Bars & Pubs

The Best Bars In Melbourne’s CBD

By Simon Cassar

A yellow lit shelf at one of the best bars in CBD Melbourne.

Melbourne is home to some of the best bars in the world, and luckily for us the punters, a lot of those bars reside right in the CBD. When you come face up with landing on a bar in the city the options are daunting—do you take to the rooftop? Sneak down a laneway? Opt for a dive bar or perhaps drop into a wine bar or whisky saloon. 

Whether its an afternoon aperitivo, a knock-off drink or a night out on the town, you'll find it all and more at the best bars in Melbourne CBD for 2023: 

Good Heavens

Located above Fancy Hanks restaurant, Good Heavens is the place to turn up to if you’re after a solid feed, a few snacks, a stack of drinks, or all of the above. Their Fancy Hanks-inspired Americana menu has it all; share platters, sandwich-style burgers with fries, snacks and dessert too. 

A rooftop with people drinking at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

Embla

Embla is the epitome of quality Melbourne wine bars, a small intimate space that is always packed to the brim with eager diners and an array of wait staff who are well-versed in guiding you through the entire evening. It may be a tighter space than others, but the charm of Embla is what’s made it such a popular spot. With a stellar range of wines and a menu of modern cuisine, it’s an award-winning pair and has established itself as one of the best bars in Melbourne CBD.

Ferdydurke 

Perched above its sister space, Section 8 down below, Ferdydurke is the intimate counterpart to the industrious carpark destination. Touted as one of the best bars CBD Melbourne has on the go, Ferdydurke is an eclectic and cosy space to knock back a few, catch some live tunes or tap into some good times with your nearest and dearest. 

Sweatshop 

Housed in the former textile factory, Sweatshop is the dimly lit cocktail bar with its upstairs Asian fusion diner, Seamtresss above. More than just a space to grapple a gin and tonic while you wait for a table, this bar in Melbourne's CBD has that hidden away charm with a real subterranean NYC-style feel, with raw brick walls and a motley collection of lights and ornaments lining the bar. 

Gin Palace 

At the very beginning of Melbourne's laneway bar revolution, entrepreneur Vernon Chalker opened Gin Palace on Russell Place in 1997. From day one, gin martini's were the drink of the day and this basement CBD bar quickly became one of Melbourne's most established drinking dens, if that doesn't get you, the chicken sangas and the 3am closing time will. 

The LuWow

As far as Tiki bars in Melbourne go, The LuWow takes the cake. Channelling the aesthetic of the Pacific, you'll likely find the jungle-adorned oasis awash in Hawaiian shirts, 50s bop tunes and Mai Tais in Tiki mugs. The bar's CBD location on Little Collins has ingratiated itself as a top option for a late-night venture. 

A bartender in a Hawaiian shirt at one of the best cbd bars Melbourne.

Cookie 

One of Curtain Houses' many treasures, the combination of Thai food, beer and cocktails is the premise behind Cookie. The result is an atmospheric and bustling space with both diners lining the opera-style balconettes that offer city views and people parked up around the bar that centres the entire space. 

Bomba

Head to the upstairs of the Lonsdale Street building and cast your eyes on the plant-filled open-air rooftop of Bomba, aka one of the breeziest rooftop bars in CBD Melbourne. With enough tapas options to line your stomach, fine cocktails and a spanking view of the city; Bomba has it all. Their carafes come in red, white and rose sangria, perfect for a golden hour drink.

A group of people on a rooftop at one of the best CBD bars in Melbourne.

Union Electric Bar

If you love gin, you’ve come to the right place. Union Electric specialises in the botanical-heavy spirit, and frankly, their huge selection proves it. An unassuming exterior leads into the walls of the laneway and rooftop bar where every nook and cranny is typically brimming with eager revellers. 

Two people smiling at one of the best CBD bars in Melbourne.

Heroes Karaoke & Rooftop Bar

About as much fun as one can have at a CBD bar in Melbourne, Heroes is loaded with private chambers perfect for belting out a couple of classics, and if you prefer a slower pace take to the upstairs rooftop beer garden with Chinatown views.

Fable

Touted as Melbourne's highest rooftop CBD bar, Fable and its sweeping views have been likened to the sky-high saloons of Tokyo and New York, but there's more to this spot than the view. Perched upon Level 13 overlooking Exhibition Street and QV below, the towering bar features a collection of seasonal cocktails from Alessandro Nardini as well as an incredibly solid in-house diner from celebrated Chef Alex Xinis. 

A sky-high rooftop at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

Whitehart

Located at the end of Whitehart Lane and in between Little Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street, you’ll find a top contender for the best bar in Melbourne's CBD. The semi-outdoor venue features a mixture of steel and plantlife with ample corners for parking up with a cocktail or a frosty pint and easing into the live tunes. 

An outside space filled with people drinking at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

Garden State Hotel 

Beer gardens but make it boujee. Garden State Hotel is all about aesthetics across all four levels of this boozy oasis. The venue has the capacity to host 800 people at any one time, it’s still one of the biggest beer gardens in CBD Melbourne and absolutely heaves during the summer months.

HER

This five-storey labyrinth may be relatively new but it's already staking its claim as one of the best bars in the CBD. From the collective team behind Abory Bar and Arbory Float, HER features its very own, Parisian-style cocktail bar, a dedicated listening bar, a Thai BBQ diner and a Euro-inspired garden rooftop bar.

A group of people sitting at a table at one of the best cbdf bars in Melbourne.

Workshop

Melbourne will make any available space into a bar, so a motorcycle repair shop would fit the bill. Workshop, located on Elizabeth Street in the CBD, is a tried and tested venue, with cool industrial-chic interiors and a balcony that rivals a rainforest with its plethora of plants. DJs spin the night away every night and there are always a ton of cheap drink specials so you don’t even have to break the bank. 

Pearl Chablis & Oyster Bar 

A real clandestine affair, Pearl Chablis is the ultra-quaint 20-seat bar dedicated to French wine and oysters, an off-beat contender to the more conventional best bars in CBD Melbourne. Tucked away on the top end of Bourke Street, the speciality venue backs onto the seafood-centred diner, Pinchy's and is separated by a single sliding door.

A person taking a photo of a lobster at one of the cbd bars in Melbourne

Caretaker's Cottage

You'll find Caretaker's Cottage nestled comfortably behind Wesley Place Church in the CBD, and staying true to the label, this pot-sized watering hole was in fact once a Caretaker's Cottage. Come 2023, the spot resembles something not too dissimilar to a (very small) pub with what could be considered one of Melbourne's most dialled cocktail lists—and with the calibre of the team, it makes sense. 

Angel Music Bar

Sometimes, you just can’t choose between a beverage or a boogie, but fear not, here you’ll find both options are readily available. From the mind of Con Christopoulos, the renowned restaurateur behind City Wine ShopThe EuropeanKirk’s Wine Bar, and so many more, Angel Music Bar has a strong focus on music with an absolutely killer sound system. An audiophile’s dream, the Funktion One speakers are from the same company whose speakers are used in iconic clubs such as Berghain in Berlin.

Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters

Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters does exactly what it says on the tin and so much more. First up is the oysters—sourced seasonally from across the country—which are served three ways: natural, dressed and cooked. You can't go wrong whichever route you take, though you'd be remiss not to order up on the natural dressed with Pearl Diver's signature martini. 

The inside at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne with wooden stools and bottles on the shelves.

Jayda 

Bar Jayda is the latest venture from Shane Delia, an elevated bar space adjoined to Shane's foremost diner, Maha. The all-new venue is an extension of the acclaimed restaurant, differing in aesthetics but undoubtedly linked. On the cards for the bar is an extensive wine alongside a range of seasonal cocktails crafted by award-winning mixologist and bartender Orlando Marzo as well as a slew of snacks and share plates.

The exterior of one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne with a red awning.

Kirk’s Wine Bar 

A staple of Melbourne's CBD bar community, Kirk’s Wine Bar on Hardware Lane is often the answer for that lively yet laid-back spot for a drink while waiting for a dinner reservation, after-work knock-off or a nightcap. Led by Ian Curly of French Saloon, the quaint Euro-style bar sits on the corner of the busy city laneway and is typically brimming with crowds who favour the expertly curated drinks and wine list which the floor staff have dialled into a tee, ready to recommend anything from a glass of Chardonnay to Gamay. 

Rooftop Bar 

A flagship amongst the best CBD bars in Melbourne, Rooftop has long stood as the destination for a quick drink or a long afternoon session that rolls into the night. Atop the iconic Curtain House, Rooftop has had a spiffy renovation from its original clandestine fit-out and is now adorned with plenty of wooden nooks and crannies to plant yourself in. 

Byrdi 

Simple. Refined. Elegant. In just three words you know all you need to know about Byrdi. The CBD bar has a unique approach to its menu, integrating local and native ingredients. Drinks-wise, you’ll find experimental cocktails and highballs with dynamic blends including the fermented, fortified, and smoked Yarra Valley Pear, with Strangelove pear soda. 

A bartender crafting a cocktail at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

Cherry Bar 

The embodiment of Melbourne’s Rock N Roll culture, Cherry Bar may have shifted from its very aptly titled ACDC Lane to Little Collins Street, but there’s still plenty of soul at this live music hub. Follow the neon-lit cherry into one of Melbourne's nightlife Institutions, where blood, sweat and beer is all par de course. 

City Wine Shop 

City Wine Shop is the unofficial clock-off destination for city-based workers, and is almost officially known as one of the best bars in the CBD. With a serious Euro-chic atmosphere, City Wine Shop is a part of the SigloThe European, and The Supper Club collective. Part bar/part wine shop, there’s an extensive range of local and imported wines, which are available to drink in-store or to stash at home for later. 

Heartbreaker

It’s one of the fundamental laws of physics: any good night in Melbourne has to end up at Heartbreaker around 1am. The place has its own gravity. Heartbreaker is actually run by Michael and Zara Madrusan (the Everleigh crew), but you wouldn’t know it from the vibe. Where The Everleigh is suave and understated, Heartbreaker is ballsy. On the surface, Heartbreaker is your classic rock n’ roll dive bar. 

A busy cbd bar with green lamps and bartenders.

Section 8

Section 8 doesn’t pretend to be anything fancy. The Ferdydurke guys literally found some laneway dead space, chucked in several pallets, cut out a hole in a shipping container and started slinging drinks. What makes this place special is that it’s one of the few open-air bars in the CBD (the others being rooftop staples like Goldilocks and Rooftop Bar.) There aren’t many better drinking spots when the weather’s nice, and the beer’s flowing.

An outdoor laneway with one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

Dom’s Social Club

Run by some of Melbourne’s premier hospitalitarians, including Tom Peansell of Nico’sDexter and The Keys. The CBD-based Dom’s Social Club is an instant success, with three levels including a pub-style bar, pizzeria and rooftop all with three very distinct styles, you can spend an entire night at Dom’s and have a change of scenery all in the one spot. 

An icy glass of Aperol at one of the best CBD bars in Melbourne.

Dickstein’s Corner Bar

Dickstein’s is so underrated, so hidden in plain sight, so ridiculously humble and ordinary and fantastic, that it doesn’t even feature on the average ‘Melbourne’s Best CBD Bar’ list. You won’t find it accidentally. No finger-on-the-pulse trendsetter is going to recommend it to you. It’s the sort of bar that doesn’t give a shit about fashion or fashionable people: just quaffable wine, cheap pizzas and a friendly, candlelit ambience. 

Bar Margaux 

Paris meets New York in this below-ground bar on Lonsdale Street. Think classic French cuisine, then add some art deco tiles and mirrors, leather couches, a timber bar and super sophisticated cocktails, and you get Bar Margaux. Anything on the menu is sure to be a winner, but if you’re a bit on the indecisive side, then the bartenders are there to help you decide—they’ll even make you a custom off-menu drink to suit your cravings.

A checkered floor and yellow-lit sign at one of the best cbd bars Melbourne.

Siglo

Siglo isn’t your everyday drinking hole. It’s a place to level up your evening, and celebrate special occasions: a big promotion, your first house, or an anniversary nightcap. In a city that chases trends, Siglo sticks with quality instead. The terrace views over Spring Street and Parliament House don’t hurt, and nor do the attentive staff, who can literally answer any alcoholic curveball you throw at them. Come here late, after midnight, light a cigar and enjoy one of CBD's best spectacles. 

A busy outdoor terrace with a colourful awning at one of the best cbd bars.

Goldilocks

Goldilocks is a hidden fairytale bar tucked away above the Denyer Building on Swanston Street. They’re not too big, they’re not too small, they’re just right in our opinion. With a focus on sustainability and recycling, the bar is committed to bringing local Victorian craft beers and wines to you, alongside their signature fairytale-themed cocktails and bar snacks which are mostly vegan and vegetarian. 

A rooftop overlooking the CBD at one of the best CBD bars in Melbourne.

Eau De Vie

One of Melbourne’s former best-kept secrets, Eau De Vie has handfuls of swank. The semi-prohibition-style bar with its difficult-to-find and strong speakeasy aesthetic has cemented it as one of Melbourne’s best bars. The trick with Eau de Vie is getting there early and carving out your space: maybe a comfy chair in the whisky lounge, or some prize stools up near the bar. 

Gimlet 

Poised with enough early 20th-century charm to transport right back in time to a New York or Paris of yesteryear, Gimlet is a cocktail destination like no other. The Andrew McConnell diner is famed as an eatery but also serves as one of the best bars in Melbourne. Adorned in checkered tiles, dark-stained wood, booth seating and a wrap-around bar. 

A large space with white-aproned waiters at one of the best cbd bars in Melbourne.

1806

Bar 1806 (named after the year in which ‘cocktails’ first appeared) sits alongside Gin Palace and Black Pearl as one of Melbourne’s OG renaissance bars. It opened back in 2007, when most Victorians considered a dirty martini pretty avant-garde, and everything about it, from Tikki and John’s Crazyhouse setting to the stage-cum-bar layout to the 110 whisky bottles behind the bar, everything spoke to a new generation of Melbourne drinkers. 

Inside one of the best bars in CBD Melbourne with red curtains and bottles.

Check out more of Melbourne's best: 

Melbourne's best restaurants
Melbourne's best cafes
Melbourne's best bars
Melbourne's best breakfast

Image credit: Bar Margaux (supplied) 

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