Cheers! A Guide To Melbourne’s Coolest Bars

Find hipster pubs, cinema rooftop bars, classy gin joints and local brew halls in downtown Melbourne and beyond.

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.

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.

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,

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.

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.

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.


Next:  Drinks on the City Outskirts 

Drinks on the City Outskirts

All of Melbourne’s best pubs are now found in the suburbs surrounding the city, but the selection of bars won’t disappoint.

From the moody and intimate inner city bars we move to the cavernous and rowdy at Little Creatures Dining Hall. While the food is certainly good, this is definitely a shrine to the delicious range of Little Creatures beer from Western Australia. Open at 10 a.m. daily. 222 Brunswick St., tel. +61-3-9417-5500.

For a taste of a traditional Melbourne pub, head to the Union Club Hotel. Tucked away on a quiet suburban street, this is as true a local pub as you will find in Melbourne. Mismatched furniture, honest pub food and a relaxed, friendly mood are just a few of its simple charms. Open Mon. to Thurs., 3 p.m. until late; Fri. and Sat., noon to 1 a.m.; Sun., noon to 11 p.m. 164 Gore St., tel. +61-3-9417-2926.

Gertrude Street is one of Melbourne’s more interesting retail strips, and when you’re finished shopping, reward yourself with a glass of superb wine at Enoteca. Part wine store, part wine bar, part café, the quality of everything done here is among the best you’ll find. Pick a bottle from the carefully curated range of local and imported wines to take away or drink on the spot. 229 Gertrude St., tel. +61-3-9415-8262.

Mink is perhaps the coolest bar in St Kilda. This subterranean venue features decadently plush décor and specializes in cocktails made from a range of house-infused vodkas. Top drinks with prices to match, but absolutely worth every cent. Dress nicely. 2 Acland St., St Kilda; tel. +61-3-9536-1199.

From the moment you step into Der Raum in Richmond, you’ll begin to re-define your definition of “a good bar.” A global award winner, the fun starts with bottles hanging from the ceiling and a cocktail list chained to the bar to prevent copyright infringement. Seriously. This is quite simply home to the best cocktails in Australia. Try a Long Island Iced Tea, served in a speakeasy-inspired oversized teacup. Open Tues. to Sat., 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. 438 Church St., tel. +61-3-9428-0055.

Prudence is a little off the radar in more ways than one, but that’s why it’s so beloved by those who know it. If it feels like someone simply built a bar in their two-story house adorned with high quality bric-a-brac and retro furniture, it’s because they have. The friendliest bar staff in Melbourne also make it their job to entertain and surprise you, spinning selections from their vast collection of old and new vinyl. Open 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily. 368 Victoria St., West Melbourne; tel. +61-3-9329-9267. 

Destinations: Melbourne

Themes: Urban Endeavors

Activities: Pubs and Bars