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, fashion, music or festivals, there are so many ways to brighten your days (and nights) on the cheap. For even more ideas, drop into the new Visitor Hub at Melbourne Town Hall and have a chat to the friendly team.

Night Noodle Markets

Melbourne’s Night Noodle Markets are back, bringing a food-festival-meets-hawker-market atmosphere to Birrarung Marr. There’s so much more than noodles on offer, from dumplings and satay skewers to desserts by the likes of N2 Extreme Gelato. Entry is free to this much loved event, but bring funds for food unless you have a superhuman ability to resist temptation. Thursday 8 to Sunday 25 November.

Three bao in a cardboard plate.

Food at the Night Noodle Markets

Victorian Festival of Diwali

From India and Sri Lanka to Fiji and Trinidad, Diwali is an annual celebration of light and the triumph of good. Everyone is welcome to eat, dance and discover at the Victorian Festival of Diwali. This joyous day includes Bollywood dance performances and workshops, Indian cinema, traditional henna painting, drumming, a multicultural bazaar, fireworks and more. Saturday 3 November.

Free lunchtime gigs at Melbourne Town hall

The Melbourne Town Hall Visitor Hub is hosting a series of free lunchtime gigs in the lead up to, and during Melbourne Music Week. A showcase of Melbourne-based buskers, singers and songwriters, artists include Gerry Kennedy, Davy Simony, Katty Liz and Amy Pollock. Running from 12:30 to 1pm every Friday until 24 November as well as other selected days, it’s a good reason to leave your desk at lunchtime.

A young woman playing a guitar and singing

Free lunchtime gigs at Melbourne Town Hall Visitor Hub

Lexus Melbourne Cup Parade

Get a taste for the race that stops a nation at the 35th Lexus Melbourne Cup Parade. From jockeys to Fashions on the Field finalists, past champions to family-friendly entertainers, there’s lots of colour and excitement. The fun continues post-parade at Federation Square with food, games and live performers – including a School of Rock the Musical sneak peek. Oh, and did we mention you can get a selfie with the actual 2018 Melbourne Cup? Monday 5 November.

A group of kids dressed up like jockeys walking in a big street parade

Lexus Melbourne Cup Parade

Melbourne Music Week laneway parties 

Melbourne Music Week free parties at laneway bars across the city as part of its annual Live Music Safari on Thursday 22 November. Whitehart bar (in Whitehart Lane) is hosting live bands and DJ sets across two stages. Section 8 in Tattersalls Lane is throwing a good old fashioned all-nighter, with sets from Blasko, SILENTJAY and more. Then kick on down the lane at the Belleville’s free RnB jazz party on the same night. Other venues participating in this unforgettable night of music across the city include New Guernica, Max Watts, Cherry Bar, Loop Bar, The Toff, Ferdydurke, Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar, Boney, John Curtin  and the new Geddes Lane Ballroom. Other free events include Push Over on Saturday 24 November, a free all-ages party next to the MMW Hub at Fed Square. The huge line-up includes performances from Allday, Ali Barter, Ruby Fields and Kian plus special guests from Jebediah, Spiderbait and Something for Kate.

MPavilion’s Catalan Experience

Reborn every year with a stunning new design, MPavilion is back with 400-plus free events including A Catalan Experience. Come along to this Sunday afternoon celebration of Catalonia, which is home to the 2018 pavilion’s designer, Carme Pinós. Discover this Spanish region’s distinctive poetry, music, folklore and history, and even see a Castellet, or human tower, take shape. Sunday 11 November.

Korea Week Festival

From K-pop to kimchi to taekwondo, there’s so much to love about Korea. Get into it at the Korea Week Festival, a two-day bonanza of traditional and contemporary culture. The program is packed with music and dance performances, tasty stalls and demonstrations, and opportunities to try games and crafts. You can even dress up in a traditional Korean hanbok costume. Saturday 10 to Sunday 11 November.

bibimbap in a bowl, korean dish from top

Taste the flavours of Korea at the Korea Week festival

Polish Festival

Celebrate 100 years of Polish independence with the local community. Expect lively music, colourful dancers and folk-inspired arts and crafts at the Polish Festival, now in its 14th year. Of course there will be lots of hearty flavours to discover too. Tuck into traditional cakes, pastries, pierogies (dumplings), bigos (stew) and kielbasa (sausage). Then sip on a piwo or two – because beer is good in any language. Sunday 18 November.

Fed Square Live

Save up for a big summer of music festivals by getting down to Fed Square Live. This free feast of tunes is on most Friday evenings, and gathers local musos including Claudia Jones and her 10-piece disco band. Even the odd international, like Chinese psych-rock trio Dream Can. There’s also beanbags, astroturf and food trucks, which adds up to a cheap and cheerful night out. Most Fridays until 21 December.

A large crowd of people in deck chairs sitting outside, with the city skyline behind them

Fed Square Live

Mazda Opera in the Bowl

Enjoy Champagne entertainment at tap-water prices when Opera Australia presents the free Mazda Opera in the Bowl. Bring a picnic, friends and family and settle in for a night of beautiful live music under the stars. Even if you’re an opera novice you’ll recognise those famous arias, sung by talented artists backed by Orchestra Victoria. Saturday 24 November.

A wide shot of an outdoor stage with large white sails above it. People on the ground in front watching the stage.

Mazda Opera in the Bowl

J.P. Shilo: Jubjoté

Never got around to hearing the Melbourne Town Hall’s massive organ because you think it might be like going to church? Well this free concert is for you. Jubjoté is a new commission, composed just for the Southern Hemisphere‘s largest grand romantic organ by J.P. Shilo. He’s opened for Leonard Cohen, Daft Punk and Blondie, and collaborated with the likes of Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey. In other words, it’s not church music. Thursday 8 November, bookings essential.

A stage with bright lights beaming down onto it, with a packed crowd in the audience

A concert at the Grand Organ

Sound School Showcase

Beats don’t get any fresher than the Sound School Showcase. This is the debut gig for DJs and musicians who have participated in Sound School’s free workshops during 2018. From Footscray Community Arts Centre to Fitzroy Clubhouse and the CBD’s SIGNAL, they’re bringing the sound of now. Saturday 17 November.

Shop the City

The kick-off to the Christmas shopping season sees top Melbourne retailers join forces for the global shopping phenomenon that is Black Friday. More than 1000 shops across three blocks, from Collins Street to Melbourne Central, are participating in Shop the City. Looking is free, and you can also save with the exclusive offers, giveaways and pop-up events. Friday 23 November.

Raising the Bar

Do nerds run the world? Can you loathe the musician and love the music? How much should we worry about data privacy? These are just some of the big questions being tackled at Raising the Bar, which returns to Melbourne for one night only. Ten venues, including Belleville, Loop and Horse Bazaar, host two talks each – all free for anyone smart enough to book early. Wednesday 28 November.