When it comes to peak hipster nobody in Australia does it better than Melbourne. From the almost zealous pursuit of the perfect coffee to the swaths of vintage stores all over the city. Melburnians like things good, different and (generally) without the pretentiousness that comes with those things. And the absolute peak of all of these hipster ventures is the secret bar.
On the surface, a secret bar sounds like a terrible business proposition. How do you attract customers to a place that’s not meant to be found? The secret to this is that they really are meant to be found. But the exclusivity for being ‘in-the-know’ draws people to drink almost every night. These days Melbourne’s hidden bars are far from secrets and you can find them pretty easily with a quick google. But with so many to pick where should you go? Here’s our guide to Melbourne's best, worst kept secrets.
2/16 Corrs Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Image thanks to Berlin Bar
Whoever said you can’t make humanitarian atrocities fun should talk to Berlin Bar. All jokes aside Berlin Bar is a neat concept bar based on Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall. With the bar in the center serving as the wall itself the place is divided into two sections, East Berlin - the more upscale and rich side, featuring all sorts of old-world luxury, and West Berlin - the poor communist side adorned with Stalin and communist propaganda as well as the occasional milk crate for seats. To get into Berlin Bar head down Corrs lane and go all the way up to the top of the stairs. Press the buzzer and the staff will let you in.
Level 1/306 Smith Street Chopper Lane
Image thanks to Broadsheet
Above Board is probably one of the most cocktail bar cocktail bars on this list. The understated and intimate bar is located through Beermash (which you should definitely stop off at for a beer) and up a few flights of stairs. Here you’ll find what’s probably some of Melbourne’s best-made cocktails. Created by Hayden Lambert, an award-winning bartender who came from another great secret bar, Bar Americano it’s a small, (only 12 seats) no-frills place that focuses on two things. Great customer service and great cocktails.
96 Chapel St, Windsor VIC 3181
Image thanks to The City Lane
If any of these places had to win at hide and seek it would be Jungle Boy. To find Jungle Boy head down to Chapel St and look for a little hole-in-the-wall chip shop called Boston Sub. Inside there’s what looks to be a freezer door, but instead is actually the entrance to a tiki cocktail paradise. Slinging tasty tiki drinks every day until 1 am this place has become a local favourite and often fills up almost every weekend. Make sure to get in early!
34 Franklin St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Image thanks to Broadsheet
Loch and Key is an icon when it comes to the Melbourne bar scene. Barring a few other late-night watering holes (such as Crown Casino, Clique and Spleen) Loch and Key is one of Melbourne’s latest open bars, shutting its doors in the morning at 7 am every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday - and 5 am every other day. The bar isn’t just famous for its late opening hours, they serve up some pretty great drinks as well. From craft beers to nice wines to quality cocktails, whatever you fancy they’ve got it down pat.
You can find Loch and Key by heading through Captain Melville’s before they close (1 am Friday, 11 pm every other day) and by heading down the neighbouring alley after close.
1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Image thanks to TimeOut
While we said that Jungle Boy is the most well-hidden on this list, Hihou is in all respects, the hardest to find. To enter Hihou head to the top of Flinders Lane and find a nondescript door marked only with a plaque that states the bars name. Press the buzzer, and the staff will let you up. Hihou is actually ‘secret treasure’ in Japanese, and oh is this place a treasure. This upscale Japanese bar focuses on high-quality Japanese drinks and eats. From a slew of Japanese whiskeys (arguably some of the best whiskey in the world) to amazing sake to plenty of great cocktails, beers, wines and more. And don’t go past the food. Hihou serves up some of the best modern Japanese food in the city. If you do plan on heading to Hihou, make sure you bring a little bit of money as it’s by far the most expensive place on the list.
21 Croft Alley, Melbourne VIC 3000
Image thanks to Smudge Eats
Croft Institute is easily one of Melbourne’s most popular secret bars. To the point that it’s barely even a secret anymore. Down three sets of alleyways, this mad scientist themed bar is cooking up quality cocktails at an incredibly reasonable price. The bar itself is by far most famous for its syringe cocktails - which are not as dangerous as you think. These tasty drinks are served up with a plastic syringe which essentially serves as the delivery mechanism for getting the alcohol from the glass into your mouth. The only mad science going in this laboratory is great drinks injected straight across your tastebuds.
16 Meyers Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Image thanks to Man of Many
Pizza Pizza Pizza does what it says on the tin. Pizza by the slice until late at night. But head towards to end of the building, (literally) pull back the curtain and treat yourself to a bar full of New York vibes and Americana. Sit back, relax, have a drink and have a slice of pizza, or maybe three, at Pizza Pizza Pizza.