Eight free things to do in the city every day

Want to have a grand day out on a tiny budget? It’s easy with this list of free experiences compiled by our in-the-know Visitor Services staff and volunteers.

Everything is a short walk or tram ride away (and mostly in the free tram zone). For more insider tips, find our friendly team at various locations around the city, including the new Melbourne Visitor Hub at Town Hall.

A large historic building

Melbourne Town Hall, the new site of the Melbourne Visitor Hub

Street art

Wander the city’s legendary laneways and discover their diverse, ever-changing street art. AC/DC and Hosier lanes are hot spots, while Presgrave Place is a hidden gem with small-scale works that are often framed. Check out our street art guide to Melbourne for more tips and take your own tour.

A wide laneway with street art on the enclosing walls. Tourists walking down the laneway.

Hosier Lane

Galleries

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has lots of cheap and free experiences for everyone, from kids and teens to adults. Its permanent centrepiece is the interactive and immersive Screen Worlds exhibition, which explores film, television, video games, virtual reality and digital art. An amazing journey through history to today’s cutting-edge technology, it’s 100% free.

Right next door, the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia’s permanent collection is always free, as are some smaller exhibitions. Wander in and wonder at millions of dollars of Australian art by the likes of Tucker, Nolan and Arkley for zero cents. Its big brother, NGV International, is just up the street, with an even larger permanent collection that’s also free.

Discover more with our guide to Melbourne’s free galleries, parts one and two.

The view from inside a building, looking out through a semi-circle shaped window.

The glass windows at the front of the NGV

Aboriginal culture

A great place to get a better understanding of Melbourne’s Indigenous past, present and future is Koorie Heritage Trust. Based at Federation Square, it’s home to an ever-expanding collection of art, cultural artefacts and oral histories, revealed in regular free exhibitions.

Historic buildings

There’s heaps of heritage architecture waiting for you on the streets of Melbourne. Like the grand old State Library of Victoria, open seven days a week. Here’s an insider tip to see it at its best! Walk through the computer room and take the lift to the third floor to see the spectacular reading room and dome. Then take the short flight of steps beside the lifts to the next floor down and browse the artwork revealing Melbourne’s evolution.

Victoria’s Parliament House is very grand indeed, with sweeping steps leading up to its columned facade. Get the full effect by walking toward it along Collins Street’s ‘Paris’ end. Frequent free tours are offered, but only on weekdays when Parliament isn’t sitting.

Melbourne Town Hall Tours are available twice daily on weekdays, except Tuesdays. See this majestic building’s wood-paneled council chambers, wave from the portico balcony and see the piano once played by Paul McCartney.

Rows of desks assembled in a circular pattern in an old library.

The reading room at State Library of Victoria

Parks and gardens

Melbourne is blessed with gorgeous green spaces, including the Royal Botanic Gardens, which offers free experiences such as the Winter Discovery Tour. Another favourite is Fitzroy Gardens. It has oodles of old world charm, heritage water features and an unexpected piece of 18th century England.

For more inspiration, head to 12 gardens close to the Melbourne CBD.

A large white heritage building in the background, with autumn leaves and trees in front of it.

The Royal Exhibition Building at Carlton Gardens

Laneways and arcades

The city’s famous lanes and historic arcades are full of surprises. From petite boutiques to hidden bars, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops to little labs of creativity and urban experimentation, there’s so much to discover. Make a start with Melbourne’s laneways and arcades, from the celebrated to the slightly obscure.

A laneway with busy shops on both sides of the street.

Centre Place

Melbourne Free Tour

Only got time to do one free thing in Melbourne? Take this guided walk that includes many of the sights and stories that make this city special. See laneway street art and grand Gold Rush architecture. Get the lowdown on the traffic quirk that is the hooked turn. Learn about notorious bushranger Ned Kelly at the Old Melbourne Gaol, where he was executed in 1880. By the end of the daily, 180-minute Melbourne Free Tour, you’ll probably know more than most locals.