In Food + Drink

Melbourne’s Cosiest Rooftop Bars

Winter is coming, but not even -2°C will stop Melburnians from heading up to a rooftop for a cocktail at one of the city’s many bars. Experiencing Melbourne rooftop bars is a rite of passage after all.

Want to join them, but overwhelmed with the options? We’ve rounded up the best Melbourne rooftop bars. These are the spots that come prepped with heaters and blankets – the venues that won’t have you freezing off your fingertips when holding a cold beverage this upcoming chilly season.

The Rooftop at QT

Nestled among Melbourne’s ever-expanding city skyline, The Rooftop at QT is a destination for a decadent soiree, a place to quench a thirst while taking in the heart and soul of Melbourne from above.

The split indoor and outdoor space boasts a menu of local spirits, house-made tonic and an array of hand-crafted cocktails to please every palate. One of the most popular places to have an after-work drink, it has incredible views, a well-dressed crowd and a lively vibe to boot.

The bar has not only one of the largest heaters you can buy (stretching the length of the outdoor area) but also a retractable roof to trap in the warmth during winter. Curl up under it, with a cashmere blanket thrown over your legs, and order yourself a warm winter cocktail.

Level 11 – 133 Russell St

Transit Rooftop Bar

After the curtain call, between gallery sessions or before a game, settle into Transit Rooftop Bar and watch the world go by from one of the best vantage points in Melbourne.

Gaze out over the blinking cityscape at the Arts Centre, MCG, heritage buildings, winding Yarra River and colourful winter sunsets, while sipping on a cocktail or a fine wine above the lights of Federation Square.

Take a seat inside beside the grand piano and enjoy a champagne cocktail, or stay warm outside wrapped in blankets beneath thermal radiant heaters overlooking the river.

Level 2, Transport Hotel, Federation Square

Goldilocks Bar

Enter a Chinese restaurant on Swanston Street, take the lift to the top floor, walk through a speakeasy bar then climb the rickety stairs to finally arrive at Goldilocks Bar – a venue much loved by locals and out-of-towners if they can ever find it.

Facing west, it’s a prime spot for sunset over the city. Enjoy a basket of tantalising treats, select a classic cocktail from the ever-changing list and keep warm thanks to the fully retractable roof and ceiling heaters. An intimate rooftop experience perfect for a date or small groups, it will have you feeling as if you’re a VIP member of a secret Melbourne bar scene.

Level 4 – 264 Swanston Street

Union Electric

Consistently topping both best rooftop bars in the city and best laneway bars, Union Electric is a truly one-of-a-kind Melbourne experience. In typical Melbourne fashion, it isn’t easy to locate. It’s down a laneway off a laneway, but if you listen out for jazz tunes playing behind a green door, you’ve most likely found it.

Take a seat below the mirrors in the intimate indoor section, choose a spot in the laneway (yes, this bar has its own) or go upstairs to enjoy drinks in the open sky on the rooftop.

Not trying to be all things to all people, staff encourage patrons to bring in food from neighbouring restaurants to enjoy with drinks. High-end whiskies, freshly juiced apples served with your choice of gin, vodka, rum or other spirits, and espresso martinis – said to be the best in the city – all feature on the line-up.

As the sun drops, candles bring a warm light to each table while wall-mounted heaters bring literal heat for those seated outside.

13 Heffernan Lane

Madame Brussels

A favourite for after-work drinks, Madame Brussels is like Alice in Wonderland meets Alice in Accounts. Decked out with Astroturf and quaint outdoor furniture – both inside and out – it offers a magical getaway in the ‘Paris end’ of Bourke Street.

Sip pastel cocktails and international beers while basking in the whimsical ambiance of a Gwen Stefani music video. Drink a jug of Pimms inside, or enjoy a bubbly and a cupcake on the wooden deck that sits above the treetops. Winter sees the permanent ceiling heaters fire up, short-caged heaters rolled out, and a basket of colourful fluffy blankets for you to rug up in.

59 Bourke Street

The Emerald Peacock

Preen your plumes for multiple levels of old-world luxe at The Emerald Peacock. Book a booth to relax the opulent Peacock Lounge, savour vintage glamour in the cocktail bar, or go high and fan your feathers from a coveted perch on the lantern-lit rooftop bar. Suffice to say, this place is perfect for date night.

The permanent cover keeps the outside cosy and the heat in thanks to the portable mushroom heaters that come out for winter.

233 Lonsdale Street

BOMBA

Share tapas and artisanal Spanish wines and spirits at this contemporary bodega. BOMBA draws inspiration from the workers’ culture of Spain’s Catalan region.

Following a million-dollar renovation in 2018, this intimate rooftop bar overlooking a leafy Lonsdale Street has become even more popular.

Sample from the ever-changing menu, sip a sherry or vermouth and stay for a cocktail – or a movie: silent Spanish films are projected on the wall of the theatre beside it. With a retractable roof, drop-down windows, permanent and portable heaters for the colder nights, it’s an easy rooftop to stay warm and entertained at during winter.

103 Lonsdale Street

Good Heavens

At Good Heavens, the rooftop fit-out takes you out of the Bourke Street bustle and up into its Palm Springs inspired good-vibes.

Sit beneath broad blue umbrellas or beside the caged bar while enjoying the American-themed menu with snacks like fried cauliflower with vegan ranch dressing and nachos with brisket mole and queso.

While the ten beers on tap are matched by an equally impressive international beer-by-the bottle list, it’s the creative cocktails that people most enjoy while watching the sunset over the city lights from the balcony.

During winter, natural gas heaters mounted on the walls and a long electric cylinder ceiling heater over the bar keeps guests warm, and friendly staff dish out blankets to ensure you’re never the slightest bit chilly.

Level 2 – 79 Bourke Street 

Siglo

Siglo is found through the unmarked door of the Melbourne Supper Club and up the grand staircase at the back – a Melbourne institution well worth the climb.

At the top of the stairs is an old-fashioned terrace serving beautiful wines, international beers, cigars and late-night snacks – all with table service and stunning views of the floodlit Parliament House and Melbourne’s gorgeous Princess Theatre.

With a humidor full of cigars from around the world, it is the most sophisticated (and pricey) rooftop bar experience in the city. The perfect venue for a late night tipple, you can stay warm beneath the tall heaters that are wheeled out to tables and setup as soon as the thermometer drops.

Level 2 – 161 Spring Street

Imperial Hotel

Renowned as a sports pub with an enviable location at the top end of Bourke Street, the Imperial Hotel reached new heights with the inspired decision to make use of its commanding views of Parliament House and plonk a rooftop bar on its top level.

Cushioned benches and umbrellas create a comfy atmosphere, while the expansive wooden deck cries out for a flamenco-stomp back to the table. While equipped with permanent heaters, more heaters pop up in a marquee in winter to keep the warmth in.

2-8 Bourke Street

(Lead image: BOMBA / supplied)

Published 29 May, 2019