Carlton is a suburb which lies to the north of Melbourne's City Centre. It is a colourful and vibrant area because of it being the traditional home of Melbourne's Italians as well as the strong student population with the University of Melbourne and RMIT University nearby.
The suburb's epicentre is the restaurant-lined Lygon Street. Besides numerous Italian restaurants and pizzeria to choose from, the street is also home to countless cafes, making the suburb somewhat of a pilgrimage destination for Melbourne's coffee addicts.
This district page also covers the suburb of Parkville (to the west of Carlton proper).
Lying a kilometre or two north of the City Centre, Carlton and Parkville can be easily reached by road, tram, bus and even on foot.
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 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 centre.
Carlton is well connected by tram from the City Centre. 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 Centre. 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 Centre). Rathdowne Street is served by buses 250, 251 (both can be caught at Exhibition and Flinders Streets in the City Centre) and 253 (Exhibition, Russel, Flinders Streets in the City Centre 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.
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 the first 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. 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.
Carlton's main eat street is Lygon Street, largely Italian interspersed with the odd Asian restaurant and pub.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.