Footscray is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, a few kilometres west of the CBD.
Long a working class area due to its close proximity to the factories and warehouses of Melbourne's nearby industrial centre, it is also home to a large concentration of the city's Vietnamese population and increasingly a hub for the growing East African community, home to many immigrants from Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea.
Footscray is also notable as the setting of Russell Crowe's breakout 1992 film Romper Stomper, which dealt with a fictional gang of neo-nazi skinheads and their battle with the Vietnamese immigrants.
Footscray is affectionately known by some Melbourne residents as "Footsy", "Footscrazy" and "Footscary".
Footscray Station can be easily reached from Southern Cross Station (on weekday mornings and weekends) or any City Loop station (on weekday afternoons) (in Melbourne's CBD) on the Werribee, Williamstown and Sunbury lines. If the train is not travelling via the City Loop, it is only a 6 minute train ride and most trains run express through the station before it, South Kensington.
A number of frequent bus routes also operate from the CBD to Footscray. The 402 operates every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends from St Vincents Plaza through the inner-north suburb of Carlton to Footscray. The 220 also operates through Queen Street from Gardenvale to Sunshine via Footscray, operating every 15 minutes on weekdays.
While Footscray is not connected directly to the city by tram, the route 82 from Leeds Street, 150m from the train station, runs to the Moonee Ponds bus and tram interchange on Mount Alexander Road, which connects with trams to the city and north-western suburbs, with buses that run to the north-west and cut across the northern suburbs.
See and Do
Forty per cent of Footscray's residents were born outside Australia, hailing from 135 countries and speaking more than 80 languages. This incredible diversity has fostered a vital street culture like no other in Melbourne.
- 1 Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland Street. Non stop art exhibitions and an endless list of music gigs and theatre shows. In summer outdoor film screenings take place on the banks of the Maribyrnong River.
- 2 VU at MetroWest, 138 Nicholson Street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 9am - 5pm Mon-Fri. VU at MetroWest is a community art space run by Victoria University, who's main Footscray campus is a bit further south along Nicholson Street.VU at MetroWest features community and student exhibitions Free.
- 3 Trocadero Art Space, Level 1, 119 Hopkins Street. 12pm - 5pm Wed - Sat. Small art gallery upstairs. Click through to their website to see examples from current exhibitions. Free entry..
- Five Walls, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Wed - Sat 12pm - 5pm. Artist-run art space in the same place as Trocadero (above) Free entry.
Downtown Footscray has a great community feel, with a dozen streets filled with small businesses. As well as the listings below, Footscray also has a number of interesting shops selling traditional African clothing, art and hair products. You can also find several large, over stocked $2 style shops, packed with weird Chinese imports, cheap plastic toys and household goods
While far from being one of Melbourne's shopping destinations, Footscray houses two large markets:
- 1 Footscray Market, 18 Irving Street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tue - Wed 7am -4pm, Thu 7am - 6pm, Fri 7am - 7pm, Sat 7am - 5pm. Closed Sun and Mon. Footscray Market is a fresh produce, meat, poultry and seafood market, catering particularly to the various ethnicities and local restaurants. There's also eateries, nut and coffee stalls, tobacconists and a few variety shops. It has the reputation as one of the cheapest places in Melbourne to shop so if you're cooking for yourself it's definitely worth a look. Or just wander around and enjoy the sights and sounds of business going on around you.
- 2 Little Saigon, 63 Nicholson Street. 9am - 7pm Mon - Sat, 9am - 6pm Sun.. Little Saigon is another large market. It opened in 1992 to cater to the growing Asian population, but now has customers from all backgrounds. Little Saigon is noisy and crowded, with a wide array of tropical fruits and Asian produce.
- 3 Konjo African Craft, 87 Irving Street, ☎ . Store selling Ethiopian food and crafts: spices, flours, raw and roasted coffee, pots, wood craft, clothing and jewellery. Also has a cafe
Like Victoria Street in Richmond, Hopkins Street running through the heart of Footscray is home to a number of very cheap Vietnamese restaurants and noodle shops.
The area centered around the Footscray Hub has become a Little Ethiopia of sorts, and Nicholson Street in particular is lined with African cafes and restaurants, mostly serving traditional Habesha cuisine (that of Ethiopia and Eritrea), characterized by stews and curries dished up on layers of flat bread called injera. Very tasty and ridiculously cheap.
For many more ideas about eating in Footscray than are listed here, the Footscray Food Blog has five years' worth of love for the inner West.
- 1 Cafe Lalibela, 91 Irving Street, ☎ . 11am - 10pm every day. Probably the best Ethiopian cuisine in the area, and not a main course over $12. Served in the traditional custom of sharing, the food is poured on layers of injera (flat, sour bread) covering one big plate to be shared by all at the table.
- 2 African Town Cafe, 161 Nicholson Street, ☎ . More Ethiopian cuisine, while local regulars pop in and out for a chat over excellent $2 Ethiopian coffee. All main courses $10.
- 3 Ras Dashen, 121 Nicholson Street, ☎ . Mon - Fri 11.30am, - 8.30pm, Sat - Sun 12.30pm - 8.30pm. Had a birthday dinner here. Loved it. $10 for a pot of coffee that has five or six espresso-sized serves (and comes with a burning lump of frankincense). A whole baked fish for $13, beans and egg in a mild stew for $8, nice dark "Amber Beer" from Ethiopia like a porter or mild stout. 8 of us ate for $190 including alcoholic drinks and coffees. It's not silver service obviously, but the lady who looked after us was friendly and explained things we didn't understand. Definitely check this place out.
- 4 Dumplings and More, 96 Hopkins Street, ☎ . 11am - 9.30pm Mon - Sun. Great entrees!. I only had about $20 and wanted a big feed. The main courses were nothing special price wise, but the entrees and dumplings were dirt cheap. Grabbed a plate of 15 (!) dumplings, a seaweed salad and spring onion pancake for $14 (!). Left me full and waddling back to the tram! Seaweed Salad was ENORMOUS. It's a little different to what I was expecting (I thought it would be like the seaweed topping you can get in sushi - this was more like thin noodles). Bits of chili through it. And it cost $2 - a great way to have some green food and fill up the odd corners.
- 5 Olympic Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, near Irving Street entrance. Sold in an old caravan at Footscray station, the best in Melbourne.
- Konjo Cafe Footscray, 87 Irving Street, ☎ . Mon - Sat 8.30am - 4.30pm, Sun 9.30am - 4.30pm. Same location as Konjo African Craft in the "Buy" section above. Features a $15 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch Wed-Sat (vegan on Wed and Thu).
- 6 am DESSERT, 10 Droop Street, ☎ . 12 noon to 12 midnight every day. Cafe with a wide range of desserts including unusual things like fish-shaped waffles and matcha ice cream. Open late compared to lots of local eateries. Also serves hot breakfasts, chicken, steak, bubble tea, milkshakes etc. Waffles $8, large gelati $6.60, cake with cream and ice cream $8.80.
- 1 The Dancing Dog Cafe, 42 Albert Street Footscray, ☎ . From 8.30am weekdays, 11am weekends. Footscray's only 'alternative venue'. Often hosts live music and other events. Open late at the weekends. Taco night Wednesdays, $2 tacos and open mic 5 -10pm. Other events include open mic poetry, and comedy. Happy hour with $8 pints 5 - 6pm nightly.
- 2 The Station Hotel, 59 Napier St, ☎ . 11am to late, 7 days a week. Footscray - Opposite the Town Hall. Casual bar, indoor and outdoor seating, coffee. One of the "Top five places to eat steak" as judged by The Age Good Food Guide Dining Companion 2010.
- 1 Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly Street (Corner Barkly St and Geelong Rd), ☎ . Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Above a large Pub $120 - $165 per night.
Footscray has a reputation as one of Melbourne's worst suburbs, long associated with the drug trade and considered a hotbed for crime and junkies. While crime has declined since the 1990s, drug activity is still an issue in the neighbourhood, particularly around Footscray Station. 2010 statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that 48% of people detained by police in the area are heroin users, in contrast to the declining heroin use nationally over the last decade.
Footscray has considerably cleaned up over the last decade and should pose no threat during the day. The worst you are likely to encounter may be addicts begging for money. Exercise common sense, avoid undesirable looking characters, be polite if approached and leave valuables out of sight. If you must walk around at night, stick to the main roads, preferably with company.
Footscray is in the Maribyrnong local council area which had 1082 Crimes Against the Person recorded in 2010 while Melbourne's city center had over 3500 in the same year.
Like much of the western suburbs of Melbourne, the Footscray area has a large volume of heavy vehicle traffic. Coupled with the many narrow roads in the area this can be especially hazardous to cyclists.