The Best Bars in Melbourne’s CBD

Updated 4 weeks ago

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We’re lucky in Melbourne. Most of our best bars are packed into the postcode 3000, all within short walking distance from each other. And there’s a spot for most moods – from characterful laneway bars to rollicking corner pubs and fun rooftops with skyline views.

If you’re drinking late, this is also the place to be. Although there have been a few high-profile club casualties in recent years, the CBD remains flush with late-night licences that allow drinking until the wee hours, or even round the clock. Without further ado, this is our curated list of the best places to drink in Melbourne’s CBD. See you along the bar crawl.

Chinatown and Surrounds

  • Squeeze into this tiny, 100-year-old caretaker’s quarters for what may be Victoria’s smallest pub. Behind Tassie oak bar you’ll find Guinness on tap, a short cocktail list and British pub snacks to keep you mint.

  • Five storeys up, this compact open-air bar offers fruit-forward cocktails and punchy, barbeque-driven Thai food from downstairs sibling BKK. With glass balustrades and dual retractable awnings, it’s the perfect all-weather spot to enjoy city views.

  • Her's first-floor bar is dedicated to vinyl, premium spirits and sparkling wines. Inspired by Japanese and European record bars, it's where you'll hear DJ-curated soundtracks nightly, from the 3000-strong vinyl collection.

  • This audiophile spot serves bar snacks with a side of sub-bass. Things are fun and loud downstairs, with great drinks and a few bar stools to enjoy them on. But it's on the upstairs dancefloor where the volume really turns up.

  • The cherry-red neon sign at Heartbreaker is a beacon for late-night punters chasing a good time. With pre-batched cocktails and classic rock on the jukebox – there’s only one result here. Wear your dancing shoes in case.

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  • A three-storey Italian joint geared for good times. Head to the first floor for a woodfired pizza feast, or up again to the public bar for lambrusco and pool. The rooftop is one of the city’s best spots to drink with a view.

  • Meet Melbourne’s quintessential CBD rooftop bar. It’s appeared in films, has great views, and serves damn fine burgers. And in summers past, it’s morphed into an open-air cinema showing cult films and blockbusters.

  • The cocktails and snacks at Vue de Monde’s adjoining bar are served with all the creative flair you’d expect from one of the country’s finest diners. Walk-ins are always welcome here, which means you don’t have to pay high-end degustation prices to experience the sparkling city view. It’s the best in Melbourne, hands down.

  • With an enormous whisky list and knowledgeable bartenders to guide you, this mood-lit den has the goods to rival some of the world’s best whisky bars. Real enthusiasts can book in for a tasting session led by top distillers.

  • Cookie combines rowdy European beer hall with standout Thai food that beckons to be shared. It’s fun, versatile and subtly influential, preceding similar restaurants like Chin Chin. Bring a crew, order the banquet and plan to drink.

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  • Opulence meets wartime misery at this hidden cocktail bar. It’s split into East and West Berlin; fancy on one side and grungy on the other. No matter where you sit, the drinks are world-class – just ring the doorbell to get in.

  • This fairytale-themed bar is like portal to another land. Beeline to the Narnia section, with its big wooden bar and pounding dance floor.

  • A bar experience that’s part-theatre, part-history lesson and all class. Its menu begins in 1806 (when "cocktail" first appeared in print), and there's a classic libation to represent each decade since.

  • At this long-running rooftop bar, there's an emphasis on cocktails and comfort. The team lets the cocktails, snacks and view do the talking. And the retractable rooftop makes it a great all-weather option.

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  • Melbourne’s answer to the old-school Italian wine bar. Choose a bottle to take home, or crack it open at the restaurant (with a corkage fee) and enjoy with pastas and small plates, alongside the rest of the post-theatre crowd.

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  • This rooftop bar above the Melbourne Supper Club has unrivalled views over Spring Street. It’s also one of the few CBD spots with a cigar menu (and humidor with hard-to-find Cubans). If smoking’s not your style, the cocktails will be.

  • This tranquil bolthole amid the bustle of Chinatown is built on the motto “drink less, drink better”. It’s pouring small-batch whiskies and a tight list of cocktails. Why not stay for just one – or two?

  • A rustic upstairs bar set in a former textile factory. The team will walk you through the sharp cocktail list and extensive bar selection. Add on Asian-fusion share plates like crispy pork belly and softshell crab with papaya slaw.

  • The “mischievous little brother” to Seamstress upstairs is so small and dimly lit, it feels like it could be anywhere in the world. Rest assured, the bartenders know what they’re doing here – and they do it with a total lack of pretension.

  • High above Section 8, Ferdydurke feels a bit like a New York loft. Like its counterpart downstairs, there’s a big commitment to music here. DJs play regularly, spinning records from a tiny elevated booth overlooking the space.

  • Check your everyday life at the door – it’s pure fantasy at Melbourne’s favourite tiki bar. There’s bamboo, leopard print and tiki statues everywhere. If you can’t get a good Painkiller, Zombie or Mai Tai here, you can’t get it anywhere.

  • While not as well-concealed as its sibling, New Gold Mountain, this Chinatown laneway bar still prides itself on being a drinking den for those in the know. Cheekily-named cocktails, Asian beers and dumplings await inside.

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  • Follow the sound of hip-hop to find this fun laneway cocktail bar. Fresh, modern tiki drinks await you inside, named after many of the heavy-hitters featuring on the soundtrack. If you’re hungry, you can bring in takeaway from one of the excellent neighbouring restaurants.

  • Two world-class drinks innovators are behind Byrdi, who work with native Australian ingredients in an on-site lab to create their peerless, Australian-inspired cocktails. The food here is no less inventive – come for small plates with a big focus on seasonality. Either way, you’ll never have the same experience twice.

  • In the same way as its sibling Pinchy’s is all about champagne and lobster, this swish bar champions another age-old pairing – with oyster degustations and around 500 Burgundy wines to choose from. Find it hidden in a low-key CBD arcade.

  • You won’t find another bar in the country like Boilermaker House. It’s devoted to the timeless pairing of whisky and beer, and with more than 700 drams on the wall and a constant rotation of beers on tap, the flavour combinations are seemingly endless here.

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  • You can choose your own adventure at Bomba. Come for tapas and imported Spanish wines at the restaurant downstairs, or escape to the fifth-floor rooftop for cocktails and DJs every weekend. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  • It's hard to describe this place. Is it a karaoke bar? Is it a dumpling joint? Is it a great rooftop bar? Yes, to all of the above. Either way, odds are you'll find yourself with a barbeque pork bao in one hand and a mic in the other at some point during an evening here.

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  • Thirteen floors up, the stunning venue boasts uninterrupted city views and a retractable roof for year-round dining. Inspired by its heritage, it’s serving Greek-inspired fare from an ex-Press Club chef.

  • The name says it all. Come to this swish, nautical-themed cocktail bar for oysters served at least eight ways, and Martinis with spherified olives in tiny oyster shells, among other creative cocktails.

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  • Melbourne’s favourite floating bar is back, drawing inspiration from the vibrant colours of Mexico. Float by for tacos and tortillas, Margaritas every way, a pool area with double day beds, and plenty of open-air dancing.

  • Scott Pickett’s atmospheric bar above Longrain will transport you someplace else. Enjoy sharp cocktails alongside sharp snacks like prawn toast, smoked duck breast and freshly shucked oysters.

  • This dark and moody spot celebrates a bygone era of late-night drinking and dining. Come for an inventive cocktail menu inspired by Beethoven’s fifth symphony, rare spirits and wild boar croquettes.

  • Curtin House’s dark, glamorous second-floor bar.

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  • One of the city’s most prolific bar owners is behind this pint-sized bar and bottle-o. Like a mini wine library, Bijou invites you to grab a table, peruse its floor-to-ceiling wine shelves and settle in to watch the world go by.

East End

  • Andrew McConnell's signature flair is all over this grand bar and dining room, from the exacting service to the comforting European dishes. It’s named after the classic cocktail, and the calibre of drinks here speaks to that. You’ll find us at the marble bar, Gimlet in hand.

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  • In a timber-panelled room that feels of another time, get ready for four types of Martini, a daily menu of shellfish on ice, and a stand-out crème caramel dessert.

  • Chin Chin’s classy little downstairs bar feels like a VIP area. Like upstairs, the Asian-inflected cocktails here are made with care, and the wine list favours small, independent vineyards above all others. Better still – Chin Chin’s entire menu can be enjoyed down here.

  • This massive pub has room for 800 punters across four leafy levels. And you can’t go wrong in any direction. Hit the front bar for parmas and pints, the basement-level cocktail bar, or Tippy Tay for fun Italian vibes and Negronis.

  • It’s not the theatrical cocktails, world-beating whisky list or European-inspired snacks that put Eau de Vie up there among the world’s best bars. It’s the laser-like attention to detail at every turn, and the fact that someone here knows what you want to drink – even if you don’t.

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  • A Black Swan-esque ballerina guards the entrance to Trinket, a hive of boozy snacks and hefty cocktails – with another bar hiding underneath.

  • Lively cocktails and refined snacks are on the cards at this dark and daring basement bar. But it’s really the wine list you come here for – it’s an adventure in unfamiliar regions and varietals, and focuses on biodynamic and sustainable drops.

  • The espresso machine stays on till late. But coffee’s not the prime focus at this all-day Lebanese eatery, where you can tuck into a selection of house-made hummus, cured kingfish with toum, snapper with spiced tahini, and more.

  • Nominally it’s a wine bar, but Embla’s charms are far more profound than those two words suggest. Come here for some of the city’s best food, paired with an idiosyncratic wine list poured by staff who give a damn.

  • There are few surprises in a place called Gin Palace. This specialist basement bar has been shaking since ’97, with a page of its extensive menu devoted to Martinis. Its combo of velvet, dim lights and plush seating hasn’t aged a day.

  • An ingenious venue from the team behind Madame Brussels and Gin Palace. Drinks-wise, expect a strong line-up of European aperitifs and digestives, with a heavy presence of vermouth, amaro and absinthe. Plus, burgers and grazing plates to snack on.

  • Above ambitious (and ridiculously pretty) cocktail bar Bouvardia, this colourful rooftop has the same inventive streak as its sibling downstairs, but dials up the fun with house-made seltzers, boozy slushies and park-ready wines.

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  • Up a discreet staircase in the CBD, this beautiful and boundary-pushing cocktail bar takes a scientific approach to its drinks – some of which take days to prepare. But the results are palate-awakening, not polarising.

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  • This dimly-lit dive bar is one of Melbourne's most treasured and iconic rock’n’roll venues. Though it's moved out of its original ACDC Lane location, it's rocking just as hard as ever, with live music multiple nights a week. Expect anything from psych-rock to doom metal, sometimes followed by a DJ to close.

  • A neon-lit Thai joint serving fun, modern twists on the country’s cuisine. Whether you’re here for bottomless brunch or a late-night snack, there are plenty of versatile spaces to drink and dine in. The mezzanine hosts DJs most nights of the week.

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  • This extravagant rooftop is best described as a cross between a garden party and a country club bar – on top of a skyscraper in the middle of the city. Madame Brussels is famously over-the-top, and it revels in it. Come here for big spritz jugs and a signature poached chicken sandwich.

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  • Loop has been a pillar of the Melbourne arts community since 2003. While the original downstairs events and exhibition space is no more, the rooftop bar is very much alive and kicking.

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  • Bar Carlo sits below The Waiters Restaurant, one of Melbourne’s oldest Italian institutions. It’s a little more refined, plus it’s open in the morning for Italian-style breakfasts. Later, it’s grappa, spritzes and an all-Italian wine menu to go with cicchetti – little Italian snacks to go with your drink.

  • Lily Blacks is more than just another art deco Melbourne bar. It’s a cocktail aficionado destination, mixing precisely diluted classics as well as inventive house creations. Come early on a Friday to grab prime position before the post-work crowd files in.

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  • New York-style pizzas out front; one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets out back. Once you’ve finished a slice or two, push past the black curtain at the end of the dining room to find a comfy, sitting-room-only bar specialising in classic cocktails.

  • The fiery Southeast Asian diner Melburnians and tourists have been queuing for since 2011. So why's it still such a hit after all these years? The service remains fast and efficient; the energy is always high; and Benjamin Cooper's food continues to nail that sweet spot between flavour, tradition and fun.

West End

  • The dark, moody bar highlights American wines alongside greats from Australia and France. Stop by for a glass and bar snacks, and experience part of the historical CBD space.

  • Across five rooms and three balconies, this opulent bar channels old-world glitz and glamour with champagne towers, fancy canapés and theatrical cocktails bubbling with liquid nitrogen. To really start the party, order the pineapple punch – served inside a huge bronze swan.

  • Ototo is set inside Japanese fine diner Akaiito. Follow the luminous red thread downstairs to find this subterranean bar serving pan-Asian snacks and low-waste cocktails.

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  • Descend a dark spiral staircase into this theatrical basement cocktail bar. Wrapped in a cocoon of timber, it’s the recipient of some major international design awards. But don’t let the incredible space distract you from the drinks – expect smoke, bubbles and plenty of flair.

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  • There’s nothing quite like sipping a beer amid a menagerie of taxidermied creatures at Natural History Bar. If you’re sticking around, the late-night diner also has steaks, oysters, natural wines and fruity cocktails.

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  • A charming bar from the City Wine Shop team. There are few places in town that manage to balance new-world informality with old-world sophistication, but Kirk’s pulls it off with aplomb. Like the wine list, the European-influenced menu has something for everyone.

  • Golden Monkey’s sister venue offers a refined offering of cocktails and dumplings. But the real specialty here is rum – take your pick from more than 200 varieties on the shelf.

  • No other city in the country would slap a shipping container, some massive steel girders and a collection of ferns together and call it a beer garden. But Melbourne would, and there’s a solid rotation of drinks to go with the breezy, open-air vibe.

  • The rooftop bar at the Quincy Hotel on Flinders Street offers 360-degree views of Melbourne CBD, all the way to the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay. Come for cocktails and small plates inspired by the punchy flavours of Southeast Asia.

  • Head to this subterranean basement bar for cocktails by one of Melbourne’s best bartenders, and snacks that let the drinks shine. We’re fans of the Big Mac-inspired calzone served with pickles, lettuce and onions.