Free things to do in Melbourne in April

As the saying goes, fools and their money are soon parted, which is why you’ll be all over these free events. Welcome to an April fool-free zone!

Taste of Malaysia

Embrace Malaysian food and culture during one big colourful, spice-filled Sunday at the Queen Victoria Market. Taste of Malaysia reveals this multi-racial nation’s cuisine, which shows influences from as far afield as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Japan. There are also traditional games and cultural performances, including the lion dance. Sunday 7 April.

Many different Malaysian food dishes. Various indonesian bali food

Taste of Malaysia

The Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift

Maybe you can’t afford a single thing on display at the NGV’s Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift exhibition. But you can definitely afford to check out this showcase of haute couture from the 19th century to today, because entry’s free. Garments by the likes of Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen await, as well as archival material such as fashion magazines and sketches. Until 14 July.

Europa Night Market

Good-bye Summer Night Market, hello Europa Night Market! This all-new Wednesday-evening essential at the Queen Victoria Market is on for just five weeks, each with an irresistible Euro theme. 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. 10 April-8 May.

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

QVM Europa Night Market

Gigantic light displays in Birrarung Marr

A 27-metre-long, six-metre-high dragon is the centrepiece of the ICD Property Light Up Melbourne Festival. He’s just one of the colourful, larger-then-life, custom-built lanterns moving into Birrarung Marr for four days. There are also cultural performances and 80-plus stalls offering food and more, with a special focus on spicy Sichuan cuisine. 6-9 April.

The (Very) Big Laugh Out

There are lots of affordable shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but none cheaper than The (Very) Big Laugh Out. This free, all-ages showcase of local and international comedy talent includes Portugal’s Pedro Tochas and hometown heroes The Listies. 5-20 April.

A crowd facing towards a stage at an outdoor event

The Very Big Laugh out

More free comedy fun

After you’ve allotted your funny funds to all the different comics performing at this year’s MICF, make the most of Melbourne’s thriving free comedy scene at a bunch of weekly shows. Catch some of the biggest names at Spleen bar with their iconic Monday night show (also running Wednesday nights during the festival), or head to Quick Bites Comedy at Boney every Monday, free shows at Highlander Bar  throughout the festival, Wednesday night lols at Crab Lab and an open mic night on Fridays at Club Voltaire. And remember, comedians aren’t just for comedy festival – most of these free shows are on year-round!

Fair@Square Ethical Lifestyle Festival

Discover how living well doesn’t need to cost the Earth at Australia’s biggest ethical lifestyle festival. Get inspired by everything from fashion shows to cooking demonstrations at the Fair@Square Ethical Lifestyle Festival, now in its 10th year. Browse market stalls, enjoy entertainment and let your little ones loose with kids activities. 6-7 April.

Sri Lankan Festival

Join Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus in celebrating their new year at the Sri Lankan Festival. This super Sunday celebration is hosted by the 2018 Most Popular New Talent Logie winner, comedian Dilruk Jayasinha. Special guests include Sri Lankan favourite Don Sherman, the singing chef, and the Tiya and Shashilaa dance troupes. From music to workshops, cultural demonstrations to colourful costumes, there’s lots to enjoy. Sunday 14 April.

Assorted Sri Lankan food on dark wooden background. Dishes and appetizers of indian cuisine. Curry, butter chicken, rice, lentils, paneer, samosa, naan, chutney, spices. Bowls and plates with Sri Lankan food

Sri Lankan Festival

Melbourne Vixens Fan Day​

The Super Netball competition starts at the end of April, but the fun begins well before at the Melbourne Vixens Fan Day. There are skill sessions, giveaways, the chance to get an autograph from your favourite Vixens players, and more. Thursday 11 April.

Muslim Film Festival

Learn more about the Muslim community during this free weekend event, where films will be played over four and a half hours. Exploring themes of gender, rights and marginalisation, the Muslim Film Festival will also host panel discussions across the evening. On Saturday 13 April.

Undercurrent by Peta Clancy

The first exhibition from the Koorie Heritage Trust’s residency program, Undercurrent by Peta Clancy explores a hidden aspect of Australian history. Frontier violence against Indigenous peoples, including massacre sites, are revealed in this series of large-scale landscape photographs. While you’re at Fed Square, check out the freshly installed reproduction of the famous Fearless Girl statue too. Until 28 April.

An image of a rural skyline with pink hued trees above a lake

Undercurrent

Spanish Language Fiesta

Hola! The Spanish Language Fiesta is back for its fourth annual celebration of Hispanic culture. Take a trip from Madrid to Buenos Aires and beyond at this event with everything from Spanish lessons to live Latin music. Saturday 6 April.

Spectral

Be enveloped in light and sound in ways you have to see, hear and feel to believe in this one week season spectacular. In Quadra by Robin Fox, four high-powered lasers distort the space around you through voltages that let you hear the lights you’re seeing. Then wander through a laser playground of fluorescence and neon in Echoes by Meagan Streader. See Arts House with fresh eyes 11-18 April.

A person standing among neon lights

Wander through a fluorescent playground at Spectral

Melbourne Storm Mini Family Day

Just before their NRL round-four clash with the Bulldogs, our rugby league team is hosting an afternoon of free fun. Kids will love the skills-based challenges, inflatable rides and face painting at the Melbourne Storm Mini Family Day. Sunday 7 April.

South Asian Festival

Celebrate Bengali New Year at this all-day event that’s got something for everyone. It’s a well-worn saying, but we think it’s true of the South Asian Festival, now in its fourth year. There’s traditional dance and poetry. There are DJs and fireworks. Stalls offering all sorts of treasures, including jewellery and toys. Activities for all ages, from carnival rides to kite flying. And of course a feast of food trucks and stalls, so you can enjoy South Asian favourites or try something new. Sunday 14 April.

Kids Day Out

A big family outing doesn’t have to cost a bomb. Head for the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, which is transforming into a junior wonderland for the annual Kids Day Out. There’s lots of free fun, and loads of activities that cost as little as a gold-coin donation. It’s a Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal event after all, so bring your wallet. Friday 19 April.