Carlton lies just north of the city but, with its university presence and long-established Italian restaurant scene, it could be a million miles away. Lygon Street is the centre of the action, and it was here, in the 1950s, that espresso bars first opened in Melbourne; exotic spots such as Toto’s Pizza House had an unconventional allure in staid Anglo Melbourne, and the local intelligentsia soon made the street their second home. Victorian terraced houses provided cheap living, and this became the first of the city’s “alternative” suburbs. These days, Carlton is no longer bohemian; its residents are older and wealthier and Lygon Street has gone definitively upmarket, though the smart fashion shops still jostle with bookshops and an abundance of Italian restaurants and cafés.
Lygon Street itself is the obvious place to explore, but the elegant architecture also spreads eastwards to Drummond Street, Carlton Gardens, Rathdowne and Nicholson streets. Running along the western side of the university, Royal Parade gives onto Royal Park, with its memorial to the explorers Burke and Wills, from where it’s a short walk through the park to the zoo.