The Best Pubs in Melbourne

Considering the country’s British roots, the pub is as integral to Australian culture as surfing and a proper sunburn. But unfortunately, most local pubs have morphed into grotesque sports bar-club hybrids or dens of sad compulsion filled with automatic poker machines. Thankfully, however, inner Melbourne remains a last bastion of first-rate pubs, from old-school, honest spots to grab a pint to full-on gastropubs pumping out exceptional food. —Fred Siggins

  • 1

    The Beaufort

    The Beaufort is a nautical dive bar run by some of the best low-key cocktail bartenders in Australia. Sick of the pomp and circumstance of more upscale joints, the guys set out to build a different kind of bar. A run-down old pub freshened up with a fresh coat of paint on it, The Beaufort is an homage to casual debauchery and has become a home away from home for the rockabilly crowd. Complete with a pool table, BBQ menu, shots, beers and rock’n’roll, this is the ultimate bartender’s bar.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • day drinking
    • full menu
    • lots of whiskey
  • 2

    The Builder's Arms

    Recently renovated by one of the city’s most respected hospitality teams (they're also behind Cumulus, Inc. and Cutler & Co.) The Builder’s Arms has transformed this old Fitzroy bar into one of Melbourne’s finest gastropubs. Though slick and sophisticated, The Builder’s also gives a nod to the pub’s humble origins with fish pie and Carlton Draught on tap.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • bar food
    • day drinking
  • 3

    The Esplanade Hotel

    Built in 1878, The Esplanade Hotel (known affectionately as "The Epsy") is the oldest continuously running live music venue in Australia. The dingy but cavernous interior smells of beer, sweat, salt and dust, and while the beer and the food may be run of the mill, this spot—which overlooks the beach in St. Kilda directly opposite the Pier—has played host to a staggering line-up of musicians. Grab a pint, stand on the big front stairs overlooking the water and say a prayer to the gods of rock.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • live music
    • day drinking
    • historic
  • 4

    The Mitre Tavern

    Smack in the middle of the Central Business District, the Mitre Tavern is located inside Melbourne’s oldest building. While the bar tends to overflow with suits, it’s worth the trek, if for nothing else than to check in on the spectacle that is Melbourne’s Wolf of Wall Street crowd. If you're feeling inspired, head upstairs to the steakhouse and do as the traders do: Order a big slab of meat and an expensive bottle of Aussie red to keep the party going.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • historic
    • day drinking
  • 5

    The Rose

    The Rose has all of the trappings of an authentic Melbourne pub: The beer is cold, the big games are always on and the food is cheap and hearty. The boss of the joint is the indomitable Juanita, an Irish lass with a love of Belgian beer and no time for your shit. There are kids books on the shelf in the hall and posters of the long-defunct Fitzroy Lions football club on the wall, both harking back to a time when the neighborhood pub was a gathering place for the local community. In this neck of the woods, The Rose is still home.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • sports
    • day drinking
  • 6

    The Tote

    Since 1980 The Tote has been bastion for punk, metal and hardcore acts—both local and international—and remains one of the last great punk venues in the world. In a testament to its influence, when The Tote was forced to close in 2010 due to draconian liquor licensing laws, 10,000 Melburnians marched on the state parliament to have the laws changed (they succeeded). The Tote is more than just a pub and more than just a venue—it’s part of the musical soul of Melbourne.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • live music
    • historic
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