Do you get excited by discovering secret bars? We certainly do. Melbourne has plenty of hard-to-find bars; some are behind bookcases and others down dodgy laneways. So here’s our guide to the best hidden bars in Melbourne.
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Hidden bars in the CBD
20 Presgrave Pl, City Centre
One of Melbourne’s smallest bars (it holds around 10 people) Bar Americano takes its cues from Italian aperitivo culture. Owned by artist Matt Bax, it pays ‘homage to the ‘Golden Age’ of drinking, the time of the American Bar.’ It’s standing room only, so things get cosy, but it’s a brilliant escape in the middle of the city. Find it down Presgrave Place; check out the street art while you’re there.
Eau de Vie
1 Malthouse Ln, City Centre
Eau De Vie is hidden down a laneway you wouldn’t give a second glance; the only sign of its existence is a streetlamp above the entrance. This 1920’s inspired prohibition bar serves a large array of cocktails and whiskeys, pairing them with meat and cheese platters. The cocktails here are theatrical, with liquid nitrogen, fairy floss and fire. The same team also run Mjølner, a viking inspired restaurant and bar.
State of Grace
27 King St, City Centre
State of Grace might not look hidden from the outside – and it’s not! But pull the right book on the bookshelf, and a secret door will swing open, revealing a staircase that will take you to the basement. This is ‘Fall From Grace,’ the hidden basement bar. Enjoy a cocktail, or indulge in their modern European food.
The Croft Institue
21 Croft Alley, City Centre
One of Melbourne’s original hidden bars is The Croft Institute, tucked away at the end of a graffiti-covered laneway. This science-themed bar is filled with bunsen burners, and instead of straws, they serve their drinks with empty syringes. To find it, head into Chinatown and down Croft Alley, pass the street art and head towards the end.
167 Franklin St, City Centre
It took 7 years for this Sydney bar to open in Melbourne, and we’re glad they did. Mary’s is an unapologetic rock n roll bar, serving great burgers and plenty of booze. There’s no signage, instead look for the red light above the door; you’d think it was a brothel if you didn’t know better. Head inside to this dimly lit venue and get ready for a good time.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
16 Meyers Pl, City Centre
This is one is a favourite! Head to Meyer’s Place – one of Melbourne’s great laneways – and you’ll find this takeaway joint slinging New York inspired pizza. Now here’s the secret! Head inside, past the sign that reads ‘staff only’ and push past the curtain. You’ll find yourself in Pizza Pizza Pizza, an intimate cocktail bar. Take a seat, order up and enjoy this awesome speakeasy.
Level 1/7-9 Waratah Pl, City Centre
There is no way to accidentally stumble upon this opium den inspired cocktail bar. In the middle of Chinatown, head down Warratah Place. Head up the stairs, then open the big wooden bar, this is Manchuria. Inside you’ll find a collections of booths, and plenty of nooks.
Basement/111 Lonsdale St, City Centre
Not only one of our favourite cocktail bars, but this gem is also difficult to find. Bar Margaux is an underground French bar & bistro, from the same team as The Everleigh. Find it off Lonsdale St, and take the stairs down.
You’ll find a delicious French menu – snails, duck fritte, crème brûlée – paired with world-class cocktails, including half serves of Martinis and Manhattans – appropriately called snack-size cocktails. The outside world tends to disappear while at Bar Margaux.
2/16 Corrs Ln, City Centre
Berlin is split into two halves; one end represents East Berlin and the other, the west. The east side is the communist side, under the regime of the infamous dictator Joseph Stalin. While ‘The West’ runs under capitalism and oozes in opulence. Berlin is a local favourite, and often has a line during the weekend.
1 Flinders Ln, City Centre
Japenese for ‘secret treasure” this hidden cocktail bar has no signage, and you’re not allowed to let yourself in. Instead, buzz the doorbell next to the non-descript door and a staff member will be down to let you into Hihou.
Choose from a selection of Japanese inspired cocktails – our recommendation is the Sayonara Jin – or try some of their sochu (a Japanese alcohol made from rice.)
87 Flinders Ln, City Centre
This hidden bar is straight out of Narnia! Trinket looks like a normal bar, and it kind of is, except for one thing. As you enter this glam cocktail lounge, you’ll see a wardrobe. Open the wardrobe door and you’ll see hanging clothes, give it a moment and the back will slide open. Push past the clothes and walk down the stairs, into this hidden cocktail lounge.
Mornane Pl, City Centre
We walked past this laneway bar for years before finding it. Arlechin is at the end of Mornane Place, and there’s nothing else down there except for some garbage bins. This bar has no signage, so you won’t know it’s there until you’re at the door. It’s the sister venue to Grossi Florentino, one of Melbourne’s longest-running Italian restaurants.
Hidden bars in the south
96 Chapel St, Windsor
Jungle Boy is a tiny tiki cocktail bar hidden behind a New York inspired sandwich joint. Step into Boston Sub on Chapel Street and you’ll see a large freezer door to the right; this is the entrance to Jungle Boy. Step through and discover a hidden paradise, serving tropical cocktails paired with some American bites.