In Meyer’s Place, there is a New York-style joint called Pizza Pizza Pizza. This hole-in-the-wall serves giant pizza by the slice. It’s unassuming, but it holds a mighty secret.
Gather the courage, walk past the sign that reads ‘staff only’, and push through the black curtain. With enough grit, you’ll step into an intimate cocktail bar.
Technically this bar has no name, and that’s fine with us. Their creative cocktail menu provides everything you need for a great (and late) night.
Eau de Vie (French for ‘water of life’) has a knack for theatrics; this whiskey and cocktail bar serves drinks with liquid nitrogen, fire, and fairy floss. It is a local favorite, and one of the city’s best laneway bars -it has won several bar awards since opening in 2011.
Tucked down Malthouse lane, the only giveaway that Eau De Vie exists is a vintage streetlamp above the wooden door. The same team also operates Mjølner – a Viking inspired restaurant and bar, and one of Melbourne’s best-themed bars.
In Melbourne’s early days, Chinatown housed several opium dens until they were eventually deemed illegal in 1905. While they’re long gone, their furnishings live on in Manchuria.
This Chinatown cocktail bar has no signage and is near-impossible to stumble upon.
Wander down Waratah Place until you find a dark staircase – about halfway down. Wander up, and on your left, there’s a large wooden door; this is the entrance to Manchuria.
Inside you’ll find a collection of booths, pillows and plenty of nooks. Their potent ‘Zombie’ cocktail is well known for being the catalyst to a big night.
Watch: The best laneways in Melbourne.
State of Grace is three venues in one – part restaurant, part rooftop bar, and part secret cellar bar. The hidden bar is appropriately called Fall From Grace and has one of the best secret entrances in Melbourne.
On the ground level, you’ll see a bookcase, and if you pull the right book it will slide open to reveal a stairway. Head down, and you’ll find yourself in Fall From Grace.
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.
You’ll find it on Lonsdale Street at the bottom of a staircase; look for their neon sign that simply reads ‘MGX.’
Bar Margaux sports a decadent French menu – snails, duck fritte, crème brûlée – all paired with world-class cocktails, including half serves of Martinis and Manhattans (appropriately called snack-size cocktails.) The opening hours are long, and the outside world effortlessly fades away as soon as you arrive.
Our Tip: Order the Americano Perfecto. It’s a plisner (beer) with Campari and vermouth – I’m told it’s Madrusan’s go-to cocktail when he’s around.
Berlin takes themed bars to the next level. One half represents East Berlin, under the regime of dictator Joseph Stalin; it’s wartorn and dishevelled. The other side represents the West and runs under capitalism; it’s covered in gems and oozes opulence.
Regardless of which side you pick, you can enjoy some delicious cocktails. They also have a large range of gin & tonic variations.
Berlin can be a little hard to find. Look for the glowing sign of a bear, then take the stairs and ring the doorbell. The staff will let you in when they’re ready.
Jungle Boy is another cocktail bar hidden behind a door you wouldn’t expect. This tiny tiki cocktail bar is 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. Discover a hidden paradise, serving tropical cocktails and small American bites.
Most hidden bars are underground, but this one is on a rooftop. Goldilocks is an intimate rooftop bar that sits five stories high, overlooking Swanston Street. It’s a popular local secret and regularly packed out.
To reach the roof, you’ll need to take the dingy-looking elevator from the ground floor; it’s also one of the best Melbourne rooftop bars.
Above Board is one of a kind. There’s no back bar lined with bottles, in fact, aside from the wooden bar, there’s hardly anything to be seen at all. And there are only 12 seats; absolutely no standing allowed.
And yet, Above Board has been recognised as one of the top 100 bars in the world.
To find this gem, head past Beer Mash, down Chopper Lane and up the stairs. There’s a no-booking policy, so best not to come with a large group.
This hidden bar is straight out of Narnia. On the ground level, Trinket is an opulent cocktail bar. But there is a large wardrobe not far from the entrance.
Open the wardrobe, push past the hanging clothes and the back will slide open. Head down the stairs into this hidden cocktail lounge. The cellar bar is small, so best to come outside of peak hours when you’re guaranteed a seat.
Golden Monkey is directly out of 1920’s Shanghai. This underground bar is on Hardware Lane, one of the city’s most popular laneways.
Take the staircase down, and you’ll come into a dimly lit room with red neon lights and wooden separators. With its old-world charm, Golden Monkey lets you drink and dance the night away.
Taylor was born and raised in Tasmania. He moved to Melbourne to study Film & television, and went on to start a marketing agency for hospitality. Whilst in Melbourne he also founded a walking tour company. He has a love for rock 'n' roll bars & New York-style pizza. In 2020 he was amongst the top 1% of Frank Sinatra listeners on Spotify.