Free things to do in Melbourne in August

Enjoy the last month of winter, even if money’s tight, with this feast of things to do that won’t cost a cent. From an Indian extravaganza to free events at some of Melbourne’s biggest festivals, we’ve got you covered!

The Experiment at Section 8

August starts with a bang on Friday 3 August when Section 8 Bar hosts the Melbourne debut of Auckland’s The Experiment. This multi-disciplinary creative showcase happens simultaneously in both cities, with the action live-streamed on both sides of the pond on giant screens. Expect four-storey high projections, installations, DJs, live music, an interactive art piece and more, all for free. There are even free tastings at the Four Pillars Gin bar for early arrivals.

A panoramic shot of people drinking in a city bar and walking through a laneway

Section 8 is hosting the free Experiment Music and Arts Festival

Melbourne Writers Festival

One of the city’s biggest and best annual cultural events returns with another packed program, from intellectual debates to wonderfully wordy performances. Maximise your Melbourne Writers Festival experience with free budget-stretchers like The Big Bent Poetry Reading, which explores gender and queerness, or find your own inner performance poet at the spoken word workshop led by New Zealand master of rhythm-and-rhyme, Courtney Sina Meredith. Or book for the Ask me anything: the afterlife, a cross-faith group discussion and open question session with Buddhist monk Gyatso (Adrian Feldmann), Imam Bekim Hasani, Reverend Alexandra Sangster and Indigenous elder and Anglican priest Janet Turpie-Johnstone. The festival runs from Friday 24 August to Sunday 2 September.

Central Beer District

Like beer? Love craft beer? Then your August weekends are sorted, at Queen Victoria Market’s new pop-up: Central Beer District. There’s free entry and live music, but crack open the piggy bank if you want to taste the good things on offer. Favourite, seasonal and experimental refreshments by Brick Lane Brewing Co and rotating guest microbreweries, plus beer-friendly street food, await you! Weekends, from Saturday 4 August to Sunday 9 September.

Two men pouring beers at a bar at a market

The Central Beer District at Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne Fashion Week

There are a thousand ways to blow the budget during Melbourne Fashion Week, but also lots of free fun and inspiration. Like the runways in Tattersalls and Union lanes. Six multimedia Fashion Capsules exhibitions. And more runways, plus activations and performances, during Vogue American Express Fashion’s Night Out. Ooh la la! Melbourne Fashion Week runs from Friday 31 August to Friday 7 September.

Three women holding hands and jumping in the air

Melbourne Fashion Week

Melbourne Art Week

With 500+ artists and 50+ events across 30+ venues, there’s almost too much to choose from during Melbourne Art Week. The free stuff is a good place to start – right off the bat with opening night’s Melbourne Art Week: Keynote. Hear what Philip Tinari, director of Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, has to say about China’s contemporary art scene. Other fab freebies include the Experimenta Social art networking evening, and an extensive art talks program at University of Melbourne. Melbourne Art Week runs from Monday 30 July to Sunday 5 August.

Blak Design Matters

Koorie Heritage Trust’s latest exhibition is the first national survey of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander design. From interior and product design to landscape, architecture and town planning, Blak Design Matters challenges preconceptions about Indigenous creativity. Until Sunday 30 September.

A wooden table sitting on top of an animal skin and surrounded by six stools

Blak Design Matters

Indian Film Festival of Melbourne – flag hoisting ceremony

During day two of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, celebrate India’s 71st year of independence at Fed Square. This free event includes a flag-raising ceremony, led by Bollywood queen Rani Mukerji, and a Bollywood dance competition that attracts performers nationwide. Of course there are films too, including Victoria & Abdul, Chandni, Tumhari Sulu, Padman and 102 Not Out, all gratis.

Melbourne Conversations MIFF talk – Urban Design and Film

It’s time to hide away in darkened cinemas for days on end at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Stay sane and stretch the budget with a few free, sociable events, like MIFF Talks – Urban Design and Film. Explore cinema’s stylised visions of future cities with panellists like Alex Proyas, director of films such as Dark City. Are such visions just pipe dreams, or do they help shape the cities of the future?

MIFF Lounge

The magical Forum Theatre is once again home to the Melbourne International Film Festival’s official lounge. Take your cinematic thoughts and mood to the next level with pre- and post-session good times. There’s heaps of free entertainment, including the launch party fuelled by opening night’s film about fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The afterparty for the world premiere of a doco about the city’s indie music scene, Now Sound: Melbourne’s Listening. Performances by Chiara Costanza, the Cannes Palme d’Or winning composer of MIFF movie All These Creatures. And much more, including a cinematically inspired pianola! The MIFF Lounge opens Friday 3 August until Sunday 19 August.

A crowd of people eating, drink and talking in an old theatre

Drinks and debriefs at the Melbourne International Film Festival Lounge