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Published February 4th 2020
Looking for free things to do in Melbourne?
Explore Australia's cultural capital completely free! We are all aware of the stereotype that Melbourne is not cheap, but did you know that you can explore the city and not spend a cent? Free. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
There is something for everyone including free comedy shows, films, galleries, museums, gardens, architecture, art, and more.
Enjoy Melbourne without spending a cent with the list below.
Tip: There is a free City Circle Tram, where you can hop on and off the historic trams as often you like. There is also the Melbourne City's Free Tram Zone that extends from Queen Victoria Market to Docklands, Spring Street, Flinders Street Station, and Federation Square- just keep an eye out for the "free zone" green line. You don't need a Myki if you're only travelling in the city's Free Tram Zone or on the City Circle Tram.
1. Street Art
Australia's cultural capital would not be complete without exploring the best collections of graffiti art in the world. Street art hotspots include Hosier Lane, Centre Place, Croft Alley, and the colourful Rankins Lane. Click here for the website.
Since the late 1860s, Queen Victoria Market has been the 'go-to' spot for scrumptious international delicacies. The heritage-listed building houses the free markets and is home to economic eats, Winter Night Markets and other events throughout the events, an eclectic range of knickknacks, and more. Click here for the website.
Image Courtesy from Queen Victoria Market Facebook
Heide Museum of Modern Art is a torchbearer for Australian modernism. Its focus is on Australian and international contemporary art and comprises of three core buildings, Heide I, II, and III- as well as extensive gardens and a sculpture park.
Enjoy the true-blue Aussie pool culture without breaking the bank at one of the many free public baths. The Brunswick Baths is a heated outdoor pool, making it perfect all-year -round. Fitzroy Swimming Pool is great for people watching and daytime partying with DJs on Sundays. On rainy days head to Melbourne City Baths for some laps.
Melbourne is a bustling modern metropolis filled with cutting-edge contemporary art, architecture, and design. It is also home to many arcades that date back to the late 1800s!
Royal Arcade is home to quaint speciality shops and ornate decorations. Block Arcade has a French Renaissance feel, and Cathedral Arcade boasts with Insta-worthy pictures of the dome. The Walk Arcade connects Bourke Street Mall and Little Collins Street and offers a selection of jewellery, gift, accessory, homeware stores, and excellent dining choices.
Campbell Arcade can be entered from Flinders Street and is an underground shopping precinct that dates back to 1956. It connects with Degraves Street and Flinders Street Station and offers a range of eclectic range of shops, as well as the 12 glass displays cabinets that feature works from diverse artists and curators to scientists and engineers.
Established in the 1850s, this library offers more than just books and its famous dome. There are galleries to explore, several temporary & permanent exhibitions, Chess Room, free wi-fi, thousands of heritage items, maps, manuscripts, and newspapers, and more.
Melbourne is home to the second-largest comedy festival in the world and you do not have to spend a dime to see some of the best comedy shows around! Comedy at Spleen is loved by crowds and comics alike. It attracts big names wanting to try their new stuff.
See the most beautiful buildings in Melbourne for free. The Royal Exhibition Building was completed in 1880 and is one of Australia's most impressive architectural beauties.
Flinders Street Station is famous for its iconic dome and rumour has it that the original designs for Flinders Street Station were accidentally mixed up with the plans for Mumbai's (then Bombay) main train station! Construction began in 1900 and includes a large dome over the main entrance and a clock tower over the Elizabeth Street entrance. It also features a top-floor ballroom that has been largely abandoned since the 80s.
State Library of Victoria was established back in 1854 and is one of the first free public libraries in the world. It is a combined library, museum and gallery and is also home to the famous Domed Reading Room, which opened in 1913 and the majority of the furniture found in the Domed Reading Room (including the wooden chairs) has never been replaced!
ANZ Gothic Bank is an impressive building built between 1883 and 1887, and is commonly known these days as Melbourne's 'Gothic Bank'. It features a highly decorative ceiling, relief carved wood doors, stone carving on the exterior and ornate wall decoration that features 23-Karat gold leaf.
Manchester Unity Building is one of the most renowned Art Deco buildings in Melbourne. Construction was delayed due to the Great Depression but began in early 1932. It features buff-coloured cladding, vertical ribbing and a Gothic crown that includes several flying buttresses. It is home to 12 floors as well as Melbourne's first escalators.
Melbourne's GPO is located on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Bourke Street Mall and was constructed in 1859 and spent the next five decades being constructed and remodelled. It houses the iconic clock tower and has a rich history, including a fire that broke out in 2001, and 2004 the GPO reopened as a high-end retail precinct.
RMIT Design Hub is without doubt one of Melbourne's striking buildings. It is home to 17,000 automated circular glass panels. RMIT University uses the building for design research and post-grad students, but there is also an exhibition space (open to the public) and a forecourt at its centre.
The Forum previously known as the State Theatre, this building was built in 1929 as an 'atmospheric theatre'. It features an exotic European courtyard/ garden, several Greco-Roman statues, ornate balconies, gargoyle-adorned alcoves, and a cerulean-blue ceiling with sprinkled lights that mimic twinkling stars of a twilight sky. The exterior is done in a Moorish Revival Style and is complete with tall spire-like minarets and a clock tower.
Clifton Hill McDonalds is probably one of the coolest looking McDonald's buildings in the world! It is one of the best examples of jazz modern architecture in Victoria, with its cantilevering concrete balconies and rounded fašade. It was built in 1937 as was originally the United Kingdom Hotel until it was de-licensed in 1988.
Federation Square is home to arts, culture and public events, however, its architecture is the biggest stand out with its deconstructivist style and 'cranked geometries, rather than the traditional orthogonal grids makes it a building worth checking out.
The 1000 Steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk in Upper Ferntree Gully is a place of pilgrimage for those determined to prove (or improve) their fitness. The 1,000 steps were created in the early 1900s, before Kokoda veterans adopted the area in 1998, as a memorial to 625 Australian soldiers killed on the Papua New Guinean track in WWII. If you are not feeling up for the challenge, the area is surrounded by towering gums, plenty of lush picnic spots, and birdwatching opportunities, including spotting out the lyrebirds.
12. Free Live Music Gigs
Melbourne is a music lover's dream. You can catch a gig any night of the week, including vibrant independent music scenes to live venues packed with pads of bands and solo artists alike. If you are low on cash and still want to enjoy live music, check out the Gasometer Hotel for old-school pub and free live music gigs. They also have ticketed music events too.
The Tote is home to a high school garage gig, all exposed brick, beams, wiring and dodgy soundproofing. The stage has been graced by the likes of White Stripes, Fugazi and Mudhoney. There is more music upstairs too, as well as the frequent free gigs in the front bar.
The Toff in Town is home to both free and ticketed live music gigs as well as an extensive range of drinks on offer. Climb the stairs and you will find a private booth bar to the left and the excellent band space to the right.
The Curtin is a training ground for the rockers of tomorrow. The band room is filled with local, national and international acts, including free acts from time to time.
Built between 1927 and 1934 as a place for Victorians to grieve, honour and preserve the memories of those that had lost their lives in WWI. The Shrine of Remembrance now serves as a memorial to all Australians who served at war. There are free exhibitions and talks, as well as ticketed guided tour behind-the-scenes. Entry is free to The Shrine of Remembrance and its surrounding gardens, however, donations are welcome.
14. St Kilda Foreshore St. Kilda is one of the most popular beaches in Melbourne and is home to St Kilda Pier and the adorable little fairy penguins. The beach is safe to swim, as well as to enjoy watersports and Acland Street makes for the perfect spot to enjoy a bite to eat or to window shop the many sweet shops that the Street is well known for.
From street art tours to hidden bars, there are free city tours available, including Melbourne Free Walking Tours; look out for the bright green t-shirt and explore Melbourne's sights with your friendly and knowledgeable local tour guide. The Culture Capitol Tour uncovers secrets behind the city's famous culture as you explore the best-hidden laneways, arcades, and architecture.
Library Tour at the State Library Victoria includes seeing the new spaces, discovering heritage reading rooms, visiting renowned galleries and free exhibition, learning about the Library's history, learning how to become a Library member, and more.
Parliament House Tour - Walk in the same hallowed halls of current and former state politicians as well as explore the incredible orate architecture. The tours run on non-sitting days and there are express tours (20 minutes) for those who are time-poor.
Melbourne Town Hall Tours gives you a chance to learn about this 19th-century historic building as well as its architectural, social and political significance.
Federation Square Tours gives you the opportunity to learn about the history, unique architecture and engineering marvels of one of Melbourne's iconic buildings.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne offer free guided walk tours which include seeing the highlights of this iconic Melbourne Gardens, find sensational views and photo opportunities, as well as uncovering the heritage and plant diversity of Melbourne Gardens.
Image Courtesy from I'm Free Tours Melbourne Facebook
18. Melbourne's Southbank
Stretching alongside the Yarra River from Princes Bridge, Southbank is Melbourne's entertainment precinct and is home to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, top restaurants, high-end retailers, Crown Casino, the scenic riverside promenade, and Melbourne's stunning skyline can be seen from here. It doesn't cost you a thing to stroll around!
19. Melbourne's Gardens
Melbourne is home to many spectacular gardens including the World Heritage-Listed Carlton Gardens which spans 64 acres, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne where you find 38 hectares of exhibits, displays, open lawns, lakes, birdlife, walking trails, and more.
This 19th-century building gives you opportunities to explore the history of Melbourne. You can see the original vaults where gold bullion was kept during the gold rush, displays and other exhibits, including temporary exhibits & displays. Click here for the website.