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The best bars and pubs to watch the AFL finals

Grab a pint and the best seats with a view of all the finals (and Grand Final) action

Footy posters at The Palace Hotel in South Melbourne
Photograph: Graham Denholm
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If you can’t get a ticket to the MCG during the finals, the next best place to watch sporting history unfold is in a Melbourne pub packed with supporters. But what makes a great footy pub? A big screen (preferably more than one), good sight lines to the action on screen, a knowledgeable crowd, a variety of beers on tap and reasonably priced food. And if they drop the music and crank up the commentary, all the better.

All that sports-ing making you hungry? Head to one of Melbourne's 50 best pubs for a meal. And if you've got a passion for brews, check out these inner-city breweries

Recommended: Things to do over the AFL Grand Final long weekend.

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Pouring drinks at The Crafty Squire
Photograph: Graham Denholm

CBD bars and pubs

The Crafty Squire is a big ol' beer barn and that (along with its 24 screens) makes it perfect for Grand Final celebrations. The Imperial Hotel on Bourke Street is well known for its sporting credentials and will be hosting a rooftop watch party this AFL Grand Final Day. Garden State Hotel will open at 10am on Grand Final Day and is offering a drinks and burger package, while waterfront bar the Boatbuilders Yard is having a Grand Final Day Party from noon, with handball comps, a barbecue feast and the game played live on a mega-sized outdoor screen.

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The Rochester Hotel customers
Photograph: Supplied

North side bars and pubs

You can start Grand Final Day in typical Melbourne fashion with brunch at the Provincial (it'll also be screening the game on the rooftop and level one). The Great Northern is a fan favourite for watching the game, with 10 HD TVs, an indoor projection screen and a penchant for cranking up the commentary. The Northcote Social Club will run pie and drink specials (and will be accepting table bookings, while the crew at the Rochey will be slinging cheap drinks, pies and wings as they screen the game in the old-school rowdy pub (which also just happens to serve authentic South Indian cuisine). For something different, head to Johnny's Green Room where you can watch the game on the open-air rooftop and feast on grilled seafood and hot porchetta rolls.

 

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Bartender pouring a beer
Photograph: Graham Denholm

South side bars and pubs

In 2016 we named the Palace Hotel in South Melbourne the best pub in the city, and we still recommend it as the place to go to watch the Grand Final in the south. Every single screen will be playing the final while the kitchen serves $10 pizzas all day (bookings accepted). The Emerson is offering food and beverage packages as well as VIP booths if you want to celebrate in style. Over in Prahran College Lawn is screening the Grand Final on 18 screens and providing DJs after the final siren so you can party well into the night.

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The Corner Hotel rooftop

East side bars and pubs

Trekking to the MCG bright and early? Harlow is opening from 10am and serving breakfast burgers (you can also settle in and watch the match on the bar's seven screens). The Corner Hotel will lend its bandroom, rooftop, front bar and carpark to the Grand Final Day celebrations. There are 14 screens to watch the game on across the venue, while the carpark will be packed with burger trucks, pop-up bars and games.

Abbotsford's Terminus Hotel is accepting walk-ins in the public bar as well as a five-hour food and drinks package. Further east, Auburn Hotel is really leaning into the finals spirit by constructing a grandstand in the beer garden and serving bottomless Furphy and footy snacks.

Patrons eating and drinking at Back Alley Sally's
Photograph: Graham Denholm

West side bars and pubs

Upcycled warehouse bar Back Alley Sally's is slinging beers on the cheap for the Grand Final, offering selected pints at schooner prices and $15 jugs. The Commercial Hotel in Yarraville is hosting a family-friendly Grand Final Day party with drink specials, a handball competition and live music after the last siren. Did your team lose? Head to the Drunken Poet after the match for blues music by Rhyece O’Neill and Liam Wilkerson.

How about a pub with an outdoor area?

More things to do over the long weekend

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