When Rooftop Bar opened in 2005, there was nothing else quite like it. Fast forward to today and it seems like every spare bit of roof or vacant patch of riverbank in Melbourne has been given a liquor license and a set of beer taps. So how do you choose? From old to new, here are our picks.
We didn't think it was possible to out-rooftop the Marquis of Lorne, but sister pub, Union House, might have done it. The team took over what was Union Dining earlier this year and transformed the previously under utilised rooftop terrace into a destination of its own. Cocktails are on tap, there's grower champagne and natural wine on the list, Carlton Draught sits comfortably next to craft beers, and the tables are big and plentiful enough for you to eat out there, too.
270 Swan St, Richmond
Bomba rooftop bar is small but perfectly formed. Photo: Roberto Seba
Often a good view comes at the expense of the food or booze, but not at Bomba. Snack on slices of spicy chorizo and shaved serrano ham with your glass of Rioja, and soak up the cityscapes and views of tree-lined Lonsdale Street from above.
103 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
The original, and still one of the best. Recent renovations have given Rooftop Bar a slick new all-weather awning and a bigger bar, but don't worry – those 360-degree city views remain as intact as ever. Until the cinema screen goes up, that is.
Level 7 Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne
Naked in the Sky
It's pintxos downstairs and panoramic views upstairs, but those views are not just of the city. From this height you get Fitzroy, Clifton Hill, Kew and if you squint, the Dandenong Ranges. There's a restaurant at Naked in the Sky so you can enjoy a proper meal if you choose, although you'll get the most out of the space if you sip a glass of Cava on one of the colourful tables outside.
285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Madame Brussels is probably the second most iconic rooftop bar in Melbourne (after Rooftop Bar). Despite the garden party theme, this AstroTurfed wonderland works in all seasons, with purple blankets making the terrace comfortable even in the depths of winter. Staff decked out in their best tennis whites will offer you plates of sugary cupcakes or finger sandwiches to soak up the jugs of boozy cocktails, and if it rains, there's plenty of space in the indoor hedged bar. A classic for a reason.
59 Bourke St, Melbourne
If downstairs restaurant Fancy Hanks is Texas, rooftop bar Good Heavens is Miami. The pastel colour scheme is matched only by its revamped '80s cocktail classics – neon Harvey Wallbangers, Mai Tais and Blue Lagoons. The rum for the Pina Colada has been coconut-fat washed, and the smoker downstairs is used to smoke syrups. Food is only served on the rooftop between 12 and 3pm (think nuts and pretzels, pulled pork and smoked brisket sandwiches, or coleslaw with buttermilk ranch), so head downstairs if you're hungry outside those hours. A heads up - DJs play on weekends, and it can get pretty loud.
79 Bourke St, Melbourne
Melbourne's hot new rooftop bar, QT Photo: Eddie Jim
Rooftop at QT
The sleek and elegant Rooftop at QT is where you go when you want to feel glam. To find it, head to hotel reception and its staff will direct you up to the bar – you'll be sipping Martinis overlooking Melbourne's skyline before you know it.
133 Russell St, Melbourne
Labour in Vain
While a bit dingier than the others on this list, in summer the rooftop beer deck at Fitzroy's Labour in Vain is as attractive as they come. Snacks are simple, beers are boutique, and the pool table downstairs is free between 4-7pm on a weekday.
197A Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Arbory Bar and Eatery and its pop-up Arbory afloat are popular for locals and tourists alike. Photo: Josie Withers
The Arbory could so easily have fallen prey to the trappings of tourism. It's on the Yarra River, built on an old Flinders Street station platform, and it Instagrams well. Yet somehow it's managed to remain somewhere that locals flock to as strongly as visitors. This is especially true of Arbory Afloat, the floating pop-up bar attached to the proper one. All crisp whites and blues, and with oysters and antipasti on the menu, this raft is all class.
1 Flinders Walk, Melbourne
Riverland bar looks out over the Yarra Photo: Mark Chew
If Arbory Afloat is oysters and champagne, Riverland is burgers and beer. Popular with the after-work crowd, this riverside beer garden tucked under Fed Square offers a solid list of beers, decent wines and different view of Melbourne. If you find yourself down river, sister bar Boatbuilders Yard is worth a look, too.
Vaults 1-9 Federation Wharf, Federation Square, Melbourne
The 165-year-old veteran has had a rehaul, with its rooftop bar now among the Melbourne's biggest, brightest and best. With pastel garden party furniture and some of the best burgers and loaded fries in town, it's a great, unpretentious spot for post-work drinks, pre-footy or cricket catch ups, and unbeatable views of parliament house and surrounds.
2-8 Bourke Street, Melbourne