The city centre is so much more than touristy pubs, seedy slot-machine joints and dime-a-dozen post-work knockoff spots. For one, it was ground zero for laneway bars such as Meyers Place and Gin Palace.

Before 1994, if a bar wanted to sell drinks, it had to also sell food. When that legislation was overturned (one thing we can thank the casino for), it paved the way for a small bar renaissance in Melbourne, starting in the CBD.

While that culture has since spread to the suburbs (and other Australian cities), the CBD still packs the highest density of bars, from small and characterful to large and anonymous. Most of the city’s best cocktail bars are in postcode 3000, all concentrated within short walking distance of one another.

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 licenses that permit drinking until the wee hours, or even round the clock.

Related Pages
Best Restaurants in Melbourne's CBD
Best Bars in Melbourne
Best Hidden Bars in Melbourne
Best Cocktail Bars in Melbourne

Bar Americano

Bar

This walk-in, standing-room-only bar blends American hustle with European service.

20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne

Angel Music Bar

Bar

Restaurateur Con Christopoulos is behind this audiophile spot, which serves bar snacks with a side of sub-bass. Things are pretty 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 and things get loose.

12 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Heartbreaker

Bar

Pre-batched cocktails and classic rock on the jukebox – there’s only one result here.

234A Russell Street, Melbourne
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Dom’s

Restaurant

This three-level spot, from the guys behind Dexter and Takeaway Pizza, bears little resemblance to its former self (Peaches, Dexter). Go for focaccia-like pizza with house-made mortadella and garlic-fermented honey, chevre-stuffed potato skins, plenty of Aussie spirits and a pool table.

1/301 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Rooftop Bar

Bar

This is one of the CBD's quintessential rooftops. It's appeared in Melbourne-set movies, has great outlooks, good drinks and vibey music. Plus, in summer, it morphs into a rooftop cinema screening cult movies and classic blockbusters.

Level 7, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Section 8

Bar

A container bar in Chinatown.

27-29 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Embla

Bar

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.

122 Russell Street, Melbourne

Cherry Bar

Bar

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.

68 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
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Gimlet at Cavendish House

Restaurant

Star chef Andrew McConnell's signature is evident on every Eurocentric plate here, from the clams, mussels and squid with Trapanese pesto; to the dry-aged duck with baby fennel and blood orange sauce. You’ll find us at the black-and-gold marble bar, Martini in hand.

33 Russell Street, Melbourne
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Romeo Lane

Bar

This handsome CBD cocktail bar is for lovers of low-lit drinking.

1A Crossley Street, Melbourne

Nick and Nora’s

Bar

Across five rooms and three balconies, indulge in theatrical cocktails bubbling with liquid nitrogen, tropical boozy yuzu-pineapple punch bowls for four (served in a huge bronze swan), champagne towers, ridiculously large 15-litre bottles of Mumm, and fancy canapés.

80 Collins Street, Melbourne

Cookie

Bar

A beer hall, cocktail bar and modern Thai restaurant all in one.

First Floor, Curtin House 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Whisky and Alement

Bar

With a massive selection and knowledgeable staff, this whisky bar rivals some of the best in the world.

270 Russell Street, Melbourne

The LuWow

Bar

Zombie cocktails, leopard print and tikis everywhere (obviously). Check your everyday life at the door – it’s pure fantasy here.

212 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

Gin Palace

Bar

A plush basement bar that's been shaking since '97.

10 Russell Place, Melbourne

Berlin

Bar

Opulence meets wartime misery in this Berlin-inspired cocktail bar hidden away in the city.

2nd floor (please ring the bell) 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne

Storyville

Bar

A two-storey portal to another land that works as an opulent bar and your own personal fairytale to get caught up in.

185 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Dessous

Bar

Lively cocktails, pork-belly sandos and gruyere croquettes are on the menu at this dark and daring basement bar.

164 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Natural History Public Bar

Restaurant

A late-night diner slash steakhouse slash oyster bar featuring taxidermy and natural wines.

401 Collins Street, Melbourne
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Sweatshop

Bar

A great enthusiastic bar with a total lack of pretension.

Basement 113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Ferdydurke

Bar

The crew behind Section 8 has a joint high above its original haunt.

Levels 1 and 2 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Curious

Bar

Descend a dark spiral staircase into this basement cocktail bar wrapped in a cocoon of timber, where you’ll find theatrical drinks with smoke, bubbles and art.

408 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
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Double Happiness

Bar

A little laneway bar for those in the know.

21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne
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1806

Bar

Expert cocktails in an opulent old theatre.

169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Union Electric Bar

Bar

A two-storey, indoor-outdoor cocktail bar with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg.

13 Heffernan Lane, Melbourne

Byrdi

Bar

Drinks here include a boozy smoked-pear soda, and gin with jasmine and plum. Get yours alongside hibachi-grilled seafood.

Ella, Melbourne Central Corner Latrobe and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne

Goldilocks Bar

Bar

At this long-running hidden rooftop bar, there's an emphasis on cocktails and comfort. Unlike many rooftops, this spot is understated; the team here let the cocktails and the view do the talkings. The retractable rooftop means that this a great all-weather option, too.

Level 4 264 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Siglo

Bar

This rooftop bar, which sits above the Melbourne Supper Club, has unrivalled views of Spring Street and Parliament House. It's also one of the few spots in Melbourne that has its own cigar menu – there's even a humidor full of hard-to-find Cubans. If that's not your style, the cocktails are equally excellent.

Level 2 161 Spring Street, Melbourne

City Wine Shop

Bar

A traditional Italian all day bistro and wine shop.

159 Spring Street, Melbourne
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Arlechin

Bar

Whether it’s spaghetti, duck liver parfait or tiramisu ice-cream pops, the Grossi family’s new venture will guarantee you’ll be eating (and drinking) in style, post midnight.

Mornane Place, Melbourne

Loop Project Space & Bar

Bar

Downstairs, it's a versatile arts, film and drinking hub. Upstairs, it's all about the rooftop – which is a bit more like a balcony – with views out over the highrises. The food and drinks are simple, but well executed.

23 Meyers Place, Melbourne

East China Trading Company

Bar

Golden Monkey’s sister venue offers a refined offering of rum and dumplings.

Enter Hardware Lane, Ground floor 389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Golden Monkey

Bar

This old world Shanghai-themed bar is one of Melbourne’s best known late-night drinking dens.

Enter Hardware Lane, Basement 389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
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Boilermaker House

Bar

Celebrating the beer-and-whisky double.

209-211 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
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GoGo Bar

Bar

Chin Chin’s classy downstairs bar is a good choice whether you’re eating or not.

Enter via Higson Lane 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Kirk’s Wine Bar

Restaurant

When Ian Curley and the team from City Wine Shop, European et al decide to create something, you know it’s a pretty solid bet.

Corner Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

Bomba

Restaurant

Thanks to Jesse Gerner (Green Park, Añada), the old Aylesbury is all about tapas now. Plus, there are spectacular views out over the city to enjoy while you eat. It's no surprise this place is held dear by so many Melburnians.

103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Pizza Pizza Pizza

Restaurant

Classic pizzas out front; one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets out back.

16 Meyers Place, Melbourne

Heroes

Bar

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

Level 1–3 188 Bourke St, Melbourne

Mrs Singh

Restaurant

An Indian(ish) wine bar on Flinders Lane, where cheesy flatbreads star.

88 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Garden State Hotel

Bar

Four storeys, multiple dining spaces, three menus, TV screens, taps, cocktails and an indoor garden.

101 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
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Magic Mountain Saloon

Restaurant

Punchy Thai food and cocktails.

62 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

Eau De Vie

Bar

A cocktail bar with a twist of theatre and excitement.

1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne
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Lui Bar at Vue de Monde

Bar

55 floors up, Shannon Bennett's Australiana-inspired bar.

Level 55 Rialto Towers 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Lily Blacks

Bar

A cocktail connoisseur’s dream.

12 Meyers Place, Melbourne
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Fable

Bar

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.

13 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Seamstress Cocktail Bar

Bar

Seamstress has everything a bar should, with an intimately designed interior and a serious cocktail list.

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Pearl Diver Cocktails and Oysters

Bar

A long-awaited CBD cocktail bar by two of Speakeasy Group’s best bartenders, where oysters are served at least eight ways, and your Martini comes with a spherified olive in a tiny oyster shell.

56 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne