Huong Eva Do

Visitors to Melbourne are charmed by this culturally diverse and vibrant city

The cultural diversity of Melbourne allows everyone to find their own space, be it in a Vietnamese, Greek or European neighborhood. Within the past decade, Melbourne’s population has swelled by 30 percent with nearly one million newcomers bringing this Australian city’s total population up to 4.3 million. New influences have transformed the city’s streets.

If you only have a few days in Melbourne, head to the city’s inner northeast, the suburbs just 2km from the Central Business District (CBD). Here, you’ll find a young, creative and inspiring side of Melbourne.

Just 20 minutes by foot from downtown lies Carlton, famed for Lygons Street and its quintessentially Italian restaurants and atmosphere. At 11pm, neat rows of tables and chairs line the sidewalks and diners are still enjoying glasses of wine and pasta. Long lines of pedestrians stroll by, stopping for cake or gelato. This area is home to one of Melbourne’s best bookshops, Readings. The little Nova cinema is equally famous, specializing in rare  art-house films. Nearby, the Melbourne Museum features an IMAX that shows state-of-the-art 3D films. Carlton offers shady streets lined with small Victorian townhouses with curly iron balconies and well-kept flower beds. This area balances a sense of history with the vibrancy of our digital era.

A walk from Carlton leads to Fritzroy, which can be summed up in three words:  Coffee – Arts – Chaos! Twenty years ago, Fritzroy was a poor working class neighborhood with dilapidated brick houses. It has since been transformed into one of the most chic, expensive and robust areas in Melbourne. Old relics persist thanks to government-subsidized flats with cheap rent for low-income families, but the streets are now flanked with chic and delightful restaurants, pubs and cafés.

Check out the unique Spud bar, which serves everything related to potatoes. Baked sweet potatoes are served piping hot with butter and beautiful and delicious vegetable sauces. Another cool cafe (among countless others) is Black Cat, which offers lots of pillows and benches as well as outdoor tables. Many alleyways in Fritzroy are covered with graffiti and lively murals. Just a short walk can take several hours. The locals are amusing as they are young and culturally diverse. Most people you meet are artists, tourists, work in marketing or IT, etc. Many are devoted to new trends: they are going green, into minimalism, vegan, or yoga addicts, etc.

Next door to Fritzroy lies Collingwood, an outdoor kaleidoscope and global village. The streets are lined with retro furniture stores, organic cafés, and old warehouses turned into residences. The eateries serve a melting pot of cuisines including Turkish, Vietnamese and Latin American. Collingwood has opened its arms to welcome all types of migrants. People are friendly and open whether you are a wealthy foodie or a ragged backpacker, single or in a group, male or female, normal or unusual.

Melbourne is always reinventing itself through different neighborhoods that mix a sense of history with spaces that encourage social interactions. Melbourne is like a pretty girl who neither shows off nor sticks up her nose, leaving suitors curious and mesmerized.