Best places to catch up with friends at Christmas

As the social calendar swings into overdrive, we’ve gathered the best hangouts to meet up with mates as the year wraps up. From rooftop bars to a very proper high tea, these venues will help get the party started.

For the big kids

Join in all the reindeer games this Christmas at the newly-opened arcade parlour, Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq. With six bowling lanes, 67 arcade and ticket games, an XD Theatre and dodgems there’s sure to be plenty to keep even the biggest crew entertained. Their sister venue B. Lucky & Sons brings more fun to Melbourne Central, with arcade games, bubble cup cocktails, a full gourmet menu and competitive Mario Kart.

The Night Market

Sail through midweek by gathering your pals and heading to the always-popular Summer Night Market at Queen Victoria Market on Wednesdays. Relaunching on 21 November, the market is the perfect place to enjoy a few drinks, great food and live music. Plus, you can shop for Christmas gifts while you’re at it.

A wide outdoor scene with blue skies and skyscrapers in the background, and people sitting around a market

The Night Market returns to Summer on 21 November

Cheap and cheerful

Bursting with flavour, the Chinese dishes at China Red will have you duelling with your BFF for the last serve of prawn and chive dumpling. Add great drinks, windows where you can watch the chefs at work and a nifty iPad ordering system, and your festive get-together is sorted. More great group options await in our guide to Chinatown.

Garden views

With the lush greenery of the Royal Botanic Gardens directly across the road, The Botanical offers three distinct spaces to catch up with friends. Try duck liver parfait and wagyu steak at the formal restaurant, or have a more casual meal in the bistro. Hit the bar and lounge for an expertly-mixed cocktail or glass of their own Colonial Brewing Co beer. Private dining rooms are also available.

Rooftops

Karaoke, BBQ and more kitsch than you can throw a novelty boombox at – Heroes is a four-level party palace set to impress even your coolest mates. Their weather-proof rooftop with views across Chinatown and the city’s skyscrapers is an end of year must. If an OTT festive feast is on the cards though, try out the aptly named Red Piggy where massive share plates of slow-cooked lamb neck and crispy pork belly are served at their cute new spot on Little Bourke.

Keen for civilised drinks and nibbles? Bomba’s recently refurbished rooftop has truffle toasties and an endlessly awesome wine list. Or take traditional pub-loving groups to Melbourne’s oldest pub, which recently opened its newest rooftop. The Duke Of Wellington’s eye-popping panorama of Fed Square and the Forum is the perfect setting to say cheers to Christmas!

Find more sky high hot spots in our guide to the best rooftop bars.

An outdoor rooftop bar with people hanging out under neon lights

Heroes rooftop

Christmas cocktails

Nothing sets the stage for a good night out like a themed cocktail. Pilgrim Bar is bringing good tidings with the ‘White Christmas’ – their take on a White Russian featuring vodka and coffee liqueur shaken over ice and topped with cream and cinnamon. A generous 4.30pm to 6.30pm happy hour also promises selected wines and beer for just $5, leaving your crew with plenty of spare change for a gourmet toastie or two. 

If theatrics are more your style, then pop into Chuckle Park for a snow day surprise. This little laneway bar is getting the full white Christmas treatment, and if you order a ‘Sherbert Peaks’ to sip on it might just start snowing (literally!). Grab a round of drinks, tuck into a s’mores dessert pizza and be transported to the North Pole.

A narrow laneway with fairy lights hung above it

Chuckle Park

Riverside

Common Man’s beloved Riverside Garden pop-up is sticking around for Summer, and it’s a must visit destination for any group looking for sunshine, BBQ specials and refreshing cocktails. Whether you show up at noon or stay on until late, the dazzling South Wharf scenery is set to impress at all hours.

Arbory Afloat’s Mediterranean-inspired alfresco haven is perfect for enjoying the sunshine. The buoyant bar’s food has class (think local calamari and ‘Torta Della Nonna’ – Italian custard pie), while their drinks chase the sun, from Prosecco to watermelon sangria. Order a few plates to share and laze about until sunset and beyond.

Make merry

Bottomless mimosas and a brand new South East Asian menu will light a festive fire under your nearest and dearest. Head into the Merrywell on weekends from 12 – 3pm for their bottomless lunch, and pick from chicken larb rice paper rolls, prawn and lemongrass doughnuts or Japanese fried chicken (just to name a few) for $60 per person.