north.
Nicholson Street (for Melbourne Museum) is served by Tram 96 which runs between East Brunswick in the north and St Kilda in the south. The trams can be caught along Spring Street, Bourke Street and Spencer Street in the City Center. Nicholson Street also represents the division between Carlton and Fitzroy.
For Parkville, tram 19 runs along Royal Parade from Elizabeth Street. They continue to the northern suburb of North Coburg. Tram 55 (catch them along Willam Street Monday to Saturday, and along Elizabeth Street on Sunday) goes through Royal Park and passes by Melbourne Zoo.
The busiest part of Lygon Street is served by buses 200, 201, 203 and 207 (from Lonsdale Street in the City Center). Rathdowne Street is served by buses 250, 251 (both can be caught at Exhibition and Flinders Streets in the City Center) and 253 (Exhibition, Russel, Flinders Streets in the City Center and Queensbridge St in Southbank).
Carlton is not served by Melbourne's suburban railway network while Royal Park station on the Upfield Line is the only station in Parkville. The station is next to Melbourne Zoo.
- Lygon St. Lygon Street has the biggest selection of Italian restaurants and cafes in Australia and was the first suburb in Melbourne to promote eating outdoors and tables and chairs on footpaths. It is also the home of the yearly Lygon Street Festa, one of Australia's largest outdoor street festivals. It also comes alive with Ferrari red and yellow banners during the Australian Grand Prix. The northern end between Grattan and Elgin Streets is the place to go - the southern end near Victoria Street is a notorious tourist trap.
- Rathdowne Street offers a smaller, elegant stretch of cafes and restaurants.
- Carlton Gardens. Just north of Victoria St/Victoria Parade and between Rathdowne St and Nicholson St, on the fringe of the CBD. Within its grounds are:
- Royal Exhibition Building. Australia's only World Heritage listed building, the Royal Exhibition Building was completed in 1880 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.
- Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St. Every day 10AM-5PM, except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Opened in 2000, the award-winning Melbourne Museum houses a permanent collection in eight galleries, including one just for children.
- Royal Park is a huge park in Parkville, just north of the city centre. As well as parklands and sports facilities, it contains:
- Melbourne Zoo, Elliot Ave. Open daily 9AM-5PM. Open until 9:30PM on selected summer evenings. A very popular Melbourne attraction, it contains a large collection of native Australian and exotic animals, birds and butterflies. Admission from $21 adult, $10.50 child.
- Melbourne IMAX Theatre, Rathdowne St. Films screen every day on the hour, every hour 10AM-10PM, except Christmas Day.
While Lygon St 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.
- New International Bookshop, Cnr Victoria & Lygon Streets (opposite the Old Melbourne Gaol and the 8 Hour Monument), ☎ 9662 3744, . noon-7PM. Melbourne's oldest radical bookshop. Is in the basement of the historic Trades Hall building, it offers a large selection of books on Australian history and politics (including Aboriginal history, women's and LBGTI struggle). It holds a large second-hand section covering all genres, including a $1 book section. This bookshop is a not-for-profit co-operative that runs literary events on most Wednesdays at 6:30PM. Refreshments and snacks are available, as are badges, stickers, cards and other souvenirs.
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.
- Trotters , 400 Lygon Street. Tel: +61-3-93475657. Favoured by Carlton residents and Melbourne Uni students, Trotters offers laid back ambiance and wholesome, traditional fares such as big breakfasts and hearty Italian pastas.
- Lygon Food Store 263 Lygon St, 9347 6279. A Lygon Street institution, it has an expansive deli section with delicious varieties of cheeses, antipasti and a tempting array of breads.
- Brunetti, 194-204 Faraday Street, ☎ +61-3-9347-2801 (fax: +61-3-9347-9152), . A large Italian cafe, Brunetti does cake and coffee on a huge scale, with multiple counters and a ticket system to ferry you around. The Italian hot chocolate is worth the fuss.
- Koko Black, 167 Lygon Street, ☎ +61-3-9349-2775. Koko Black is a chocolateria. You can order expensive chocolates by the kilo here, but most people visit for the hot chocolate. There are no reservations, and on busy winter nights, there can be a 20-30 minute wait for a table, so rug up and bear it!
- Il Dolce Freddo, Lygon Street. Offering a mouthwatering selection of icecreams, sorbets and gelati.
- Pizza a Metro, 29 Grattan Street, ☎ +61-3-9663-4778. Pizza a Metro serves pizza and pasta. The pizza is Italian-style: simple but tasty toppings. Unusually, the pizza is sold by the meter, in 20 centimeter (8 inch), 50 centimeter (1.6 foot) and 1 meter (3.2 foot) servings, each 20 centimeters across. Students claim that the appropriate pizza ratio is about 1.5 meters of pizza for every 6 people; diners will definitely want to stick to a 20 centimeter serve unless they're sharing.
- Tiamo 2, 305 Lygon Street. Consistently crowded, it rates highly among the locals for its modern Italian food and attentive service. Be sure to try the 'spaghetti don giovanni', it always delivers.
- I Carusi, (far north) 46A Holmes St, East Brunswick. Just a bit away from the crowds and spruikers of Lygon St, I Carusi is one of Melbourne's best kept secrets and has one of Melbourne's most finest pizzas. Try the ‘Gamberi Piccante’ (prawn, semi-sundried tomato and fiore di latte) or ‘Pizza for a Friend’ (roast pumpkin, pine nuts, rocket and goats cheese). All pizzas fit neatly within the $11-20 price range and makes for happy eating.
- Kumichan 400 Lygon St. Provides good value Japanese in a ubiquitous Italian cuisine street.
- Lazzat, 112 Lygon St, ☎ 03-96395951. Affordable and tasty Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian food.
- Thai Thalia, 86 Lygon Street, North Carlton. Behind its unassuming exterior contains what some locals regard as the best Thai food in Melbourne. Extremely cheap, but tasty and leaves you feeling like you unearthed one of Melbourne's hidden gems.
- Shakahari's, 201 Faraday St, tel 9347 3848. For fancy but not overpriced vegetarian food that will have even the meat lovers savouring every bite.
- Cafe Alleri, 400, Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, ☎ +61-3-93473726. M-F 6AM–3:30PM, Sa 7AM–2PM. Great sandwiches, breakfast, good coffee and selection of sweets. Lunch specials includes soups and curries made daily.
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:
- Brunetti's, , 194-204 Faraday Street, ☎ +61-3-9347-2801 (fax: +61-3-9347-9152). This is a Melbourne institution for good coffee and a fiendish selection of Italian sweets and gelato. The cafe also pioneered the now ubiquitous use of environmentally precarious gas heaters to let customers sit outside, even in the winter months. Hours: Su–F 7AM–11PM; Sa 7AM–midnight.
- Carlton Espresso, 326 Lygon Street, ☎ 9347-8482, . from 7am weekdays. Almost all Italian staff, authentic delicious seasonal dishes. Handmade pastas, fresh breads and salumi.
- Grinders Coffee House, 277 Lygon Street. Tel: 61-3-93477520: The family behind Grinders has not only been supplying Melbourne's cafes with coffee since the 1960's but at their first store you can also get a shot of your favourite brew. Hours: M–Th 9AM–5:45PM; F 9AM–6PM; Sa 9AM–12:45PM.
- Tiamo 1, 303 Lygon St. Tel: 61-3-93475759: A traditional, no-fuss Roman style espresso bar beloved by Mafia bosses and those seeking an authentic espresso.
- Rydges Carlton Melbourne, 701 Swanston Street ph 1300 857 922. An easy walk to the charming atmoshere and bustling cafes of Lygon St, the Rydges offers 107 boutique rooms with a heated pool, spa and even a BBQ on the rooftop.
- Cafe Alleri, 400, Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, ☎ +61-3-93473726. CafeaAlleri's known for great sandwiche's, breakfast, good coffee and selection of sweets. Lunch specials includes soups and curries made daily. Hours: Mon-Fri 6AM–3.30PM; Sa 7AM–2.00PM.
- Boutique Stays, Parkville Terrace. Lovely 2 bedroom apartment in the historic precinct of Parkville. 
- Arrow on Swanston, 488 Swanton Street, Carlton VIC 3053 Australia, ☎ (613) 9225 9000, . Affordable short and long term apartments located in the heart of the CDB with plenty of services to offer. Enjoy Melbourne at Arrow On Swanston.
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