Are you looking for free things to do in Melbourne? Then, check out these tips for exploring Melbourne for zero dollars.
They say the best things in life are free. Of course, we’re not 100 per cent on board with that sentiment (have you had a perfectly prepared cocktail? That isn’t cheap), but not everything in Melbourne has to cost a bunch of money.
From art shows to wine tastings, there are many things to do in this fine city that you can do for free. Yep, free. Zilch. Nada. Zero dollars.
We’ve found the best comedy shows, events, free art galleries and activities, so you can have a super fun time in Melbourne without spending a cent.
Patriotic Melbournians equally adore the city; they will be the first to tell you how amazing it is, and they are usually happy to impart details of their favourite spots.
While Sydney attracts more visitors, it’s Melbourne that ends up winning tourist’s hearts.
There are an unfathomable amount of things to see in Melbourne – it would be a real challenge to get bored!
Although there is plenty to spend money on, it’s also totally possible to have a wonderful experience in Melbourne without touching your purse.
The Best Free Things To Do In Melbourne
The beaches are world-famous, as are the National Galleries, specific markets, parks, and of course the Yarra River, to name a few.
Below you can find a list of some of the best free things to do in Melbourne.
Relax In The Green Gardens And Parks
If you’re wondering what to do in Melbourne, head to some of its fantastic parks and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in nature!
Melbourne is home to some of the finest gardens and parks in the whole country. But, of course, you can’t go wrong with visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens, situated close to the CBD and the Yarra River.
Here you can immerse yourself in beautiful nature, relaxing amidst the many different trees, plants and flowers. There is a whopping 38 hectares to cover, so you can easily spend an entire day here if you wish.
There is also the Royal Park, and a vast park spread out over 180 hectares. You can get around it by train or tram and hang out in the Zoological Gardens.
Fitzroy Gardens and Treasury Gardens are other gardens worth your time, which are more or less next to each other.
Royal Botanic Gardens
- Address: Birdwood Ave
- Opening hours: every day from 7:30 am – 6:30 pm
- Address: Lot 1 Flemington Rd
- Opening hours: 24h/7
Hang Out In Federation Square
No Melbourne sightseeing would be complete without a visit to the famous Federation Square.
The square, affectionately known as ‘Fed Square’, is the city’s main meeting point and is bustling with all kinds of free events all year round.
There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to hang out in, and if you do want to put your hand in your pocket, you’ll find some very cool shops here.
Tour Melbourne’s Spectacular Churches
This is another one for architecture lovers; Melbourne has some magnificent churches to explore. Taking a look around these can transport you out of the city atmosphere and into a spiritual realm!
First on your to-do list should be St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by William Butterfield and an English architect. You can find this neo-Gothic style cathedral in the centre of Melbourne’s central business district.
Close by there is St Patrick’s Cathedral, too; this beautiful medieval-style building is well worth snapping.
Another couple of impressive churches worth putting on your list are the St. Mary Star of the Sea Church and St Michael’s Uniting Church.
View World-class Artwork
Victoria has so many galleries. NGV International (National Galleries of Victoria) is a good port of call, which houses international art exhibitions.
You will find world-famous artists’ works of all kinds here. It won’t cost anything to view the permanent collections, and it’s often free to view some of the temporary ones.
Head down to St Kilda Road on any day except Tuesday, between 10 am and 5 pm.
Another great free art gallery is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in Southbank, exhibiting unique contemporary and innovative art.
As the gallery commissions the art, it is pretty unusual! Even the building is a work of art in its own right.
Love street art? Don’t miss out on Hosier Lane.
National Galleries of Victoria
- Address: 180 St Kilda Rd
- Opening hours: every day from 10 am – 5 pm
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
- Address: 111 Sturt St
- Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday – Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm
Get Amongst Some Free Live Comedy
Every Monday, Spleen Bar on Bourke Street’s top-end hosts some of the best comedians in Melbourne and beyond. It’s a prime opportunity for well-known names to try new material. The quality is remarkably consistent, and the atmosphere is often electric (considering the tickets clocking in at the resounding price of free).
Explore A Model Tudor Village At Fitzroy Gardens
Head to the scenic Fitzroy Gardens located amidst Melbourne’s busy cityscape. Take a stroll around the park and take in the natural landscape and historical sights located throughout the gardens.
You can find a model Tudor Village in the middle of the gardens, created by London pensioner Edgar Wilson back in the 1940s. This miniature village is a replica of a typical Kentish village built during England’s Tudor period. It was unveiled in Fitzroy Gardens by the lord mayor in 1948.
Walk Around Queen Vic Market And Try All The Samples
Did you know that one of the best things to do in Melbourne is also free? Yep, here at Queen Vic Market, you’ll be able to peruse the sheds and spy all the great fruit, veg, meat, dairy and small.
If you’re lucky, there might be a few stalls handing out free samples (stick around the cheese section, and you will be rewarded!)
Explore Acmi’s Free Exhibitions
ACMI is much more than meets the eye. Sure, it’s home to Australia’s most extensive moving image collection and the fascinating and fun.
The Story of the Moving Image permanent exhibition. But there’s also cinemas, student labs and educational spaces, a media preservation lab, plus a hospitality offering from Karen Martini.
Maybe the most exciting, though, is the fact that you can play video games for free in the exhibition above – just remember to share with folks!
Wander Around The State Library’s Beautiful Dome Reading Room
Step into the Dome Reading Room, the most elegant room in the State Library of Victoria, and you can hear mental cogs turning: people are studying, examining old books and expanding their knowledge on anything from rare birds to architectural history.
Don’t miss a stop at the impressive Ian Potter Queen’s Hall, which was reopened in 2019 after being closed off to the public for nearly 15 years. Daily free tours will show you the library’s hidden reaches.
Explore The Library At The Dock
An extensive book collection with over 200,000 tomes, subscriptions to the daily newspapers, about 400 magazines, a massive DVD and CD collection and elibrary… that’s all pretty standard for a library.
However, there’s a lot more than reading going on at the library at the Dock. There’s a gallery, cutting-edge pro-editing suites, a recording studio, practice rooms for musos, a ventilated green terrace for table tennis, yoga, tai chi and movie screenings.
Visit The Best Bookshop In The World
It’s not often that you see crowds hanging out at a bookshop at 10 pm on a Saturday, but that’s
Readings for you – proof that there’s still a place for great independent bookshops (which don’t frown on people reading a little before they buy, mind you).
This landmark bookstore isn’t just famous in Melbourne either.
Readings Carlton won international acclaim in 2016 when it was awarded the ‘Bookstore of the Year’ award at the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards.
Try Free Exercise Classes At Fed Square
When Melburnians want to take a break from complaining about the weather, they start whining about Melbourne’s “meeting place”, Federation Square.
Love it or hate it, there’s always something happening – and many of the events are free. There’s tai chi classes, morning meditation, Qigong classes and the occasional free movie on the big screen.
Get Back To Nature In The Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne is lucky enough to have its Royal Botanic Gardens smack bang in the middle of the city. Being so accessible, the gardens are ideal for a stroll, a picnic, or even a great place to eat your lunch on a workday.
The expansive grounds means you’re rarely forced to face off with someone for a good spot of turf. Instead, we suggest parking yourself down for a calming meditation session or a photo op with the always gorgeous Ornamental Lake.
Listen To Live Music
Melbourne locals love listening to live music. Fortunately, this also ranks among the best free things to do in Melbourne (aside from the cost of a beer). In the city’s ACDC Lane, Cherry Bar calls itself “pretty much the best rock’ n’ roll bar in the world”.
It offers free admission for many of its gigs and often hosts big-name after-parties and rock stars. Another option is The Esplanade in St Kilda, which has free entry to its Basement bar most nights and is a great place to catch emerging rock acts. Other venues to check out include the beer garden at The Brunswick Green on Sydney Road.
Go On A Hunt For Public Sculptures
Deborah Halpern, who studied in Melbourne and has strong links with the city, is Australia’s most celebrated sculptor.
Three of her colourful mosaics are on display in the city – Angel (1987)at Birrarung Marr, Ophelia (1992)at Southgate, and Portal to Another Time and Place (2005)at Werribee Mansion.
Other public sculptures to fit into your Melbourne sculpture trail include Bruce Armstrong’s Eagle (2002)and John Kelly’s Cow up a Tree (1999)in Docklands, Simon Perry’s The Public Purse (1994) outside the GPO building, and Petrus Spronk’s sinking building known as Architectural Fragment (1992) outside the State Library of Victoria.
Wander Through The Royal Botanic Gardens
Escape the buzz of Melbourne’s city streets in the tranquil sanctuary that is the Royal Botanic Gardens. Spread across 94 acres (38ha), the sprawling gardens contain a collection of 10,000 plants – both native and exotic.
With 11 lawns, there’s ample space to relax, unwind and decide what to do in Melbourne next.
There’s also a 3.8km (2.4m) walking and jogging track known as the tan that circles the garden, which runs past the gardens’ main entrance and the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial.
Reward yourself for completing the loop with a coffee from one of the cafes on Domain Road.
Discover Melbourne’s Most Beautiful Buildings
Let’s face it, Melbourne isn’t known for its skyline. Besides the famous Arts Centre spire and the gargantuan Eureka Tower, we don’t have defining buildings that shoot out into the stratosphere.
Instead, you’ll find some of Melbourne’s best buildings hidden within the grid, on street corners or in grand, green gardens. Please take a tour of our favourites, including the historic Royal Exhibition Building, the GPO and one beautiful McDonald’s building.
Attempt The 1,000 Steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk
Twitchers, travellers, picnickers and bucket list-ers from across the city make the breathless march up this stony memorial named for a killing field.
Attempting to count the 1,000 steps as you trudge up is near-impossible as blood, sweat, and adrenalin do battle over your brain.
They reckon there are only 770, anyway. More accessible, but more depressing, is counting how many times some hot young thing in lycra laps you on your 1.5 km ascent—not feeling too athletic? Skyscraping gums surround the area, and there’s no shortage of lush picnic spots.
See The Penguins On St Kilda Beach
Take in the sunset while you stroll down Jacka Boulevard to St Kilda’s breakwater for a peek at a healthy-sized colony of little penguins (also called fairy penguins).
The black-and-white cuties are there all year round, but the best viewing is in summer after sunset. Just remember:
Don’t climb on the rocks (that’s where they lay eggs and rear young).
- Don’t use flash on your camera.
- Don’t feed or touch them.
Tour The City Using The Free Tram Zone
The best part of Melbourne’s CBD? It’s all easily traversed via the free tram zone. This zone stretches as far north as Queen Vic Market, east to Spring Street and Parliament House, south to Flinders Street and west to Docklands and Victoria Harbour.
It’s ideal for sightseeing in the city as it stretches across to some of the coolest inner-suburban hangouts, including cocktail bars like Madame Brussels, karaoke joints like Heroes, and inner-city parks.
Spend The Day Snapping Street Art
You have to try pretty hard not to see street art in Melbourne.
You’re probably already familiar with the works splattering Hosier Lane and Centre Place, but there’s way more to Melbourne’s street art scene than just those haunts.
Laneways throughout the CBD regularly get a repaint, so to speak, not to mention all the street art out of the city.
Pay A Visit To The Koorie Heritage Trust
Located in Fed Square, the Koorie Heritage Trust celebrates Indigenous art and culture of the south-eastern region of Australia with three gallery spaces.
Works in the collection are a combination of acquired and commissioned works gathered since the early 1980s.
By putting on these exhibitions, the trust aims to raise awareness and appreciation for Koorie culture. In doing so, it hopes to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Visit The Shrine Of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance was built between 1927 and 1934 for Victorians to grieve, honour, and preserve the memories of those who had lost their lives in WWI. Now it serves as a memorial to all Australians who served at war.
However, it’s more than just a static memorial with exhibitions and talks that reflect on past Australian conflicts held regularly.
Guided walking tours are also available. Admission to the Shrine is free though donations are welcome.
Go On A Scavenger Hunt Around Town
Do you know everything there is about Melbourne? Think again.
Head out on this city-wide search for hidden artworks, historical treasures and secret corners to see the city in a whole new light. There are 11 to find, including the most miniature art gallery in Melbourne!
See The Brighton Beach Boxes
Brighton’s famous bathing boxes – 82 to be exact – line the foreshore along Brighton Beach.
Not only is this beach pretty to look at, but it’s also excellent for swimming. When the wind picks up, it’s a pretty decent area for surfing, too. Thankfully if you can’t drive or don’t have a car, there’s a train station nearby.
Meander The Lanes
The city centre is made up of an intricate network of lanes, alleys and arcades. It can be hard to know where to start, but you can pop down to the Fed Square visitor centre for a map.
One good starting point would be Degraves Street, which is off Flinders St. It’s a relaxing spot with great coffee options, so you can sit and watch the city go by before you set out to explore the rest of the lanes.
Opposite Degraves Street, you will find Centre Place, another interesting alley with fantastic boutique stores and bars.
You could spend hours and hours taking in the sights and vibes of Melbourne’s lanes and alleys, so make sure your schedule accommodates!
With the help of this guide, you should quickly fill your trip with meaningful and memorable activities without denting your bank balance too much.
It will soon be evident why Melbourne is considered to be the ‘world’s most liveable city! Have fun.