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? From jazz to comic books, earmark these events that won’t cost a cent.

Europa Night Market

Don’t miss the final outings of the Europa Night Market. Each week there’s an irresistible Euro theme at this Wednesday-evening event at the Queen Victoria Market. Experience a mini Eurovision at the amphitheatre-style stage. Follow a kitsch tour guide on a silent disco. Check out 20 stalls offering the quirky and the cultured from the Continent. Agonise over 20 food stalls, from German currywurst to Spanish paella, and start dreaming about Eurozone holidays at the Brexit Bar. 1 and 8 May.

A busy laneway between markets stalls at night, with hanging lights suspended above

Europa Night Market

Law Week

Getting immersed in the world of law can often be an acquired taste, but Law Week 2019 promises to turn even the least-law obsessed Melburnian into an astute legal eagle. Mock trials, a Chinatown ghost tour, a classical concert by legal eagles in the beautiful Supreme Court library – there’s lots to like.

Free events abound during the Courts Open Day on 18 May. See inside the city’s courtrooms, experience a ‘day in the life of an accused’, or tuck into a barbecue cooked by judges. There are practical events through the week too, like free coffee and legal advice with a lawyer. 13 to 19 May.

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival

From dragon boat racing to tea meditation, the 24th 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. 18 to 19 May.

A man dressed as a Chinese figure with Chinese dragon performers beside him

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival

YIRRAMBOI Festival

There are heaps of free events at Melbourne’s biennial celebration of First Nations arts and culture, the YIRRAMBOI Festival. Like the Yawa: Journey exhibition, the organ v electronic music of Blak Mass by Naretha Williams, and dis rupt at Hamer Hall. Young, emerging Indigenous artists, including Taungurung woman Kate ten Buuren, are taking over this temple of Western high culture. A site-specific response to stories about the surrounding land and waterways, dis rupt promises to shake things up. 2 to 12 May.

A group of people in a laneway

Free comedy

The laughs don’t stop now that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has wrapped up. Even if you’re skint there are chuckles to be had at regular free comedy nights, like Quick Bites Comedy on Mondays. Or Crab Lab: Stand Up Comedy on Wednesdays, and Friday Open Mic Comedy. You never know what you’ll get, from first timers having a go to seasoned comedians trying out new material.

Good Beer Week

Now in its eighth brew-tastic year, Good Beer Week is back with a feast of tastings, parties, tours, masterclasses and panel discussions. There are plenty of events with free entry and entertainment, including the Good Beer Week Opening Party (but bring funds for beer). Plus some totally free stuff like the Little Creatures Brewers Shout at The Duke of Wellington (5-6pm on 16 May). 10 to 19 May.

A bar lit up at night with people milling about outside

Good Beer Week

Comic Book Day

Melbourne’s libraries are really getting into Comic Book Day on 4 May. Dress up in superhero or supervillain attire and get a free comic book at City Library and Kathleen Syme Library. This Carlton community space also has a free Writing for Comics Workshop, and there’s Comics 101 for Kids at North Melbourne Library. Plus, lots of libraries are hosting a free Superhero Storytime leading up to the big day. Kapow!

Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Want to see some cool cats at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival but feeling the heat from your melting credit card? Then check out free events like Jazz Assembly, the opening celebration where you can join the chorus singing a new composition. Or the Juilliard Free Lunchtime Jazz sessions, featuring locals like Elle Shimada and Phoebe Day. The festival runs 31 May to 9 June.

Melbourne Knowledge Week

May 20 to May 26 is Knowledge Week in Melbourne and there’s plenty on to get you thinking about the world around you. We recommend checking out Sunset Talks with Madeleine Dore, hour-long interviews with well-known thinkers. Melbourne City DNA explores the data tracks left throughout the city, The Minefield: Live Recording is a special event with Waleed Aly, and at Prototype Street you can test run (or walk) down a future Melbourne street – we’re talking driverless buses!

flinders street station with lights flashing on the building and around it

Melbourne Knowledge Week is on 20 to 26 May

Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

The 12th Human Rights Arts and Film Festival features over 30 events and films focused around Indigenous affairs, gender equality, the environment and more. InsideOUT is an exhibition that examines queer and Indigenous cultures, Cultural Rights in Victoria – are we there yet? is a forum on how discourse can be spurred into action, and A Museum for the Path Ahead looks at the increasing importance of Climate Museums.