Free things to do in Melbourne.

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A comprehensive guide of the best free things to do in Melbourne.

What can you do while visiting Melbourne on a budget? One of the most magical things about our city is the abundance of free activities to partake in during your stay. This article is your comprehensive guide to the best free things to do in and around Melbourne including museums, comedy, live music, and sightseeing.

Take in the sights on the City Circle tourist tram

Look out for the number 35 tram travelling in a loop around Melbourne’s CBD (central business district) and jump on for a free mini-tour and adventure of the city. These W-Class trams were transformed into a tourist attraction in 1994, travelling past some of the city’s best sights with a free audio guide describing each location. The trams were built between 1923 and 1956 and provide a great historical photo opportunity.

 

How do I catch it? Wait at a tram stop with a city circle sign (they are located on the borders of the CBD), when you see a big old green tram with the number 35 on it, jump on!

 

Hot tip: All trams in the CBD are FREE so there’s no need to touch on your Myki card when using public transport inside the central business district.

Surround yourself with nature in the Royal Botanic Gardens

Grab a rug (or a reusable supermarket shopping bag if you’re desperate), pick up some snacks and head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens for a picnic! Visiting the gardens is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and check out horticultural collections from around the world.

 

How do I get there? The Royal Botanic Gardens are a 30-minute walk from Federation Square or a 5-minute tram ride outside the free tram zone (so don’t forget your Myki).

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens run free guided tours! Book ahead to secure a spot. The gardens also run an Aboriginal Heritage Walk where you can learn more about local Kulin culture with an Indigenous guide. This 90-minute experience costs between $29-$35 and ends with a cup of lemon myrtle tea.

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Join a free walking tour.

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Explore Melbourne like a local and join an I’m Free walking tour

Want to explore the best of Melbourne? Learn more about the culture and history of our beautiful city through amusing anecdotes with a local guide? Come along on one of our tours. Our walking tours operate off the ‘free tour’ model, meaning there are no upfront costs for joining. We survive solely from a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ system so if you enjoyed exploring Melbourne with a knowledgeable local guide, you can leave them a tip based on what you feel the tour was worth. These tips pay the guide’s wages and mean we can keep offering world-class tours for travellers regardless of your budget.

 

How do I get there? Both our Culture Capital and Melbourne Sights Tours begin in front of the State Library of Victoria. The library is located on the corner of Swanston and La Trobe street within the free tram zone. Hop off at Melbourne central station for the train and tram.

 

Hot Tip: Take a tour as soon as you arrive in Melbourne for a comprehensive overview of the city. Ask your guide for recommendations for the best bars, restaurants, cafes and experiences.

Visit the Shrine of Remembrance

After the Botanic Gardens, why not visit the Shrine of Remembrance? This war memorial is visible from any point on Swanston street if you look straight down the middle of the road towards St Kilda. The Shrine has a free exhibition detailing Australia’s military history including the nation’s involvement in WW1 and WW2.

 

How do I get there? The Shrine of Remembrance is a 25-minute walk or a 5-minute tram ride from Flinders Street station. The Shrine is located outside the free tram zone so remember to touch on your Myki when travelling.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: From the Shrine viewing platform, you can get a great view of the city skyline. You might notice a building at the end of Swanston St with the face of Ngurungaeta Elder William Barak. Barak was an Indigenous artist, an advocate for Aboriginal rights and an important leader in the Wurundjeri-Willam clan. When he was 11 years old he witnessed the signing of Batman’s treaty in 1835.

Have a laugh at Spleen bar on a Monday night with free comedy

Monday nights at Spleen are a must for any comedy fan visiting Melbourne. Spleen is a tiny  dive bar off Bourke Street with free open mic comedy each week featuring some of Australia’s best comedians including Wil Anderson, Adam Hills, Claire Hooper, Josh Thomas and Charlie Pickering. Although this event is free, you can donate any spare cash on your way out to keep the comedy nights running!

 

How do I get there? Spleen is a 2-minute walk from Parliament Train Station and also within the free tram zone.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Comedy kicks off at 8:30, get in early for a pre-show beer and a good spot, remember it is teeny tiny.

Learn about Indigenous culture and history at the Koorie Heritage Trust

The Koorie Heritage Trust, located in Federation Square has free exhibitions documenting the histories of Aboriginal Victoria and south-east Australia. They house a collection of over 60,000 artefacts, artworks, books, photographs and videos. It’s a fantastic place to learn more about the history and contemporary lives of the traditional Indigenous owners in Victoria and New South Wales.

 

How do I get there? The Koorie Heritage Trust is located in Federation Square, within the free tram zone. Hop off at Flinders Street station if catching the tram or train.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Another fantastic place to learn more about Indigenous history and culture is the Bunjilaka exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. It’s free for kids, concession, seniors and students and only $15 for adults to explore the whole museum.

Check out the architecture in St Patrick’s and St Paul's Cathedral

Melbourne is a city with world-class architecture, home to incredible 19th-century buildings scattered around the city.  Two of the finest are St Paul’s and St Patrick’s cathedral. Guests are free to walk inside to quietly and respectfully admire their beauty.

 

How do I get there? St Paul’s Anglican cathedral is located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders street, right next to the aforementioned Fed Square. St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral is a short walk east from Parliament house and Parliament station.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: If visiting St Patrick’s cathedral, keep an eye out for an obscure gargoyle along the southern wall. During renovations, one stone mason transformed a gargoyle into an unflattering caricature of former premier Jeff Kennett. It remains there today!

Have an artsy afternoon at the NGV international or Ian Potter centre

Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia, is home to collections of stunning international and local art. The National Gallery of Victoria has two sites, one on St. Kilda road with world-renowned art and the Ian Potter Centre in Fed Square featuring Indigenous art, early colonial paintings and contemporary Australian pieces. Both are completely free and family-friendly with exhibitions for kids and adults alike. Once inside you can take a guided tour run by knowledgeable gallery staff.

 

How do I get there? The Ian Potter Centre for Australian art is located in Federation Square. If you’re catching a train hop off at Flinders Street station. This gallery is also located in the free tram zone. The NGV International is a short walk from Federation square across the Yarra River towards the Arts Centre. The gallery is inside a beautiful bluestone building with a water wall out the front.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Ask a gallery staff member the story behind Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman. Alternatively, ask one of our guides next time you join a tour.

Dance to some free live music

Melbourne has one of the world’s most lively music scenes. Local bands perform across the city every night of the week. Whilst local gigs are usually very affordable (between $10-15 entry) some venues have free band nights. Notably, the Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood has free gigs Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon. Globe Alley in the CBD has free bands on Mondays. There’s so much free live music to be consumed each week with over 3000 performances happening each week. Check out Beat magazine for a full gig guide.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Buy a band t-shirt to support local musicians and take home a memorable souvenir.

 

How do I get there? Free gigs are all over Melbourne! For shows in St Kilda catch the 3a or 16 tram from Swanston Street. For shows in Fitzroy or Collingwood catch the 86 or 96 tram from Bourke Street and for gigs in the CBD use the free tram zone to get around.

 

Explore the galleries at the State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria, A.K.A the starting point of our Melbourne walking tours, is home to some spectacular gold rush era architecture, fascinating artifacts and exhibitions. Visit the 5 level dome galleries for exhibitions about early Melbourne, the history of literature and to see the armour of notorious bushranger Ned Kelly. The Latrobe reading room is a beautiful spot for a photo opportunity or to do some quiet reading.

 

How do I get there? The library is located within the free tram zone on the corner of Swanston and La Trobe street. If catching the train, hop-off at Melbourne Central station within the City Loop.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Volunteers run free tours of the library every day at 10am (check time post corona).

Dance to some free live music

Melbourne has one of the world’s most lively music scenes. Local bands perform across the city every night of the week. Whilst local gigs are usually very affordable (between $10-15 entry) some venues have free band nights. Notably, the Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood has free gigs Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon. Globe Alley in the CBD has free bands on Mondays. There’s so much free live music to be consumed each week with over 3000 performances happening each week. Check out Beat magazine for a full gig guide.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Buy a band t-shirt to support local musicians and take home a memorable souvenir.

 

How do I get there? Free gigs are all over Melbourne! For shows in St Kilda catch the 3a or 16 tram from Swanston Street. For shows in Fitzroy or Collingwood catch the 86 or 96 tram from Bourke Street and for gigs in the CBD use the free tram zone to get around.

 

Take a trip back in time at the Old Treasury Building

The Old Treasury Building is one of the most underrated museums in Melbourne. It’s exhibitions detail Victoria’s history including the gold rush and the marvellous Melbourne era as well as the role of women in the development of the city. One of the most fascinating things in the Old Treasury Building is the home of the Manyard family. In the 1920’s the caretaker of the building lived in a tiny section of the basement with his wife and eight children, these days you can tour the rooms they lived in.

 

How do I get there? The Old Treasury Building is a 2-minute walk from Parliament station and within the free tram zone. The number 35 tourist tram stops right outside the museum.

 

Local I’m Free Guide Tip: Planning to elope? The Old Treasury Building is also home to the Victorian Marriage Registry. So you can get married there, visit the museum and take stunning wedding photos in front of the Victorian facade.

WRITTEN BY YOUR LOCAL GUIDE:

Astrid

Astrid

I love sharing interesting stories and showing off Melbourne, when I'm not studying or playing with local band Barefoot Bowls Club.
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