Wandering around a new city can be a little tricky, particularly when you’re on a budget; which is why we created this guide to help you pick the best free things to do in Melbourne, Victoria.
Melbourne is home for us, and although we’ve been ranked the most liveable city in the world for a number of years now, the city isn’t always as cheap as it’s made out to be.
Sure there are incredible things to see and do in Melbourne on a budget and you’ll really have a good time seeing all the places like Contemporary art galleries, walking up to the Eureka Skydeck and going on a cruise along the Yarra River.
We also know the stressors of trying to seek out free activities in Melbourne, or any city for that matter – when on a budget.
Melbourne’s cultural inheritance and booming nightlife make it a crazy place to live in, with so much on offer and a huge urban sprawl outwards from the central business district means you’ll have no trouble finding something to do.
Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria and hence has a population of around 5.5. Million people, with all profoundly diverse backgrounds, stories and nationalities.
WHilst you could easily spend a whole lot of money on activities here, it’s more than achievable to find awesome free things to do in Melbourne.
READ MORE>> Check out our new Travel Guide on the best day trips from Melbourne.
15 Awesome Things To Do In Melbourne
1)The National gallery of Victoria
On St.Kilda road opposite Queen Victoria gardens you will find Australia’s oldest and most visited art Gallery, the National gallery of Victoria.
Known as the NGV, it was founded in 1861 and is within the Melbourne Arts Precinct, next door to Federation Square and the Ian Potter Gallery.
The Gallery boasts an impressive collection of Australian, asian and international art with different exhibitions year round.
The NGV is open year round from 10am to 5pm everyday (covid restrictions have changed this) at 180 St.Kilda Road, SouthBank.
Fed Square is an architecturally magnificent meeting hub on the corner of Flinders st and Swanston st in the CBD- opposite Flinders st station.
Federation Square is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne as it serves so many purposes depending on the month.
The Australian open tennis tournament is shown live on the massive television screen here during the summer season, as well as a range of live performances.
Grab a bite to eat and something to drink from inside the restaurants and bars that surround the square, or jump on a train on the other side of the road at Flinders St. Station.
3)ACMI (centre for the moving image)
Here’s one you’ve probably never heard of before, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a centre dedicated to supporting the arts industry through exhibitions, screenings, artwork commissions, festivals and film & TV events.
Inside ACMI is Screen Worlds, a free permanent exhibition that showcases the ever evolving story of the moving image, the origins of cinema and how people are influenced by all things screen-related.
Located within Federation Square, if you’re ever unsure of what to do in Melbourne on a nice summer day and need a break from the sun then this is a fantastic way to spend your morning.
4)Read a book at the State Library of Victoria
This beautifully domed library on the corner of Swanston st and La trobe st is the perfect place to find yourself a quiet spot and read one of 2 million books collected here over the years and high on our list of free things to do in Melbourne.
One of Melbourne’s free places to visit in the CBD, the perfectly domed La Trobe reading room lets natural light pour in from every window in the sphere, reducing the need for artificial light on a major scale.
There is also a free guided tour available daily with talks about modern philosophy and fashion to all who wish to participate.
The state library of Victoria is accessible via Swanston st through the State Library forecourt, and make no mistake, it is far more beautiful inside than it is on the outside.
High on the list of free things to do in Melbourne, The Wheeler Centre is outside the state library of Victoria on Little Lonsdale st.
The Wheeler center hosts over 180 public speaking events every year, where a unique and eclectic collection of writers, visionaries, producers, critical thinkers and others gather to talk politics, economics, philosophy, indigenous stories, social responsibility and more.
Originally being named the centre for books, writing and ideas, it gained support from organisational heads like Maureen and Tony Wheeler from Lonely Planet, and Melbourne being declared a UNESCO city of Literature, it was thereafter named the Wheeler Centre.
5)Stroll the hidden laneways of Melbourne CBD
Downtown Melbourne’s collection of hidden laneways and graffiti culture is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne.
The most famous of which are Hosier Lane, ACDC Lane, Degraves st and Union st. A self-guided tour of these alleyways is a great place to start.
Hosier Lane is opposite Fed Square and is lined with graffiti by local artists supported by the state government and Melbourne council shire who seek out creative expression and use the concrete walls as their mural.
Come down here to take photographs and admire the artwork that gets changed up every year.
Head to Degraves st and grab an espresso and watch the world (and people) go by for an hour or so before heading off to Union and ACDC lanes respectively.
6)Admire the Botanic Gardens in the sunshine
Of all the free things to do in Melbourne, getting some exercise in and the sunshine on a walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens is high on the list.
Many city-goers come here on their lunch breaks from work to stroll around the 38 hectares of well-groomed garden that supports over 8500 species of plants from around the world.
In the Sonica Botanica Gardens you can put on a free set of headphones and indulge in the atmospheric and mesmerizing sounds of Melbourne sound artist Patrick Cronin, a listening experience that celebrates the special landscape that surrounds you.
The Tan as it is colloquially known is a loose dirt running track that surrounds the gardens, used by all inner-city Melbournians as their running track of choice, and it’s also one of the best things to see in Melbourne on a summer’s day.
The Botanic gardens are located south of the Yarra River on Birdwood avenue, open every day from 730 am-630 pm to the public with no entrance fee required.
7)Honor the fallen at the Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers of wars and peace-keeping that was built in 1934.
It sits outside the Royal Botanic gardens on St.Kilda road with a long, paved road that leads to the fire pit that’s lit everyday in memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
Exploring the Shrine and the surroundings is free for all however if you’d like to take a professional tour the option is there for a 45 minute, $20 tour.
The Shrine is a beautiful and free place to visit in Melbourne and open daily from 10am to 5pm, with parking available on St.Kilda road or Birdwood avenue.
8)Australia’s oldest outdoor market
By now you’ve built up an appetite from visiting all the free things to do in Melbourne, the most important part of your day will be to explore Queen Victoria Market, Australia’s largest open air market that serves a variety of veggies, fruit, meats, fresh produce from local farmers and vendors from around Melbourne.
There’s literally hundreds of stalls and vendors who open their doors from 6am to 3pm every day except Mondays and Wednesdays to the general public.
Entry is free of course but if you’d like to support local vendors then this is the best place to do so within downtown Melbourne.
Queen Victoria Market is located on the northern outskirts of the CBD and has a large car park accessible from Victoria street.
You can also check out South Melbourne market and Camberwell market for a more cosy and intimate feel.
Read More>> Our most recent blog posts talks about how to spend the perfect week in Melbourne Itinerary
9)Melbourne town hall
Next on your list of what to do in Melbourne should be a visit to this 135 year old iconic mainstay that showcases Melbourne cities cultural and civic life through theatre, weddings, receptions and exhibitions.
Town Hall has hosted an array of events including the Beetles & Nellie Melba.
These days you’re able to enjoy a cocktail over the Yarra and Regent rooms whilst looking out onto Swanston st from the Portico balcony.
Entry into the town hall is free and visitors can also take a free guided tour through one of Melbourne’s most treasured and historic sites.
Located at 90-130 Swanston st, Melbourne CBD
10)Explore Victoria’s Indigenous history
Deep dive into the Indigenous Australian culture and history in Federation Square at the Koorie heritage Trust building.
A centre dedicated to learning and incorporating indigenous history into the everyday lives of Vicitorians, for which the traditional custodians of the land the Wurundjeri people inhabited prior to European settlement.
A fantastic opportunity to learn and celebrate Koorie art, explore Indigenous pictures and photographs as well as guided tours of the displays and annual exhibition programs.
Entry into the Yarra building is free and is open daily from 10am to 5pm
11)Ride the city circle tram
Tram number 35 is one of the coolest free things to do in Melbourne and a great way to step back into time and experience Melbourne’s oldest operating tram network.
Not surprisingly, Melbourne operates the world’s largest tram network over 250km of double track through the city that completes 250million trips annually.
The route takes you on the outskirts of the city doing a ‘loop’ and back again.
Operating since 1889 between Box Hill and Doncaster, it is currently owned and operated by Yarra Trams and is a free and convenient way to see the city’s most famous tourist attractions in Melbourne.
The city curls tram offers visitors a free audio guided tour of the city circle that runs in both directions every 20 minutes along the tracks and you can see a map of the stops and get-on points here.
We highly recommend taking a trip along the city circle tram as it’s one of the best ways to do some Melbourne sightseeing in a vintage Melbourne experience.
12)St.Kilda beach and the Penguin parade
Time for a sea change experience and head into downtown St.Kilda and the st.kilda foreshore on a warm evening and stroll down St.Kilda pier.
The end of the pier is also home to a colony of Fairy Penguins ( aka little penguins) that sleep here every night, one of the best things to see in Melbourne.
Go for a walk along the Esplanade on the foreshore, see the kite surfers and fishermen then take a stroll down Acland st.
Luna Park is around the corner from Acland st, but will require payment upon entry.
The Espy, or Esplanade hotel is another great place to enjoy live music and drinks on a sunday afternoon.
13)Find inner peace in the Churches of the city
Melbourne’s impressive collection of Roman Catholic churches within the CBD are both architecturally stunning and one of the best free things to do in Melbourne.
The star of the show being St.Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of the city. Take a free tour of the church and even if you’re not religious, they’re stunning to admire. The neo-gothic style cathedral is quite impressive from both the inside and outside.
Other churches worth visiting in the area are St.Paul’s cathedral, St Mary star of the sea church, Scots church and St Michael’s Uniting church.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located at 1 cathedral place, East Melbourne and is currently open from 7am till 4pm
14)Walk along the Yarra River
She may not look super clean, but the Yarra River is the arterial of the city that runs through the beating heart of Melbourne, beginning in the far east suburbs terminating into Port Phillip Bay.
The Yarra River traverses a number of Melbourne precincts like South bank & Docklands with tons of bars, restaurants, outdoor gardens, hotels, theatres – you name it, the Yarra has it.
An impressive collection of gas lit fire towers are a mainstay along the Yarra River outside of Crown Casino. The towers shoot out flames every half an hour on the weekend, illuminating the river side bars.
Honestly, the best free thing to do in Melbourne is to simply walk along the Yarra.
Multiple bridges cross the Yarra to the other side of the city.
There’s some really awesome places to see and things to do such as Melbourne heli-flight, Pollywood side and even a floating bar in the middle of the Yarra called Ponyfish island.
15)Climb the 1000 steps
The Kokoda memorial trek, better known as the 1000 steps, is a short little day trip out of Melbourne but worth the drive there and the hike up to the top in the Dandenong Ranges.
Take Ferntree Gully road all the way to the bend in the road at Mount Dandenong Tourist Road and turn left up to the top car park and begin your hike, one of the fantastic free places to visit in Melbourne.
Hopefully this guide gives you a real taste of all the best free things to do in Melbourne, no matter what your time schedule is there’s plenty of time to see it all!
That’s it for our guide, if there’s anything else we can add to this list then make sure you leave a comment below and let us know what else should be on the list.