Beer garden

My Favourite Places for a Sunday Session in Melbourne

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Updated: 23 April, 2017.

As I write this the clock has just ticked over midday on Sunday here in Melbourne. The mercury is at 25 degrees Celsius and rising. The sun is shining, and I’m thirsty. This can mean only one thing. It’s time for a Sunday session.

My adopted home town is renowned for many things, and a great bar scene is very much one of them. From thumping nightclubs to grungy old man pubs, and everything in between, finding somewhere for a drink is never difficult. I’ll happily have a beer pretty much anywhere, but there’s something about the combination of sunshine, a few friends, and an outdoor setting that brings a smile to my face every time.

Here’s half a dozen of my favourite places to kick back with a pint, and studiously pretend Monday is merely a distant vision on the horizon…

The Standard Hotel, Fitzroy

With one of the least assuming frontages you could imagine, you’d barely know The Standard was a pub if you walked past it. You’d certainly have no idea that once you ventured past the cramped main bar area, you’d find one of the best — and certainly one of the largest — beer gardens in inner Melbourne. I was lucky enough to live just down the road for 18 months, and the minute the sun came out, this place always sprang to mind.

Despite its size, it still fills up on sunny weekend afternoons, which to me was the perfect excuse to get there nice and early and settle in for the day. If you’d like to fill up on something other than pints, the food is a step above typical pub grub too.


The Espy, St Kilda

Esplanade hotel
An absolute institution in Melbourne (and now sadly closed for renovations since 2015), the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda is incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s a reminder of what St Kilda used to be like before it started to gentrify, and is still going as strong as ever, somehow managing to resist the efforts of apartment developers and the ‘fun police’ alike.

Head along there any night of the week, and sticky floors, a dingy interior, and some local band you’ve never heard of will be sure to greet you. If you arrive early enough on a Sunday to grab a table outside, however — well, it’s a very different story. With unparalleled views out over the ocean, and a never ending supply of beer to help cool down, you’re never going to want to leave.

Just be careful not to fall down the stairs when you do eventually get kicked out…


The Pinnacle, North Fitzroy

This is where I’m heading after finishing this post, to catch up with a bunch of friends and family. It’s an old Victorian post office on one of the main streets in North Fitzroy, and one of the great little neighbourhood pubs in the area that attracts a loyal crowd. There’s usually a band playing outside on a Sunday afternoon, and they tend to vary between good and downright fantastic.

It’s a family friendly place too, which is a hell of a rarity for a pub in the inner suburbs. Fortunately in this case, family friendly means ‘a few kids running around and dancing in front of the band,’ rather than ’20 screaming babies and their overanxious parents knocking your drink over with their pushchairs’. The beer garden is way too small for that. Thank god.


Section 8 Container Bar, Central City

Section 8 Container Bar
Tucked away down one of Melbourne’s laneways, this bar doesn’t seem the kind of place you’d pick for a quiet Sunday session. It’s in a trendy location, with a clientele to suit, and with the funky jazz beats being cranked out by the DJ and designer ‘retro’ furniture sprawled around under the skeleton of a couple of shipping containers, it should just be far too cool for most mere humans to grab a drink or two and relax at. And yet, somehow, awesomely, it is.

The place gets packed out on a Friday night, but like the rest of the CBD, it’s a much more chilled out experience on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not cheap (now there’s a surprise), but it’s not quite eye-wateringly expensive by Melbourne standards either. I just love the place.


Republica, St Kilda

If you’re looking for the definitive beachside drinking session in Melbourne, Republica provides it, and then some. Literally metres from the beach, I stumbled across this restaurant and bar in St Kilda while looking for somewhere else one day, and I’m damn pleased I did. It’s the perfect place to while away a sunny Sunday afternoon with a beer or twelve in hand.

The menu is surprisingly comprehensive, and provides perfect accompaniment to your favourite cold brew. The pizzas are particularly fantastic.  Oh, and the best bit of all? You can walk straight from the beach to the bar to an outdoor table without ever actually stepping ‘inside’. No need to even wipe the sand off your feet! Somebody was thinking when they designed this place…


Riverland, Central City

You couldn’t ask for a better location to drink in the city, right beside the river, and across the street from the iconic Flinders St train station. Below street level in an old bluestone building, Riverside is surprisingly sheltered from the noise and crowds, and has been the home of more than one long-lived drinking session in the past. Grab a table on the wooden deck outside, and watch life in Australia’s best city wander — and float — past.

Just don’t order a pint of Asahi unless you fancy paying 17 bucks a pint. No, really. Thankfully the other beers are slightly less hard on the bank balance…

This is merely a sampling of the hundreds of great places for a Sunday session in Melbourne.  Got some suggestions of your own that I should check out?  Let me know in the comments!

Beer image via Matt From London, Section 8 image via Gerard Ward, Espy image via AnnieGreenSprings

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  1. Nothing like a Sunday session in Melbourne…. NOTHING! Prerequisites are generally that there is a body of water nearby (the beach or the Yarra will do), live music, and preferably Pure Blonde on tap, but hey, even draught will do. The only exception is Belgian Beer Garden – they do the best live music Sunday. Also have to say Soulmamas/Sea Baths have a pretty good set-up with the salsa downstairs, so you can sit at Beachcomber, that African place whose name I tend to forget, or upstairs at Soulmama and catch the live music and the sunset. That feeling of sand still between your toes as you sink pint after pint… BLISS! I love Melbourne. Can you tell?

  2. It never occurred to me to write something about my home town. Maybe because I’m more fascinated by other places as I travel that I forget what I enjoyed back home, good read 🙂 How long have you been there?

    1. I moved here towards the end of 2008, so I guess about 2.5 years – though I was out of the country travelling for half of last year. 🙂

    1. Now I know you’ll be surprised to hear this, but I’m just about to head out for a couple of quiets. Well, it is 30 degrees after all…

  3. My fave place is the Vine Yard, St Kilda.

    Once I had a baby I thought my Sunday sessions would become extinct! In summer, it’s so much more fun as more mates come along to watch my little one crawl/walk around. & there are so many young families hanging out! But… in winter it’s too cold to get out… does anyone know of places (indoor) that are kids friendly?

    I know I wouldn’t mind going out for a drink & seeing a toddler playing near me… but would people get offended if I was having a drink with my little one playing? Is it socially correct?

  4. Sigh. Sunday sessions. And beer gardens galore. I miss Melbs.
    I love The Retreat on Sydney road in East Brunswick. Give it a go sometime.

  5. Sunday has arrived! Forecast looks sunny and i’m feeling thirsty… I’ll check out a couple of these places today.

  6. Hi everyone………….. I am looking for a groovy place with Sunday afternoon entertainment for my husbands 60th birthday April 24th. I am struggling to get somewhere interesting, maybe warehouse, retro, bohemian, for lunch and for the afternoon for 25 people. I am Northern suburbs, so Brunswick, Carlton etc is fine and so is a pub with old charm, chesterfields and fire places. You know, atmosphere!! I like to stand and sit at high tables where we order lots to share, also.

    Can you please tell me of anywhere you feel suits?