The Best Pubs in Melbourne

Updated 4 days ago


Melburnians have long embraced pub culture. The city was founded in 1835 and within just four years, 20 licenses had been issued. And while the term “public house” seems quaint today, it continues to be a bloody good description for Melbourne’s pubs, which welcome all ages and walks of life.

Pubs have changed enormously since then, weathering multiple recessions, two world wars, the temperance movement, the 6 o’clock swill, the counter lunch wars, gentrification and deadliest of all, the wrecking ball and pandemic.

The few hundred that have survived are all the more special and important. Here are our top picks, from nostalgic sticky carpet joints like The Tote to modern envelope-pushers like The Green Man’s Arms, challenging our ideas about what a friendly local can be.

  • One of the city’s original craft beer destinations, this sprawling boozer has 22 taps of indie brews from Victoria and beyond. We’d expect nothing less from a pub owned by the founder of Feral Brewing. The excellent beer garden is an ideal base of operations to work your way through the tap list.

  • Under the stewardship of star chef Andrew McConnell, this classic bar and dining room in a heritage building feels as vital as ever. Throw back easy-drinking lagers and cocktails with a burger or the rotisserie of the day.

  • You’re not a live music fan in Melbourne unless you’ve been to the Corner. The room – and its infamous solitary column – is rightfully an icon. But did you know it also has a killer rooftop and beer garden upstairs?

  • The Terminus Hotel’s secluded little sister is a true locals’ haunt (you’ll see them sprawled on couches and huddled around communal tables). The team has mastered pub staples like the chicken parma and classic steak. It’s best to pair them with one of the many craft beers on tap.

  • This classic pub – which has stood on its corner for over 150 years – is one of Melbourne's best. The three-level hotel is the ideal place for a good feed or a knock-off pint in the sun, whether you're downstairs in the front bar, upstairs in the dining room, or soaking in rays on the rooftop.

  • If you love beer, a visit to The Local Taphouse is non-negotiable. It’s influenced by European taverns in the 1930s, and has one of the most curated beer lists in the country. Pair those drinks with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere – both inside and on the rooftop – and you have a craft beer destination worth travelling for.

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  • There’s beer matching, pine-lime beer and a beer chandelier. Try all five of the house brews for $50, matched to very beer-friendly food.

  • Turning away from hyper-polished pubs, this venue encapsulates the traditional and hearty. Experience live music, local beers, revamped pub classics, vinyl booths, a mix of tropical and house special cocktails, and of course – a pool table.

  • One of Melbourne’s favourite pub groups has added the 1871 neighbourhood watering hole to its stable. And while the bright green facade might be gone, the corner pub still has all of its old-school charm.

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  • A 19th-century gastropub with a vintage front bar and a bistro up there with the city’s best. The menu includes modern classics (including a signature schnitzel with chicken butter) and a set offering that wouldn’t look out of place in a classy restaurant.

  • You might need a map to navigate this iconic seaside pub. Across its six floors, you’ll find no fewer than 12 bars, from the pint-friendly Public Bar to a table-service cocktail spot upstairs. Not to mention two restaurants and three stages for live music, including the legendary Gershwin Room.

  • One of the most legendary venues in Melbourne’s live music scene, as well as a pilgrimage for interstate bands. Its three gig spaces (main room, front bar and upstairs) are sticky-carpeted tributes to the thousands of punk, metal and stoner-rock acts it hosts every year.

  • The Gaso is one of the city's best rock’n’roll pubs. Its cosy, red-brick front bar belies the size of the band room out back, where you can catch the cream of the city’s musical crop from the dance floor, or the upstairs mezzanine beneath a retractable roof.

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  • The Retreat is a trip back in time – to 1915 to be exact. It’s one of the few pubs in the city with a true heritage fit-out; a warren full of tiny rooms, stained glass and curved timber surfaces. But it’s kept up with the times where it counts, as the throngs of locals will attest. Be sure to book on weekends or you’ll be eating your curry standing.

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  • Despite the modern refurb, this charming all-day boozer feels like it’s been around forever. Park yourself in the sunny, plant-filled atrium or nab a spot out front for pub-style breakfasts and upmarket parmas. The knockout-style pool competitions here are a midweek spectacle.

  • The best-named pub in town is focused squarely on two of Fitzroy’s biggest obsessions: live music and beer. There’s no kitchen or TV here, making it a no-frills hangout with good local tunes, lively conversation and many games of pool.

  • Lamaro’s is a love letter to long lunches and refined pub dinners. A woodfired grill lends Lamaro’s steaks their smokiness and char, while the rest of the menu blends classic pub fare with Southeast Asian and French flavours.

  • This craft beer destination also has a sophisticated steak restaurant. Head out back to Cinder for incredible Josper-grilled steaks, or settle into the carpeted public bar for quality pub grub.

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  • A classic corner hotel revamped by the Marquis of Lorne team. The interior has a little Wes Anderson energy, with brooding timber panels and a roaring period fireplace. But if you look past the lofty menu and exceptional wine list, Mount Erica is a rowdy Melbourne footy pub at heart.

  • Previously known as The Rochester Castle this place has never lost its party pub reputation. DJs own the place on weekends, but the menu of slick pub favourites means it’s equally suited for a quiet midweek feed. It also has plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces to choose from.

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  • If Keith Richards were a pub, the Townie would be it: weathered by years of partying, yet somehow still as good as ever. It’s open till all hours, which means there’s a high chance of catching some live music and a late-night pint. It serves no-fuss pub fare at incredibly reasonable prices.

  • Locals get a little misty-eyed when you mention the Napier, such is the respect for this backstreet corner pub. Decked out in pressed metal and a hodgepodge of Australiana kitsch, it’s the kind of local every suburb should have. The menu here is pure comfort, and the daily specials often hit double digits.

  • It may have 19th-century bones, but this four-storey boozer has plenty of modern flourishes, too. Its sophisticated restaurant serves contemporary spins on Chinese cuisine, and the calibre of drinks at the lounge upstairs will fool you into thinking you’re at a CBD cocktail bar rather than a pub.

  • A true community pub, the Plough eschews the upmarket polish of many inner-city boozers in favour of family-friendly charm. Parents and young kids are as much the demo as your typical drinkers. Those giving it a nudge can choose to snooze in the fine accommodation upstairs.

  • A massive pub with enough space for 800 punters across four leafy levels. The front bar is a place of parmas and pints; the Rose Garden is a sparkly, basement-level cocktail bar; and Tippy Tay is the place to go for fun Italian vibes and signature Negronis. You can’t go wrong in any direction.

  • The proverbial rose between thorns, Fitzroy’s oldest pub is one for the old guard and the new. You’ll find footy fans gathered around the TV in the bar on game days, amid walls lined with AFL memorabilia. When the vibe is right, it feels like you’ve got 100 mates, 16 beer taps and better-than-usual food in your own lounge room.

  • Fitzroy is dense with community pubs, but The Standard commands one of the suburb’s fiercest followings. Rusted-on locals pack the all-weather beer garden (the owners claim it’s the biggest in Melbourne), and the exposed-brick front bar feels warm and lived in.

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  • This quirky lime castle is an improbable oasis away from bustling Chapel Street, and it has a huge courtyard. During the warmer months it’s thronged with locals, all drinking iced beverages and frosty beers.

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  • A contender for the best steaks in the west. This pub has long had a singular focus on great beef, and you’ll find every size and cut imaginable starring on a broad menu with French influences. In winter, the beer garden turns polar with igloos (geodesic dome tents) for private bookings.

  • The ground-floor bar at the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel was revitalised a few years back. Today, it’s the best version of itself, with a beautiful island bar and plenty of seating on the footpath for pints and people-watching in the sun. The bistro turns out refined pub grub from breakfast right through till dinner.

  • At this art deco pub, you’re just as likely to catch scruffy rockers playing in the front bar as you are a bijou wedding in the gorgeous dining hall. This place is a beautiful mixed bag, just like Coburg itself. If you’re eating here, expect elegant pub dishes and a specials board devoted to gnocchi.

  • Veteran chef Sean Donovan has taken the historical hotel back to its roots with a casual front bar, two separate dining rooms, and an untouched wine cellar. The cuisine blends classic French technique with Australian barbeque.

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  • Indie, comedy and even mariarchi has graced the cosy stage at this live-music stalwart, where there’s something worth seeing almost every night of the week. But if guitars don’t amp you up, there’s an astroturfed beer garden with plenty of dark nooks to do as the pub’s name suggests.

  • A saloon-style pub with an Elvis fixation. The boot-worn floorboards feel like they ought to be scattered with sawdust, and there’s every chance you’ll see a cowboy hat-wearing country act crooning in the corner. The food sticks to the Americana theme: fried chicken, burgers and fully loaded fries.

  • Hit this north-side favourite for Italian-leaning pub fare and a strong community vibe. When the sun is shining, the retractable roof peels back and the beer garden at The Empress teems with locals seeking shade among the palms.

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  • This art deco boozer was originally built to resemble a ship, which explains its striking, wedge-like facade. Snag a spot in the front dining room for a brewery-inspired menu of woodfired pizzas, and one unbeatable street-side vantage point.

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  • A few steps from Werribee Station, The Park is a craft beer-lover’s haven, with an overwhelming 30 taps pouring everything from hazy IPAs to big-name brews. The comprehensive menu spans pub favourites, woodfired pizzas and more.

  • There’s always plenty of action in the Prince’s grand front bar, but it’s the breezy, shaded beer garden that really commands the crowds. Get down early if you plan to scoff your burger or a steak at a table. Otherwise, this southside magnet is the kind of place where you can expect to stand on weekends.

  • Six light and airy spaces in one slick beachside package. The entire place opens up in summer, and the classy gastropub menu and sharp drinks offering make Half Moon the ultimate post-swim retreat.

  • A contemporary pub that swells with pride and punters during footy season. It’s also ahead of the curve, with an entirely gluten-free menu of pub favourites, plus a focus on minimal-intervention wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Pints of good local beer are a given here.

  • A bastion of live music for two decades, this is the place to check out buzzy acts from Melbourne and interstate. As well as the bandroom, it’s got an all-weather rear deck that blends seamlessly into the rest of the pub, plus wallet-friendly parmas and Sunday roasts.

  • It was once Bob Hawke’s favourite watering hole; these days it’s a rock’n’roll institution. Bands routinely pack out the upper level, while DJs spin vinyl from a roughed-up timber cubby hole downstairs. The in-house diner Sonny’s serves up Southern-style fried chicken and banging burgers.

  • Shuttered for years, this classic Melbourne pub was carefully restored to its former glory by a crack team of publicans. Find Wagyu Philly cheesesteaks and nightly specials, a coolroom turned pool room and a Sunday sesh-ready courtyard.

  • A sprawling corner pub with panoramic bay and city views. Head to the spacious dining room for flame-licked rotisserie meats, or the rooftop terrace built for lazy summer afternoons with a spritz in hand.

  • Once a notorious pub with a chequered past, this north-side institution is now a glowing venue for special occasions, date nights and all-round good times. It includes an Eastern Mediterranean diner, a late-night vinyl-only bar and a sprawling beer garden.

  • Famed for its house-aged steaks, this 19th-century pub is a paradise for lovers of red meat and wine. Combined with a lively front bar that’s primed for a late-afternoon pint, it’s easy to see why this spot has held court for more than 40 years.

  • A gastro pub with fine-dining flair by the family Reymond.

  • A down-to-earth pub with burgers, local beers and live music.

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  • This historic 19th-century public house has stepped into the 21st with an entirely meat-free menu – featuring fragrant miso ramen and hearty vego lasagne – and hyperlocal beers. Yet it still retains the heart of a classic pub, complete with fireplaces for the cooler months.

  • A multi-faceted destination to suit any mood.

  • This unusual, labyrinthine pub – with a convincing replica of cobbled street running right through it – is reliably packed on weekends. Find your way upstairs for commercial house and pop and a fairly intimate dance floor.

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  • At this big, relaxed pub by the team behind The Marquis of Lorne, there are a lot of spaces to choose from. There's the downstairs front bar, with 10 taps serving crafts and classics. Upstairs, a dining room with a pub and bistro menu. And on the roof, a terrace bar with views out over Richmond.

  • A neighbourhood pub, more than 150 years old, by the team behind The Royston.

  • This warm and inviting pub is renowned for two reasons. First, it's got one of the most vegan-friendly menus in Melbourne – meaning meat-eaters and herbivores alike can get across the entire menu of pub classics. And second, its sunny and expansive rooftop bar ranks among the best in Brunswick.

  • This backstreets local makes great burgers and stocks the right beers to drink with them.

  • The 1926-built Bridge Hotel has heritage charm in spades – plus three crackling open fireplaces and a nostalgic fisherman’s basket for some all-out Australiana.

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  • This bright modern pub has a basement cocktail bar, sprawling courtyard and rooftop with city views. As for the menu? Expect pub fare, fresh cocktails and a tight wine list full of accessible drops. There’s also a function room with capacity for up to 160.

  • This is a student watering hole welcoming to all because its pleasures are pub classics: Toss the Boss, parmas and bottomless pancakes.

  • An archetypical inner-city pub in the back streets of Fitzroy.

  • The neighbourhood pub and bottle-o by Mighty Craft in a transformed Moonee Ponds sporting globe. Find all of the Aussie collective’s brands – including a Richmond distillery and Mornington Peninusla brewery – on pour under one roof. Plus, an ex-Dinner by Heston sous chef is serving sticky pork belly, buttermilk chicken schnitzels, and boozy ice-cream sandwiches.

  • A simple backstreet boozer that harks back to the pubs of old.

  • A cosy bar and eating house in the heart of Little Saigon.

  • Californian flavours are the focus at this gastropub in St Kilda.

  • A modern interpretation of an Old English-style pub, with hearty food and 45 beer taps.

  • If Johnny Cash and Nick Cave had a drink together in a Fitzroy bar it would probably be at The Commercial Club Hotel.

  • A pub with a softer side.

  • City views from a rooftop bar and a 5am licence.

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  • Restaurant, cafe, bar and bottle shop all in one.

  • A versatile, multi-leveled bar and a dining space.

  • Pub classics in one of Melbourne’s oldest drinking spots

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  • This beloved pub, which has stood on its corner since the 1920s, lets you choose from two bars or an upscale restaurant. Start with small bites and charcuterie before moving onto elevated pub classics, such as juicy steak with chips stacked like Jenga. Plus, there’s a deck for Melbourne’s sunnier days.

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  • The longstanding pub is now in the hands of Rustica owner Brenton Lang. Have a seafood feast in the greenery-surrounded glasshouse or wrap your hands around a big burger in the charmingly refurbed dining room.

  • An inclusive, accessible home for the music scene in the west. Grab a reasonably priced jug, see a gig, then plonk yourself down in the colourful beer garden.

  • A familial corner spot in a rejuvenated 1874-built pub. Expect hearty Sunday roasts, shareable pies and sausage rolls, and plenty of west-side pride.

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  • This charming neighbourhood pub changed hands in 2023, but held on to its nostalgic ‘70s feel. Come for quiet pints in the front bar and an Italian-influenced menu that nods to its long history.

  • Enjoy Aussie wines and local spirits alongside hand-rolled pasta, chicken parmigiana and steaks from the grill right at this classic pub opposite the Queen Vic Market. Spend the night in one of the “micro hotel rooms” or drinking in the basement whisky bar.

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  • At this 1857-built art deco pub, enjoy a meal cooked on the hotel’s parilla grill and English-style ales served from hand pumps. Plus, stunning Sunday roasts and a record player spinning Dolly Parton and the Beatles.

  • Its heritage-style facade and mid-century decor give all the impressions of another classic Melbourne pub. Yet the entirely vegetarian and vegan menu says otherwise. Go for the plant-based “charcuterie”, eggplant “schnitzel” and fried cauliflower. The diverse local beers on tap are a bonus.

  • This corner pub is from some of the crew that revamped the Royal Oak Hotel and The Marquis of Lorne. Visit for a retro menu filled with fun takes on pub staples – plus an outdoor bar with a retractable roof.