The sun might be going down but this city is far from sleepy. Brisbane's nightlife is extensive, spread across both sides of the magically lit river, and packed with an overflow of options.
Fortitude Valley is home to Australia’s first designated entertainment precinct. Come nightfall, the Valley’s streets are alive and pumping with the sound of live bands, laughter and nightclub beats.
Don't forget, ID scanners operate in licensed venues in safe night precincts. You'll need to bring your ID any time you enter one of these venues after 10pm or you won’t be allowed in.
Outdoor and rooftop bars
Queensland has year-round good weather and it’s worth making the most of the great outdoors. Elixir Rooftop Bar on Ann St has a fresh, holiday feel with concrete slab tables, plenty of tropical greenery and a water feature. From there, hop on over to X Cargo or Limes Rooftop, and finish at the very top – Eleven which boasts 270 degree views of Fortitude Valley.
Discover all of Brisbane's rooftop bars here.
For something with a grungier feel, Ric’s Bar will welcome you with a young crowd, alternative music and cheap drinks. Step into its big backyard and feel like you’re at a friend’s house.
A few blocks away, Sixes and Sevens is a local favourite, open seven days a week, and offering a killer sunday sesh. This little cottage turned trendy gastropub, has intimate lounge spaces, sprawling outdoor area and long tables of reclaimed timber with a simple but clever food and beverage menu.
Other great pub-style venues with twinkly fairy-light lit beer gardens and breezy open-air spaces are the Beirne Lane (open 24 hours), Pig 'n' Whistle, The Wickham or The Osbourne Hotel.
Live music venues
There is always a huge selection of live music in Brisbane every weekend – and Fortitude Valley is at the heart of it. The Tivoli, The Triffid and The Zoo are three medium-sized live music venues that act as a temporary home to many national and international acts passing through.
For a plush live music experience, the 3,000-capacity Fortitude Music Hall channels Brisbane’s music scene of yesteryear with an art deco, ballroom-inspired feel. Next door, the 770-capacity Sound Garden impresses with its large, two-storey atrium bar and is perfect for a bite or brew with live music seven days a week.
For more intimate vibes, The Foundry has live music pumping multiple times a week in its 300-capacity band room and Black Bear Lodge is a hit with locals who go here to discover new and up-and-coming talent. Then there is Crowbar, an alternative venue that showcases the best punk, hardcore and metal bands that pass through the city.
If you’re looking for somewhere you can dance, The Valley is the place. Popular with the 20-something crowd, Family is a busy nightclub where young party-goers can be seen dancing the night away with a cocktail in hand.
For those wanting variety, The Met has three dance floors within the club pumping RnB, house and techno music all night long. Just down the road, the GPO will have DJs spinning dance and R&B hits.
A bar with good vibes, The Press Club has live funk bands on Friday nights from 10pm ’til late. The sophisticated venue attracts an older crowd who know how to have fun and boogie down.
Specialist spirit and cocktail bars
If gin is your pick, Proud Henry specialises in the clear spirit, Dutch Courage Officer's Mess is a gin bar with a throwback to colonial times and not too far away Savile Row & Finney Isles have back bars with around 900 bottles of hard liquor. Pull up a stool at TSO Lounge & Dining for a casual bite and cool cocktail.
There comes a time when a pub doesn’t cut it and listening to the top 40 dance beats on repeat tires. Brisbane has a few alternatives, the first being X & Y Bar. This place is known for its grunge vibe and live bands in a club atmosphere.
Across the road, Cloudland is a magical mega-club. Like stepping into a scene from The Great Gatsby, the two-storey club is filled with masses of hanging plants, vertical gardens and crystal chandeliers, plush lounges and a funk-dance vibe. On Thursdays, join Soul’sa – from 8.30pm a live band and dance instructors help get your hips shaking.
Brisbane’s biggest LGBTQI nightclub, The Beat Megaclub, has been spinning tunes from its Ann St location for more than 30 years. Still ever-popular, this is the place to dance, meet friends and party seven days a week.
Nightlife in Brisbane CBD
The after-dark scene in the CBD is a little less celebratory than in the Valley, but that doesn't mean there's nowhere to wet your whistle. Indulge in Brisbane City's local haunts with the below list.
Down by the river, the Eagle Street Pier precinct is home to plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. To join the “suits” crowd, head to Fridays, Riverland or Riverbar for knock-off drinks any night of the week.
Mr & Mrs G is an intimate bar with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing uninterrupted views of the Story Bridge, and the Bavarian Bier Café has litre steins to keep you busy.
Located underneath the Story Bridge, Howard Smith Wharves is Brisbane's newest destination precinct offering riverside dining, an overwater bar and plenty of space to just sit on the grass and watch the world go by. Felons Brewing Co has taken over the heritage warehouse at the Wharves serving fresh craft beer and a range of top nosh pub grub, while Mr Percival's is popular with the young crowd for its fruity cocktails and stunning Brisbane City views.
Laneway bars in Brisbane City
Down Eagle Lane, Brooklyn Standard is a basement-level bar with live music six nights a week and free pretzels, while Fat Angel is Brisbane's first American sports bar streaming live sport alongside a range of national and international brews. Or The Laneway Bar is another spot for after-work drinks.
Parallel to the Queen Street Mall, between George and Albert Sts, Burnett Lane is a best-kept secret for the alternative and hidden range of bars, cafes and eateries. Favourites include Brew, Super Whatnot, Alba and Death & Taxes.
Up on George Street, Bean may be hard to find but the search is worth it. Down the back of a driveway and through an old-school London telephone box, you'll find this specialty coffee house & bar serving unique cocktails (pavlova sour is a personal fave), craft brews and wine by the glass or bottle.
Gresham Lane is home to NYC street food bar Red Hook, Italian tapas joint Coppa Spuntino (order a glass of red and a plate of fresh prosciutto) and The Gresham, a whisky and bourbon saloon oozing old-world charm with an eccentric touch.
Not quite a laneway bar, but since The Boom Boom Room is located within a heritage-listed buildings old bank vaults, we think this makes it edgy and inconspicuous enough to be included. Start at the modern-Chinese eatery Donna Chang upstairs then move down for moody drinks and live music.
Irish pubs, craft beer bars and gastropubs
The city's home to a stack of friendly Irish pubs including Gilhooleys and Irish Murphy’s, which are always a cheery place for a pint.
Then there is Embassy Bar – the CBD’s first craft beer bar, and The Stock Exchange, which features a beautiful rooftop bar. Nearby, Mr Edward's Alehouse will quench any thirst, and Buffalo Bar will fill you up with beer, whiskey and wings.
If it's a party you're after, then Johnny Ringo's is the place for you. It's a country music bar with a whole lot of attitude so prepare yourself to go full country and a bit wild with ‘Diesel’ the resident mechanical bull, and daisy dukes karaoke hall.
Slightly out of the CBD, sure, but close enough to count, Caxton Street is the nightlife hub during sporting events but it knows how to celebrate after a regular sunset too. The Lord Alfred Hotel, Brewski and, of course, The Caxton Hotel are Petrie Terrace staples.
West End and South Bank nightlife
West End has always been a melting pot of cultures. The local style is diverse, alternative and vintage while South Bank is the entertainment hub of anything on the south of the river. In between the two, Fish Lane embraces everything magical about laneway culture.
Craft beer bars, breweries & pubs
Boundary St is at the heart of West End. Here, Archive Beer Boutique opened growing craft beer appreciation in Brisbane before breweries Catchment Brewing Co and Brisbane Brewing Co continued the trend.
Those after a classic pub needn't look far. The Boundary Hotel, Montague Hotel and Hotel West End provide a solid atmosphere with better-than-average bistro food.
Cocktail bars in West End
West End is home to a stack of small cocktail bars of all flavours. Bar hop between or get cosy at The End, Jungle Bar, The Rumpus Room, Bosc, Cobbler, Convent Garden and Lychee Lounge.
Where to see live music
The Bearded Lady looks small from the outside but it punches above its weight with acts, enthusiasm and energy in the performance area at the back of the venue.
Right at the south end of South Bank, River Quay is the place to indulge in flashy nights out. Aquitaine Brasserie, Popolo, The Jetty South Bank and River Quay Fish will cater for all kinds of tastes.
Wander down Grey Street
Grey Street stretches from one end of South Bank to the other. Namedropping every joint along the way will be pretty boring, but some highlights include Little Big House, The Ship Inn, Tippler's Tap, The Plough Inn, Cowch Dessert & Cocktail Bar, Soleil Pool Bar, The Charming Squire and of course The Emporium's Terrace Bar located 21 floors high.
Meander Little Stanley Street
Like Grey Street, Little Stanley Street is packed. Check out French Martini, Barossa, Junk, Hop and Pickle and Brooklyn Depot for somewhere to start.
A true Brisbane gem, Fish Lane takes everything you thought Melbourne would be good at and does it better. We're not even slightly sorry. Explore Gauge, Julius Pizzeria, the exclusive Maker bar, Maeve Wine Bar, Next Episode, Saccharomyces Beer Cafe and Wandering Cooks. Then check out our more comprehensive guide to Fish Lane.