Vibey cocktail bars to classy wine bars, they’re a sure bet for date night. But pubs are where our best memories are made, with bubbly conversations among friends corralled by rounds of craft brew or jugs of Carlton. Melbourne’s a city full of destination-worthy pubs, from neighbourhood legends packed with footy-loving locals to contemporary showstoppers with gorgeous interiors. These are the best pubs in Melbourne to score a spot at.
This epic, four-storey pub is a lush oasis in the heart of the CBD. Glowing spherical lights and full trees bloom from within their central atrium, while vines and planters make the whole place feel like a magical indoor garden. An intimate cocktail bar downstairs and sprawling spaces above means plenty of cosy nooks to hide away in even as the hotel reaches heaving capacity towards the end of the week.
101 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
The Esplanade Hotel is more of a seaside mansion than a simple pub. A lavish top-to-bottom refurb has transformed this historic venue into a labyrinthine funhouse. Scope out the wide front bar’s chandeliers, grand iron staircase and retractable glass ceiling, as well as the hallowed rock’n’roll history of the Gershwin Room. Then settle into one of the lush cocktail bars and restaurants that are tucked away in all corners of the building.
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda
Most brewery pubs lean more towards functional, but Stomping Ground in Collingwood is a merrymaking wonderland for young and old. There’s a forest-themed cubby house for the kids and an expansive food and drink playground for everyone else. You can sidle up in booths next to wide glass windows that offer a direct view of the brewery’s huge steel vats in actions, while indoor greenery and a retractable roof afford the space a summery feel all year round.
100 Gipps Street, Collingwood
Every Melburnian wishes that this was their local. Warm lights and wooden panelling evoke the feel of a vintage European tavern, while the rooftop terrace is busy all year round, thanks to a fireplace that keeps it toasty warm. The vibes here are always top-notch, with a cosy volume of friends and lovers bonding over craft beers and comforting bistro fare.
184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East VIC 3183
Mention the Great Northern to anyone who’s been around the traps, and you’ll be unfailingly responded to with a twinkle in the eye and the affirmation “now that’s a good pub”. It’s got all the magic ingredients that go into a legendary watering hole. Always busy but deep enough in the ‘burbs to feel neighbourly, a leafy dog-friendly courtyard out back, effusive staff and a cracker list of beers.
644 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
A corner pub fashioned under the exacting eye of Andrew McConnell was never going to be ordinary, and indeed, the Builders Arms is an exercise in pared-back elegance. Vintage pub tiles hint at the venue’s history while a muted palette, minimalist furnishings and ample indoor flora point to modernity. Come summer you’ll find the inner north’s young and hip sipping natural wine and snacking on charcuterie under the bougainvillea in their leafy courtyard.
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Classed-up Lamaro’s feels more like a fine diner than a neighbourhood boozer these days thanks to its wide marble bar, indoor orchids, backlit wine shelves and plush carpets. Sure, they’ll do you a quick pint after work, but we’re here more often for long lazy lunches full of fresh seafood and fancy French wines under the glow of their beautiful stained-glass windows.
273-279 Cecil Street, South Melbourne
Year after year the Royston remains one of the coolest pubs around. Effortlessly combining a front bar that feels like a mate’s living room – complete with sunken couches, mismatched furniture and pot plants – with a classy old school bistro outback. Their insouciance hides a killer craft beer offering and top of the line cooking. But day in and day out, you’ll find the Royston milling with loyal regulars (their trivia night always books out).
12 River Street, Richmond
Saints and sinners alike are drawn to the Wesley Anne, a one-of-a-kind pub housed within a 19th-century church. Here, they lean into the space’s potential for gothic charm in everything from the unpaved rough stone walls to the dim glow of their wrought-iron chandelier. Nevertheless, the space is made easily inviting via a roaring fireplace in winter and a breezy courtyard in summer.
250 High Street, Northcote
The Corner has always been one of the city’s most vital pubs, thespot for live music and post-footy beers on your way back from the MCG. However, since giving their rooftop a swanky revamp a few years ago, they’ve added style onto their existing substance. The leafy-green space comes complete with an outdoor barbecue firing away alongside the bar, while a DJ booth turns regular evenings into summertime soirées.
57 Swan Street, Richmond
It’s probably a stretch to classify Rupert on Rupert as a pub, but this converted warehouse surely embodies the spirit of one, and it’s too gorgeous not to include. Both cosy corners and communal tables are drenched with sunshine from wide skylights, while an ever-evolving indoor garden and quirky vintage touches make it a standout in design. It’s the kind of place you could lounge in all day, whether catching up with friends over pints or quietly reading a book with a glass of wine and a woodfired pizza.
73 Rupert Street, Collingwood