The 24 Best Pubs In Melbourne For 2024
— Updated on 29 December 2023

The 24 Best Pubs In Melbourne For 2024

— Updated on 29 December 2023
Chris Singh
Chris Singh

Melbourne wouldn’t be quite the same without its rich stock of heritage-listed pubs. Some of the country’s finest drinking establishments call this city home, from The Espy to The Rose. There are so many that tracking down the very best could be a bit overwhelming if you’re not a local; that’s where we come in.

Below you’ll find some of the greatest venues that make the city what it is, from North Melbourne to South Melbourne, Fitzroy to Collingwood, Brunswick to Richmond to Melbourne CBD and… you get the point.

Whether it’s a cosy corner pub with a dog-friendly beer garden and homemade bar snacks, a no-nonsense sports bar, or a hopped-up beer hall with classic pub food, consider our list the New Testament.

Melbourne CBD

Garden State Hotel

The Garden State Hotel is one of the best pubs Melbourne has to offer
(Photo by Garden State Hotel)

Let’s kick this list off with a stone-cold classic. Garden State is one of the strongest contenders if you’re trying to decide on the best pub in the city. The classic four-storey space stands in what was once a textile mill, transforming a slice of Flinders Lane history into one of Melbourne’s very best indoor-outdoor spaces.

The venue has a capacity for around 800 punters across all four levels, complemented by three separate menus and several distinct areas. A pro tip would be to enter via Duckboard Place directly into the breezy Rose Garden laneway bar where classic cocktails and three-cheese toasties await.

The Duke of Wellington

The Duke is one of the oldest pubs in the state.
(Photo by The Duke of Wellington)

No list of Melbourne’s greatest pubs would be complete without The Duke. It is, after all, the oldest and most loved pub in the city, standing proudly since it was first built in 1850. Game nights go down a treat here, with the bigger events screened across all three levels including the buzzy rooftop.

The location couldn’t be a finer choice any day or night out, seeing as The Duke is smack bang in the heart of Melbourne CBD, directly opposite The Forum and a stone’s throw from the MGC, Federation Square and Flinders Lane.

Captain Melville

captain melville
(Photo by Captain Melville)

As one of the oldest drinking establishments in the state right alongside The Duke, Captain Melville is a top choice for a quick drink and generous pub feed. The dining experience perfectly illustrates why a lot of locals still choose dinner at a pub over heading out to a restaurant.

The food here really is that good, even if it’s kept simple with a sharp focus on serving pub classics in a space that’s brimming with history.

Inner City

Edinburgh Castle Hotel, Brunswick

edinburgh castle hotel
(Photo by Edinburgh Castle Hotel)

Edinburgh Castle Hotel, one of Brunswick’s oldest pubs, doesn’t have much to distinguish it from any other classic establishment in Melbourne. Live music, pool, weekly specials, excellent pub food, and a great craft beer list – standard.

But there’s something about the vibe when you walk through those doors that hits you in a way unlike any other in the area, pulling you into a scene that feels quintessentially Melbourne. A trendy crowd and a big, social vibe help keep this institution front of mind in discussions about the city’s best pubs.

The Tote, Collingwood

The Tote is one of the best pubs in Melbourne for live music.
(Photo by The Tote)

The Tote isn’t just one of the finest pubs on Johnston Street in Collingwood, it’s also an extremely popular live music venue for up-and-coming local bands. You’d be hard-pressed to find a local who hasn’t flicked their sweat all over the makeshift dance floor, moshing away to hungry start-ups looking to pierce the surface of the Australian music industry.

This Collingwood hotspot is also just a really neat place to hunker down with your mates, grab some cheap burgers and sink a few cold ones. Just don’t expect to have a quiet one; The Tote is known, and admired, for its full-throated energy.

The Railway Hotel, South Melbourne

(Photo by The Railway Hotel)

Vibrant and always packed full of locals, The Railway Hotel has all the hallmarks that make for a great pub: cheap and cheerful pub food in the dining room, trivia nights that aren’t boring as batsh*t and weekly specials like Thursday pie night and Sunday roast.

The Lincoln, Carlton

(Photo by The Lincoln)

The Lincoln has been a Carlton favourite since 1854 and is one of the best examples of how to modernise a pub while still retaining its historical charm.

It takes a fine balance to achieve the perfect blend of contemporary and nostalgia, but the award-winning art deco bar has done just that, with 12 rotating beer taps, a wine list that doesn’t read like an afterthought and elevated pub food in the dining room.

Marquis Of Lorne, Fitzroy

(Photo by Marquis of Lorne)

This Fitzroy classic has changed many hands over the years, but its charms have remained despite a series of modern splashes updating the décor and turning it from a hardy beer tavern into an upmarket gastropub. It’s not exactly hard to hold onto popularity when you’ve got one of the best rooftop bars in the area either, offering a prime setting for the quintessential weekend steak lunch.

Builders Arms Hotel, Fitzroy

melbourne pubs builders arms hotel
(Photo by Builders Arms Hotel)

Builders Arms in Fitzroy is often one of the first venues that comes to mind when people think about a Melbourne pub with some serious culinary chops. That reputation owes to star chef Andrew McConnell who has steered the modernisation of Builders Arms with a great sense of balance, offering upscale pub grub at a reasonable price.

The Local Taphouse, St Kilda

melbourne pubs the local taphouse
(Photo by The Local Taphouse)

You’ve got equal parts quantity and quality at this award-winning St Kilda pub, with 400 beers on tap at any given time, rotating frequently to perfectly showcase the depth and breadth of the local and international beer scenes. Throw in a primo menu of classic pub grub and you’ve got yourself a strong contender for the best pub in all of St Kilda; although The Espy and The Grosvenor put up some stiff competition.

Retreat Hotel, Brunswick

melbourne pubs retreat hotel brunswick
(Photo by Retreat Hotel)

If you want to see live music in a pub that isn’t The Espy, you go to the Retreat. No questions. Much like The Tote, Retreat Hotel’s identity is hinged on rocking hard until the early hours of the morning. A raucous end to a night that most likely started with a modest, hearty pub meal and a few craft beers at the front bar.

The popular pub is open until 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, attracting some of the best young local bands in the state. Look out for the venue’s tight-lipped cocktail bar, Amelia Shaw, if you want something a bit quieter but no less exciting.

Grosvenor Hotel, St Kilda

melbourne pubs grosvenor hotel
(Photo by Grosvenor Hotel)

Another no-brainer when thinking of Melbourne’s best pubs. This historic St Kilda favourite is one of the best choices for a well-cooked steak alongside a prime selection of craft beers. On Sundays, this is the spot for Melbourne’s best Yorkshire pudding with those satisfying weekend roasts fired up in the cosy beer garden.

The Esplanade, St Kilda

best melbourne pubs the espy

No list of Melbourne’s finest pubs is complete without the Miami bayside vibes of The Espy.

A session here is typically an all-day type of deal, with the addictive atmosphere lifted across live music stages, two restaurants, and 12 bars. Consider this the ultimate Victorian pub, from the refined front bar to a relaxed cocktail bar that feels like a genuine escape from all the action.

The Drunken Poet, West Melbourne

melbourne pubs the drunken poet
(Photo by The Drunken Poet)

The Drunken Poet in West Melbourne just may be one of the best Irish pubs in the world.

This cosy establishment heaves with fresh pints of Guinness and Kilkenny, many of which are caked into the sticky floors and serve as a constant reminder that you’re here for one thing and one thing only: beer.

There’s no kitchen here but there are small bar bites to help you soak up during a long, boozy session. You’ll find it opposite Queen Victoria Market anyway, so the best way to play is to grab a feed over there and then head to this Peel Street pub to wrap up the night the right way, especially if there’s some live Irish music or poetry on.

The Fox Hotel, Collingwood

melbourne pubs the fox hotel collingwood
(Photo by The Fox Hotel)

If you’re in the market for a family-friendly pub, head on over to Collingwood where you’ll find The Fox.

Live music here favours the smoother licks of jazz and soul, while the sun-soaked courtyard is the best place to park up for the day and sink a few cold ones. It’s dog-friendly, so expect a lot of furry drinking companions sharing the atmosphere.

The Royston, Richmond

melbourne pubs the royston

The Royston on River Street in Richmond is a pioneer as far as the craft beer movement goes, given it was the first pub in the state to dedicate all its taps to local craft breweries.

The horseshoe-shaped bar is the best spot on any given day but the rowdy front room is a better choice for first-timers who want to soak in the atmosphere before heading over to the dining room for a hearty feast.

The Palace Hotel, South Melbourne

The Palace Hotel in South Melbourne is one of the best pubs in the area.

Much like The Fox in Collingwood, The Palace is best known for its dog-friendly courtyard and generous pub grub. The kitchen here is one of the best in the area so you’ll find a lot of couples head here for date night instead of Collingwood’s many local restaurants. Just don’t go expecting a rowdy atmosphere and you’ll be a regular in no time.

The Great Northern, Carlton

melbourne pubs great northern hotel

The Great Northern in Carlton North is built on its noisy atmosphere, dialled up to 11 whenever some live sports beam from enormous screens around the spacious courtyard.

International games have just as much a presence here as the locals so on any given day you’ll see all types of colourful jerseys clashing as punters get amongst the sportsbar vibe. It’s hard to escape footy fever here, so if you’re in for something a bit quieter you’ll definitely want to give this a miss. Even if those primo pub parmas are calling your name.

The Rose, Fitzroy

the rose fitzroy

Not many pubs can muscle out The Rose, which despite the area’s strong competition has remained one of the most beloved and approachable old-school venues in the inner city.

It’s all dark brickwork and vintage sports posters at this bar, with daily specials scribbled on a chalkboard and a bar staff that know the ins and outs of everything they offer. You don’t last for over 130 years and still maintain that glow without firmly establishing yourself as one of the state’s finest.

Retreat Hotel, Abbotsford

retreat hotel abbotsford

Not to be mistaken with the identically named venue on Sydney Road (although of course having the same name will do that to you), the Retreat in Abbotsford is hinged on the classic, old-school Victorian pub design.

Many of the original features remain at this historic pub, worked gently by the same team behind South Melbourne’s The Palace with a great sense for fun, alongside a top-quality beer menu, equally impressive wine list and some incredibly moreish food best enjoyed in the beer garden.

Labour In Vain, Fitzroy

labour in vain

If you’re on a pub crawl down the main drag in Fitzroy and you’re set on ending the night at a local favourite then park yourself up at Labour In Vain. From the sunny rooftop beer garden, where outdoor BBQs aren’t uncommon, to the front bar with regular free live music, it’s hard not to post up here for the better part of a day.

Town Hall Hotel, North Melbourne

There are no obvious attempts at modernity at Town Hall Hotel, rather highlighting the patina that has grown over decades while locals enjoy some of the best classic pub food they can possibly find.

Nostalgia is heavy in this house so the beer list is stubborn with all the usual brews taking precedence over the more contemporary crafts. Sometimes you need a pub that’s stuck in the past.

The Lord Newry Hotel, Fitzroy

Located next to the Fitzroy Bowls Club, this classic local is a renowned kick-on spot for members. Those pool tables and mini arcade games should be more than enough to break up rounds of drinking in the main space but the best spot is in the cosy outdoor area with a plate of classic pub food.

The Woodlands Hotel, Coburg

the woodlands hotel melbourne

With a slick, European-styled interior, cosy The Woodlands in Coburg has what is easily one of the most unique atmospheres of any pub in Melbourne.

You could be anywhere sitting in that lush, leafy atrium: Germany, London, Poland, Vilnius… but the tap list and restaurant quality menu should leave no question as to the location. Local breweries get a huge showing here, making it one of the best pubs in Melbourne for craft beer.

Did you find this guide to the best pubs in Melbourne helpful? Check out some of our other Melbourne content:

How Boss Hunting Chose The Best Pubs In Melbourne

We’ve curated a round-up of the best Melbourne pubs based on both first-hand experience and secondary research. Although the Boss Hunting office is located in Sydney, between us, we’re lucky enough to head on down to Melbourne for work quite frequently.

We love little more than popping by the city’s foremost drinking establishments and so consider ourselves experts when it comes to what separates a good pub from a boring one. The drinks list is our primary consideration of course, but we need it to match the atmosphere as well. Other things we consider include speed of service, pub food and price point.

For more information on how we put together lists like these please take a read of our editorial policy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the oldest pub in Melbourne?

The Duke would be the oldest pub, having been built in 1850. However, it didn’t start serving beer until a few years later, in 1853, which is the same year as Captain Melville.

What is the best pub in Melbourne CBD?

You’ve got a lot of choices in the CBD, but you should stick with the old classics like The Duke and Captain Melville.

What is the best pub in Melbourne for food?

The Royston, Garden State Hotel, Marquis of Lorne and The Espy have some of the best pub food around.

What is the biggest pub in Melbourne?

The Espy is without a doubt the biggest pub around with multiple bars, restaurants, and live music rooms.

Subscribe to B.H. Magazine

Chris Singh
Chris is a freelance Travel, Food, and Technology writer. He has had work published by The AU Review, Junkee Media and Australian Traveller Media and holds tertiary qualifications in Psychology and Sociology.


Share the article