Carlton is so much more than bustling Lygon Street. Beyond the pasta restaurants and gelato stores of Little Italy lies a historical neighbourhood. It's full of unique culture, local laneways, and even a secret movie set. To get you started, we’ve put together a hit-list of all the things to see and do in Carlton and surrounds. Download this free walking map and get exploring.

Wander through lush gardens with a backdrop of historical architecture

Melbourne’s pretty UNESCO-listed Royal Exhibition Building is set amongst Carlton Gardens and dates back to 1880. The opulent building features a Renaissance dome and elaborate fountains. Grab a coffee at Market Lane Coffee, and sit under the towering Moreton Bay Fig Trees, which were an important meeting place for Aboriginal communities past. If brunch is more your speed, try St Charly’s all day breakfast menu.

A tall white building behind a row of trees in a park
Carlton Gardens

Get cultured at Melbourne Museum

Next door, Melbourne Museum’s modern architecture cuts a striking figure – but what lies within is much more interesting. It also acts as a natural museum, hosting international exhibitions as well as important local antiquities. Here you can view the warm possum skin cloaks worn by Aboriginal people in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Or, wander through the lush, living Forest Gallery, and see the legendary Melbourne Cup racehorse Phar Lap.

Then, chill out with a documentary at Melbourne’s massive IMAX theatre. It boasts the largest screen in the world, at 32 metres wide and 23 metres high. Find more projection screen magic at Learning Lab, with the brand-new Worlds Immersive video installation.

A man sitting on the floor in front of a projected image of the moon
The mesmerising Worlds Immersive projections at Learning Lab

Indulge in the good life along Lygon Street

Head towards Rathdowne Street, and continue until you hit Lygon. Stroll north along leafy Lygon Street, known as ‘Little Italy’, and discover where Melbourne's famous café culture was born. It was here that post-World War II migrants developed a thriving community in the heart of the city. Lygon Street is also home to The University Café, the site of our first espresso machine back in 1952. Or head down during summer to try the iconic Tiamo tiramisu in their new outdoor dining area.

You can’t visit Lygon Street without picking up a gelato – Pidapipo is famous for their hot Nutella, on tap. Top any selection with the delicious Italian spread to satisfy your sweet tooth. But it’s not all food on offer here – plenty of trendy boutiques flank the bustling restaurants. Cult independent bookstore Readings is the perfect pit stop when you need a little quiet time.

An outdoor dining area
Lygon Street is bursting with foodie destinations

Discover a hidden movie set in the busy university district

At the intersection of Lygon and Elgin streets, turn left until you hit Swanston Street and the esteemed University of Melbourne. Founded in 1853, the leafy sandstone campus has a hidden movie history. A gothic underground carpark near the South Lawn – also an architectural icon – featured in Aussie cult flick Mad Max. Head towards the residential colleges to discover four ancient River Red Gums. These historical trees were essential to the Woi Wurrung people for shelter, canoes and tools.

Architecture buffs can continue their education in the NGO Precinct. Stroll along Pelham Street and bear left at Leicester Street to find the award-winning 60L Green Building, home to the Australian Conservation Foundation. Tour the building to find out more, or visit the Going Solar shop for sustainable products.

Arches beneath a university building
University of Melbourne

Find fresh produce and Melbourne’s best markets

A few stops along the way will keep your pantry stocked. King and Godfree is excellent for Mediterranean groceries and deli favourites. Milk The Cow has some of the best cheeses in the city. You can even stay for a cheese degustation paired with four matching wines.

Continue down Swanston Street, turning right at Victoria Street until you hit Queen Victoria Market. It’s the perfect place to end your walking tour of Carlton. You'll find hundreds of fresh food, homewares, and specialty stalls. That's dinner sorted!

A woman buying fruit from a market stand
Queen Victoria Market

Last updated on Thu 4 Feb 2021

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