The best bars and pubs in Melbourne’s CBD: Swanston Street and beyond
22.03.2022

The best bars and pubs in Melbourne’s CBD: Swanston Street and beyond

Workshop Bar - Melbourne CBD bars and pubs
Words by Ben Lamb

Here's our list of the best bars and pubs in Melbourne's CBD, so you can go grab a beer, sip a wine, eat some pub food or catch some live music in Australia's nightlife capital.

This is it, the head honcho of our countless list of the best Melbourne CBD bars and pubs. This list of historic drinking, dining and live music venues is jam packed with some of the entire country’s coolest and quirkiest bars and pubs. As a city with a demographic of many different cultures, backgrounds and personalities, Melbourne does a great job in providing a space where they can feel comfortable and welcome.

Melbourne is clearly the country’s hospitality capital for a reason, it’s got some great public transport, shops, landmarks, theatres, concert venues, there’s no shortage of spaces for enjoyment, it’s got anything and everything young people need.

As you’ll see by the list today, there’s truly something for all types of people, if you’re a fan of whiskey, you can immerse yourself in the world of it and take classes, if you love sports memorabilia, there’s a space for you, or even if you’re looking to have some spring rolls and a sing-a-long? Melbourne’s got a great spot for you.

If nothing in Melbourne floats your boat and you’re keen to journey little more north, check out our list of the best bars and pubs in North Melbourne. We’ve made lists over the years of the best Melbourne bars and pubs for every taste and whim, you can check a lot of them out in a master list of the best bars and pubs throughout Melbourne’s outer suburbs here. Otherwise, read on and check out our handy interactive map to all the venues we’ve listed here.

You can also check out Melbourne’s most comprehensive guides to the best bars and pubs in each suburb and street here.

The best bars and pubs in Melbourne laneways

Section 8

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Section 8 (@section8melbourne)

– Address: 27-29 Tattersalls Lane
– Vibe: Modern Melbourne vibe
– Live Music: Singers, Bands, DJs
– Dedicated Menu: Cocktails

Section 8 sums up the best of modern Melbourne in a neat little package down one of our popular laneways. They’re dedicated to slinging cocktails and all your alcoholic faves until the cows come home, and they couple it up with some killer music.

There’s never a dull moment at Section 8, there’s music from funk bands, DJs, and a whole heap more. Check out some more info about Section 8 here.

Lily Blacks

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Blacks (@lilyblacks)

– Address: 12 Meyers Place
– Vibe: Classic Melbourne, laid back
– Dedicated Menu: Cocktails

Lily Blacks is the spot for all you cocktail fans out there, the bar branding itself ‘for the true cocktail aficionado.

Their massive menu is the epitome of something for everyone, there’s things like Pompelmo Spritz, which is full of Grapefruit, or even the aptly titled Passionfruit cocktail called the Passionista.

Double Happiness

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by DOUBLE HAPPINESS (@2xhappiness)

– Address: 21 Liverpool St
– Vibe: Classic Melbourne, laid back
– Dedicated Menu: Cocktails

Double Happiness has been a staple of the Aussie laneway pub scene for almost 20 years, they’re dedicated to bringing some stellar cocktails with an Asian vibe.

Double Happiness lists some pretty cool drinks with interesting ingredients, like a chilli vodka, and even some with coriander and lime! Dive into the full menu here.

GoGo Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by GoGo Bar (@gogobarmelb)

– Address: 125 Flinders Lane
– Vibe: Trendy
– Live Music: DJs
– Dedicated Menu: Near Chin Chin + Sharing Plates

The GoGo Bar is above the popular Melbourne staple of Chin Chin, so it’s the perfect spot to head to after your feast. They’ve got some amazing drinks on offer, each inspired by seasonal produce and Southeast Asian styles that you’ll never forget.

The trendy vibes don’t end there, GoGo Bar has some killer DJs on a regular basis, playing some old school funk, disco, and all of your favourite classics. Even though they are in the same spot as Chin Chin, GoGo offers its loyal customers some mouth-watering share plates, to make those drinks that little bit better.

Pizza Pizza Pizza

– Address: 16 Meyers Place
– Vibe: Secret and Trendy
– Dedicated Menu: Pizza

This is one of the coolest spots on this list, one of Melbourne’s premier secret bars. From the outside, it’d appear like any other pizza bar, a neon sign, great smell, and chilled tables, it’s one of the best spots to hit after a night out.

It’s offered to customers in the classic NY style, slice by slice, in all of our favourite flavours.

But if you’re keen for a few more bevs or cocktails, there’s a secret bar within the confines of Pizza Pizza Pizza, customers need to push through a door that says staff only, which leads into the unnamed secret bar.

Whitehart Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Whitehart Bar (@whitehartbar)

– Address: 22 Whitehart Lane
– Vibe: Laid back but Trendy
– Live Music: DJs
– Dedicated Menu: Pizza + Bar Snacks

Yet another bar down one of our wonderous laneways is the Whitehart Bar. In what sounds like a classic Melbourne choice, this bar is run out of a shipping container.

They offer all of your alcoholic favourites, plus a few more cool things like some rare bottled beers from all corners of the earth, or even some wines from makers you probably haven’t heard of, but will love in no time.

If you’re a bit peckish while you’re here, Whitehart offers up some bar snacks, like Hommus and Corn Chips, which sounds like a great match for some bevs. There’s also a pizzamaker nearby, you can dive into their menu here.

The best bars and pubs on Swanston Street

Young and Jacksons

– Address: 1 Swanston St
– Vibe: Old School with modern style
– Dedicated Menu: Pub classics with cool twists

Young and Jacksons is an old school pub that first came into action in some form back in 1861. The pub calls itself a mix of “a boutique bar and a traditional pub”, and after a meal and a pint, it’s definitely clear why.

It’s definitely one of the most famous Melbourne CBD bars and pubs – it’s branded as ‘where Melbourne meets’ and considering it’s just across the road from Flinders Street Station, that’s probably about right.

Young and Jacksons is also home to a popular piece of artwork called Chloe, it’s been around since 1909, and has a pretty interesting history that you can dive into here. On the food and drink side, they’re focused on providing some great pub classics, pints of your favourite beers, and mains like steak, fish and chips, and a whole lot more.

The Duke of Wellington

Duke of Wellington

– Address: 146 Flinders St
– Vibe: Classic style, but with a modern spin
– Dedicated Menu: Pub grub

The Duke is famously the oldest pub in all of Melbourne, first opening way back in 1850. Since its inception, The Duke has changed a few hands and had a few updates, with the pub being famously sold back in 2017. It’s not only the oldest watering hole on our list of the best Melbourne CBD bars and pubs, it’s the most historic venue in our hundreds upon hundreds of venue listings across the site. That’s pretty bloody cool.

It’s a stone’s throw from some of Melbourne’s top spots, an easy work from landmarks like Fed Square and Melbourne Town Hall. It’s a classic pub, you can grab all of your favourite meals, and top it off with a pint of your favourite local brew. The secret to longevity? Keep it simple, Duke.

Goldilocks Bar

– Address: Level 4, 264 Swanston Street
– Vibe: Amazing rooftop experience
– Dedicated Menu: Cool bar snacks

Ever dreamt of enjoying a rosé on a roof, looking over our marvellous city skyline? That’s just me? Goldilocks is a rooftop bar that’ll give you an unforgettable experience. It’s pretty classy up there too – according to their website, all attendees need to wear smart casual clothing, with no thongs allowed. Don’t ask us how we know.

To top off this amazing experience, you can also grab some great bar food, things like calamari or even pancakes. If you’re looking for a rooftop view among your Melbourne CBD bars and pubs, Goldilocks is a very strong contender.

Rooftop Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rooftop Bar Melbourne (@rooftopbar)

– Address: Level 7, Curtain House, 252 Swanston St
– Vibe: Laid back
– Live Music: DJs
– Dedicated Menu: Great drinks and burgers

It seems like there’s quite a few rooftop bars in Melbourne, but with a skyline as great as ours, you can definitely see why.

The aptly titled Rooftop Bar is pretty chill, there’s a few tables set up around the grounds where you can down a pint or two, and enjoy a burger from the onsite food truck, Burger Shack. The Rooftop Bar also transforms into a Rooftop Cinema on a regular occasion, keep an eye out here for when its set to change again.

The best bars and pubs on Russell Street

The Crafty Squire

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Crafty Squire (@thecraftysquire)

– Address: 127 Russell St
– Vibe: Laid back brewery style spot.
– Live Music: Regular live music across different styles

– Dedicated Menu: Great homecooked style meals.

First stop down Russell Street on our journey through Melbourne CBD bars and pubs, The Crafty Squire is an unmissable spot, towering over Russell St,and  they’ve earned their place in the city, being a top spot for slinging some great beer. The Crafty Squire comes from James Squire, one of Australia’s top Craft breweries, that have found homes in many fridges across the world.

There’s a fair few popular brews on offer, like the Portland Pale Ale, and Traditional Irish Stout, some of the greatest hop juice to enter your mouth. There’s some killer food too, anything from saganaki to salt and pepper calamari.

Heartbreaker  

Heartbreaker

– Address: 234A Russell St
– Vibe: Energetic Rock and roll bar
– Live Music: Rock

– Dedicated Menu: Drinks, drinks, and more drinks

The Heartbreaker is far from its sad name, head here and you’ll fall in love with the incredible service and great drinks list.

There’s literally every drink under the sun available at this venue, anything from a Non alcoholic gose to a liquor called Fortaleza Blanco. There’s no food at Heartbreaker, but with a 14 page drinks menu, is there really any need for food?

They’re clearly dedicated to the rock, it being one of the only spots that still has a jukebox, jam packed full of songs from back in the day.

Whiskey and Alement

Whisky and Alement

– Address: 270 Russell St
– Vibe: Upper class, but everyone’s welcome
– Dedicated Menu: Every whiskey and ale

Are you a whisky or ale fan? Look no further than Whiskey and Alement, Melbourne’s premier spot for all things brown liquor. It’s definitely one of the top spots – arguably the most renowned – for serious liquor enthusiasts among Melbourne CBD bars and pubs.

On a weekly basis, there’s a plethora of classes taking place at the venue, coming in March, you can learn about the origins of whisky, as well as the story and differences between American and Irish whiskey. Check out all the other classes on their calendar here.

Jankara Karaoke Bar

– Address: 300 Russell St
– Vibe: Laid back
– Live Music: Karaoke
– Dedicated Menu: Japanese inspired finger food

If there hasn’t been anything up your alley so far, look no further than Jankara Karaoke bar, the perfect spot to sing your heart out. It’s unique on our list of Melbourne CBD bars and pubs – but it’s definitely not just a token gesture.

A song doesn’t cost you a cent either, every two drinks you buy, you get to redeem a spot on the Karaoke stage, where you can choose from one of their many thousands of songs. As you’d expect, this Karaoke bar also puts on some great events for parties, often holding a variety of bucks and hens nights. Check out their function bookings here.

Or if you’re not keen on singing, you can head there and judge others with some Japanese inspired finger food like edamame, spring rolls or even a bucket of chicken wings.

The best bars and pubs on Collins and Little Collins

The Sherlock Holmes

– Address: 415 Collins St
– Vibe: Old school English style
– Dedicated Menu: Classic pub food

The Sherlock Holmes Inn calls itself one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets, and after heading there, it’s definitely clear why. Their dedication to their craft is immeasurable, they have curated a drinks list unlike anywhere else in Melbourne.

The exterior is a great mix of old English style with some great modern Melbourne vibes, it’s truly a hidden gem.

Enter this venue and it’s like you are entering into an old-school English pub, with some classic beers on tap and classic English pub grub like pies, fish and plenty more that you can check out on their cool online menu here.

Lui Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lui Bar (@theluibar)

– Address: 525 Collins St
– Vibe: Classy
– Dedicated Menu: Cocktail bar with bar snacks

If you’re over sitting in your trackies at home with a cheap wine from Aldi, Lui Bar is the spot for you, a classy joint that brings the best of the best.

It’s on the top floor of the Rialto building and gives 360” views of the beautiful Melbourne skyline. Lui is one of the fancier joints on this list, there being a minimum $50 spend after 5pm, but drinks are reasonably priced, dive into the stacked menu here.

The Charles Dickens Tavern

– Address: 290 Collins St
– Vibe: Old style English Pub
– Dedicated Menu: Pub grub with English twist

Based solely on name alone, you know what you’re going to get at the Charles Dickens, some high quality English drink and grub. You can grab some classics like Bangers and Mash, a beef and Guinness pie, and even a Ploughman’s Plate, which is full of some British staples. It doesn’t stop there, with a massive drinks menu, with a variety of Aussie beers new and old, popular and craft.

Like all good pubs across our state, the Charles Dickens is jam packed full of sports, their massive TV putting on games of all types; AFL, cricket, basketball, and a heap more.

Saint and Rogue

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Saint & Rogue (@saintandrogue)

– Address: 582 Little Collins St
– Vibe: No drama pub
– Dedicated Menu: Fancy food and bar snacks

Saint and Rogue brings the best of fine dining and mixes it with no drama pub interiors. You’ll feel at home with the wood panelled walls and amazing service, and on our massive mission to get the low-down on all the Melbourne CBD bars and pubs, this was one of the venue’s we felt the most relaxed and comfortable at. This spot also has some killer options for functions, so you can hold one of those many events you missed out on during lockdown.

You’ll get to experience a taste sensation with their mouth watering menu, there’s Salmon tataki, charred octopus hands, and even a seasonal veggie bowl, so something for everyone at the Saint and Rogue.

Cherry Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Cherry (@cherrybarmelb)

– Address: 68 Little Collins St
– Vibe: Dive bar, but extremely welcoming
– Live Music: Rock emphasis, but broad range of performers
– Dedicated Menu: Great drinks

You’re reading Beat, so there’s no doubt you’ve not only heard of but have had a few pints at the Cherry. It’s a staple of the Aussie music scene, many of the world’s greatest performers have graced its stage. They’re a great bar in their own front, slinging some great drinks that really top off the experience. There’s no doubting it, all the writers here are massive fans of Cherry, and we couldn’t have a proper crawl of Melbourne CBD bars and pubs without it.

There’s no shortage of great gigs coming up at the Cherry, TUXEDOS, Mountain Wizard Death cult and Raging Moby each making their way to the venue this year. Check out the rest of the gig guide here.

Like many Melbourne venues, the Cherry offers up some awesome merch, so you can represent the spot wherever you are – you can even grab some stuff for your dog too, giving them some cool street cred at the dog park.

Chuckle Park Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chuckle Park Bar (@chucklepark)

– Address: 322 Little Collins
– Vibe: Classic Melbourne, laid back
– Dedicated Menu: Drinks only

Nothing sums up Melbourne more than Chuckle Park Bar, a literal hole in the wall, dedicated to offering up some killer drinks and great service.

They are located down an alley on Little Collins, and offer drinks out of a caravan, and patrons can enjoy a drink under some cool shrubbery and fairy lights. There’s all your favourite drinks on offer, you can grab some interesting flavoured beers, Wine from some of Australia’s coolest regions, or even a classic cocktail if you’re after something a little bit stronger.

There’s no food here, so the Chuckle Park Bar is the perfect spot for an after show drink or great meeting point.

The best of the rest Melbourne CBD bars and pubs

Boilermaker House

– Address: 209-211 Lonsdale St
– Vibe: Classy and vintage
– Dedicated Menu: Fine dining

Are Boilermakers your drink of choice? If so, the aptly titled Boilermaker House is the spot for you. But they’ve got so much more, you can grab some stunning charcuterie platters, and many other fine dining options.

It’s in the heart of Melbourne, only a few minutes’ walk from the State Library.

On top of some great drinks and mouth-watering food, Boilermaker House puts on some great masterclasses, there’s a Whisky 101 that involves an introduction to the amazing world of whisky, you’ll leave knowing so much more and get to impress your friends next time you go out.

The Cricketers Bar

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kenneth Park (@kennethwpark)

– Address: Hotel Windsor, 111 Spring St
– Vibe: Sports vibe
– Dedicated Menu: Pub grub and great wine

The Cricketers Bar is located within the beautiful Hotel Windsor, but can still stand strong on its own. It’s a spot dedicated to all things sports, there’s some great memorabilia lining the walls that top off the amazing meals on offer.

You can grab things like a club sandwich, classic fish and chips, and of course a porterhouse. Dive into the rest of the menu here.

On the drinks side, it’s clear that The Cricketers are champions of Wine, they’ve got an amazing drinks menu featuring wines from some of Australia’s most iconic regions, or even an amazing rosé from Pays d’Oc region in France.

We’ve even ranked the toilets at Melbourne dive bars, clubs and music venues from sketchy to sparkling, check that useful list out here.