Free things to do in Melbourne in May

Saving up for a special occasion? Feeling the budget blues? Or do you just love a bargain? Earmark these events in May that won’t cost a cent.

Fair@Square Ethical Lifestyle Festival

Discover how living well doesn’t need to cost the Earth at the Fair@Square Ethical Lifestyle Festival. There’s sustainable fashion, cooking demonstrations highlighting everything from Australian native foods to using leftovers, and sustainable living workshops, like upcycled jewellery making. Browse the market stalls, take in the entertainment and let your little ones get crafty in the kids corner. Saturday 5 May.

Melbourne Knowledge Week

Join your fellow Melburnians in solving the city’s future challenges during Melbourne Knowledge Week’s program of innovation and creativity. Highlights include the opening night after-party, where Tongberang’i Ngargga (Born to Dance) will express Aboriginal culture through electronic music. The future is now at the Tech Showcase, when Melbourne’s start-ups, tech companies, communities and individuals present their cutting-edge products and services. There’s also an arts-meets-science workshop for high-school students exploring the hidden world of soil microbes, which make food production possible.

A futuristic picture of Melbourne's cityscape, including current and future buildings

Melbourne Knowledge Week

Law Week

The law can be boring, confusing and expensive, but not during Law Week. Mock trials, Chinatown murder tours, classical concerts by legal eagles in the beautiful Supreme Court library – there’s lots to like. A highlight is the Courts Open Day on 19 May. See inside the city’s courtrooms, and really go behind the scenes on a ‘day in the life of the accused’ tour. Of course there’s some practical events too, like free legal health-check clinics. 14-20 May.

Collins Place Design Market

Mums deserve something more thoughtful than a bunch of chrysanthemums and box of chocolates from the supermarket on their special day. Try the Collins Place Design Market – Mother’s Day edition for gifts made with love by hand-picked local designers, creators and cooks. From handmade jewellery to pretty cupcakes, the perfect present awaits, and there’s a pop-up bar for when your decision’s made. Friday 11 May.

A crowd of people at a market

Collins Place Design Market

Free concerts at Melbourne Town Hall

If the pickled ginger beside your sushi is the only culture you’re fitting in on your lunch break, then it’s time you visited one of Melbourne Town Hall’s oldest companions. Bring a snack and settle in with the company of the grand organ and its 10,000 pipes on 2 May, as master maestro Christopher Cook plays a free classical concert to the lunchtime crowd. Then later on in the month, join the unrivalled Luciano Chessa for an evening of his original compositions played live (and free!) on 28 May.

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival

From dragon boat racing to tea meditation, the 23rd annual Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival balances excitement and mindfulness. There are more than 40 events across the weekend, including sutra calligraphy classes, dance and music performances, and a vegetarian food fair. A highlight is the World Peace Blessing Ceremony conducted by Venerable Man Ko, Chief Abbess of Australasia’s Fo Guang Shan Temples. 19-20 May.

Ned Kelly Tour

Was Australia’s most notorious bushranger a criminal or a hero? The State Library of Victoria’s Ned Kelly Tour offers plenty of food for thought on this long-debated question. A highlight is seeing one of the library’s most popular artefacts: Ned’s homemade armour, which is riddled with bullet holes. Other remarkable artefacts on show include his passionate Jerilderie letter, and photographs of the Glenrowan siege. Tours run every Wednesday and Saturday, except public holidays.

A group of children around a square glass display box, which contains one of the tin suits worn by bushranger Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly Tour

Philippine Street Fiesta

Be transported to the colourful, flavour-filled streets of Manila during the Queen Victoria Market’s Philippine Street Fiesta. Food is a big focus. Get a taste of traditional Filipino cuisine and dishes from the Spanish colonial era, and be amazed by the food-eating competition. There’s lots more fun for all ages, including a street parade, fashion show and cultural entertainment. 19-20 May.

Exhibition: Wild City

Artist Kathy Holowko has collaborated with creative kids for Exhibition: Wild City, which explores how humans and animals share the urban landscape. Leading up to the exhibition, children aged five to 12 were busy sculpting, building, weaving and planting new habitats. The result is an exhibition of wild imagination. Until 20 May.