Melbourne is one of Australia’s most vibrant cities, with a thriving arts and culture scene and an endless list of activities to keep you busy. It’s got some of the best coffee and restaurants in the world, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful architecture. There’s also some great Melbourne cycling routes to explore.
This city is a treasure trove of free things to do. From museums to hidden laneways and the Royal Botanic Gardens, there’s a ton of fun to be had without spending a dollar!
These options are legit free. Like actually free. You don’t have to pay money to get a tram somewhere to then do something for free. You can be in the city centre of Melbourne and do every single one of these things for free without having to pull your wallet out of your bag! Let’s go!
1. Koorie Heritage Trust
Located at Fed Square, this is an important collection of indigenous art and culture with exhibitions throughout the year and a shop to buy original aboriginal art.
2. Self Guided Aboriginal Walk
Learn about the history and culture of the areas First Nations people using this guide.
3. Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria (Australian)
World first gallery that showcases Australian art and artists only. Includes galleries dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
4. National Gallery of Victoria (International)
The oldest gallery in Australia, it hosts a large range of international artists and exhibitions like Van Gogh, Picasso, Kaws, Terracotta Warriors, Dior, Andy Warhol for example.
5. State Library of Victoria
Built in 1854 on Swanston Street, this is Australia’s oldest library and one of the first in the world to be free to use. Visit the top floor on Level 6 to see the beautiful La Trobe Reading Room.
Located at Fed Square, this museum celebrates screen culture such as TV, Film and Videogames.
7. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
Just a short walk away from the CBD, this large modern gallery showcases local and international contemporary artists.
8. Melbourne Laneways Street Art
Melbourne is world famous for its street art and you can take a self guided tour of all the well known laneways around the CBD. Visiting Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane, Presgrave Place and Croft Alley, this is a great morning experience that takes around 2 hours.
9. Walk along the Yarra River
Begin at Fed Square and walk down towards Birrarung Marr. Or start across the river at Southbank and walk towards the Bolte Bridge. So many things to see!
Melbourne’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the western world and has so many things to see including the Chinese Museum, historic buildings, dragons and so many food options.
11. Free City Circle Tram
All trams in Melbourne CBD are free (so no need to touch on or off with your Myki!) but this one in particular is designed for tourists. The Route 35 tram comes every 15 minutes and has audio commentary about the city landmarks and attractions it passes.
12. Free City Walking Tour
Download some of these booklets for self guided walks around the city.
13. Queen Vic Market
This market is a foodie’s paradise. Opened in 1878, this bustling inner city market has everything from food to clothes to souvenirs. Open every day except Monday and Wednesday.
14. Royal Botanic Gardens
Beautiful relaxing place that’s built on 38 hectares and houses over 8000 species of plants from around the world. A lovely spot to chill, have a picnic and walk around.
15. More Gardens to see
Visit the many other gardens close by like Treasury Gardens, Carlton Gardens, Alexandra Gardens, Flagstaff Gardens, Birrarung Marr and Fitzroy Gardens.
16. Melbourne Central Shot Tower and Musical Clock
Melbourne Central is a shopping centre in the CBD and was built around this shot tower that was made in 1889. The large ornate musical clock opposite the tower chimes and plays Waltzing Matilda on the hour and is nice to see especially for kids.
17. Parliament House
Go on a free tour of Parliament and learn about the history of the building and the role and workings of Parliament.
18. Historic Arcades
The Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade are small luxury shopping strips that were built in the late 1800’s. With pristine tiled floors, glass ceilings and Victorian-era architecture, they are really interesting to look at. Head to the Royal Arcade on the hour to see mythical creatures Gog and Magog perform.
19. Shrine of Remembrance
A famous landmark in Melbourne, this memorial honours the service of Australians in war and peacekeeping.
Here’s a small list of unique looking churches in Melbourne CBD to visit and admire their architecture inside and out.
St Paul’s Cathedral, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Scots’ Church Melbourne, St Michael’s Uniting Church, Chinese Mission Church, St Francis Church, Wesley Uniting Church and Welsh Church.
21. Polly Woodside Ship
This cargo ship that was built in 1885 and was used through the two world wars is located at Southbank. You can walk past and admire the restoration and take pictures.
22. Secret Rooftop Garden
Located at 699 Collins Street, Docklands. Find the large white spiral staircase and walk up it to serenity.
23. Federation Square (Fed Square)
Opposite Flinders Street Train Station, this is one of Melbourne’s main landmarks. Check this link to find all the free events here. They have festivals, markets, concerts, movies and heaps more!
24. Melbourne Architecture
Melbourne has some really interesting buildings, with many of them built in the 1800’s. All you have to do is wander the streets and look up!
25. Docklands Public Art
There’s a cool self guided public art walk around the Docklands you can take yourself on.
26. Gas Brigade Fireball Show at Crown Casino
On the hour, the world’s largest fireballs shoot into the night’s sky along the Yarra River. See here for times and more information.