Transit Rooftop Bar – Our Review

At the Transit Rooftop Bar it’s all about the views. Though not particularly high up, it still offers a killer take on the Yarra River, Southbank and tower blocks of the Melbourne CBD.

Transit Rooftop Bar

Location: In the Transport Hotel, Level 2 Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9654 8808

The Transport Hotel

Ah, the Transport Hotel.

Who hasn’t found themselves ambling around Federation Square and wandered in there for a drink at some time or other?

It’s a strangely eclectic place – no frills pub, swish dining spot and panoramic cocktail bar – all at once. But in many ways that’s what makes it such a quintessentially Melbourne drinking hole.

Sat on a corner of the iconic Fed Square, across the tramlines from the majestic Flinders Street Railway Station, the Transport Hotel is a modern cube of gunmetal grey and glass. Come summer, the area outside is commandeered by tables and canary yellow umbrellas and Melburnians and tourists sip chilled Prosecco al fresco. However, when we visited in early spring, warm weather was a distant memory and all the action at street level was going on indoors.

On the ground floor there’s the Transport Public Bar. Serving food and drink, it’s best known probably as a sports bar. Yes, there’s regular live music slots over the weekend, but it’s the big screens showing the footy that draw punters in for a beer.

Head upstairs on the first floor lies Taxi Kitchen. The Asian-accented Modern Australian restaurant resides in a stunner of a dining space. Seriously high ceilings and vast amounts of glass give the light, airy space unrivalled views of the city. And the food? Well, we’re fans of the Asian fusion with beautiful Australian produce menu.

For a full review of Taxi Kitchen, click here

What’s more, we’ve found that if you time it right towards the end of an evening, Taxi Kitchen is the perfect place to nip in for a cheeky cocktail. Maybe even a cheese board. And if you ask very nicely, the lovely staff might even let you sit at the counter looking out over the Yarra River.

The Transit Rooftop Bar

So finally, what about the Transit Rooftop Bar?

Head up to the 2nd floor and you emerge into the dimly lit main room of the Transit Bar.

The Space – And View

The top floor of the Transport Hotel combines an indoor lounge and bar with a large outside terrace. These days, the lounge looks a tad tired. Not that I’m necessarily complaining. There are a few Melbourne bars that are all about the aesthetics and miss out on being welcoming. Happily, the atmosphere at the Transit Rooftop Bar is relaxed and comfortable.

Transit Rooftop Bar - Transit Bar - Transport Hotel

But the real wow factor – and what we’re here for – lies through the glass doors to that big old terrace.

It’s interesting. The entire Transport Hotel is only 3 stories high and yet the outlook from the rooftop bar is a belter. You honestly feel as if you are far higher up than you actually are.

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The location, right at the edge of Fed Square, overlooking the Yarra River and across to Southbank, is obviously a factor. However, part of the magic is that you aren’t up above, looking down, but instead feel like you in the beating heart of the city scape.

I know that when it comes to rooftop bars Melbourne has quite a few. That said, with the city high-rises behind you, the geometric forms of Federation Square to the side and the vista of the Yarra ahead, it’s a million dollar drinking spot.

Which is just as well, because we had a few issues with our drinks.

The Drinks

It was the start of a Friday evening, so cocktails seemed the way to go.

At the Transit Rooftop Bar they have a QR Code on the table for you to order through. That’s fine. ‘Nothing we haven’t seen before.

The Signature Cocktails got us excited. Which was a shame, as a large number of them were unavailable. I was gunning for the Sinaloa El Burro – tequila, house-made ginger and cardamon syrup and ginger beer – but no such luck. It would be good to know if this is a regular problem, or if we were simply unlucky on that particular evening.

Disappointed, I returned to the Classic Cocktail list and plumped for Tommy’s Margarita. And that’s where I hit another major bump in my road to happiness.

Transit Rooftop Bar - Margarita

The Drinks Menu priced my cocktail at $22. However, once I tapped in my request and went to the online payment, I was stung with both a venue surcharge and a card processing fee. Seriously?! Not 1, but 2 additional costs? Including a card processing fee when I had literally no option but to pay by card?

All up, my $22 cocktail actually set me back $25.24. The same for my companions’ Espresso Martinis.

None of us were impressed. And neither were the large group at the table next to us.

Then, to make things bordering on laughable, before the payment was finalised we were asked if we’d like to add a ‘Tip’. In fact, the App generously suggested some percentages of our bill that we might like to add to our growing total. As one of my friends witheringly commented, we hadn’t even seen a drink yet, so why on earth would we tip anyone?

Do you have a friend that you hate buying presents for as they seem to have everything? Well, maybe our Gift Ideas can help you out.

How were our cocktails? Nice enough. But feeling overcharged tends to take the edge off. Especially when you order virtually the same drink in a sophisticated restaurant only 1 hour later and it costs an upfront $21.

Also, I have to say that the waiter who brought our drinks was utterly charming. Good enough to tip, in fact. If only we’d been sure of that before he delivered our cocktails 😉

For another great bar is a different outlook, see our review of The Rooftop at QT

Over All

Of all of the many Melbourne rooftop bars, the Transit Rooftop Bar has genuinely unparalleled views of the city.

For a quick drink with mates after work on a Friday evening, or to kick off a big night out, a table on the outdoor terrace is the perfect place to while away an hour or 2. Even in winter, if you manage to snag a spot under a burner.

Another plus is that there are DJs or live music from Wednesday through to Sunday which always livens a place up.

Transit rooftop bar - Arts Centre

It should also be firmly on your ‘To Do’ list if you have guests visiting from out of town. And maybe book at table at Taxi Kitchen downstairs whilst you’re at it.

However, be aware of all those little extras that add up when you come to pay. They are almost enough to take the shine off that view.

Almost, but not quite.


For the Best Bars in Melbourne, see here

If Beer Gardens are more to your liking, these are our Melbourne picks

These are our go to Cocktail Bars in Melbourne

Over you’re over in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs, check out Deeds Brewing

For Modern Australian food with regional flare, try Masons of Bendigo

See our guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Sydney

Brisbane has great weather and some fabulous Rooftop Bars

Fancy great service and wonderful food in the CBD? Check out our review of Hazel

Why not head over Fed Square for Dinner at Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters

Check out our review of Embla Wine Bar

If you fancy a different view, see our review of Pomelo Rooftop

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Faye Keenan
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