Melbourne’s nightlife scene might not compete with those of other larger cities, but it does know how to have fun after dark. Bars and clubs stay open until about 1 a.m. or 4 a.m., and sometimes even 24 hours. Melbourne nightlife has a little bit of everything—hidden bars, rowdy pubs, swanky nightclubs, and live music venues. And then, of course, it has your reliable late-night food options and non-drinking activities.
As a traveler, navigating the nightlife in a foreign city can be confusing. Where do the locals go? Are there open container laws? We hear you. Here are a few bars, clubs, and live music options worth a squiz (Aussie slang for look).
Aussies know how to have a good time. (They also know how to drink.) There’s a lot of different types of bars in Melbourne, including cocktail bars, speakeasies, rooftop bars, karaoke bars, pubs, you name it. The only thing you really won’t find is traditional sports bars with football, basketball, or baseball playing on monitors across every inch of the pub. Televisions in Australian bars and restaurants are not very common. Instead, Aussies call pubs “hotels” (very confusing for a foreigner) where there might be two or three TVs playing cricket or rugby.
Where you want to have a good time depends on your mood, but you’re bound to find a great place to drink and meet a few locals while you’re there. Here are our picks.
- Rooftop Bar: Don’t let the name fool you. The bartenders at Rooftop Bar create wild cocktails, and the setting is casual and fun. During the summer, it opens as a rooftop cinema!
- Pub: The Esplanade. On the outside, it looks like an old, multi-story pub. On the inside, there are different rooms catered to seating, dancing, live music, and drinking. Just find the nearest bartender and order a drink.
- Cocktail Bar: The Everleigh is a vintage style bar where trained mixologists whip up classic cocktails. If you want to know why it won various “bar of the year” awards, order a Negroni.
- Speakeasy: You may have checked out Mjølner for fine dining in Melbourne, but it also hosts a dimly lit, Viking-themed speakeasy. Try the “Recharging of Odinforce” for a fruity and powerful drink.
- Beer Garden: College Lawn Hotel is a pub with an attached social beer garden, complete with field turf, bench tables, and beach umbrellas. You’ll find beers, wine, and cocktails.
- Wine bar: Little Andorra’s menu is an impressive, ever-changing list of wines. It might take a while to choose a drink, but at least smooth jazz music plays in the background of the restaurant.
Clubbing in Melbourne is really fun for visitors and locals. It’s a mix of an older and younger crowd (the drinking age is 18), and you can find all kinds of music styles, like electronic, R&B, or rock and roll. Here are the best of each.
- Treat Nightclub: Expect a younger crowd here as it’s a fun spot to dance to electronic music. It’s set up as a labyrinth of rooms, each one playing different music.
- Revolvers: This nightclub doesn’t close on the weekend—it’s open 24 hours so that you can dance until dawn (or longer). There are multiple levels with different DJs spinning tunes.
- Spice Market: Spice market is on the swankier side of Melbourne nightlife. It’s the kind of club where you have to dress up or you won’t get in. Once inside, it’s all thumping music and fancy cocktails. Thursdays are ladies’ night, which means cheap drinks for all the sheilas.
- The Albion: This is a reasonably casual club that’s on a rooftop. It’s a go-to spot for locals.
- Section 8: This open-air club bumps everything from hip-hop to electronic music. It usually hosts live DJ sets for the ultimate fist-bumping experience. Section 8 is a fun spot to check out on a clear summer night.
- Cherry: Looking for a little rock and roll? Cherry is on AC/DC Lane and offers head bobbing live music, tattooed bartenders, and no-fuss cocktails. Melburnians love to brag that Lady Gaga made a special visit here.
The live music scene thrives in Melbourne. It’s a lure of attraction for locals and travelers alike. There’s a lot of promotion around Australian music and artists, so you’ll find heaps of venues that are proud to host Aussie bands, DJs, and rappers. Here are a few social spots for live music in Melbourne:
- Corner Hotel: The Corner Hotel in Richmond has a continuous lineup of local and international musicians. Catch the events schedule and buy tickets before they sell out.
- Northcote Social Club: This is a big space for live music gigs during the week, but especially on the weekend. You’ll need to buy tickets for specific events.
- The Gasometer Hotel: This two-story building hosts various bands and DJs throughout the year. It has a retractable roof, making it the place to be during the summer.
- Howler: Howler is a music and film venue that hosts gigs in a theater and DJs in the main bar and garden area.
Non-Drinking Late Night Activities
You don’t have to drink to have fun in Melbourne. There are plenty of non-drinking things to do throughout the city. Here are late-night activities that don’t involve booze.
- KBOX: If you like karaoke but don’t like singing in front of strangers, KBOX is the perfect solution. You and your group can get a room with a karaoke machine. This setting gives you the privacy to be goofballs and sing at the top of your lungs.
- Bartronica: Bartronica is an underground video arcade. When you walk down the stairs, you’ll find a dim space lit up by the flashing lights of Mario Kart, PacMan, and Donkey Kong. It has everything from old-school pinball machines to car racing games. There’s also a bar in case you get thirsty.
- Holy Moly: Holy Moly is an indoor mini-golf course. You can choose to put nine to 27 holes, and there’s a theme for every round. It’s a fun spot for groups or date night.
- iDarts: Darts is a popular bar game, but it’s treated as a sport at iDarts. You can play different games in a bright setting and learn just how competitive you can get.
Tips for Going Out at Night
Now that you know what to do after dark in Melbourne, we have a few more tips for going out at night.
- Public Transit: From Friday to Sunday, a night network opens for the train, tram, and bus. After midnight, the train runs every 60 minutes. So if you know you want to get on the train by 1 a.m., aim to get to the station a little early, or you’ll have to wait another hour for the next train. The tram, on the other hand, runs every 30 minutes after midnight, and the bus runs every 30 to 60 minutes after midnight. Otherwise, Uber, DiDi, Ola, and 13cabs will give you a ride home no matter the time.
- Open Container Laws: Consumption of alcohol in public spaces is prohibited in Melbourne, so finish the beer before you leave.
- Cover Charge: There’s usually a cover fee between AU$20 to $40 for entry into nightclubs. Cover is generally paid in cash, so if you know you want to go to Spice Market, visit an ATM first.
- Age Restrictions: The drinking age in Australia is 18. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of teens out and about on a Friday night.
- Identification: While the drinking age is 18, most bars and clubs ask for ID before you enter. At some places (liquor stores included), a foreign driver’s license won’t cut it. You’ll need to bring a passport out with you.
- Late-Night Eats: Melbourne has a bunch of options for a late-night snack. Lord of the Fries, Mr. Crackles, and Shujinko Ramen serve food well after midnight.
- Drinking and Driving: Drinking and driving is a serious offense in Victoria. Law enforcement conducts random breathalyzer tests (RBT). Don’t bother getting behind the wheel if you’ve had more than two drinks. The general rule of thumb is that two standard drinks in the first hour will raise your BAC to 0.05 percent, which is the limit in Victoria.