An Australian Hipster Sojourn

Fitzroy: Melbourne’s “bohemian heartland.” Known for its plethora of murals, a funky weekend market, and dozens of vintage stores. I knew I had to check out this neighborhood.

One friend joked when I told her where I was going that “the hipster areas call to you like a siren no matter what part of the world you’re in.” I’m not ashamed to say that she’s right. I guess it’s a side effect of growing up in Austin and having creative parents.

Kirsten, always willing to do anything that I plan, was more than happy to join me on my Australian hipster sojourn. Starting on Gertrude Street, working our way to Smith Street, and then looping around to Brunswick Street we took the whole day to circumnavigate the area.

I could tell almost immediately we had arrived in Melbourne’s hipsterdom, albeit a high-end iteration: Beards, tattoos, and retro and/or natural styles of dress lived next to trendy cafes, indie boutiques, and designer cocktail bars. Gentrification’s fingerprints were everywhere.

On Smith Street. This graffiti facade stand above artisan bakeries and Asian restaurants. © Violet Acevedo
On Smith Street. This graffiti facade stand above artisan bakeries and Asian restaurants. © Violet Acevedo

Some of the grit that no doubt penetrated the neighborhood in the near past still lingered in the buildings. The traditional home of the working class and Melbourne’s first suburb, the area boasts some stellar yet slightly rundown Victorian architecture. Chipping paint and worn brick coupled with intricate ironwork and elegant stone decoration.

Graffiti was present of course (there seems to be a very lively culture surrounding graffiti in Melbourne), but striking murals also covered the bricks. It seemed, at one point, that each block would host its own display of public artistry.

Just one example of the murals that populated the area. Found while wandering down one of the side streets. © Violet Acevedo
Just one example of the murals that populated the area. Found while wandering down one of the side streets. © Violet Acevedo

Fitzroy’s hipsterness revealed itself in other ways too. We must’ve stopped in a dozen or so vintage stores during our self-guided tour and walked past an equal number of record stores, each harboring their own unique take on the old-turned-new aesthetic. Natural grocers and vegetarian restaurants were also in abundance, full of young, well-off mothers looking for new organic and vegan ways to feed their children.

While most of area catered to a certain type of wealthy middle-class hipster, a kind of hipsterdom that is often beyond my day-to-day tastes and budget, we made the most of our time there. We found a couple deals, grabbed good pho for lunch and vegan curry for dinner, and topped it all off with locally produced ciders at a cider bar.

“Cheers to hipsterdom!” we said as we clinked together our pints, satisfied from the long day.

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