Rise above the burning concrete and escape to the echelons of summer delight.
Simply put, the best kind of bar is a rooftop bar. Drinks with a view is what Instagram was made for (not pictures of brunch, which is a common misconception). For a city not particularly renowned for its skyscrapers, Melbourne still knows how to make the most of alcohol at an altitude.
Pockets of well-dressed, attractive people can be found at the top of discreet elevators and suspect flights of stairs. So rise above the burning concrete and stuffy interiors this summer and tone those thighs with some good old-fashioned stair climbing. Escape to the echelons of summer delight where a cool breeze and a chilled cocktail provide the ultimate refreshment high above the steamy streets below.
Arguably the best view in Melbourne's north, Naked in the Sky is unadulterated rooftop pleasure. Situated above the burning concrete of Brunswick Street, the view from Naked in the Sky encompasses the stepladder terraces of Fitzroy and the CBD in one direction, all the way across to Kew and Clifton Hill in the other. It's a sweeping panorama that affords the most refreshing breeze in Fitzroy. The bar is extensive, with an impressive vodka selection in particular, and food can be ordered from the adjacent restaurant. Naked is the perfect venue to let off steam amidst a crowd at the height of Fitzroy cool.
Succulents line the edges of this rooftop oasis, located above the city's favourite video bar. Elbow your way into one of the tight booth seats with a group of friends or pounce on one of the many garden tables and relax in the sunshine. In preparation for Melbourne's classic 'four seasons in a day' weather, Loop Roof is fitted with gas heaters and a large awning shielding the seats from possible downpours, making it the perfect rooftop bar for all seasons.
A strong contender for Melbourne's favourite non-profit restaurant, there's now another reason to swing by Feast of Merit. With a new, cosy rooftop launched earlier this year — complete with happy hour specials and a grazing menu — the Richmond cafe-bar-restaurant is the place to drink in the name of a worthy cause.
And because everyone needs a nudge on hump day, drink specials include $10 espresso martinis every Wednesday night. The boutique wine list is strictly regional, with some of Australia's best homegrown wines on offer. Craft beers include Mountain Goat and Custard & Co cider.
If you thought a view framed between two graffiti-stained Melbourne trains wouldn't be half decent, Easey's is eager to prove you wrong. Gloriously grungy, Easey's rooftop yard overlooks Collingwood's local laneways from a five-storey building. It's certainly not always about your destination, but the Easey's terminal is a deliciously hot, cheesey, greasy mess. From "express" cocktails to local brews, don't skimp on your burger additions to complete your rooftop experience. Whether that involves three dim sims or triple patties is up to you.
The centrepiece of Melbourne's alcohol stocked skyline, Rooftop Bar retains its position as the city's most popular — despite the seven flights of stairs needed to scale before you reach it. Open from 11am it is the ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon shaded by an umbrella and fanned by a sky-high breeze. In the evening, rooftop is the pinnacle of elevated recreation: drinks, dancing, views, burgers, deckchairs and cinema. Its popularity is not without merit. Its reputation, however, can often mean overcrowding and long lines for the bar. Booking a ticket for the season's Rooftop Cinema and having exclusive access after sundown is definitely the way to play it.
Specialising in creative cocktails, Upside Rooftop Bar has enough quality drinks to please your whole crew. Think matcha tea with iichiko shochu and sugar shards, or beer syrup with Angostura Bitters and Japanese whiskey. For beer and wine sippers, expect quality brews like Little Creatures and enough local and international wines to keep any red lover's glass full. The interior, made almost entirely of recycled and reclaimed wood, is easy on the eyes. Angled symmetrical tiling, exposed black brick and neon orange cushions create a sleek, modern space — perfect for a post-work tipple.
What once was The Aylesbury rooftop, Bomba has done a great job revamping into a little secluded up-high bar specialising in tasty Spanish tapas. With an exotic selection of beers, ciders, wine and vermouth, it's a smart choice for drinks amongst a crowd of attractive, well-dressed people. The clever design of the deck also closes in for winter, making it weather-proof all year round.
This swanky South Yarra establishment is your best bet for rooftop beverages south of the river. With a fully retractable roof, The Emerson is a great destination all year round – and an a la carte dining option Thursday through Sunday only sweetens the deal even further. Pull up a day bed on the full-length deck with cocktail in hand and sunglasses firmly in place, and get ready to watch the sun sink slowly below the horizon.
Home to one of the best view's of Melbourne's skyline, The Imperial's newly opened rooftop beer garden is modern and laid-back. Featuring bright, beachy colours and grey timber on an open-air patio, The Imperial is Melbourne's third biggest rooftop bar.
Boasting Melbourne favourites on-tap including Little Creatures IPA, James Squire cider and Hoegaarden, The Imperial is the ideal sports bar slash rooftop to settle in with a cold one. The bar menu is hearty, with options including sticky chicken wings and some guaranteed to be messy chilli beef nachos.
In terms of a location, affability and atmosphere, rooftops don't come much finer than St Kilda's Uncle. Located a sandal-squelching walk away from St Kilda beach and conveniently close to Balaclava station, Uncle boasts Vietnamese dishes and some of Melbourne's best local beers. Expect mostly regional wines from the menu, including wineries from the Macedon Ranges and Mornington Peninsula.
The interior is spacious and relaxed, with pale timbers and a range of ornamental lanterns dominating the summery space. The rooftop is equally pared-back and filled with Asian greenery. For the price, you won't find a rooftop with better bang for your buck.
Festive and unpretentious, The Hills Rooftop Bar is everything a rooftop bar needs to be, and not a frill more. If you're on the hunt for glamour this probably isn't the rooftop bar for you, but it's perfect for throwing back cold ones on a warm day. Neon yellow backyard chairs, wooden shipping crates and a smattering of pillows make up most the small but efficient bar. A small television provides entertainment on nights with slow conversation too.
Melbourne may not have many phwoar views, but you wouldn't know it perched on the terrace of Transit's Cocktail Lounge. The cool breeze off the Yarra below fans the view of the Arts Centre precinct, sweeping down to the towers of Southgate. The crowd is usually a healthy mix of Southbank's after-work set with G&T's the refreshment of choice.
The most genteel of the lot, Siglo has the tendency to take itself too seriously, but all is forgiven for the tranquility to be found on the leafy terrace. Perched above Spring Street, the view of Parliament House glittering as the sun sets is a glorious setting for some discerning bottles of wine. If you're lucky enough to acquire the wooden bench-shaped booths on the balcony, the view is uninterrupted and table service is on hand. Entry is to be found by the back steps of The European.
Entering via the alcove of Noodle Kingdom, the elevator brings you up into a fantasy themed world abundant with rooftop pleasures. Goldilocks is the more discerning, more secluded and arguably superior neighbour to Curtain House's famed Rooftop Bar. Golidlocks is in top form, without the crowds to compete with. The table-serviced perch is only enhanced by an inspired cocktail menu, a rooftop garden and one of the best cheese platters to be found on a Melbourne roof. Try the Stallion's Head: Dalmore scotch whiskey, apricot brandy, amaretto, fresh lemon juice and Jerry Thomas bitters ($18).
Words by Laura Phillips, Tomas Zagoda and Ellen Seah.