When Melbournians talk about Lygon Street, in the suburb of Carlton, they are not referring to its entire length. Rather, they are talking about the iconic dining stretch between Victoria and Elgin streets, situated just to the north of downtown Melbourne.
Lygon Street features a mouth-watering array of Italian restaurants and cafés, including historic establishments such as Toto’s Pizza House, Australia’s first pizzeria. After dinner indulge your sweet tooth with a gelato or sip an espresso. Melbourne is a coffee-loving city and the cafés here regularly engage in passionate arguments about where the city’s best coffee can be found.
During the mid 20th century, thousands of Italian immigrants arrived in Melbourne and settled in Carlton. Italian restaurants and cafés began to crop up on the suburb’s main thoroughfare. The transformation of the area into Australia’s “Little Italy” was completed in 1978 with the establishment of the Lygon Street Fiesta. This Italian street festival still happens every year in October.
There are a dizzying array of Italian restaurants to choose from, as well as a few Indian and Thai venues. Often there will be waiters standing outside restaurants trying to entice you into their restaurant.
After lunch or dinner, catch the latest in world cinema at the Cinema Nova, or a play at the historic La Mama Theatre. Learn about the history of the Italian community in Victoria, and the community’s contemporary identity, at the Museo Italiano. Or, stretch your legs with a walk to nearby attractions like the Carlton Gardens and Royal Exhibition Hall, both World Heritage-listed sites. Along Lygon Street you’ll also find shoe and clothing boutiques, book stores and galleries.
The busiest section of Lygon Street is an easy walk from the northern edge of downtown Melbourne. Or, jump on a tram; they run up and down the street. There is metered street parking in the area, but it’s often hard to find a space.