Brunswick by Train: Station Stop Highlights Along Melbourne’s Upfield Line
Take in bohemian Brunswick and the whole of the inner north by rail on this one-day itinerary | © Benoit Balanca / Getty Images
Nowhere does Melbourne’s cosmopolitan character burn brighter than bohemian Brunswick. The 3056 postcode is one of the most multicultural corners of the city, as well as being home to a large LGBTQ community and showing off a sustainable streak in communal veggie patches, meat-free restaurants and vintage stores overflowing with recycled clothing. And all this is just a 15-minute train ride from the centre of the city. Follow this one-day itinerary to explore the inner north by rail.
First stop, Jewell, the food and drink hotspot in South Brunswick. Then Brunswick itself, a mass of vibrant artists’ studios and even more colourful watering holes. Third comes Anstey and a shopaholic’s stroll down Sydney Road, before the final stop in Moreland for mouthwatering multicultural eats. From kebabs and craft breweries to vindaloo and vintage stores, these four stops on the Upfield line deliver a uniquely Melbourne day out.
The first station on this itinerary is a food and drink gem. Jewell – originally called South Brunswick, until it was renamed after long-standing local MP James Jewell in 1954 – has benefited from a head-to-toe facelift in recent years, upgrading the once grimy Wilson Avenue from a slightly dodgy alleyway to a green promenade with its own public rock climbing wall. This Jewell of Brunswick walk is the gateway to a smorgasbord of cafés, restaurants and bars at the southern end of the suburb. Union St Brewers, Code Black Coffee and Wide Open Road are three of the best speciality coffee joints in the north of the city – an area awash with world-class cafés. Wilson Avenue also has the Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School – like a miniature Willy Wonka factory, except visitors make their own sweet treats. A string of Lebanese eateries straddles Sydney Road, but Town Hall Kebab – the place Anthony Bourdain made a beeline to when he arrived in Melbourne for a 2009 episode of No Reservations – might be the pick of the bunch. Across Edward Street, Tom Phat’s Asian-inspired street food stands out from the pack in a town crowded with Southeast Asian eateries. Hipsters also have an array of craft beer and vegan food to whet their appetite. Feast on meat-free pub grub at the Cornish Arms, sip a pint in Howler’s beer garden before catching a film or a gig at the same venue, or head over to Lygon Street for Temple Brewing Company and Thunder Road Brewery, two top-notch taprooms.
The heritage-listed Brunswick station has been chugging commuters into the city centre since 1884, and still represents the heart of the neighbourhood a little over a century later. The streets surrounding this Victorian-era landmark are largely commercial, although the playful Northside Boulders indoor rock climbing centre and Brunswick Baths swimming pool provide a break from the offices and corporate gyms. The centre of Brunswick is where this arty neighbourhood is at its most creative. Pick up a hand-drawn commission from the cartoonists working at the Squishface Comic Studio, support up-and-coming local musicians at the Jazzlab and try to make sense of the figurative pieces that populate the Beinart Gallery – a weird, wacky and wonderful collection as eclectic as Brunswick itself. The stretch of Sydney Road between Dawson Street/Glenlyon Road and Franco Cozzo’s shopfront on Victoria Street also boasts Brunswick’s best bars. The Spotted Mallard, the Retreat Hotel and the Brunswick Green are all live-music institutions that plate up classic pub food, too — the Green’s leafy beer garden, in particular, is an oasis off Sydney Road. Foodies can grab a bite at contemporary diners Los Hermanos Mexican taqueria or Brunswick Mess Hall, which serves up delectable Thai in an old Masonic hall.
Anstey – another station rebadged for the local MP, this one ditching the North Brunswick tag in honour of veteran politician Frank Anstey – is a compulsory stop for shopaholics. The walk from Anstey station down Sydney Road is a treasure trove of independent retailers peddling vintage clothes, fresh fruit and veg, wedding dresses, records, flowers and jewellery. Bargain hunters can skip a glut of bridal stores en route to Dejour Jeans, an icon of Melbourne fashion that cuts made-to-measure jeans for just 55 Australian dollars (£28.50) a pop. Get here before lunchtime to dodge the huge queues that form later in the day. RetroStar and Melbourne Vintage also have warehouses down Hope Street, while Round & Round Records and Anime Town are crammed with collectables. Foodies should visit speciality wine store Cult of the Vine, the cheese experts at the Brunswick Whey, Italian hub Mediterranean Wholesalers, the irresistible Stylish Cakes Co. and the fresh produce stalls at the Brunswick Market. And don’t miss A1 Bakery, a legendary Lebanese joint where Bourdain feasted on zaatar flatbread during his time in Melbourne.
Moreland station services the southern end Coburg at the northern border of Brunswick – a much more residential area than the thick of Sydney Road closer to the city. But the fourth station on this train-based itinerary supplies a series of ethnic eateries that are well worth a stop. The chunk of Sydney Road near Moreland features some of Melbourne’s top international supermarkets. Check out Spice Galore and Hayat Supermarket for the flavours of the Indian subcontinent; Ziad’s Halal Meats for quality lamb, beef, goat and chicken; Gervasi Continental Supermarket for Mediterranean ingredients; and Dhaka Supreme for Asian groceries. And although they may not carry the reputation of the trendier Brunswick addresses further south, Moreland’s low-key multicultural restaurants pack just as much flavour. The Japanese cuisine at Okami, Indian at Bilal, Turkish at Adanali and Italian at Don Angelo’s reflect the diversity of this cosmopolitan postcode.
These recommendations were updated on February 10, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.