As Australia’s second largest city and capital for all things food, music and fun, the list of things to do in Melbourne is endless.
From its vibrant local music and arts scene to diverse food and incredible coffee culture, ticking off the essential Melbourne experiences in just a few days may seem impossible.
That’s why we’ve made it easy for you.
Here are 19 free things to do in Melbourne that showcase the best of the city.
See the Main Sights on the City Circle Tram
What better way to see the city sights than for free? How about surrounded in the charm of a vintage cable car? And the best part – you can hop off and explore on your own, whenever you like.
Running through the city’s central business district (CBD), the City Circle Tram is undoubtedly one of the best ways to see Melbourne’s main landmarks and attractions.
You’ll catch sight of the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square, Melbourne Aquarium and much more. The accompanying commentary will give you a rundown of each landmark and its history.
Stroll the Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is worth exploring just for the sights alone. The range of fresh produce and handmade products include everything from fruits and vegetables to hand-made pasta and top grade Wagyu beef.
For something sweet you’ll find fluffy bubble waffle cones loaded with ice cream and Melbourne’s best American-style jam doughnuts. Forgot to pack enough clothes for your trip? Find a new favorite outfit within the racks of threads ranging from fine merino wool knits to neon yellow safety jackets.
You’ll also discover unique treasures such as 1970′s comic books and vintage records – there’s something for every taste!
Get Cultured at the National Gallery of Victoria
Consistently rated as one of the top free things to do in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria will impress even the non-art buffs.
Wander among impressionist masterpieces from Monet and antiquities from all parts of the world. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and thought-provoking pieces of its contemporary art collection. You could spend your whole day exploring the treasures within – and still feel like it’s not enough time!
Walk Through the Labyrinth of Street Art in Melbourne’s Laneways
Melbourne’s inner-city grid lends itself to many hidden laneways that are easy to miss. But exploring these eclectic laneways in the CBD is one of the best things to do in Melbourne. You’ll find cozy coffee shops, warm cafes and bars where the soup of the day is gin. But the true gems will be the vibrant street art decorating the walls of these lanes.
Take a walk down Hosier Lane to see some of the city’s best street art. You’ll see colorful graffiti masterpieces and artists working on new pieces. This iconic laneway is part of the heart and soul of Melbourne’s urban subculture – you’ll feel like one of the cool kids as you walk down the street.
With less foot traffic, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place are also popular spots full of highly skilled street art. You’ll find a rock ‘n roll theme throughout AC/DC Lane, with murals of AC/DC band members (how the lane got its name) and other popular rock bands. Duckboard Place has a more gritty, urban aura with some hidden gems worth a look – easier to do with the least amount of crowds compared to other lanes.
Have a Laugh at a Comedy Night
Melbourne loves its stand-up comedy nights. If you’re looking for something a little different on a night out, catch a stand-up comedy night for a round of laughs to go with your drinks.
Spleen Bar on Bourke Street is a local favorite for its free comedy nights on Monday.
Lido Cinemas offers free comedy nights on Tuesdays, featuring some of the best rising stars of Aussie comedy. Perhaps the free popcorn makes the audience a bit more sympathetic as well!
For great vibes, cheap pints and one of the best comedy nights within the CBD, wander into Crab Lab on a Wednesday night. Grab some free popcorn and settle in for a great evening.
George’s Bar – If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you’ll love this George Costanza-themed bar in the Fitzroy district. You’ll love their free Thursday comedy nights even more.
Learn About Australian Art at the Ian Potter Centre
For the culture vultures lacking a little in the Australian art department, this gallery is a must. Part of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Ian Potter Centre focuses exclusively on Australian and indigenous art.
You’ll see a representation of Australia’s history through artworks from aboriginal cultures as well as noted contemporary artists. Join a free guided tour to enjoy an expert’s insight into the exhibitions on display.
Visit the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Although the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is small, the true modern art lover will feel right at home.
The building itself is an architectural artwork hinting at the eclectic collection within.
The constantly rotating exhibitions, workshops and films will challenge your perceptions and leave you with new perspectives.
Explore the Evolution of Animation at the Australian Centre for the Moving Arts
Let your inner obsession with television and video games run wild at the Australian Centre for the Moving Arts.
Their Screen Worlds exhibition is a fabulous collection of interactive displays, history of cinema, video games and more. Here you can create your very own flip book or try your hand at editing film. Unwind with one of many educational yet fun video games and favorites including Mario Kart or immerse yourself in a virtual reality experience.
The nostalgia and wonder will wash over you as your inner kid takes over.
Take in the Gorgeous City Vistas
The Eureka Skydeck is one of the best ways to see Melbourne from incredible heights, however you can catch some amazing views of the city from rooftop bars for free. Though you may be obligated to order a drink, what better way to see the city lights as the sun sets than sipping on your favorite cocktail?
Listen to Live Music
As if Melbourne isn’t already cool enough, it’s also slated as Australia’s music capital. The city’s more than 400 venues have hosted major international bands acts as well as diverse local talent.
You’ll find disco nights, classical music concerts, jazz gigs, metal rock bands, hip hop acts – whatever your taste in music, Melbourne’s got it.
Live music is also easily found almost everywhere you turn in the CBD. Wander down AC/DC Lane and hit up Cherry Bar, infamous as a rock venue with a mix of free and paid shows.
On Mondays the Northcote Social Club hosts Monday Night Mass, a free event showcasing some of the local music scene’s underground talent.
The Gasometer Hotel is also a popular favorite in the local music scene, frequently hosting free shows on Sundays.
Browse the State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria is a bookworm’s paradise – and a must even for those not into reading.
Noted for its regal neoclassical architecture, the library contains six floors with a wonderful dome viewing balcony at the very top.
Levels 4 and 5 are dedicated gallery and exhibition spaces, housing significant collections of Victorian artwork, writings and artifacts. You’ll find rare treasures such as a 4000-year-old Sumerian cuneiform tax receipt and the bullet-dented armor of Ned Kelly, Australia’s own Jesse James.
Take a free tour to discover everything this iconic library has to offer. And enjoy the free WiFi, too – another great perk!
Taste Melbourne’s Famous Coffee
If there’s just one thing to take away from your visit to Melbourne, it’s the city’s incredible coffee scene. You won’t settle for regular drip coffee after a cup of joe from one of Melbourne’s sensational cafes.
The best way to get a taste of Melbourne’s greatest coffee is at Proud Mary, considered as one of the city’s finest coffee establishments. On Saturday mornings they have a free cupping event where all are welcome to meet their crew and taste new and favorite house blends.
Wander Through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Enjoy a tranquil afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens sprawl across 94 acres of grassy hills, native and exotic plants, scenic walking trails and a creek, all surrounding a lake in the center.
Free guided tours can help you get started exploring the vast gardens, or simply pack a picnic and relax by the lake. You’re very likely to spot native wildlife roaming around, especially the curious purple swamphen!
Visit the Fitzroy Gardens
Besides the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne is blessed with many more beautiful gardens and parklands. At the top of the list is Fitzroy Gardens, a quiet retreat on the edge of the CBD. The lush trees, flowers and fountains give way to historic gems throughout the gardens.
In the center of the grounds you’ll see a tiny Tudor village, like something out of a fairytale. Right next to it is Fairies’ Tree, a centuries old tree stump embellished with carvings of fairies, pixies, kangaroos and emus.
Another gem is Cook’s Cottage, the historic home of Captain James Cook, the British explorer who first voyaged to Australia and the South Pacific. Though there is a fee to enter the cottage-turned-museum, seeing the cottage alone is undeniably cool.
See Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
This historic landmark is a war memorial originally honoring the men and women of the state of Victoria who served in World War I. Now it honors all Australians who have served in war.
A walk up the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance is a moving experience in itself. The shrine is designed in a classical style, inspired by the architecture of Athens’ Parthenon.
What makes this memorial a special architectural gem is the planned, uninterrupted vista of the city from the top deck of the shrine. Its beautifully manicured grounds and outdoor memorials surround the shrine creating an aerial shape of a poppy – the symbolic flower commemorating the fallen of WWI.
Explore the galleries and exhibitions within the shrine, set in a cathedral-like underground chamber. You’ll see photographs, uniforms, artworks and memorabilia of Australia’s military history. Don’t miss the Eternal Flame, a permanent gas flame representing eternal life.
Learn About the Aboriginal Koorie People at the Koorie Heritage Trust
Escape the hustle and bustle of Federation Square and stop by Koorie Heritage Trust. Located in the Yarra Building in Federation Square, this non-profit center offers Melbourne’s deepest insight into the indigenous Koorie people through immersive galleries and exhibitions. Here you’ll find artifacts, artworks, photos and oral history and video recordings preserving the Koorie cultural heritage of Victoria.
See their temporary exhibits on the ground floor gallery or explore their permanent collections on the top floor. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of their fascinating and educational events, hosted throughout the year.
Watch the St. Kilda Penguins Waddle Back Home
Take a short half hour tram ride from the CBD to St. Kilda, a popular day trip destination for bay side fun.
Noted for its beach and Coney Island-like theme parks, stay until sunset to view the St. Kilda fairy penguins return to their homes on the shore.
The best way to view these tiny penguins is on the St. Kilda Pier, and don’t worry about what time of year to visit – you’ll see them year round.
Snap a Pic of the Brighton Beach Boxes
Further down the coast from St. Kilda is Brighton Beach, home of the iconic Brighton Beach Boxes. First built over a century ago, these historic bathing boxes remain unchanged. Their bright colors and uniform proportions create an undeniable sense of satisfaction – your eyes are just naturally drawn to them!
Though the ride to Brighton Beach is not free, buying a one-day unlimited explorer pass is more than worth it. You’ll get to spend a sunny afternoon out on the gorgeous beach with discounts to other top Melbourne attractions.
Experience Melbourne’s Countless Festivals
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit Melbourne – you’re bound to come across a festival! As Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne loves to celebrate its diversity with celebrations of music, food and culture. Step into Federation Square or the Queen Victoria Markets – where most of Melbourne’s festivals are held – and join in the fun.
From Hispanic-Latin American culture of Johnston Street Festival to its Scandinavian Christmas Bazaar, there’s a festival for every culture in Melbourne. Catch the Chinese New Year Festival in February or the Diwali Indian Festival in October.
See the night come to life in a spectacle of color and light during White Night in February, the most attended event of its kind in Australia. Moomba Festival in March is a flurry of color and spirit centered on the Yarra River with live music, parades, fireworks and carnivals.
Music lovers can plan on dozens of festivals throughout the year. Melbourne Festival is a bucket list item, featuring major international artists. St. Kilda Festival, Australia’s largest free music festival, is also a popular favorite, bringing in some of the country’s top musical talents.
Comedy fans will want to catch the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, one of the top three comedy festivals in the world.
Explore the City with These Free Things to Do in Melbourne
Ready to live it up in the city? Whether you’re looking for a quiet afternoon getting lost in a museum or seeking a fun night out, the best thing about Melbourne is there’s always a way to do it for free. Fill your free days with these fantastic things to do in Melbourne and make your stay an unforgettable one.
Want to add Melbourne to your Australia vacation? Let’s start planning your perfect vacation package – we’ll include time for you to truly get the most out of Melbourne.
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