A central figure in most Australian cities and towns, the local pub is a place to celebrate and commiserate (depending on which sporting team has won on the day). Home to old school pubs covered in football memorabilia, turn-of-the-century gems run by friendly publicans and casual watering holes furnished with pinball machines, pool tables and couches, visiting one of Melbourne’s character-filled pubs is a great way for visitors to live like a local. Here are some of the city’s most historic pubs, still in operation after more than a century of good times.
Duke of Wellington
Dating all the way back to 1853, the Duke of Wellington is Melbourne’s oldest licensed pub. Having been owned and frequented by countless colourful characters over the years, the ‘Duke’ is an essential part of Melbourne’s tapestry. Located within walking distance to some of the city’s biggest sporting arenas (including the MCG), the Duke of Wellington has seen many post-match celebrations since its inception. While the Duke’s interiors may have been updated, the down-to-earth spirit of Melbourne still flows freely throughout the pub – as does the beer, wine and spirits. 146 Flinders Street, Melbourne, +61 3 9810 0066
Young & Jackson
Established in 1861, the Young & Jackson Hotel is a local favourite that enjoys prime position directly opposite Flinders Street Station. Formally known as the Princes Bridge Hotel, the Young & Jackson Hotel has welcomed everyone from sailors enjoying a tipple before heading off to war, to football fans uniting for a post-match brew, old friends gathering for special occasions and more. Home to a resident Melbourne icon simply known as ‘Chloe’ (a captivating painting that has hung on the wall of the pub since 1909), the Young & Jackson is a much-loved institution where people have come together through wars, depressions, recessions, scandals and more. Cnr Swanston & Flinders Streets, Melbourne, +61 3 9650 3884
Open seven days, the Mitre Tavern is one of those places that demands a visit. First licensed in 1868, this cottage-style pub is now flanked by skyscrapers yet still retains the charm of yesteryear thanks to a commitment to providing guests with ales and meals in a traditional setting. Pies, burgers, crumbles and puddings all feature on the menu, as do beers and wines from local and international brewers and winemakers. An atmospheric spot to drop into for an after-work beer or warming lunch, this tavern wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. 5 Bank Place, Melbourne, +61 3 9670 5644.
Proudly family owned and run, the Coopers Inn is one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs. A slice of history found right within the city centre, the Coopers Inn first opened its doors in 1854. A modern refurbishment has updated the interiors yet kept the heritage features of the building intact including an impressive bluestone wall. Serving hearty pub fare and a range of located and imported wines and ales, this classic pub is favoured by everyone from inner city workers wanting to wind down at the end of the day to tourists keen on experiencing a slice of Melbourne’s social history. 282 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, +61 3 9639 2111.
Standing in the back alleys of gritty Fitzroy since 1865, the Standard Hotel is a historic watering hole that is many things to many people. A throwback to another era, the front bar is a lo-fi affair favoured by locals dropping in for a quiet beer and yarn. Throughout summer the outdoor beer garden is a hotspot for groups keen on imbibing in the sunshine. Hosting bands at night, the pub’s small stage has seen everything from bluegrass to rockabilly and country performances, pleasing locals and visitors who are welcomed with open arms all the same. Dripping with music, sporting and historical paraphernalia from years gone by, the Standard Hotel is a one-of-a-kind Melbourne pub. 293 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy, +61 3 9419 4793
Labour in Vain
First licensed in 1853, Fitzroy’s Labour in Vain has enjoyed many incarnations over its years of operation. First a pub and hotel frequented by travellers stopping in on their way to the Plenty River, the building changed hands many times throughout history, being used as a butchery and confectionary at times. Now operating as a pub once again, the Brunswick Street stalwart is a low-key drinking spot dedicated to preserving the heritage of the building and providing ales and entertainment to locals and visitors alike. Live music is a part of the Labour in Vain’s charm, with most gigs coming free of charge. A simple set up and no-fuss approach from staff ensures that the casual vibe of the Labour in Vain lives on more than 160 years after it was first licensed. 197A Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, +61 3 9417 5955
A short hop west from Melbourne’s city centre lies a local icon that has recently undergone a facelift. Located in the suburb of Footscray, the Plough Hotel was first established in 1868 but has come a long way from its humble origins as a working class pub. Now a multipurpose, boutique space that consists of a bar, restaurant, private dining room and accommodation, the Plough Hotel is frequented by everyone from families with young children to young professionals looking to enjoy a night of craft beer and gourmet food in a relaxed yet sophisticated environment. 333 Barkly Street, Footscray, +61 3 9687 2878
The Great Northern Hotel
Founded in 1883, this grand hotel located in leafy Carlton North is considered to have one of Melbourne’s best beer gardens. A dog-friendly space, the beer garden is home to outdoor heaters, television screens and plenty of space, making it a popular spot for locals to watch football or catch up with friends. Inside the cream exterior of the building, the arched windows, wood-panelled walls and pool tables ensure a vintage vibe is kept intact. A casual hangout for locals of the inner northern suburbs, 21 taps support a curated list of beers from local and international brewers with a slant towards independent and small, craft brewers. 644 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, +61 3 9380 9569
Maori Chief Hotel
Established in 1867, the Maori Chief Hotel is a South Melbourne pub that has been frequented by locals for more than 150 years. With an imposing painting of a Maori Chief sitting high above the entrance, this pub is an instantly recognisable landmark located only five minutes from the city centre. An outdoor deck provides city views while the cosy dining room complete with open fire offers a warm spot for guests to tuck into traditional pub fare like porterhouse steak, chicken schnitzel and fish and chips. A New Zealand and Australian-centric drinks list invokes the spirit of the southern lands as reflected by the name of the pub. 117 Moray Street, South Melbourne +61 3 9696 5363