Free things to do in Melbourne in November

Has this year’s budget got a bit out of control? Put the brakes on with a smile at these free events. Whether you’re into food or fashion, music or movies, there are so many ways to brighten your day – or night – on the cheap.

Melbourne Music Week

From the 14-23 November, this city gets turned up to 11. Now in its 10th year, Melbourne Music Week is celebrating with not seven, but 10 days of music, from acoustic and red-hot rock to talks and workshops. Lots of stuff is free, including the awesome opening night featuring more than 100 artists at 12 venues across Melbourne’s streets and laneways. Between gigs, rest your feet at a free talk, including a conversation with MMW headliners Kittin and DAF.

A DJ playing to crowd of people during music week under light show

Melbourne Music Week runs from 14-23 November.

MPavilion 2019

Repurposed every year with a stunning new design, this public space used for talks, workshops, performances, installations and kid-friendly experiences returns from 14 November. Designed by internationally renowned Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, MPavilion 2019 will host 400-plus free events across four months. November highlights include Glenn in conversation with Virginia Trioli, the season’s first Friday Sunset Session, and Dog Walking Adventures with Captain + Tom.

Opera in the Bowl

Enjoy Champagne entertainment at tap-water prices with Opera in the Bowl, Australia’s free night of beautiful live music performed by Orchestra Victoria and five talented singers. Bring a picnic, friends and family and settle in for a beautiful evening on 30 November. Even if you’re an opera novice you’ll recognise famous tunes like the Toreador song from Carmen and the William Tell overture. Bravo!

A large crowd of people at dusk listening to opera at Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Opera in the Bowl at Sidney Myer Music Bowl on 30 November.

Melbourne Italian Festa

From Nonna to little baby Lucia, the city’s Italian community will be out in force for the Melbourne Italian Festa in Carlton on 17 November. Don’t have any Italian blood? Nessun problema! Anyone who loves la dolce vita, from fab food to fast cars, will feel at home on Little Italy’s day of days. Free entertainment includes live Italian music and a soccer tournament, plus vintage vehicles galore at the Targa Florio Australia Tribute 2019 grand finale. Bring some moolah if you want to go into overdrive on pasta, pizza and gelato.

Collecting Comme

Even if Comme des Garçons is beyond your budget, you can definitely afford to see 50-plus creations by this Japanese fashion house at the NGV. Opening on 1 November, the Collecting Comme exhibition is free, free, free darlings! It highlights key collections and recurrent themes by visionary deconstructivist designer Rei Kawakubo, as well as works by two of her protegees.

Night Noodle Markets

Melbourne’s Night Noodle Markets are back from 7-24 November, bringing a food-festival-meets-hawker-market atmosphere to Birrarung Marr. There’s so much more than noodles on offer, from bao and okonomiyaki to fried ice-cream and the Korean shaved-ice treat called bingsu. So you’ll need a credit card, but this pan-Asian feast’s soundtrack of live music and DJs plus it’s-almost-summer good vibes are free.

A selection of mouthwatering Bao at the Night Noodle Market

Melbourne’s Night Noodle Markets run from 7-24 November.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut at Fed Square

Can you believe it! We’re actually living in the era of Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi film, which is set in November 2019, so now’s the time to watch it again. Never seen this 1982 masterpiece of sights, sounds and existential brain implosions before? Then put Blade Runner: The Final Cut at Fed Square, showing on 9 November, in your calendar. Arrive early to nab a deckchair and have a first-timer’s experience Deckard diehards can only dream of. Replicants welcome.

Melbourne International Dumpling Festival

From gyoza and xiao long bao to pierogis and ravioli, cuisines the world over have their own take on the dumpling. Bring lots of loose change to stuff yourself with favourites and discover some unfamiliar bundles of joy at the Melbourne International Dumpling Festival on 4 November. Then enjoy the free multicultural performances, DJs, kids entertainment and dumpling-eating competitions while you digest.

A selection of dumplings laid out on a table.

Melbourne’s International Dumpling Festival is on 4 November.

Koorie Heritage Trust exhibitions

Tap into four Aboriginal artists’ varied perspectives at Koorie Heritage Trust until 24 November. There are solo exhibitions by mid-career artists Aunty Bronwyn Razem, Uncle Greg Muir and Blackgin, as well as emerging artist Kait James. In Dry Your Dishes on My Culture, this Wadawurrung woman subverts the stereotypes and generalisations of Aboriginal calendar tea towels from the 1970s and 80s. Yes, they were a thing!

Raising the Bar

Bars and conversations go together like gin and tonic, right? With 20 talks in 10 bars on one night only, Raising the Bar is about taking them to the next level and delving into juicy issues. Explore the Aboriginal origins of AFL footy, why more fathers don’t take parental leave and how we can fix the recycling crisis. Bar-hop and learn something new from the comfort of Bar Ampere, Horse Bazaar and The Oxford Scholar.

Evening view of Bar Ampere from outside

Bar Ampere, one of ten venues hosting events for Raising the Bar

World Vegan Day

Thinking about reducing or even cutting animal products from your diet? Or are you already living with animal welfare, the environment and good health in mind? Either way, get along to the Melbourne Showgrounds on World Vegan Day, 10 November. Expect animal-free food stalls, including treats-to-go and new vegan products, cooking demos and speakers covering everything from nutrition to ethics. Plus lots of other stuff for a vegan lifestyle, including fashion and fitness, as well as entertainment for all ages.

Buddha bowl with quinoa, avocado, chickpeas, vegetables on a dark stone background, Healthy eating concept. Overhead scene.

World Vegan Day

ClimateWatch Walk

Take a free guided spring walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and discover the impacts of climate change. The ClimateWatch Walk is also your chance to help turn things around by gathering data about the gardens’ biodiversity with the ClimateWatch app. Suitable for ages eight and up, this easy, informative 90-minute stroll on 26 November is free but best book in advance.

Polish Festival

Now in its 15th year, the free Polish Festival returns on 17 November for a day of lively music and dancing, and colourful folk-inspired arts and crafts. Of course, there will be plenty of hearty Polish flavours to discover too. Dip into the piggybank to try traditional cakes, pastries, bigos (stew), kielbasa (sausage) and Polish beer. Maybe then you’ll be ready for Polish dress-ups at the interactive photo booth.

A pierogi on a fork at Melbourne's Polish Festival

Feast on pierogi at Melbourne’s Polish Festival on 17 November.