The Top 10 Bars in Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne Restaurants + Bars Insider Guides
by Gerard Ward Feb 23, 2010

Cookie. All photos by author.

Matador brings you an assorted mix of the best bars in Melbourne, from the laid-back to the la-di-dah.

IT’S BEEN VOTED the World’s Third Most Livable City and is as diverse with its sub-cultures as it is with different drinking establishments. With the competition between watering holes being so high, you’ll find it difficult to find a place in Melbourne that you disagree with, or find without having to venture down alleyways and corridors.


The whiff of subtle (yet pleasant) Thai dishes engulfs your right nostril and the banter of the crowd hijacks your left ear. The Cookie’s cocktail list is elaborate, the top-range beer is book-sized, and the presentation is even more impressive.

Even on busy nights, bartenders will create lavish cocktails without breaking a sweat or aimlessly look for an abstract liqueur up the ladder.

Rooftop Bar

While the name gives away its floor level, it’s in the same building as the Cookie, which saves travel time and grants a magnificent view of the city. Deck chairs surround the umbrellas protecting you from UV rays and the bar’s plastic cups remove the issue of falling objects journeying seven flights to ground level.

Rooftop Bar.

It’s a relaxed atmosphere with music that won’t blast away conversation, as well as a perfect way to soak in the sun when Melbourne allows it. Unlike many of the world’s other rooftop bars, most nights the turns into an outdoor cinema.

Penny Blue

This small but elegant bar is hidden down an alleyway in the city central. It’s a sophisticed spot with staff who know their drinks. Microbrews found around Victoria state and Australia are frequently hand-delivered fresh from the brewery, and lavish couches fit for an overzealous Queen’s posse keep your derriere comfy.

The Croft Institute

Melbourne’s alleyway reputation gets a full screening when you look down a zigzag of alleyways to The Croft Institute. Initially a mental institution, the building has become a themed spectacle.

The first floor is reminiscent of a high school science class with luminescent beakers, test tubes and mind-numbing shots being served in syringe capsules that squirt into your mouth. Upstairs bathrooms have come out of a 1950’s detective film.

At the top is the gymnasium equipped with a dance floor, wooden seating, house music and real grass on the bar, ready for your stumbling fingers to pat and gawk at. It’s well worth the search around the city and a memorable place to drink.

Belgium Beer Cafe.

The Esplanade

This musical house has survived names big and small. The Esplanade is in the perfect position to offer a romantic sunset, while the rock bands inside blast away every night. You couldn’t find a better place near the beach for anyone to feel comfortable, nor a more eclectic mix of music.

The initial darkness of the place may be off-putting at first but for music lovers this is the place for real, raw and most importantly live music.

Belgium Beer Café

Imagine the outdoor setting of a beerhaus in Germany and you have the Belgium Beer Cafe. The pub’s inside is a homely oak feel, but when it’s warm and sunny you’re best enjoying your Belgium beer in the expansive outside area, surrounded by the trees and benches.

There’s an array of over 100 imported brews (like the delicious Kriek) and grub to keep your palette satisfied.

Madame Brussels

You’d swear that this bar is an advertisement for 1950’s tennis wear or an Alice in Wonderland tea party with the elaborate furniture catering to those wishing to feel like a high-class citizen of the past. Fancy and refreshing cocktails are served for ‘singles’ (for two) and ‘doubles’ (four), tempting enough to have for yourself. Selling decorated cupcakes, friendly service and a stylish list of wines is a bonus for the bar with a view.

Section 8.

The Local

On the slight outskirts of St Kilda and Chapel Street is a bar that has the utmost respect for beer. The stage hosts an array of entertainment every night, surrounded by couches to soothe any traveller’s mind from strain. The comfort of the restaurant upstairs and outdoor area makes this warm and wood-finished pub a great place, rain or shine.

La La Land

It’s bigger than you think, but your first impression of Chapel Street’s La La Land is ‘cozy’. The nice walkway to the bar passes the funky, cushy seating and a fireplace. Drink specials are on every day and the staff are always running around with friendly banter and offering seated service, when time permits.

Section 8

Section 8’s origin came from the idea that there’s more potential for a small parking bay down a tiny alleyway than it just being littered with metal with wheels. Replacing it with a larger hunk of metal in the form of a shipping container, Section 8 in the city central is hidden from the public eye and is also one of Melbourne’s simplest and best.

Start in the afternoon without sun glare and admire the Asian artwork and lanterns on the brick wall as you sink down a longneck beer or a mixer in a non-pretentious environment. You’ll want to keep this place to yourself.

***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***

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