Want to have a grand day out on a tiny budget? It’s easy with this list of free experiences compiled by the friendly team at the Melbourne Visitor Hub at Town Hall. Everything is a short walk or tram ride away (and mostly in the free tram zone). And the best part? It won’t cost you a cent.
1. Explore the art galleries
Wander in to wonder at millions of dollars of Australian art at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Artistic creations by luminaries Tucker, Nolan and Arkley are all on show, and all for zero cents. Swing by NGV International and marvel at their expansive collection.
2. Uncover Melbourne’s street art
Weaving through our city grid, Melbourne’s laneways are legendary. Discover ever-changing street art and Insta-worthy shots. AC/DC and Hosier lanes are hot spots, while Presgrave Place is a hidden gem with small-scale works that are often framed. Map your next visit with the City of Melbourne’s street art walking guide.
3. Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust
Learn about the history, strength, and resilience of Aboriginal people and their communities at Koorie Heritage Trust. Based at Fed Square, it’s home to an ever-expanding collection of art, cultural artifacts and oral histories.
4. Explore historic architecture at State Library Victoria
If you haven’t visited State Library Victoria for a while, now is a prime time to go. Following a major redevelopment, new spaces including the long closed-off Queen’s Hall, have just re-opened, while the majestic Swanston Street entrance also emerges after a facelift. And from now until 23 February, you can also see cricket’s most celebrated object, the Ashes urn, at their major exhibition, Velvet, Iron, Ashes. Other historic artefacts on display for the exhibition’s duration (until 12 July) include Ned Kelly’s armour and a velvet cloak with a story to tell.
5. Get lost amongst the greenery
Escape the concrete jungle and take a break in one of our beautiful green spaces. Explore the lush Royal Botanic Gardens and brush up on your knowledge of local fauna and flora with their free guided walk. Another favourite is leafy Fitzroy Gardens, boasting oodles of old-world charm, heritage water features and an unexpected piece of 18th century England.
6. Stroll along Southbank
Stroll along the Yarra river at Southbank and watch the buskers entertain the crowds. Take a break, park yourself on a bench and settle in for some serious people-watching.
7. Visit the Shrine
Take a moment to reflect and remember those who served at the Shrine of Remembrance. Tours run daily, or go along to a Service of Remembrance and watch as a ray of light illuminates the word ‘love’ on a stone embedded below the marble floor.
8. Watch Flinders Street Station light up at night
Kick back at Fed Square and watch Flinders Street Station get lit. See this iconic station in a new light as 1100 LED lights, connected by 20 kilometres of cable, are switched on. It makes for a pretty spectacular free light show.
9. Go on for a sunset walk
Take a stroll with a colleague or friend after work, and make the most of the late afternoon light. Catch the sunset from Princes Bridge, or ramble around Queen Victoria Gardens and check the time on the floral clock. Enjoy a good view to the west on the Flagstaff Gardens hill, or from Docklands’ bridges, park and waterfront promenades. Get more ideas on top after-work walks in Melbourne.
Looking for more?
There are plenty more free things to do in Melbourne, but some only run on certain days of the week. Join in on a Melbourne Town Hall tour, available twice daily on weekdays, except Tuesdays. Marvel at this majestic building’s wood-panelled council chambers, wave from the portico balcony and see the piano once played by Paul McCartney.
Victoria’s Parliament House is very grand indeed, with sweeping steps leading up to its columned facade. Frequent free tours are offered, but only on weekdays when Parliament isn’t sitting.