By Chris Wyness, an editor who moved to Melbourne to pursue journalism in the 80s, fell in love with the city’s beautiful green spaces, craft beer and music scene, and never left!Edited by Jessica Wright
Melbourne is famous for it’s beautiful green spaces and artistic diversity, making it ideal to explore in the daytime, but after living here for three decades one of the things I love most is the vibrant and varied Melbourne night life. Choices for things to do in Melbourne at night are never lacking, and there is always something enticing on offer! With trains that run 24 hours on weekends and a thriving music scene and bar culture, sunset is simply the beginning of a new adventure, ensuring that you probably wont be seeing much of the inside of your hotel – no matter where in Melbourne you choose to stay. Whether you’re up for watching a live band, grabbing a seat for a bite to eat, or lounging about with a cold brew; Melbourne night life is not going to disappoint! As a tourist with the luxury of organising your own time, you might want to consider Mondays and Tuesdays for less nighttime bustle, whereas the weekends are when the population of Melbourne likes to stay out late. Whatever your preference, I have a myriad of suggestions for a fun night out in Melbourne!
Enjoy sunset over the skyline
There is no better way to start an evening than with the golden and indigo hues of the sunset over the Melbourne skyline. Kick off your nocturnal explorations with this glorious view at Ponyfish Island; a haven for the adventurous at heart. Only accessible from the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge overhead, this bar is the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing cocktail and some nibbles, with the twilit ripples of the Yarra River lapping on every side of you, and the mythical ponyfish gliding gently through the darkening waters. If you’re looking for something a little higher up, unleash your inner retrophile with a visit to the Rooftop Bar on the seventh storey of Curtin House, where you can sip a Rhubarbarita while indulging in a vintage flick at their rooftop cinema – a popular choice for things to do in Melbourne at night. Astor Theatre is a treat for the movie-buff with a taste for old-world charm and classic cinema; this also happens to be one of the most romantic things to do in Melbourne at night. Take a peek at this list of interesting and unusual Melbourne spots for a few more sunset ideas.
Show me the way to the next whiskey bar
Be it jazz or whiskey, Melbourne has a bar to sate your craving. With an internationally-renowned music scene, Melbourne is the home ground to artists well-known across the globe and across a variety of genres. For those looking to rock out in true grunge fashion, Cherry Bar – self-proclaimed as “pretty much the best rock n’ roll bar in the world” – on AC/DC Lane will see you head banging to local and international bands. Smack bang in the heart of the business district, where trams are free, this is one of the cheap things to do in Melbourne at night. If theatre is more your style, the The Butterfly Club will keep you entertained with mix of cabaret, burlesque and comedy, and if the entertainment is not enough to enthral, the impressive conglomeration of kitsch certainly will. This is another of the many fun things to do in Melbourne for couples. Bird’s Basement is fabulous for jazz, while The Night Cat is ideal for jazz-lovers in the mood for some variety, hosting live jazz, funk and reggae nights. Of course, nothing pairs better with a smokey jazz lounge than a peated Scotch; The Elysian is among several whiskey bars in and around Fitzroy that offer this classic jazz and whiskey pairing.
True whiskey connoisseurs are in for a treat at the Whisky and Alement with 1000 whiskies on order, and a bottle shop offering rare labels to take home after your whiskey tasting and late-night chat in the cosy bar. After seeing a great deal of the trendy Fitzroy neighbourhood by night I am certain you’ll be inspired to see it all over again, by day! For a good old-fashioned, no-nonsense pub experience, The Napier Hotel and The Rose are classic bets, serving good beer and better food. On the prowl for a night of bar-hopping? Chapel Street, stretching from South Yarra down to Windsor, will let you explore late into the night, with a multitude of bars and eateries to choose from. Be sure to check out Jungle Boy, a lush, secretive tiki-bar tucked away behind the refrigerator at the back of a tiny sandwich shop.
Feast on global fare
If new flavours be your fancy, delicious food abounds! Melbourne has a culinary culture that knows no borders, with influences from around the world and authentic foreign cuisine. Fill your belly with world-class ramen at Shujinko Elizabeth, where the noodles are made fresh daily and the broth will transport you across continents. Bonus; it’s open 24 hours a day - this is true Tokyo style! If you happen to be feeling swanky, book a dinner at the upmarket Cumulus Inc where you can enjoy classy delicacies like beef tartare and rabbit terrine, right in Melbourne’s art and fashion precinct, Flinders Lane. For more Asian inspired choices, try Hanoi Hannah for delicious Vietnamese, Botherambo for Thai flavours, or simply The Village People Hawker Food Hall which offers a range of Asian street food.
A world of food
For those from the US missing that southern-style cooking, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack will put you in touch with your roots, stuffing you full of corn bread, cheesy fries, crab boil and of course good ol’ southern fried chicken. Walk past the beautiful Palais Theatre and Luna Park to Acland, lined with excellent drink and food options of the vegetarian, vegan, Malaysian, and Mexican varieties. Don’t know what in the world you’re in the mood for? That’s ok; around the corner of Fitzroy Street is the iconic and recently refurbished Hotel Esplanade, the “Espy” as it’s known to locals, where you’ll find 12 bars, three stages and two restaurants across six levels. With all that choice, something is bound to catch your eye!
Soak up the culture
After dinner why not enjoy one of the things to do in Melbourne at night for free, and take a stroll down Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place to view some of the street art that Melbourne is famous for? For more high-end art, visit the oldest national gallery in Australia; the National Gallery of Victoria, and if you plan your timing right you can catch the The NGV’s Friday Nights series which brings together art in all forms; including the art of good food and live music. The Queen Victoria Night Market is more a of a midweek affair, open every Wednesday from 5pm, and offering stalls selling food, crafts and fashion apparel, as well as live music and roving entertainers. When you’re fully saturated with modern art and contemporary music, and feeling almost too hip and on-trend, take it back to simpler times with The Old Melbourne Gaol Night Tours; one of my favourite Melbourne attractions at night. This former prison once housed some of Victoria’s most notorious criminals but today operates as a museum offering a range of spine-tingling night tours such as the Hangman’s Night Tour, Ghosts? What Ghosts! and A Night at the Watch House. These creepy nighttime jaunts will ensure you’re unable to sleep a wink all week long; helpful in a city with such a vibrant night life!
Melbournians tend to be a cultured and artistic lot and know how to consume alcohol in moderation, so unlike Sydney - which has somewhat limiting drinking laws - Melbourne is far more relaxed. This is great for those up for a late-night party! Many bars in Melbourne close at 1am, but don’t fret; there are several that stay open far later. Heartbreaker, a red-neon, jukebox-toting bar that is something out an American film, and Gin Palace, an upscale gothic affair, are both open until 3 in the morning. If you’re feeling energetic and want to dance the night away, head to Brown Alley which will have you shaking it to the latest beats played through one of the city’s biggest sound systems. New Guernica and La Di Da are open until 5am, so you can boogey through the night, and if you’re looking for that final port of call turn to Boney; that place where you will inevitably end up dancing on tables and emerge to meet the sun as it rises, ready to pick up where you left off 12 hours ago, wondering what to do in Melbourne at night. If ever you find yourself in the arty, vibrant streets of Melbourne and at a loss for what to do, don’t be shy; you would be welcome to tag along with me or another likewise friendly local for an expert explorations of the city–be it by day or by night.
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