Ah Melbourne! Home of the hipsters, coffee, quirk and art. I love it! It’s liberalness and openness make it a fantastic place to spend some time and to explore. It’s super easy to get around and you could easily spend a lot of time here. Thankfully, there are tonnes of free stuff going on to help you keep your budget down. From food to transport to attractions, there are plenty of things to fill your days in Melbourne, and you really could spend days here. To help you plan your trip on a shoestring, I’ve put together a list of cheap and free things to do in Melbourne to immerse yourself into this vibrant city’s culture.
1. Ride the free city circle tram
Right in the centre of the city, the famous Melbourne Trams have a section that is completely free to ride on. Check out the signs to find out where the free section stops but anywhere in between you can hop on and off for absolutely nothing!
2. Ride the old-fashioned tram loop
This is a great way to see the city. There are 2 old beautiful old-fashioned trams that run around the city all the way down to the Wharf and loop back round to the CBD. One goes clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. The commentary on there is also a great way to learn a bit about the city’s history as you go and is definitely one of the free things to do in Melbourne that you have to experience.
3. Go on a free walking tour
I will ALWAYS recommend these! But honestly, taking a ‘I’m Free” walking tour run by a local Melbournian is the best way to see some great highlights of Melbourne and you can also pick their brains and find out about some proper hidden gems off the tourist’s radar.
4. Walk everywhere
Melbourne is a very walkable city and what better way to stumble across things? Wander through the main streets and be sure to head on down those quirky little side lanes and you’re bound to find something great.
5. The amateur street art on Union Lane
Yes! I love Melbourne’s love for street art! You’ll find Union Lane just off of the main shopping street is amazing to look at and ever-changing. Literally anyone can go there and add to it, so if you fancy why not pick up some paint and leave your mark!
6. Explore professional street art on Hosier Lane
The guys and gals who paint down here have some amazing talent. This street too, is ever-changing but only licensed artists can add to it. Make sure you look all the way to the top of buildings as there really is no brick untouched.
7. Listen to live street performers in the CBD
Melbourne’s art scene certainly includes the fantastic street artists there. All along Bourke Street, as well as many other places you can find a variety of acts. Be sure to stop and take a listen to some great local talent.
8. Check out the stunning skyline
There’s something about a city skyline that just wows me, and Melbourne’s skyline is no exception. Take a look here to learn about some great spots to see it and get a different perspective of the city.
9. Have a bargain lunch in Central Place
Central Place is one of my favourite spots. Nestled in a tiny lane you will see that Central Place has tonnes of cafes and buckets full of atmosphere. Grab a delicious freshly made sandwich from here and watch the world go by for a bit.
10. Eat in China Town
Melbourne has the largest population of Chinese people outside of China, and so, understandably, China Town is a must-see. Walk through the stunning gates and grab a great authentic Chinese meal for a very budget friendly price, especially at lunchtime with so many deals.
11. James Squires tasting paddle
For all you beer lovers out there, this is going to be perfect for you! Located on Russell Street, the Crafty Squire is a cosy pub with a log burning fire and great atmosphere. It’s also your chance to taste a bunch of their ales! So get yourself a tasting paddle for just $15, chill out and find your favourite (mines the stout by the way, because I’m all lady-like like that).
12. Visit the ACMI Museum
The Australian Center for Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square is perfect for a rainy day. They hold a specially ticketed exhibition but also 2 exhibitions that are completely free and brilliantly interactive. Head inside to learn about cinema over the years and try your hand at some brilliant old school computer games.
13. Federation Square
Federation Square divides Melbournians but I love it. It’s a great central place in the city with quirky buildings, outdoor art exhibitions, a large screen and stage. Be sure to check out what might be going on here at the Tourist Information centre here too.
14. Walk by the Yarra River
Melbourne sits either side of the Yarra River so you can’t miss this. Take a walk along the river edge and soak in a slice of tranquillity. Right behind Flinders Street Station you will find some great bridges stretching over the Yarra to walk under.
15. Walk through the Botanical Gardens
These stunning gardens are the perfect spot for a break from the city without going anywhere. Why not take a picnic there and relax.
16. The Shrine of Remembrance
Next to the Botanical Gardens is the unmissable Shrine of Remembrance. This building is simply stunning and not only gives you the chance to learn about the role of Australian men and women in the World Wars but also offers a breathtaking view of the city.
17. See the Fairy Tree at Fitzroy Gardens
This is something for the young ones, or the ones young at heart like myself. The beautiful Fitzroy Gardens is not only home to loads of stunning displays and an amazing greenhouse, but also a magical miniature Tudor village and an adorable fairy tree. Make sure you find it for yourself!
18. Get involved with AFL
AFL is life here in Melbourne so if you’re here in the football season, don’t be afraid to get involved. If you’re feeling flush then you could try and get tickets to a match, but for a budget evening head over to a good pub with a big screen and join in the fun (even if you have no idea what’s going on)!
19. Street sculptures
All over Melbourne you will see a variety of fantastic sculptures. Wander the streets and see what you might find or follow this easy route instead,
20. The Victoria State Library dome
Ok, so visiting a library might not sound like an exciting thing but this is SO worth it! Head up to the 4th floor to the dome, walk to the edge of the balcony and be stunned as you look down over the the La Trobe reading room and you will get your Hogwarts fix.
21. Admire Flinders Street station
Sadly, Flinders Street Station is currently all boarded up for renovations *sobs* but once it’s all done you will see one of the prettiest stations I’ve ever seen, and probably one of the most photographed. Rumour has it that there is a ballroom hidden somewhere upstairs which is occasionally open to the public, so keep your ears and eyes open.
22. The Queen Victoria Market during the day
This is Melbourne’s longest running market and it’s massive! Full of absolutely everything you can think of and more. It’s a fun place to find something a bit different and also to get a bargain on fruit and veggies to rustle up something yummy for dinner.
23. The Queen Victoria night winter market
During the winter months, the Queen Vic market is open late on a Tuesday for food and entertainment. Head here for a great evening with a live band, loads of food stalls and a big dose of fun atmosphere.
24. Little Italy
Melbourne may have a large Chinese population but it is also home to the largest population of Italians outside of Italy. For a delicious and authentic Italian meal, make your way over to Lygon Street, or Little Italy as it’s known as. For a bargain, head here at lunchtime and see what deals the waiters will throw at you to get you to come inside.
25. Greek food
To add to Melbourne’s multi-culturalism, this fab city is also home to a large number of Greeks, so it’s the perfect chance to try some of their local foods. You will find Greek restaurants dotted around all over the city but make sure you try the Souvlaki for a delicious filling meal.
26. Visit Fitzroy
This suburb is the epitome of Hipster. It’s absolutely rammed full of boutiques, antiques, op-shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. At night time it’s lively with a friendly buzz and in the daytime, you can experience its colours and architecture in all its glory. Find out how to spend a day in Fitzroy here.
27. Visit St. Kilda
I love being by the coast and if you do too, then you will love St Kilda. Hop on a tram from the city and within 30 minutes you will be here. Take a walk along the beach and down the pier to admire the boats moored up in the jetties at the end. There are plenty of places to stop and have a drink or bite to eat too, or a picnic would be perfect!
28. Brighton Beach houses
Just a little further along the coast from St. Kilda you will find the famous Brighton beach houses. Grab your cameras and find your favourite.
29. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl
The Music Bowl is an outdoor venue that hosts a range of performances throughout the year. With general admission tickets at around $20 it’s a bargain and a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.
30. Visit Southbank
Across the River Yarra you will find the shiny area that is Southbank. It’s full of restaurants and bars overlooking the water, or a great place to just take a walk. If you’re looking for a birds-eye view of the city then head up the Eureka Tower.
31. Go op-shop shopping
I love a bargain so Op-shops are my thing. The Op-shops in Melbourne, especially in Fitzroy almost feel like boutiques rather than the usual everything-thrown-in feel. If you’re looking for something new without spending a lot then have a rummage through these. You never know what you might find and you’ll be doing your bit for charity too.
32. Visit Luna Park
You’ve seen the pictures – that almost creepy, huge, smiling mouth that is the entrance to Luna Park. It’s home to the largest continuously operating ride in the world – a wooden roller coaster that looks like a right bone rattler!
33. Get your caffeine hit
Last but not least, no list about Melbourne is complete without mentioning coffee. Coffee is HUGE in Melbourne. The locals love it, the barristers live and breath it and you have to try it. There are hundreds of little indepent cafes all over the city so pick one that takes your fancy and get sipping.