Melbourne is one seriously social city. From historic pubs and rooftop bars, to pumping live music venues and boutique breweries, there's no end of options for those who enjoy a night on the town. Here's a selection of tried and tested recommendations.
When it comes to live music, Melbourne has something happening every night of the week. The variety of venues is incredible, with dedicated grunge bars, jazz clubs and pub rock hotspots to be found in every corner of the city.
The Corner Hotel (Richmond): Speaking of corners, The Corner is one of Melbourne’s top live music venues. Located on busy Swan Street in Richmond, there are plenty of great places to eat before you head to your show.
Forum Melbourne (City): There aren’t many venues that can compete with the Forum on architectural grandness. The main hall has recently been refurbished to allow for more standing room. Take the time to look up and appreciate the roof line — there’s nothing quite like it!
The Croxton (Thornbury): Set in the cool heartland of Melbourne’s north, The Croxton recently received a huge facelift and now hosts some of the biggest up-and-coming international bands. There are a plethora of hipster bars nearby to start the night in, and end it as well.
Bird’s Basement (City): For great jazz, Bird’s Basement is the bee’s knees. Best of all, they run two dinner shows a night. You can enjoy a quality Italian meal as you tap along with the tunes.
The Tote (Collingwood): If you’re after something a bit heavier, try this Melbourne institution. The Tote showcases Australia’s best punk and metal bands.
Top Melbourne rooftop bars
Melbourne certainly isn’t the only city in the world with a penchant for creaking lifts and AstroTurf, but the city has certainly taken the rooftop bar concept and run with it. There are all manner of drinking establishments tucked away up in the city’s eaves.
Rooftop Cider Bar (City): The iconic Young and Jackson Hotel has stood on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets since 1861 (it was originally known as the Princes Bridge Hotel and later became Young and Jackson). The first floor is home to Melbourne icon Chloe, painted by Jules Joseph Lefebvre in Paris in 1875. The Rooftop Cider Bar doesn’t afford amazing views, but it is a quirky, intimate space that offers eight ciders on tap and many more in bottles.
Bomba (City): Bomba is a Spanish tapas restaurant and rooftop cocktail bar. These guys have a saying: ‘What happens on the rooftop, stays on the rooftop.’ You have been told.
Curtin Building (City): The much-loved-by-Melburnians Curtin Building is great fun from top to bottom. Whether you’re grabbing a meal at cool Cookie, catching a gig at The Toff in Town, or hanging out with friends under the stars at the Rooftop Bar on level seven, there’s always plenty going on at 252 Swanston Street.
Madame Brussels (City): Madame Brussels is reminiscent of a 1950s tennis club. How that relates to the infamous Melbourne brothel owner Caroline Hodgson — known as Madame Brussels — of the late 19th century remains a mystery, but there’s probably a good reason (or maybe not). This rooftop soiree is a fabulous flight of fancy, and Madame’s Fruity Double D Cup goes down a treat.
Naked for Satan (Fitzroy): Offering 360-degree views, there’s rarely a summer day when Naked for Satan’s rooftop isn’t packed. When you see it, you’ll understand why.
Great Melbourne beer gardens
It wouldn’t be a Sunday session without a lush, green beer garden to conduct it in. Check these gems out.
Ponyfish Island (City): Located smack bang in the middle of the Yarra River in the heart of the CBD, Ponyfish Island offers fun times and some of the best views of Melbourne by night.
The Standard Hotel (Fitzroy): The Standard isan old-school pub with a huge outdoor area. There’s plenty of private space, so gather a group and settle in.
Wesley Anne (Northcote): Featuring fire pits for those cooler Melbourne evenings, Wesley Annefeels a bit like being in the country without having to leave town.
Stomping Ground Brewing Company (Collingwood):You may struggle to get a table at the Stomping Ground, but once you do you can just sit and enjoy the constant flow of beer, music and good times.
The Retreat Hotel (Brunswick): Known for quality live music (mostly blues, country and rock), you can easily lose an entire day sitting out the back of The Retreat with a beer or two.
Best Melbourne boutique breweries
Melbs is home to several amazing craft brewhouses. They tend to be out in the burbs, so book a Melbourne brewery tour or make do with an Uber. Tally ho!
Two Birds Brewing (Spotswood): Over in the inner west, award-winning Two Birds Brewing offers a range of beers to suit all tastes and a full dining menu.
Tallboy & Moose (Preston): At Tallboy & Moose, guests can play table tennis and grab a bite from the unique menu — which includes haggis pakora, chili beef cheesy chips and a Mel Gibson burger.
Temple Brewing Company (Brunswick East): If you want to hone your beer taste buds, the tasting paddle at Temple Brewing is the place to start. Work your way from pale to dark ale, and finish with a hearty meal from their awesome menu.
Moon Dog Craft Brewery (Abbotsford): Grungy Moon Dog offers experimental, small-batch beers, infused with watermelon, pumpkin, champagne and chilli.
About the writer
Chris Bright is a freelance writer based in Melbourne with a passion for travel, food, music and film. He’s travelled to South-East Asia, India, Japan, parts of Europe and much of North America. Chris is willing to try anything once, whether it’s leaping from great heights or eating things that don’t look the least bit appetising. When it comes to travel, he loves nothing more than meeting new people and sharing a laugh over their local drink of choice.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.