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Outside beer garden at Mitre Tavern Melbourne
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Grab a historic drink at some of Melbourne's oldest pubs

Some of Melbourne's first-ever pubs are still standing to this day, so swing by for a drink and a bit of history

Adena Maier
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Adena Maier
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Melbourne is home to heaps of hip and modern bars, but there's something extra special about stepping foot into a pub that's been around since the mid-19th century. Melbourne was declared a city by the English settlers 1835, and its first pubs opened soon after. Some of them are still standing to this day. Swing by with some mates for your next pint or pub meal and imagine what life was like in the early days of settlement in our city. It's quite possible that some of Melbourne's earliest artists, thinkers and politicians sat within the same four walls to enjoy a frothy beer and a chat, too. 

RECOMMENDED: The 50 best bars in Melbourne right now.

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Dating back to 1837, this heritage-listed pub has had a long history and was once a favourite haunt of Melbourne’s bohemians in the early 20th century. This shingled pre-Victorian gingerbread house is tucked down Bank Place in the CBD. The Mitre looks as though some magical tornado has picked up a pub from the English countryside and deposited it incongruously amongst the steel and glass of Melbourne’s financial district. Grab a beer from the tavern or book in for dinner at the steakhouse. 

Builders Arms Hotel
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  • Fitzroy

According to history magazine Traces, this pub was built back in 1853 and became one of the first bars to allow First Nations people to drink in the public bar with other patrons. Most other venues were segregated at the time, and the Builders Arms soon became a site of activism and resistance. To commemorate the historic role it played, there's a plaque at the front of the pub that reads 'the black pub of Melbourne'. Nowadays, the pub is co-owned by Andrew McConnell and is best known for serving silky, tender pork dumplings and blistered and crunchy chicken and prawn fried wontons alongside frothy pints. 

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The Laurel Hotel
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  • Ascot Vale
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This Ascot Vale pub, which opened in 1853, remained largely the same in its exterior appearance until 1989 when it underwent an extensive renovation. While the building itself may look quite different now, it's still the site of one of Melbourne's first-ever pubs. Today, it offers live music, heaps of TVs for watching sports and a variety of parmas to feast upon. You can stick to the classic or try the Mexican-style, scallopini or vegan parmas if you feel like branching out. 

 

Young & Jackson
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  • Melbourne

Young & Jackson was built in 1853 and has been serving up booze since 1861. It is possibly most famous for housing the 'Chloe' painting, a huge nude portrait that has been causing a stir since 1909. So many patrons came by to admire this portrait that Young & Jackson created a bar upstairs called Chloe's Bar, where she now resides. Craft beer is king at this bar, so grab a seat and browse the extensive list of local and imported producers. 

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  • Melbourne

The Duke of Wellington, which is located opposite the Forum and a short walk from the MCG, was established in 1853 and is considered Melbourne's oldest licensed pub. Today, it'd be hard to believe that's true because of the clean and modern fit-out. The minimalist public bar is ringed by comfortable green banquettes, and the ceiling of exposed air-con ducting painted black gives it an industrial chic feel. This is the official home of the Melbourne Demons, and there are a couple of big screens playing highlights from the week when a game’s not on. Swing by and watch the game with friends over drinks and a big, juicy parma.

Captain Melville
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  • Melbourne

While it has gone by many names over the years, the walls of this pub have been providing solace and sustenance to Melburnians and visitors for more than 150 years. Today, it's known as Captain Melville, and it's a great spot for a few drinks and a meal before a night on the town. The menu here doesn't stray far from the classics like chicken schnitzel, beer-battered fish and chips and steaks served with salad.

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  • Bars
  • Fitzroy
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Set against the hustle of Brunswick Street, this corner pub has seen its fair share of loud music and good times. Built in 1853 and ordained as a pub in 1998, it’s furnished with hard wooden benches and squeaky bar stools, the floors are sticky, and the solo drinkers all look like they were members of punk bands in the ’80s. Despite its age and sticky floors, the space isn’t grimy, and it also boasts a spacious upstairs beer garden. 

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