Essential night-time events for your diary

Looking for cool things to do after dark? We’ve found Melbourne’s best nocturnal activities, from the Summer Night Market to Japanese flicks and Chicago the musical.

Chicago

Slick your hair and wear your buckle shoes – and all that jazz! A new production of Chicago, that great late-20th century musical, is coming to Melbourne from 14 December with a stellar cast including Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Roxie Hart. Sure, there are matinee performances, but the best time to see this awards magnet is on a hot summer night – ideally with an ice-cold gin cocktail.

Summer Night Market

Get ready for another summer of international street food, cool drinks, curated stalls (perfect for fun Christmas shopping), live local entertainment and pretty party lights. At last, the Summer Night Market is back on 20 November! This Queen Vic Market summer essential will be on Wednesdays from 5pm – stay tuned for new traders and the upbeat music line-up.

Crowds of people milling around outside and under an old shed at night

The Summer Night Market

Japanese Film Festival

A J-pop coming-of-age story. The 23rd feature for anime favourite Detective Conan. A musical-meets-roadtrip. Samurai period-drama action. Even free classics, like The Ghost Story of Yotsuya. The 2019 Japanese Film Festival on 21 November-1 December has all this and more. Add dinner and drinks at your favourite Melbourne izakaya for the next best thing to a night in Tokyo. Psst! This is a great chance to experience the recently refurbished Art Deco wonder that is The Capitol cinema.

Zoo Twilights

It doesn’t kick off until 24 January, but the 2020 Zoo Twilights season is already starting to sell out! Get in quick for tickets to see amazing musos like Mavis Staples and Missy Higgins under the stars. Then start planning the perfect picnic, and an early arrival so there’s time to meet some of the zoo’s favourite residents before the sun goes down.

A crowd of people watching a performer on an outdoor stage at night

Zoo Twilights

Melbourne Music Week

Now in its 10th year, Melbourne Music Week is celebrating with not seven but 10 days of music, from acoustic to red-hot rock, plus talks and workshops. Don’t miss the opening night, featuring more than 100 artists at 12 venues and in Melbourne’s streets and laneways too. Another program highlight is Sarah Mary Chadwick playing music from her new album, The Queen Who Stole the Sky, on St Paul’s Cathedral’s massive organ. This year’s event also marks the return of Kubik, the glowing pop-up music venue which was the hit of the festival back in 2011. Made of industrial containers with embedded LED lights that respond to music,  it will host local and international music acts every evening from Friday 15 to Saturday 23 November.

An outdoor installation made up of glowing cubes at night

The glowing pop-up music venue Kubik returns to Melbourne Music Week

Night Noodle Markets

Melbourne’s Night Noodle Markets are on until 24 November, bringing a food-festival-meets-hawker-market atmosphere to Birrarung Marr. There’s so much more than noodles on offer, from bao and okonomiyaki to fried ice-cream and the Korean shaved-ice treat called bingsu. This alfresco feast also has Asian-food-friendly drinks, free live music and DJs, and it’s-almost-summer good vibes, so one visit won’t be enough.

Night Noodle Markets

Exit Strategies

Into new theatre? Don’t mind a bit of nudity, adult concepts, coarse language, smoking, smoke effects, strobe lighting and loud music? Then get yourself a ticket to Exit Strategies by Mish Grigor and Aphids on 13-17 November. An existentially adventurous exploration of escape, change and disappearance, it promises to be “bracingly clever, bleakly funny and deeply angry.”

Opera in the Bowl

Enjoy Champagne entertainment at tap-water prices with Opera in the Bowl, Australia’s free night of beautiful live music performed by Orchestra Victoria and five talented singers. Bring a picnic, friends and family and settle in for a beautiful evening on 30 November. Even if you’re an opera novice you’ll recognise famous tunes like the Toreador song from Carmen and the William Tell overture. Bravo!

A crowd of people sitting and watching an outdoor concert in an outdoor concert stage at night

Opera in the Bowl

Friday Sunset sessions at MPavilion 2019

Repurposed every year with a stunning new design, this public space used for talks, workshops, performances, installations and kid-friendly experiences returns from 14 November. Designed by internationally renowned Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, MPavilion 2019 will host 400-plus free events across four months. Don’t miss their Friday Sunset Sessions, with drinks and and local DJs and musicians spinning tunes in the gardens.

Silent Disco Night Tour

Get out and explore the city at night – complete with your own disco soundtrack. Put on the wireless headphones at the Silent Night Disco Tour and lose yourself to the roving audio adventure as you groove along with all your favourite Christmas hits.

Christmas Square 

The heart of Christmas in the city, Christmas Square offers an amazing array of free sights, sounds and experiences. Central to the festivities is the huge 16-metre tall LED Christmas Tree, which will come to life each night in a spectacular sound and light show. Head to the Festival Launch Party on Friday 29 November to see the first lighting of the Tree, and listen out for the arrival of a very special guest. Visit Santa’s House to take part in fun daily activities, and jostle for your selfie position at Melbourne’s most snap-worthy installation, the Giant Christmas Bauble. Friday 29 November to Wednesday 25 December at Federation Square. 

A group of people looking at twinkling Christmas tree and giant bauble made from Christmas lights

Christmas Square

Hidden Bars and History Tour

From 1916, Victorian bars couldn’t serve alcohol after 6pm, leading to 50 years of the infamous ‘six o’clock swill’. As you can imagine, there was plenty of booze going down on the sly after dark. This and other aspects of Melbourne’s colourful drinking past are revealed on the three-hour Hidden Bars and History Tour. You’ll also sneak down a laneway or two for drinks at some secluded, but entirely legal bars. Cheers!