Free things to do in Melbourne
With a wide spread availability of multicultural cuisines, fine weather, and friendly people, it’s undisputed that Melbourne is one of the most livable cities in the world. However, it is also well known that Australia is also one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in.
Nonetheless, for the budget-minded traveller, there are still things to do in the artsy city of Melbourne without having to break the bank. This guide of 10 free things to do in Melbourne will show you how.
1. Explore the famous laneways of Melbourne
You can’t say that you’ve visited Melbourne until you’ve explored the city’s famous laneways. Eat, drink, and be merry like the locals do by breathing in laneway culture. We recommend starting at one of the cafes at the cafe-lined Centre Place (pictured above) or marvelling at the graffiti-lined sub-cultural Hosier Lane.
Click here for a list of Melbourne laneways to visit.
2. Pay your respects to the war dead at the Shrine of Remembrance
Originally built between 1928-1934 to commemorate Victorians who lost their lives in WWI, this solemn memorial now serves to represent all Australians who have served in war. Marvel at the iconic design of the memorial inspired by the classical architectural styles of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Parthenon in Athens. Also, don’t forget to ascend the stairs to the shrine’s upper balcony that affords sweeping views of Melbourne city.
Address: Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm daily, closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day
3. People watch or partake in an event at Federation Square
Love it or hate it, the sandstone paved Federation Square manages to evoke a rather deja vu impression of the iconic Australian outback. Federation Square, or simply Fed Square, is now embraced for what it was built for, a public space. Amidst the surrounding hustle and bustle of the city, Melbournians eat, chat, and be merry as buskers entertain and tourists take a piece of the square back home in their cameras.
Events are often organised at the square, so make sure your visit coincides with one of them. However, if you’re unlucky, fret not and bring out the artsy side of you as you appreciate some Australian art for free at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.
Address: Corner Swanston & Flinders Streets, Melbourne>
4. Marvel at the excellent art collection at the National Gallery of Victoria
Occupying a significant chunk of prime land in the designated Melbourne Arts Precinct district is NGV International, which arguably hosts one of the finest and most extensive collection of international art in Australia. Even if you’re not a big fan of art, come here for the sake of Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman, famed for being involved in an art heist in 1986.
General entry is free but paid admission applies to temporary exhibitions. Also, if you want a curated experience on the various art pieces, try booking a spot in a free guided tour.
Address: 180 St Kilda Road, Southbank>
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm, closed on Tuesdays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day>
Daily Tours: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/visit/tours/daily-tours/
5. Bask in the atmosphere of Queen Victoria Market
Touted as the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, this remnant of the 19th Century is the only market of its time still standing in Melbourne’s CBD. Make your way through the art deco styled deli hall (pictured above) for fresh produce to the general merchandise sheds for knick knacks. Queen Victoria Market has anything and everything! If you’re tired from walking, pop into one of the surrounding cafes.
If your visit happens to coincide with the Summer or Winter periods of Melbourne, don’t miss the ever popular Night Markets with ethnic food stalls, musicians, and pop-up artisanal stalls.
Address: Corner Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne>
Opening Hours: 6am – 2pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, to 5pm Fridays, to 3pm Saturdays, 9am – 4pm Sundays, closed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Public Holidays
Night Markets Website: http://www.qvm.com.au/night-markets/
6. Soak up the sun at St Kilda Foreshore
The beach at St Kilda Foreshore may not conjure impressions of Sydney’s Bondi Beach, but it still manages to exude a resort-like atmosphere despite being located just 6 kilometres away from Melbourne’s CBD.
Adjoining the Foreshore is St Kilda Pier that leads the way to the historic St Kilda Pavilion and a breakwater housing a colony of little penguins.
Feeling hungry? Ditch the fine dining establishments along the beach. A stone’s throw away is the commercial strip of Acland Street, home to many restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and most importantly, catering to different budgets.
Address: Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda
Getting There: Trams 3a, 16, and 96 run from the CBD to St Kilda Foreshore
7. Develop a love for literature at the State Library of Victoria
This oasis of calmness is situated along Swanston Street, one of the busiest roads in Melbourne. Get your dose of fictional and non-fictional texts through the library’s whopping collection of over 2 million books. The library is also home to Readings, a branch of the excellent independent bookstore chain.
Tired of reading? Head into one of the onsite exhibitions to learn about Melbourne’s history and more. Also, don’t forget to visit and be in awe of the ornate La Trobe Reading Room (pictured above), where natural light filters through its landmark dome, the largest of its kind in the world when it was completed in 1913.
Address: 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne>
Opening Hours: 10am – 9pm daily, 10am – 6pm Fridays to Sundays
Events & Exhibitions: http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/whats-on
8. Learn about Italian immigration to Australia at Museo Italiano
Did you know that Melbourne has the highest concentration of Australians with Italian ancestry? I didn’t either. Tucked away in the charming Little Italy district or more commonly known as Lygon Street, this little-known museum is a testament of the rich Italian community in Melbourne, documenting the struggles and successes of the Italian migration experience.
Today, Italian Australians are well-integrated in all aspects of Australian society yet at the same time they still retain certain unique aspects of Italian culture that is evident in their contribution to Melbourne’s diverse culture.
Address: 199 Faraday Street, Carlton>
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm daily, 12pm to 5pm Saturdays, closed on Mondays
Events & Exhibitions: http://www.museoitaliano.com.au/museo-italiano
9. Picnic, exercise, or just simply relax at the Royal Botanic Gardens
The sprawling 38-hectare Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne is widely considered as one of the finest botanical gardens in the world. The gardens feature a wide range of Australian native flora and others from around the world. Take your time around the gardens and try to also spot the many species of fauna that call the gardens home.
Want to learn more about the plants and the history of the gardens? Visit the onsite Visitor Centre for information on guided tours and self-guided walks. More information can be found here.
10. Catch a free ride on the iconic City Circle Tram 35
Melbourne is the city that has the largest urban tramway network in the world, so what better way to explore Melbourne than by taking a ride in one of their iconic trams? Catered primarily to tourists, the City Circle Tram operates in a circular route around the fringes of the CBD, whizzing past many Melbourne attractions such as the iconic Flinders Street Station and the adjoining Federation Square, the Royal Exhibition Building, the developing district of Docklands and so on.
The City Circle Tram runs every 10 minutes or so and a complete loop on the tram takes about hour. Also worthy of note is the designated Free Tram Zone within the Melbourne CBD, where one can simply hop on and off without any charges as long as travel is within the zone.
City Circle Tram Operating Hours: 10am – 6pm daily, 10am – 9pm Thursdays – Saturdays.
Look no further for things to do in Melbourne
Our list of the top 10 Free Things To Do in the city of Melbourne is by no means an exhaustive one. Nevertheless, the aforementioned places embody aspects of heritage, culture, and lifestyle that resonate with Melbournians that in turn make Melbourne, Melbourne.
So, what are you still waiting for? Get out and about to tick those activities off the list. It won’t hurt your wallet, we promise!