Free things to do in Melbourne in July

Are winter heating bills and an insatiable desire for mulled wine giving you the budget blues? Cheer up at these fabulous free events!

European Night Market

Bring Continental sophistication to your Friday night at the European Night Market, where free entertainment includes a DJ who also shines shoes. Maybe raid the piggy bank for some warming treats, like Polish dumplings and spiced rum hot chocolate, or pretty winter accessories. Friday nights in July.

Little cakes on a board topped with cream, walnuts and syrup

The European Night Market

3rd Nelson Mandela Lecture

Nelson Mandela once said “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, knows that feeling. She’s the main speaker at the 3rd Nelson Mandela Lecture, presented in celebration of the late South African freedom fighter’s birthday. Friday 13 July, 6-8pm.

Open House Melbourne Weekend

Now in its 11th year, Open House Melbourne Weekend is an annual highlight for lovers of urban design and cool free stuff. Access to some of the 200+ buildings on the 2018 program require bookings, so get in early. Or just see what happens on this big weekend of architecture, heritage and the seriously curious in normally off-limits spaces. Saturday 28 – Sunday 29 July.

The interior of a modern looking building

Open House Melbourne

Blues in the Basement

The subterranean den that is the Beneath Driver Lane bar is made for winter cocooning. That’s why at this time of year they double down Friday nights from 9pm with Blues in the Basement with extra Sunday sessions during winter. Slow, sad songs about lyin’, cheatin’, hard-drinking types will soon put your fight with an unruly umbrella in perspective.

The District Makers Market

Take a Sunday stroll to Docklands and enjoy free live entertainment and perhaps a few tasty samples at The District Makers Market. Warning! The ever-changing stalls offering everything from jewellery to local craft gin will probably get you reaching for your wallet. But who better to brighten your winter than passionate local artists, designers and cooks? Sundays until 26 August.

A woman standing behind a stall at a market with books and records on display

The District Makers Market

Rock Up Netball TRAIN Sessions

Want to get into netball, or get back into the game? Rock Up Netball TRAIN Sessions offers a fun and friendly environment for building up your skills. Whether you want to be Australia’s goal shooter or just like the idea of getting fit after work for free, book now. Tuesdays 3, 10, 17, 24 July.

Melbourne’s War on Waste

Is our future going to waste? As ‘Plastic Free July’ and and recycling initiatives continue to make headlines, Melbourne Conversations is talking trash at Melbourne’s War on Waste.  Join a panel of activists, sustainability experts and city leaders for one night at the Wheeler Centre as they sift through the rubbish to find fresh solutions to our messiest problems. Wednesday 11 July, 6:30pm. Free but bookings essential.

Tow bins in front of a wall of street art

Melbourne’s War on Waste is coming up at Melbourne Conversations

Miles Munn

After making his Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut this year, local funnyman Miles Munn is back with some new material. For two nights only, he’s got the mic at Comedy at Loop, and you need a laugh to get through winter. Wednesday 18 to Thursday 19 July.

Star Festival

Get your Instagram ready for the Star Festival, a magical event inspired by the wonders of the night sky. Indulge in indoor star-gazing through star diffraction glasses and snap of yourself in the ‘Star Room’, a magical space decorated in all things twinkling. Pick up sweet treat from Bistro Morgan stall at the the foodie pop-up market or a free ‘Espresso Startinis’ from Melbourne Martini. Thursday 19 and Friday 20 July at Melbourne Central.

Two glasses of espresso martini cocktails on a counter covered with silver stars

Sip on free ‘espresso startinis’ at the Star Festival

Winter Wellbeing Workshops: Everyday Mindfulness

If you’re between 15 and 30 and feeling the winter blues, there’s somewhere you need to be on Tuesday nights in July. Winter Wellbeing Workshops: Everyday Mindfulness are presented by Bethany Knight, a youth worker with a background in psychology, counselling and life coaching.

New York! New York!

This interactive, multimedia installation for kids coincides with MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art. Celebrating the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s hometown, New York! New York! is a winter school holiday saviour for your sanity and savings. Daily until 7 October.

A little boy building a toy skycraper

New York! New York! at NGV Kids Gallery

Mulled Wine Tastings

Spice is nice at Gewürzhaus, where there’s complimentary mulled wine tastings every winter afternoon (and until 7pm on Fridays!). It’s made using their signature Glühwein Spice blend, which you can take home for more merriment through the long, cold winter.

Melbourne Rare Book Week

This UNESCO City of Literature’s love of the printed word gets turned up to 11 during Melbourne Rare Book Week. It’s a feast of free lectures, library tours, exhibitions and workshops, plus the Melbourne Rare Book Fair, now in its 46th year. Many tomes, maps, prints and ephemera at the fair are centuries old, but there are treasures for all bookish tastes and budgets. Friday 29 June to Sunday 8 July.

Shibori – Japanese Textile Exhibition

The delicate art of resist-dyed fabric is lovingly revealed at Melbourne’s temple of Japanese textile craft, Kimono House. The Shibori Japanese Textile Exhibition presents cloth from Arimatsu’s venerable cotton dyeing houses, Kyoto silks, vintage garments and tools of the trade. Tuesday 3 to Friday 20 July.

Forgotten Faces

Filipino-born artist Kristone Capistrano’s solo exhibition at Crowther Contemporary continues his exploration of early colonial Australia’s unsung migrant stories. Forgotten Faces focuses on four large portraits of prisoners executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol in the late 19th century. Thursday 5 July to Tuesday 24 July.

A man drawing a huge face on a wall

Forgotten Faces

Hidden Faces – 2018 Victorian Salon des Refuses

Each year, hundreds of works are submitted to the nation’s major portrait prizes, such as the Portia Geach, Archibald and Sulman. Some win, some are just plain terrible, and many others worthy of a look sadly disappear from view. Hold on! Hidden Faces – 2018 Victorian Salon des Refuses presents portraits by local artists that didn’t take the prize but nevertheless impress. Until 4 October.