15 Free Things to do in Melbourne (2023 Guide)

Share:

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 activities Melbourne. 

READ MORE>> Check out our new Travel Guide on the best day trips from Melbourne.

Things to do in Melbourne

15 Awesome Free Things To Do In Melbourne

 

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.

Federation Square

Fed Square is an architecturally magnificent meeting hub on the corner of Flinders st and Swanston st in the CBD- opposite Flinders st station. 

If you’re looking for things to do in Melbourne free, the Federation Square ticks a lot of boxes. 

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. 

The ACMI in Melbourne
The Acmi centre in Melbourne- Image credit Visit Victoria

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. 

The Arts Centre Melbourne

Sitting on the banks of the Yarra River is Australia’s largest performing arts centre, The Arts Centre Melbourne, home to a wide range of music, theatre & dance. 

Australian contemporary music, opera, classical music and a generous schedule of free events in Melbourne is what makes the arts centre such a treat to visit and so easily accessible from the CBD.

With over 6 rotating free exhibitions including ‘layers of History’, revealing the Bodenweiser dance legacy and ‘Impro theatre’ with Impro Melbourne, it’s hard to run out of things to do. 

Location: 100 St.Kilda road, Southbank

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 (Dome 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.

Don’t miss the Ian Potter Queen’s hall which was reopened in 2019 after being closed for 15 years. 

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. 

Street graffiti art in in an inner Melbourne laneway called Hosier lane
Melbourne has an intricate network of laneways and alleyways right around the city

Street art and 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 street art 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.

Admire the Royal Botanic Gardens in the sunshine

Of all the free things Melbourne has to offer, getting some exercise in and soaking up the sunshine on a walk around the Royal Botanic Gardens is a great way to kick off the day.

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. 

Go for a side-visit and see Sidney Myer music bowl in the north of the Royal Botanic gardens where there’s always a mix of both free events and paid events. 

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. 

Serendip Sanctuary

Not far out of Melbourne near Geelong is the Parks Victoria run grassy woodlands area known as Serendip Sanctuary, where a small group of Emus, Kangaroos, Wallabies and over 150 bird species call home. 

Learn about the role this wildlife reserve plays in conservation of our smallest grassland creatures in the Western Volcanic plains.

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.

Australia’s oldest outdoor market

By now you’ve built up an appetite from visiting all the things to do in Melbourne for free, the most important part of your day will be to explore Queen Victoria Market.

Australia’s largest open air market 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 at Queen Vic market 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

You can also check out South Melbourne market and Camberwell sunday 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

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 street 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. Brighton beach

Location: 90-130 Swanston st, Melbourne CBD

things to do in Melbourne for free
The city circle tram is completely free and gets you access all around the CBD

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 250 million 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 circle 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. 

Stroll through St.Kilda

Some fo our favourite free things to see in Melbourne involve getting on a tram to explore the beachside towns like St.Kilda.

Go for a stroll along St.Kilda pier at sunset and people watch, walk along the esplanade at sunset, grab a bite to eat along the very european Acland st and just enjoy the chill St.Kilda vibes. 

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.

Kids running towards the Luna park sign

Take a photo at Luna Park

You don’t necessarily have to pay the entrance fee to explore this iconic Melbourne attraciton, simply taking a photo outside the gate is one of the coolest free things to do in Melbourne with family. 

One of the best free things to do in Melbourne this weekend is the ‘Behind the Screams’ tour through Luna park. Adults and kids cost $20 AUD but children under 3 will go in for free. 

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 activities 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

The Cityskyline with the Yarra River lying below
Watch the sunset colurs come out over the city skyline

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 in Port Phillip Bay.

The Yarra River traverses a number of Melbourne precincts like Southbank and Docklands with tons of bars, restaurants, outdoor gardens, hotels, theatres – you name it, the Yarra has it.

Honestly, the best free thing to do in Melbourne is to simply walk along the Yarra.

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.

There’s some really awesome places to see and things to do such as Melbourne heli-flight, Polly woodside and even a floating bar in the middle of the Yarra called Ponyfish island.

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 of the Dandenong Ranges.

This national park is free for all visitors, as is the 1000 steps entrance but the car park will get very busy on school holidays because its such a great place to also enjoy a family picnic. 

Share:

Picture of Christopher Aiello
Christopher Aiello
Christopher is the head writer and co-founder of Chris and Laura Travels. Having travelled to over 27 countries and counting, he has a passion for adventure travel in a responsible way. Christopher and Laura currently live in Melbourne but share their time between down under and the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. We aim to inspire others to get outside and explore through our storytelling imagery and video. Keep up to date on where we are by visiting us on our Instagram page or find out more of our story on our About us page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Chris & Laura

Australian and Canadian freelance photographers & storytellers addicted to travel,  inspiring you to travel the world.

Search

Table of Contents

Related Posts