Enjoy la dolce vita in village-like Carlton. Revisit student life with the uni kids, discuss the Il Globo headlines over espresso with the Italian stalwarts, take in a slice of Federation history, and eat till you're fit to burst.
Food and wine
Lygon Street and its neighbours are going through a revival, and with new bars and eateries opening quicker than you can toss pizza dough, there's plenty to discover, both old-school and new.
At the southern end of Lygon Street, old-school Italian eateries decked out in F1 paraphernalia serve up more pizza and pasta than you can wave a flag at. Run the gauntlet of spruikers to strike a deal for a family meal (expect a warm welcome for bambinos) and park yourself under the umbrellas.
At the northern end, local institutions Ti Amo, Jimmy Watson's and Trotters share street space with newcomers Heart Attack and Vine, Milk the Cow and Wolf's Lair. Wander beyond Lygon Street to discover plenty more: Epocha and The Town Mouse, both hatted in The Age Good Food Guide, and Faraday Street's Carlton Wine Room and D.O.C. Turn the corner to explore Elgin Street. It's transforming at an amazing rate.
Caffeine and sweet treats
Getting good coffee is a safe bet in the neighbourhood credited with being the birthplace of Melbourne's cafe culture. For a guaranteed cup of goodness visit roastery Seven Seeds. For accompanying sweet treats, try for a table Lygon Court's shiny sugar emporium Brunetti or jostle with the crowds at one of Lygon Street's many excellent gelaterias.
After dinner entertainment
It's not (quite) all about the food in Carlton. There are arthouse and limited-release films to see at Cinema Nova, independent theatre to applaud at La Mama and books to browse at Readings. For something more active, catch live music at the John Curtin Hotel and fortnightly DJ sets at Trades Hall.
If you have bambinos in tow, explore kid-friendly displays at Melbourne Museum, let little legs run wild in the Carlton Gardens or send them wide-eyed at the IMAX cinema. Just beyond Carlton, take the kids to explore Melbourne Zoo and spooky Old Melbourne Gaol.
History and heritage
Use your get out of gaol free card to wander from the Old Melbourne Gaol up to the heritage-listed Trades Hall building. Absorb the history of the oldest trades hall building in Australia still used for its original purpose. Across at the Carlton Gardens, admire the elegant Royal Exhibition Building, home to Australia's first parliament and one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions.
How to get there
By tram: Number 1 or 8 heading north from Swanston Street.
By bus: Number 200, 201, 203, 205, 207 or 253 from Melbourne Central.