I lived in the Brunswick suburb of Melbourne for the first few months of my stay in Australia. It is one of the main hipster areas in the city.
Brunswick is laid back and welcoming. It’s one of my favorite parts of the city. The suburb has an eclectic mix of people from a variety of cultures. It also has a young crowd. Brunswick is a great spot for travelers. There are a fair number of hostels, prices are fairly cheap, there are several op shops (second hand stores) and there is a strong nightlife. The suburb also has numerous cafés and restaurants. I really enjoy Green Refectory and The Penny Black. They are comfortable spots and offer delicious food and drink for a great deal.
Both are on Sydney Road, which is the main street in Brunswick. It’s where you will find the majority of shops, restaurants, bars and cafés. You can find food from all over the world: Malaysian, Japanese, Irish and more. And there is a strong Mediterranean and Middle Eastern presence in the suburb, so Kebab shops and Italian eateries abound. The most significant stretch of Sydney Road is between Brunswick Road and Victoria Street. It’s where you’ll find the most popular businesses and the young crowd. North of Victoria Street is still great, but gets a bit more run down; save for the numerous wedding shops, offering services for all the things you could need for a wedding: gowns, shoes, invitations, etc. Another exception is Dejour Jeans, which is a famous shop that has high-quality, tailor-fitted jeans.
I stayed on Victoria Street at the Victoria Hotel, which was not the best in terms of facilities and comfort, but had the most amazing people. It is the first hostel I have lived in, and it was an incredible experience. I stayed there for four months, arriving at the Vic my first day in Australia. I really lucked out that I ended up there, because I met such a lovely group of people. Most of them were also in Australia doing the Work and Holiday visa, staying at the hostel long term. We became like a family. I miss having a great group of peers to come home to each day. We had movie nights, a tea party and dance parties in the living room as well as numerous chat sessions on the balcony. We also went out and explored the city together.
The Victoria Hotel is a two-story building with a bar and restaurant on the ground floor and hostel on the top floor. There is live music on Saturdays, quiz nights on Wednesday and other events throughout the week. It is a lively spot, so it can get quite loud at night when the bar is crowded and music is blaring. And the facilities are a bit run down; there are cracks in the walls, leaky fridges and old bathrooms. But it is designed much like a home, with the kitchen and lounge areas in the center. So it really fosters a sense of community, which I think is the Vic’s redeeming quality. And the location is really convenient. The train station and tram stop are just a short walk away, and it only takes about 25 minutes to get into the city. Plus the rooms are offered for a pretty solid deal. It’s worth checking out to see if you’ll meet a nice group of people, and if not, at least you can enjoy Brunswick.
Another hostel in the area is the Railway Hotel, which has a similar setup to the Vic. There is a bar on the ground level and several floors of rooms above. The bar is split into a few different sections and has two courtyard areas, one in the front and one in the back. The Railway became one of—if not the—most popular spots for going out. The bar is crowded at night and there are often rave events (regularly with a cover charge) in the extension room in the back courtyard. It is a spot worth checking out at least once. But to be fair, it isn’t my favorite locale. I’m not a huge fan of raving—probably mostly because I just can’t quite nail down the dance style—and most people are gone in a drug haze. It just isn’t my scene, and it makes it difficult to connect with people while you are out.
The Brunswick Hotel is another popular location for going out. The Bruni has a huge outdoor patio, which is great even in winter, and a sizable indoor section, both of which have bars. The bar often has live music or a DJ on the weekends. You’ll get an assortment of musical styles here, so be prepared for anything.
One musical style I love is bachata, so I was really excited to find the Dominican Dance Company. They have classes and social dancing on Tuesdays at Bridie O’Reilly’s at the corner of Sydney Road and Brunswick Road. Tuesday’s classes focus on bachata with classes from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Each half hour, the level is increased and more difficult moves are introduced. From 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. the dance floor is opened up for social dancing, which includes bachata, salsa and merengue songs. It is $15 for the classes and social dancing or just $5 for social dancing alone. The instructors are very good and the music is great. It is a lovely spot!
For the more day-to-day living needs, check out Barkly Square. It is an indoor shopping complex with bakeries, produce shops and delis. You can also find megachains like Coles and Woolworths supermarkets as well as Kmart. The square also has banks, phone stores and some restaurants. It is a one-stop place to complete your errands.
But if you are sticking to a tighter budget, head north on Sydney Road to Aldi. It is a grocery store with items at a discounted rate. The selection is not as large as Coles or Woolworths, but Aldi has all of the basics you will need and a bit more. And if you are looking for a deal on clothes and home goods, you can check out several of the op shops throughout Brunswick. One of my favorites is Savers, because it is a huge store with a large selection. It is a great place to find one man’s trash and make it your treasure.
Brunswick really is a great spot in Melbourne. It is a wonderful place to live, especially for the young traveler. Sure you could be in the heart of the city, but there is a charm to this suburb that the CBD can’t quite muster.
Brazilica is a great place for waxing and other beauty services. The staff is skilled, thorough and professional. And they offer their services for very affordable prices. They often have specials, so be sure to check out the facebook page to see what deals are on. I have taken advantage of the half-price waxing offered for training. A beautician in training will do the waxing while being directed and supervised by a seasoned professional (so you are just left to the wolves). It is a great bargain, and I have been pleased with the results each time.