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What Can You Do In Melbourne For Free?

For All You Backpacking Bargain Hunters Out There, Exploring Wonderful Melbourne Doesn't Have To Hurt The Hip Pocket. Here Are Free Things To See And Do While You're In Town. Consistently ranking amongst the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne isn't a half-bad place to visit either, with a wealth of attractions encompassing everything from sprawling markets and insightful museums to beautiful botanic gardens and vintage amusement parks. Even better news: you can enjoy a load of these experiences without spending a single cent.

Guide To The Best Free Stuff To Do In Melbourne.

National Gallery Of Victoria

As you head up St Kilda Road, you will come across a monumental 1960s bluestone building on your left – NGV International, designed by Sir Roy Grounds. This and its other building, Ian Potter Centre: NGV International, make up the National Gallery of Victoria, with its collection of more than 73,000 works of art. Make your way through the arched entrance, behind the wall of water and towards the Great Hall to see the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling, which casts a kaleidoscope of colours onto the gallery floor. Aside from its permanent collection, NGV also holds exhibitions and special events such as the annual Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series and the Triennial, which features contemporary work from across the world.

Next up is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art on Southbank – another architectural gem with a revolving exhibition calendar. Still not sated? There are some private galleries in the Flinders Lane precinct with smaller exhibitions of local and international artists.

State Library Of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria is unmistakable. You cannot deny its beauty from the moment you first set eyes on it, yet the outside can’t compare to its interior. The domed La Trobe Reading Room is exquisite, with natural light pouring through the curved skylights. It does not disappoint in the evening, either, as the soft light provided by artificial means draws you in. There is no better place to read your favourite book. And you should have no trouble finding it with more than two million books contained within the library’s collection. If that does not sate your appetite, then indulge in some of the thousands of newspapers, manuscripts, audio, video and digital material on hand that spans a century of Victoria’s culture and history. The State Library is also home to fabulous artworks and exhibitions, with free guided tours available. Regular talks on fashion to philosophy are also available, often with free or name-your-price ticketing.

Shrine Of Remembrance

The statuesque Shrine of Remembrance, off St Kilda Rd, was completed in 1934 as a dedication to the men and women who lost their lives in WWI. Historical exhibitions shed light on the sacrifices made, and it’s the site of some of Melbourne’s most important military and remembrance ceremonies, such as ANZAC day. Visible from the other end of town, planning regulations continue to restrict any building that would obstruct the view of the shrine from Swanston St as far back as Lonsdale St. A climb to the steps of the shrine will be rewarded with fine views across the city.

FAQs About You Can Do In Melbourne For Free

  • Top Teen Activities in Melbourne
  • Werribee Open Range Zoo, Werribee South. Have a budding zookeeper in the family?
  • Funfields, Whittlesea.
  • Dark Zone, Box Hill.
  • Melbourne Cable Park, Bangholme.
  • Escape Room, Flemington.
  • Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne.
  • Sidetracked, Oakleigh South.
  • Clip 'n Climb Williamstown, Williamstown.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2017 Global Liveability Index awarded Melbourne as the world's top city for seven years running. Our cohesive and stable society, healthcare, education and world-class infrastructure make Melbourne a magnificent city in which to live, work and study.

Melbourne is known for being one of the most liveable cities on earth. Often referred to as 'the Sporting Capital of the World', besides this it is also famous for its graffiti laneways, excellent coffee, cultural diversity and bayside location.

  • Melbourne City Council Food relief service. Ph: 03 9658 9658.
  • Crossways Food relief service. Ph: 03 9650 2939.
  • The City of Melbourne - Ageing and Inclusion Food relief service.
  • Yarra City Council Aged Care Services Food relief service.
  • St Joseph's Catholic Church Food relief service.

The Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle Bus is a free initiative run by the city council. 13 stops, including Federation Square, the Melbourne Museum, Lygon Street, the Queen Victoria Markets, Southbank, and the Shrine of Remembrance.

Things to do in Melbourne today

  • Pick-your-own-cherries at CherryHill Orchards. Things to do.
  • Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize. Art.
  • Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
  • Van Gogh. Art.
  • Disney: The Magic of Animation. Art.
  • Imaginaria. Things to do.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child review.
  • Treasures of the Natural World.

Melbourne's Laneways

Over the past decade, Melbourne’s laneways have gone from shortcut passages in the main city grid to proud canvasses for some of the world’s best street art. You probably won’t find Banksy’s work here (these have reportedly been painted over or destroyed, though at least one is said to remain), but what you will find is a dizzying mash-up of colourful murals by well-known local and visiting artists. Start at Hosier Lane (opposite Federation Square) and follow the maze of laneways heading north from there. 

Market Browsing

Melburnians love a good market, and the city is stuffed to the gills with them. In almost any neighbourhood, you can find markets selling fresh local produce, handmade crafts, secondhand treasures or gourmet hawker dishes at some point in the week. Browsing is free, of course, and there are usually plenty of food samples to taste if you’re tempted.

Besides the big hitter, Queen Victoria Market, in the Centre of the city, there are plenty of less touristy markets to check out across town depending on where you’re staying. Try Camberwell Market for a Parisienne flea market vibe; the Rose Street Artists' Market in Fitzroy to soak up some Melbourne creativity; the summer-time-only Night Market at Victoria Market for hawker-style food and live music; and the Farmers Market at Abbotsford Convent or the Collingwood Children’s Farm for a bit of rural idyll in the city.

City Circle Tram

This is your shortcut to seeing Melbourne city centre without breaking a sweat or spending a cent (although your eardrums may not thank you – the commentary is informative enough, but a little too loud for all but the hardest of hearing). The City Circle Tram trundles along a loop around the city and down to the waterfront precinct of Docklands. Heritage ‘W class’ trams run the circuit with wooden chairs, brass and leather hand straps like the originals from 1923.

City Centre Architecture

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Melbourne city centre is rife with heritage-protected buildings of various eras and styles. So get ready to update your grid as you wander the streets spotting the famous or quirky city buildings, old advertising paintings and far-out futuristic structures. Standouts include the Flinders Street Railway Station, Federation Square, Block Arcade, the Nicholas Building and ANZ’s gothic headquarters. Every July, you can go one step further and get a free peep inside many of Melbourne’s off-limits architectural highlights at the city’s annual Open House event.

Koorie Heritage Trust

Located at Federation Square is the only public collection in Australia dedicated to the art and culture of Australia’s first people.

Wheeler Centre

If you’re a literature buff, make sure you stop off at the Wheeler Centre, funded by the creators of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks. They have regular events with authors, publishers and artists, usually free to attend.

Old Treasury Building

Visit the Old Treasury Building, which hosts the original gold vaults stored gold bullion during the gold rush era.

Greeter Tour

Melbourne Greeters is a service managed by Melbourne City Council. Part of the International Greeter Association, the service offers brief tours of some of Melbourne’s hidden gems. Sign up online or at the Visitors Centre. Bookings are recommended at least 24 hours in advance; however, you could pop in to see if you can score a vacancy if you have missed booking. This is by far one of the best free things to do in Melbourne if you are like us.

Luna Park

The rides come with a price tag, but it doesn’t cost a cent to snap a selfie with the big grinning face that welcomes you to Luna Park in St Kilda.

Park Street And Emerald Hill Place

Suppose you need some quiet, head to a hidden park in South Melbourne. Find the corner of Park Street and Emerald Hill Place. Walk down Emerald Hill Place to a beautiful hidden park with trees and a ping pong table.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Close to the hearts of all those who call Melbourne home, the Royal Botanic Gardens is a top place to engage with local life. Dating from 1857, this 38-hectare swathe of hilly green space at the edge of the CBD is divided up into different themes with a lake at its Centre. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a long afternoon picnicking and then stroll the myriad paths within the park. There is also a purpose-built Children’s Garden for families with a water fountain and manufactured creek to splash in summer.

Night and day, but particularly early in the mornings, you’ll be sharing the perimeter with fitness fanatics running the 3.84km circuit of the garden known locally as 'The Tan. Keen botanists should check the website for free guided tours.

Melbourne’s Churches

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the construction of some of Melbourne’s grand churches. The gothic St Paul’s Cathedral (opposite Federation Square) is built on the same site where the first Christian service in Victoria was held in 1835. A few minutes away are the St Michael’s Uniting Church and the Scots Church: architecturally impressive and quiet oases in the city.

Wheeler Centre

The founders of Lonely Planet funded the Wheeler Centre in 2010, the same year Melbourne was listed as a UNESCO City of Literature. Occupying a portion of the State Library Building, the Centre is a space for ‘books, writing and ideas. Regular events, including workshops and talks from artists, writers, architects and publishers, are usually free to attend. Bookings can be made via the website.

Free Walking Tours

To get under Melbourne’s skin, ditch the CBD and explore some of the city’s urban history in the increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods of the inner north. Online walking tours of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill are available from the local council’s website and take you past industrial icons like the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign (best seen at dusk) as well as Abbotsford Convent and Dights Falls, a series of rapids on the Yarra River.

Chinatown

Chinese miners arrived in Victoria searching for the ‘new gold mountain’ in the 1850s and started to settle in this strip of Little Bourke St from the 1860s. For more than 150 years, this section of central Melbourne, now flanked by five traditional arches, has been the focal point for the city's Chinese community. Explore a vibrant neighbourhood of historic buildings filled with Chinese and other restaurants. Chinatown also hosts the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations. To learn more about the Chinese-Australian story, visit the excellent Chinese Museum.

Melbourne Town Hall

History and architecture fans will enjoy touring the Melbourne Town Hall. The building is made from a mix of bluestone and Tasmanian freestone and stands authoritatively on the main city thoroughfare of Swanston Street. It is still a well-used venue with concerts, comedy and public talks held in the main auditorium and the smaller chambers year-round. Another big draw is the Grand Organ dating from 1929. To go behind the scenes and stand at the entrance where The Beatles and Abba once waved to their adoring fans, you can book a free Town Hall tour (weekdays only).

Parliament House

No, you can’t take popcorn with you for a session of the Victorian parliament but watching Australian politicians debating the latest in government policy can be entertaining. Check the government’s Parliament website to learn when you can spectate on the Legislative of Assembly for free. If watching politicians trying to score cheap political points in the luxe leather-and-wood environment of this stately house isn’t your thing, you may get more out of the free public tour instead.

City Circle Tram

The iconic W-Class heritage trams travel around the city centre, passing many of the city’s most popular sites. The free tram travels as far as Docklands, and the full loop can take 60 minutes. The City Circle tram runs approximately every 20 minutes, providing an audio commentary perfect for first-time visitors. If you are only in town for a short time, this is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne.

Australian Music Vault

The interactive exhibition at the Arts Centre Melbourne tells the story of the Australian music scene. It includes some truly iconic fashion items, including Molly Meldrums Hat, Kylie’s gold hotpants, Chrissy Amphlett and Angus Young’s school uniforms, Jimmy Barnes’s leather jacket, and Dami Imms Eurovision dress. All genres of music, from country to hip hop, are covered, and while it’s a small collection, it changes often and is a fun way to spend an hour in Melbourne.

Melbourne’s Golden Mile Heritage Trail.

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This 4km walk will help you discover several of the best. It begins at the Immigration Museum and heads up Flinders Lane to Collins St before making its way to Parliament House, ending at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens. 33 Gold discs on the footpath mark out the route, but these can be hard to follow, so we recommend downloading the Museums Victoria app. Allow two hours to complete the route, and if you don’t want the app, pick up a guide from the Visitors Centre at Melbourne Town Hall.

Walk Through Arcades.

Melbourne is a city famous for its winding laneways and decadent historic arcades. The city’s arcades are indoor shopping corridors of ornate architecture and quaint boutique stores. One arcade that should be top of your list is the gorgeous L-shaped Block Arcade, which dates back to 1893. Haigh’s Chocolates are a must-see and often have some tasty treats out for sampling. However, the biggest drawcard to the Block is the famous Hopetoun Tea Rooms.

Festival

Melbourne’s events calendar teems with festivals throughout the year, all of which offer free entertainment in addition to ticketed events. In March, there’s Moomba, Australia’s largest free community festival. There are nightly fireworks, celebrity monarchs and a parade, plus carnival rides and games galore. Other popular festivals in the city include the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Festival, and Midsumma, the city’s LGBTQ pride festival.

Conclusion:

Work your way through this list next time the budget is tight and you are looking to be entertained.

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