Edited by Elodi Troskie
Melbourne is the budget traveller’s dream come true. Already an affordable city, you can easily stay entertained without spending a penny. Free entrance to museums, galleries and beautiful public parks, public transport that won’t cost you a cent, free weekend festivals and great spots for photography and enjoying city views – you’ll never run out of free things to do in Melbourne. Here are some of my favourite hidden gems and recommendations for the best things to do in Melbourne for free.
Exploring Melbourne: Aimless wandering
Unlike a big city like London or New York, you can explore Melbourne entirely on foot and get around the whole city within a day. Walking around the city is a great (and free!) way to sightsee Melbourne and to get into all the nooks and crannies that public transport won’t always let you. But if you’re trying to save time, or if the weather doesn’t allow for romantic walks around the city, Melbourne’s public transport system has got your back. There are free trams running in the CBD, meaning you can move around the inner city absolutely free. (When you leave the Free Tram Zone, you’ll need to purchase a Myki pass, which you can top up and use on all trains, trams, and buses in Melbourne.) Even as a local, you’re bound to discover something new every time you head out for the streets – this never fails to make me feel like a tourist in my own city.
Photography: Capturing beautiful Melbourne
Melbourne is a very photogenic city with many cool locations for taking photos. If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll have a ball in Melbourne. Simply by aimlessly wandering around the city, you can turn your city stroll into a full day photography tour. The street art in Melbourne’s back streets makes for very good photos. Melbourne has many architectural attractions, like the State Library of Victoria, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the St Patrick’s Cathedral, which all make for Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. The city’s public parks, all free to enter, also have great spots for taking photos. The parks are beautiful and the scenery changes with every season, so you’ll get a variety of shots depending on the time of year you’re visiting. Of course, Melbourne also offers incredible spots for watching the sunset with the spectacular skyline of the CBD. Read further to find out about the best locations for enjoying sunset views in Melbourne!
Picnic in a park: Making the most out of Melbourne’s greenery
As I said, all public parks in Melbourne are free to enter. Make the most out of this and save on unnecessary expensive lunches in the city by packing a picnic basket to enjoy in one of the beautiful parks. The perfect way to relax in between taking on the city by foot! Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, a treasured part of Melbourne’s cultural life which attracts almost two million visitors every year. You’ll find a diverse collection of plants and numerous vistas and lakes in the gardens. You can also enjoy the Aboriginal Heritage Walk and Garden Discovery Tour. The Children’s Garden will be heaven for those travelling with kids – let your children explore the bamboo forest and plant tunnels while you relax at one of the on-sight cafes. The gardens are especially popular during summer, when it lights up with an outdoor cinema, live theatre performances and art exhibitions.
Historical sights and buildings: Getting cultural
Learning about the history of Melbourne and exploring the city’s famous cultural sights won’t cost you anything. A great way to start your cultural city tour is at the State Library of Victoria, the oldest public library in Australia and one of the first free public libraries in the world. Established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, this six-floor building still functions as a library, but also offers an enormous collection of heritage items and educational material. Next, head to the National Gallery of Victoria, the oldest and most visited gallery in all of Australia. With free admission, you’ll be in for a treat. The gallery hosts a variety of both local and international artists and exhibitions include contemporary art, fashion, design, architecture, sound, dance and more. Founded in 1961, the gallery remains one of Melbourne’s cultural jewels. Another must-see is the Shrine of Remembrance, a monument in honour of those who served in World War l. Of course, don’t forget St Patrick’s Cathedral, the tallest and largest church in Australia! Built in stages between 1858 and 1940, the cathedral still serves as a place of prayer and worship.
Markets and festivals: never a dull moment
If you’re looking for free things to do in Melbourne, always head to Federation Square. Located on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD, Federation Square is the place to go if you’re looking for entertainment to fit your low budget. You’ll always find something going on in this plaza: modern art expos, live music, food trucks, free events broadcasts of sport games and much, much more. The nightlife is buzzing and a cultural festival is hosted in the square every single weekend, making it even more of a social hotspot. During winter, a massive ice skating rink is set up here (very cool). Be sure to pay a visit to the Queen Victoria Market, a year round market taking the crown as the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere – a massive Melbourne attraction. The market is most popular during summer, when the weather allows for pleasant evenings of enjoying cold drinks and live music in the arty market atmosphere. But don’t dismiss the market during winter. With mulled wine and ambient fairy lights, you’ll feel like you’re at a Christmas market somewhere in snowy Europe. Entrance is free and the affordable food prices makes this market one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne.
Sunsets and city views: ending the day on a high note
The best way to end your day in Melbourne is by watching the sunset while taking in the splendour of the city’s skyline. For the best sunset spots, try to get as close to the beach as you can. Port Melbourne is a lovely sunset spot, fairly close to the city and offering a great view of the city – an ideal photo opportunity and one of the best places to stay in Melbourne. Princes Bridge is another must-see sunset location, easily accessible just outside of the main train station. The beautiful view of the city when you’re standing on the bridge makes this a very popular spot for photographers. The Princes Pier, close to Melbourne Beach, is the perfect spot if you consider yourself a fool for the city lights. This is also a great area if you want to grab a drink to enjoy alongside the sunset!
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