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Whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or a local who’s tight on cash, there are plenty of free things to do in Melbourne.
From taking a free walking tour and admiring the amazing street art in the city’s laneways, to browsing beautiful libraries and attending free festivals, there’s no shortage of free attractions and activities in Melbourne. And after 4 months of calling this exciting city home, I managed to try out my fair share of them…
The best free things to do in Melbourne Australia
1. Take a tour of Melbourne CBD on the free City Circle Tram
The City Circle Tram (route 35) is a completely free tram service that makes its way around Melbourne City Centre.
While the tram is predominantly used by locals as normal public transport to get around the city and commute to and from work, it also makes a great free sightseeing option for first-timers to get to grips with the city.
The City Circle Tram can also be used as a free alternative to a ‘hop on – hop off’ bus service around central Melbourne when out exploring.
2. Join a free walking tour
I’m Free is a great tour company that offers free walking tours in Melbourne and Sydney.
Their Melbourne Sites Free Walking Tour starts every day at either 10:30am or 2:30pm at the statue of Sir Redmond Barry in front of the State Library of Victoria.
The tour will take you on a 3 hour journey covering all of the Melbourne essentials, from the city’s history, the iconic laneways and amazing street art to the cafe culture and hidden bars.
The shorter Culture Capital Tour focuses on the alternative side of Melbourne, including the best hidden laneways, arcades, and architecture.
This tour runs every day at 3pm (April – Sept) or 6pm (Oct – March) from the same meeting spot.
While the tour is free and nothing is charged upfront, the company operates on tips. So it’s always nice to leave your guide a little something, depending on what you can afford and how much you enjoyed the tour.
3. Go searching for street art in Melbourne’s laneways
Being a city that’s renowned for its amazing street art, taking yourself on a street art hunt is definitely one of the best free things to do in Melbourne.
Amazing murals cover walls and buildings all across the city, from the bigger works on Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane to the tiny framed images and sculptures of Presgrave Place.
While the more popular spots are definitely worth seeing, don’t be afraid to venture down other laneways in the CBD – you never know what new masterpiece you might discover.
4. Stroll down Southbank along the Yarra River
On a sunny day in the city, there’s nothing quite like taking a wander down the south bank of the Yarra River, watching the boats sail past, and stopping for a drink at a cafe or bar along the way.
Taking a relaxing walk is a great way to see the best of Melbourne CDB for free.
5. Visit the State Library of Victoria
A trip to the library might not have been what you were thinking of when you were searching for fun free things to do in Melbourne, but stick with me here…
Established in 1854, the State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world.
Not only is the library used by Melbourne’s many students as a study space, but it is also a popular place to visit because of its absolutely stunning neoclassical architecture.
The impressive La Trobe Reading Room is a must-visit within the library. Once you’ve admired the room from floor level, climb up to levels 4 and 5 which are home to permanent exhibitions World of the book and the changing face of Victoria, while level 6 is a viewing gallery where you can get some great photos back over the elegant space from the balcony.
6. Watch the Melbourne Central Clock strike the hour
The first thing to know here is that if you are standing in the middle of Melbourne Central shopping centre waiting for the large clock to strike the hour, you will immediately point yourself out as a tourist, but everyone’s got to do it at least once!
The Melbourne Central Clock – in the design of a giant Fob watch – marks every hour with a little show. The show features characters and birds that appear from the bottom and side of the clock to the classic Australian tune ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
It’s a delightful way to spend a few minutes of your day.
7. Borrow a book from The Little Library
If you’ve got a nice warm day in Melbourne and you’re looking for something free to do, pop by The Little Library in Melbourne Central to borrow a book.
You can take it to one of the city’s several parks to read (Carlton Gardens is my favourite spot).
8. Try all of the free samples at Queen Vic Market
One of my absolute favourite free things to do in Melbourne is to take a stroll through the city’s famous Queen Victoria Market.
Spread across 17 acres, Queen Vic Market is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere and one of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks.
Inside, the 19th-century market is split into several areas, including a large shopping area with clothes, homeware goods, and tourist nicknacks. There’s also a fresh fruit and veg market and a covered food court selling cheese, meats, bread, wines, and much much more.
Queen Vic Market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6am to 3pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 4pm.
9. Or head to a night market at Queen Vic
As well as its daytime market, Queen Victoria Market is often open on Wednesday evenings for special free-to-visit themed night markets.
Every Wednesday between late November and early March, the market holds its popular Summer Night Market. Open from 5pm to 10pm, the Night Market includes delicious street food stalls, pop-up cocktail bars, shops selling local artisan products, and free live entertainment.
Recently, Queen Vic has also begun holding a Winter Night Market every Wednesday from early June to late August.
Similar to the summer market, the winter market has a number of global street food stalls, festival bars, specialty artisan goods stalls, and live entertainment.
Check out more fun things to do in Melbourne at night.
10. Wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens are located on the south side of the Yarra River and are one of the best things to do in Melbourne for free on a sunny day.
Spanning 38 hectares, the picturesque gardens are home to roughly 8,500 plant species from around the world, as well as open lawns, majestic trees, and tranquil lakes you can spend a whole afternoon taking a peaceful stroll around.
11. Pay your respects at the Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria’s national war memorial.
It was originally built in 1934 to honour the men and women who served in World War I. Today, it is a memorial to the sacrifice of all Australians who have served in any war or global conflict.
You’ll also find one of the best free views over the city skyline from the memorial’s upper balcony.
The memorial is free to enter to look around and pay your respects.
Underneath the shrine, you’ll also find the Galleries of Remembrance, a series of free exhibitions that tell the stories of Australian service and sacrifice through historical artworks and artifacts.
12. Snap some photos of the Brighton Beach Boxes
The most iconic postcard image of Melbourne has to be the row of colourful beach huts known as the Brighton Beach Boxes. The boxes are also one of the most popular free tourist attractions in Melbourne.
The beautifully painted boxes are located on Brighton Beach to the south of the CBD.
While you can’t go inside the privately-owned beach huts, you can join the many other tourists posing for photos outside of their favourites.
13. Watch the sunset on the beach
Melbourne’s city beaches might not be the best in Australia, or even in Victoria for that matter. But if you’re like me, who grew up in an in-land city like London, the idea of ending the day with a cocktail in hand watching the sunset over the ocean is just about as dreamy as it comes.
Head to St Kilda boardwalk for one of the best places in Melbourne to enjoy a drink or dinner overlooking the beach of an evening.
14. Go penguin spotting on St Kilda pier
Another free thing to do in St Kilda at night is walk up the pier to the breakwater around sunset to spot some of Southern Australia’s tiny Fairy Penguins.
Each evening, the little penguins waddle out of the ocean and onto the beach after a long day hunting for fish.
Want to see even more little penguins? Head to Phillip Island – just a couple of hours from Melbourne – for the famous nightly penguin parade.
15. Head to a free Melbourne festival
St Kilda Festival is a huge free music festival in Melbourne that happens every summer during the second weekend of February.
Located in the beachfront neighbourhood of St Kilda, the festival is a celebration of local music along with other forms of entertainment, carnival rides, food and drink, markets, and plenty more.
St Kilda Festival is the largest free music festival in the whole of Australia.
Moomba Festival is another great free festival in Melbourne that goes on for four days over the Labour Day long weekend each year.
As well as a large fairground along the banks of the Yarra River, there are numerous free events for all ages, including free music, firework displays, and the annual waterski competition known as the Moomba Masters Championships.
16. Pay a visit to one of Melbourne’s free museums
Not all of the museums and galleries in Melbourne are free to visit, but several of them can be visited without needing to pay for an entrance ticket.
These are some of the best free museums in Melbourne:
The National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest, largest, and most visited art museum. The NGV has two galleries located a short walk from each other, NGV International and NGV Australia.
Between them, the two galleries house over 70,000 works of art by world-famous artists such as Monet, Rembrandt, and Andy Warhol.
Did you know? The Stained Glass Ceiling in the National Gallery of Victoria’s Great Hall is the largest suspended piece of stained glass in the world.
The ACCA is another free art gallery in Melbourne’s Southbank that houses work by contemporary Australian artists and has some of the country’s most unique and progressive installations.
The ACMI sits on Federation Square and is Australia’s national museum of film, video games, digital culture, and art. The ACMI also regularly screens new film releases in their two cinemas.
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