The city’s northern quarter is a hub of universities and institutions known as the Melbourne Innovation District. Find libraries, museums and sites of Aboriginal significance before heading to Lygon Street for everything little Italy has to offer.
Sights on this walk
1. State Library of Victoria
Start at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne’s UNESCO City of Literature hub, dating from 1856. Visit the octagonal domed La Trobe Reading Room, exhibition spaces, Russell Street Welcome Zone cafe and Readings bookshop.
2. RMIT University
Founded in 1887, RMIT is known for design, technology and enterprise. See Storey Hall’s fractal geometric facade, pop into RMIT Gallery and admire glass disc-covered RMIT Design Hub, on the corner of Swanston and Victoria streets.
3. Swanston Square Apartment Tower
A portrait of Woi Wurrung ngurungaeta (leader) William Barak (1823-1903) wraps around the facade of this building. Known as King of the Yarra, Barak was an activist, artist and educator.
4. Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner
Behind the Melbourne City Baths is the artwork Standing by Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner by Brook Andrew and Trent Walter. It was commissioned in 2016 by the City of Melbourne to honour the two Aboriginal men who were hanged here in 1842.
5. Victorian Trades Hall
On the corner of Lygon Street is the Victorian Trades Hall, commemorating the 1856 Eight Hour Day victory.
6. Royal Exhibition Building
Continue to the heritage-listed Carlton Gardens and the domed 1880 Royal Exhibition Building.
7. Moreton Bay Fig Trees
The Moreton Bay Fig Trees are a historical meeting place for Aboriginal communities and the site of addresses by leaders including Pastor Doug Nicholls.
8. Melbourne Museum
See the stunning possum skin cloaks in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre and the legendary Melbourne Cup racehorse Phar Lap. Then wander through the indoor living Forest Gallery.
9. Argyle Square
Rest in Lygon Street’s picturesque Argyle Square with a coffee from the cute Parco kiosk.
10. Lygon Street
Melbourne’s Little Italy is beloved for its authentic pizzerias and boutique shopping. If the rumours are true, The University Cafe (257 Lygon Street) was the first to install an espresso machine in 1952, kicking off Melbourne’s cafe culture love affair.
11. King & Godfree
Stop in at King & Godfree on the corner of Faraday Street. Built in 1884 and originally a grocer, it’s now a favourite deli, restaurant, wine bar and rooftop. Grab a gelato next door at Pidapipo.
12. University of Melbourne
The underground gothic South Lawn Carpark was used as a filming location in Mad Max (1979). Nearby, find the four ancient River Red Gums, essential to the Woi Wurrung people for shelter, canoes and tools.
13. RMIT Social Innovation Hub
The RMIT Social Innovation Hub is a unique model of co-services across health, urban design and education.
14. NGO Precinct
At number 130 is Oxfam, and at number 60 is the award-winning 60L Green Building, home to the Australian Conservation Foundation and other green tenants. Take a tour or visit the Going Solar shop for sustainable tech.
15. Queen Victoria Market
The largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, open since 1878. Previously the Old Melbourne Cemetery until 1854, it’s an important site of Aboriginal burial grounds. Shop the sheds for cheese tastings, fresh produce and handmade crafts.
More to explore
Innovation and new ideas share street blocks with historical sites. Go on a fact-finding tour for bushranger tales, 3D printing hubs and arthouse cinema.
Corner of La Trobe and Russell streets
This group of Romanesque buildings includes the former City Watch House, the Magistrates Court and adjoining Old Melbourne Gaol where bushranger Ned Kelly was convicted and hanged in 1880. Find out more on a spooky ghost tour.
58 Cardigan Street
Here at the RMIT Advanced Manufacturing Precinct, researchers and practitioners are designing, engineering and manufacturing 3D printing technology for bio-engineering, aerospace and defence industries.
Corner of Swanston and Grattan streets
At new innovation precinct Melbourne Connect industry and University of Melbourne researchers are using digital technology and data to develop socially responsible and sustainable solutions for the future.
Catch an arthouse film at Cinema Nova have coffee and cake at Brunetti. Spend an afternoon in Readings bookshop before heading to Jimmy Watson’s wine bar or to Heartattack and Vine for cocktails.
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