Free things to do in Melbourne in September

Start spring on a shoestring with some of Melbourne’s biggest events that won’t cost you a cent.

Hawker 88 Night Market

Goodbye Winter Night Market, hello Hawker 88 Night Market! Enjoy the scents, sights and sounds of Asia including live music and cultural experiences. Browse weird and wonderful products, and try street food dishes from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, China, Japan and more. Themed nights include the Malaysia Durian Night Market Festival on 25 September. Spice up your Wednesdays, 5-10pm from 18 September to 23 October. Entry is free, but bring some funds for all the tasty temptations.

Three Chinese dragon performers in front of a crowd inside a large shed

Hawker 88

City Cellar Door at Cumulus Up

You’ve probably dined (or at least had a sophisticated coffee break) at Cumulus Inc, but have you been upstairs to the bar? The monthly City Cellar Door free wine tasting event is an excellent excuse to check out this favourite Melbourne drinking den. The 7 September edition features north-eastern Victorian vineyards like Fighting Gully Road and Scion.

Chinatown Melbourne Mid-Autumn Festival

It might be spring for us, but it’s still autumn in Asia  – which means its time for moon cakes, glowing lanterns and other lovely Mid-Autumn Festival traditions right here in the city. The Chinatown Melbourne Mid-Autumn Festival on 7 September includes a feast of food stalls and free entertainment like lion dances, children parading their handmade lanterns and more. Get in quick for the free moon cakes.

A bustling Chinatown district at night

Marvel under lantern light at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown

African Festival Melbourne

Discover a rich array of food, music, dance, art and craft from across Africa at African Festival Melbourne. This joyous and colourful community event will be held at Queen Victoria Market on 22 September.

Ukrainian Festival

Get into the eastern European spirit on 15 September with Ukrainian foods like varenyky dumplings and drinks at a Cossack-themed bar. Check out Ukrainian treasures for sale like beautifully embroidered blouses and try your hand at traditional Easter egg painting. Or sit back and be entertained at the Ukrainian Festival, from dance and choir performances to arts and crafts demonstrations.

A group of women in traditional European outfits in a parade

Ukrainian Festival dancers

AFL Footy Festival

The AFL Footy Festival showcases the best in food, music, kids activities and of course footy from Wednesday 25 September until Toyota AFL Grand Final Day on Saturday 28 September. Located at Yarra Park outside Gate 3 of the MCG, it’s an action-packed four days including player appearances, music and entertainment, the MILO Kids Zone and the Taste of Footy precinct.

Yarra Park is also the end point for the AFL Grand Final Parade on Friday 27  September.  Starting at the Old Treasury Building, players from the two Grand Final teams will be in this colourful motorcade through the city. Marching bands and roving entertainers add to the excitement of this major Grand Final Eve holiday event. The festivities continue after the parade with the Grand Final Eve Concert starting at 1pm with live entertainment, including a set from Birds of Toyko.

On the big day,  the 2019 Toyota AFL Grand Final will be screening live on the big screen.

Fox Footy Longest Kick

September means footy finals. Even if your team didn’t make it, there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Some of it’s free, like the Fox Footy Longest Kick on Grand Final morning, 28 September. Now in its fifth year, this event gathers past and present AFL stars to see who can kick a footy across the Yarra. Who’s got the torpedo punt to go the distance? There are also giveaways, kids activities and other entertainment, so get there early for a prime position.

Melbourne Fashion Week

There are so many ways to blow the budget during Melbourne Fashion Week, but plenty of free inspiration too. Like the runways, including street-style on the Seafarers Bridge. Fashion capsule exhibitions, including one inspired by First Nations design. Exhibitions, from contemporary fashion photography to cufflinks and pop-up fashion moments, celebrating everything from menswear to maximalism. It’s all happening until 5 September.

Three models dressed in various high end fashion standing outdoors in front of a large heritage building

Melbourne Fashion Week

Sunday Rooftop Trivia

Pub trivia is an awesome way to escape the winter chill, but even better outdoors when spring kicks in. Gather your brainiest buddies, put on your thinking caps and get on up to Sunday Rooftop Trivia at Campari House on Sundays from 4pm. It’s free to take part, and specials include $15 pizzas and $10 pints of Little Creatures and Feral Brewing Co beer. Don’t worry if spring’s warmth doesn’t arrive on cue – there’s a retractable roof.

Melbourne Fringe Festival

It’s Melbourne Fringe Festival time again from 12-29 September, and as always, there’s a weird and wonderful program of performances, exhibitions and genre-defying experiences. Free spirits should highlight free events like Unity: A Fringe Augmented Reality Experience. This neo-sensory, Blade Runner-esque pop-up art adventure is not to be missed. Other Fringe freebies include Fed Square’s digital facade and Mirroring, Synchronous Behaviour, Reflexes & Movement: performance artist Brett Ashby’s gravity-warping short films at Horse Bazaar.

Melbourne Writers Festival

One of the city’s biggest and best annual cultural events returns with another packed program, from intellectual debates to wonderfully wordy performances. Maximise your Melbourne Writers Festival experience with free budget-stretchers, like Graphic Art Day’s workshops and in-conversation events about comics, cartoons and graphic art. Or some events at the First Nations literary festival-within-the-festival, Blak and Bright, and the Coffee and Conversation series hosted by creative coaches and commentators. It’s on until 8 September.

A man in a purple lit room speaking in front of a projector screen

Moody nights at the Melbourne Writers Festival

Roger Kemp: Visionary Modernist

Featuring paintings, prints and sketches, Roger Kemp: Visionary Modernist is the most comprehensive retrospective of this Australian abstract artist since his death in 1987. The exhibition spans Kemp’s early symbolic landscapes and angular dancing figures, through to later paintings, whose geometric forms express unexpected emotional energy. It’s just opened at NGV Australia and continues until 15 March.

Melbourne Town Hall Grand Organ: AfterMATH by Ash Wednesday

Hear Australian electronica pioneer Ash Wednesday premiere his new work AfterMATH on the 10,000-pipe Grand Organ. From his 70s punk and synthpop roots, Ash plays with odd numbers and chance in this stunning sonic response to the onset of illness and loss of use of his right side. Support: Nina Buchanan and RMIT Digital Media students. Wednesday 25 September, from 7pm. Free.

Free 2040 screening

Get inspired to take climate action at a special pedal-powered cinema screening of ‘2040’, a family friendly look at the climate crisis. Head to Meat Market for nibbles, film and panel Q&A with director Damon Gameau and guests. 20 Sep from 5pm.