Forget what you thought you knew about Footscray; this suburb is a shining example of the changing face of Melbourne’s inner west.
Once a hotbed for Greek and Italian migrants, and more recently new arrivals from Vietnam and Africa, Footscray is a melting pot of cultures and influences. These have swept across the neighbourhood in a wave of opportunity and gentrification, making Footscray an exciting suburb to visit.
Take a wander down bustling Barkly and Hopkins Streets and you’ll find eye-popping pastels, American diner-inspired decor and more at Bad Love Club, a bakery with a twist. By day there’s Sensory Lab coffee, fresh bagels and hot jaffles with fun, musical names like Fleetwood Cheese n Mac and the Fab Four. By night, it transforms into a bakery-slash-bar, whipping up cocktails and serving home-style cakes, pies and donuts.
Footscray is home to some of the great pubs in Melbourne. One — famed for the food and wine in the dining room, as well as its reputation as a craft beer tastemaker — is the Station Hotel, just a couple of blocks from Footscray Train Station. People come from miles around to try the staggeringly-good steaks (the Station is regularly mentioned in conversations about the best steaks in Melbourne), so why not join them and make a night of it? Another favourite pub among locals, Victoria Hotel, is closer to Middle Footscray Train Station than the heady atmosphere of Footscray’s centre. It’s humble and relaxed, with all pretences stripped away along with its pokie machines. Bring the kids, order at the bar and experience a Footscray institution that speaks to both its working-class past as well as its gentrified present and future.
For a relaxing watering hole with a rustic vibe, head to Bar Josephine. There are 12 craft beers on tap that are consistently rotated across a variety of local and international ales, sours, stouts and lagers to keep things interesting. There’s a small list of wines and cocktails too, and a dog-friendly beer garden out the back where you can enjoy your bevy. Other great spots on Barkly Street for a classy night out include Small French Bar (yes, it’s French cuisine, yes, it’s insanely delicious, and yes, it’s the perfect place for an intimate date or a girls’ night) and The Cheeky Pint, where you’re not only guaranteed to be served a great beer or three, but where you can also score yourself some amazing Italian fare with a wine list to match.
When you’re ready to step the night up a notch, grab a late-night cocktail at Littlefoot Bar, a spot where you’ll always run into like-minded locals at the bar, under the neon ‘Footscray’ sign or out the back in the beer garden.
For the perfect blend of community and local culture, check out Footscray Community Arts Centre. It’s the central hub of creativity in Footscray, with exhibitions and performances by emerging and established artists, as well as art workshops for kids and adults. There’s also a cafe and bar on site, and you’ll have great views of the Maribyrnong River and out to Melbourne’s CBD from here. It also plays host to the annual St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, arguably Australia’s best multi-city music festival that boasts a line-up of international and local bands and artists every year.