The Best Free Things to do in Melbourne
Explore Melbourne on the cheap.
Melbourne doesn’t need to be expensive. Use our guide to explore Melbourne for completely free!
The National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest, largest and most visited art museum. Home to over 70,000 different works, you’ll find pieces from some of history’s most respected artists.
Their rotating exhibitions have celebrated Monet, Andy Warhol, Man Ray and many more.
The good news is, they constantly have free exhibitions, so you’re welcome to wander around and explore. The NGV also runs the Ian Potter Gallery, a second location at Federation Square home to their collection of Australian art. This is also a free exhibition.
Melbourne is well known for it’s street art scene, and Hosier Lane is a shining example. Running for about 80 metres, Hosier Lane is a canvas for local street artists. Head down there at any time and chances are that you’ll see an artist laying down a new piece.
The laneway frequently changes as old pieces are painted over, so plan some time in between your visits and chances are you’ll have a different experience.
Right in the heart of the CBD is The State Library, home to over 2 million books. It is a incredible building and houses a cafe, bookstore, art exhibitions and much more.
The drawcard, by far, is the Reading Room dome, designed to hold over a million books and up to 600 readers. It was officially opened in 1913 and its design was inspired by the British Museum in London and the Library of Congress in Washington. Upon completion it made The State Library the largest building of its kind in the world.
Now it’s a beautiful attraction, and very easy to spend an hour or so just wandering around.
The Shrine Of Remembrance, located in King’s Domain, is a memorial dedicated to all Australians who have fought in our wars. Built over 7 years, The Shrine was completed in 1934 and is the site of the annual observance of ANZAC Day.
Half the experience of visiting The Shrine is simply walking up it’s expansive front walkway; it’s an absolutely incredible monument. Inside you’ll find several exhibitions showcasing stories and historic events from soldiers and the wars they fought in.
Constructed between 1855 and 1929, Parliament House sits at the intersection of Bourke & Spring St and is Melbourne’s political hub. When parliament isn’t sitting, they run 8 free tours of the building per day. Each tour is limited to 25 people, and you’ll get to walk through the chambers and learn the history of Melbourne politics. After that, perhaps go on the hunt for some great cheap eats.
Housed inside The State Library Of Victoria, The Wheeler Centre is a hub dedicated to all things writing. They frequently hold a series of events throughout the year featuring conversations with authors, activists and innovators. Over 80% of these events are completely free, but get in quick, they book out fast.
The City Circle Tram – also known as route 35 – is a free tram that constantly runs in a loop through the CBD. It’s a great way to explore more of Melbourne without having to pay a ticket. You’ll travel past Flinder’s St Station and all the way past The State Library.
The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is exactly that. A modern building showcasing some of Australia’s more progressive installations. The building itself is a contrast of new and old; finished in 2002, the rusty steel façade contrasts with the shiny glass surface of the interior.
Drop by to explore the exhibitions in your own time.
The Yarra River stretches for 242 kilometres, but there’s just a couple of kilometres of which Melbournians love. Running directly through the CBD, with Southbank on one side and Flinders St on the other side, there is always something happening.
Walking along Southbank you’ll come across buskers, installations and even Crown Melbourne’s Gas Brigade, a nighttime show that shoots giant fireballs into the sky.
The Carlton Gardens is a world heritage-listed garden that spans over 64 acres. Home to the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and I-max Cinema, it’s a beautiful place to walk around, explore and for many, have a picnic.
The gardens feature ornamental lakes, flowerbeds, elaborate fountains and many beautiful trees.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is an art facility built to preserve and showcase Victorian, Australian and International screen content. It rotates exhibitions regularly and often includes interactive works; at the time of writing it’s home to a virtual reality experience.
Acmi also screens new release films at their two cinema screens. Tickets will cost you, but prices are reasonable. Think $14 for an adult.