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Musician playing live at Assembly Bar

Best live music bars in Canberra

Updated 21 May 2022

Where to go for brews and tunes

Live music is returning in 2022, nurtured by some of Canberra’s most renowned live music venues.

For underground jazz and cocktails head to Blackbird, for Irish flavours and top notch covers King O'Malley's has you covered, and for sour beers and up-and-coming backs Sideway is your go to. Whatever your style, find you perfect music spot in Canberra with our recommendations.

Band playing music
Smiths Alternative

King O’Malley’s

King O’Malley’s Irish Pub was named after a colourful politician and former insurance salesman. The irony? This same man advocated for an alcohol ban across Canberra in the early 1900s.

Head on into this unpretentious drinking hole for a pint of lager and pub grub, and some authentic Irish charm.

Smith's Alternative

The grungy jewel in Canberra’s artistic crown, Smith’s Alternative is the beating heart of the city’s community cultural scene.

From live music to poetry readings, book launches and anything experimental, here is a place that accepts all with open arms. Frankly, there is nothing else quite like it.

Gig area at Transit Bar
Transit Bar

Transit Bar

Freshly revamped Transit Bar has gained more than just a new look in its recent move to London Circuit, in the former home of Hogsbreath Café. It now boasts a new food menu, bigger live music space and not one, not two, but *three* pool tables.

Image by Harry Chalker.

PJs in the City

PJs in the City has long been a place to relax and unwind, either outside in their beer garden or inside in The Olde Bailey Room or the Harp Bar.

Head on down for a cheeky pint or a meal, or settle in for some sport. On Friday afternoons PJs winds back the clock and goes retro—Midori Illusion, anyone?

Beer on shelves
Brew Nation


A fresh-faced favourite, find Blackbird‘s nondescript door in the Sydney building and descend down the wood-panelled stairs to
find a dimly-lit hideaway.

With photos of jazz legends adorning the walls, a ‘70s vibe and plenty of cosy corners to tuck yourself into, it’s made for intimate drinks with live- music lovers.

Brew Nation

With 80-plus beers on offer, 12 on tap and a constant rotation of kegs, the chances are Brew Nation will have the perfect beer for you.

This inner-city bar is the most specialised craft beer supplier in Canberra and boasts a handy link to all the food offerings of Verity Lane Market.

Group of friends with beer at bar


Sideway is an intimate music bar tucked upstairs in the Sydney Building which prides itself on exciting wines, seasonal cocktails, local froths and a warm hi-fi sound system.

The vibe is hip and the music is current—this, in other words, is where the cool kids go for a late night of frivolity. Comedy acts and open mic nights are a regular.


With such a diverse range of offerings—breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, wine, a tinny bar, live sports—it’s no surprise Lonsdale Street superpub Assembly also boasts live music, hosting everyone from international names to local acoustic heroes across any given week.