From strictly English pub-style roots, Melbourne’s drinking scene has exploded with style and variety. Whatever your favorite tipple may be, Melbourne now offers an abundance of smart, stylish and downright quirky venues to wet your whistle while on your Melbourne vacation.
In the City
Melbourne is blessed with two key ingredients for a thriving and eclectic bar scene: liberal licensing laws and an insatiable appetite for cool. The city’s laneways and nooks are teeming with options that can be hard to find, but that’s all part of the adventure.
The Melbourne Supper Club helped lead the renaissance in inner-city night life when it opened in 1998, and has maintained a spot near the top of the heap ever since. The best nightcap in town involves sinking into its plush Chesterfield couches, marveling at the ornate Victorian architecture and enjoying a glass from a lengthy list of wines, champagnes and spirits. The cheese platter here is an excellent late-night snack. Open until 5 a.m. or later. 161 Spring St., tel. +61-3-9654-6300.
For Martini-hunters, the Gin Palace is the promised land. Tucked down an alleyway, the cozy couches, snug interior and Martini know-how make for a relaxing, intimate place for an aperitif or two. Simply ordering the Luis Buñuel Martini (frozen for two days) makes you cooler in every way. Open 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily. 190 Little Collins St. (entry off Russell Place), tel. +61-3-9654-0533.
More Bar and Nightlife Tips
What’s the Dress Code?
Melbournians are a laid-back if somewhat stylish lot. Dressing to impress might come in handy in the social stakes, but you won’t get refused entry for wearing jeans and a T-shirt to all of these locations.
Can I Smoke?
Smoking is banned in all indoor public spaces in Victoria. Many bars have seated outside areas for smokers. If unsure, ask the bar staff, as fines apply for lighting-up indoors.
At The Toff in Town, a strange name reveals a most intriguing setup. Down the center of the wood-paneled room runs a series of wooden carriages. If your luck is in, you’ll get one of these private enclaves, which is the perfect spot for a romantic liaison. You’re not completely cut off, however, and a built-in buzzer will bring the waiter to serve your next round. Open from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. 252 Swanston St., tel. +61-3-9639-8770. www.thetoffintown.com
Located in the same building as The Toff is the Rooftop Bar. This perfect spot for watching the sun set over the city becomes an outdoor cinema at night during summer. Don’t worry, though, the bar stays open throughout the screening. Open until 1 a.m. Tel. +61-3-9663-3696, www.rooftopcinema.com.au.
Tucked down a laneway off a laneway in Chinatown is the inspired Croft Institute. You’ll feel like you’re back in a school laboratory, except this time there are excellent drinks and tunes. Melbourne’s artier side flocks here, and the vibe is friendly and interesting. Don’t miss the bizarre bathrooms upstairs. Mon. to Thurs., 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Fri. and Sat. until 3 a.m. 21 Croft Alley (off Little Bourke Street), tel. +61-3-9671-4399.
Soak up the Australian sun at Section 8.
Director John Waters would be right at home in the wonderfully kitsch Madame Brussels. AstroTurf, fake plants and retro garden furniture set the scene. Madame Brussels specializes in Pimm’s, cocktails by the jug, cupcakes and great views from its outdoor area. Open Sun. to Wed., noon to 11 p.m.; Thurs. to Sat., noon to 1 a.m. 63 Bourke St., tel. +61-3-9662-2775. www.madamebrussels.com
Built as a temporary bar using a shipping container in a Chinatown car park, Section 8 is now a Melbourne mainstay. Open to the elements, it’s a terrific spot for relaxing outside in the center of the city while enjoying music from top-notch DJs. Mon. to Wed., 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Thurs. to Fri., 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat., noon to 1 a.m.; Sun., noon to 11 p.m. 27-29 Tattersalls Lane, tel. +61-4-3029-1588. www.section8.com.au
Next: Drinks on the City Outskirts