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Considered as one of the best cities in the world, Melbourne is home to one of the most eclectic mixes of history, culture, food, music, sport, nature, entertainment and business—there’s more than enough things to do to fill your itinerary for weeks!
While it is no secret that Victoria’s capital isn’t the cheapest city to visit, there’s still a bounty of free attractions and activities for families and friends to enjoy together. From shows, concerts and festivals to galleries, street art and hidden gems, here are our top picks for free things to do in Melbourne.
Melbourne is renowned for its countless lanes and alleyways snaking through the CBD between its many cafes. You may quickly notice that nearly no wall is spared from splashes of paint: street art is quintessential Melbourne—certainly one of the best free attractions you’ll find in the city.
Try Caledonian Lane, a small laneway between Little Bourke and Lonsdale street or Strachan Lane, just off Exhibition Street. If you’re a fan of Banksy but can’t make it to the charming university city of Bristol, make Cocker Alley your next stop.
Australia’s oldest public library might look ordinary from the outside, but step in and be awed by the striking architecture and gush of natural light of the iconic Domed Reading Room, a 100-odd-year-old room designed to hold over a million books. Extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, the Library was also one of the first public libraries in the world when it opened in 1854.
Before you leave, step outside to the vast greenery that is The Lawn, once fenced up and covered with shrubs and trees. Today, you’ll find many relaxing with a book or friends here. On Sundays, you’ll want to catch orators taking the stage at the speakers’ forum here in the afternoon.
Did you know that Melbourne is renowned for its comedy scene? Countless bars throughout the city host free comedy nights on different days of the week where a mix of established names and newcomers take to the stage. Laugh away the Monday blues with Comedy @ Spleen or celebrate the start of the weekend with a Quick Bites Comedy session at Boney.
If budget permits, you can also check out ticketed shows at Comic’s Lounge—Australia’s longest-running comedy club—or Kings of Comedy. And if you’re in town between March and April, you don’t want to miss the annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
The National Gallery Victoria (NGV) is a treasured institution of Melbourne and a must-see for anyone visiting the city. Australia’s oldest, largest and most popular art museum boasts an impressive collection of permanent works—more than 70,000 spanning thousands of years!—along with a regularly rotating selection of world-class exhibitions that are sure to capture your imagination.
There are more than art pieces to admire here at NGV. The Gallery is also home to the largest suspended piece of stained glass in the world, with 224 tiles forming a kaleidoscope of colours in its Great Hall.
Round up your afternoon here with high tea in the Gallery’s tea room, with an ever-changing menu of nibbles and tea inspired by the major exhibitions on display.
The Queen Victoria Market is an iconic and historic landmark and adored by locals and tourists alike. The century-old market is also the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, spanning over 7 hectares (17 acres)! Come early and stroll through over 600 stalls selling everything possible from fresh fruit and meat products to flowers, clothes, records, coffee and even home décor.
If you’re feeling peckish, there’s plenty to eat here. Join the queue at the American Doughnut Kitchen van for fluffy, strawberry-filled doughnuts at just a dollar each or visit The Borek Shop, which serves up Turkish Boreks—meat, veggie or cheese-filled pastries that are easy to munch on as you continue your shopping.
The market opens Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays, with a special Hawker Night Market happening every Wednesday evening.
All year round, visitors to St Kilda just after sunset are treated to views of an adorable colony of little fairy penguins waddling around the rocks of the pier after a long day of hunting fish. It’s a tranquil scene to be experienced just 30 minutes from the city centre, with summer being the best time to spot them.
When out penguin watching, do observe some rules to protect the wildlife: Avoid climbing on the rocks as that’s where the penguins lay their eggs and look after their young. Also, avoid hurting or scaring them with flash photography and avoid feeding or touching of the animals.
While you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out the thriving community of St Kilda with its many shops, restaurants and cafes punctuating the foreshore. Don’t miss the chance to learn more about Australia’s aboriginal art and indigenous culture at the Vivien Anderson Gallery, which offers aboriginal paintings, photography and wood and sculpture carvings on display and some for sale.
On any given night throughout Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs, countless bars and pubs feature free live music in every genre imaginable. Whether you’re into progressive pop, new wave hip-hop, Irish flute, classic rock, Colombian folk, soothing jazz or anything in between, you’ll have no trouble tracking down a free gig somewhere in this famously musical city.
Go where only Melburnians know: Right in the heart of the CBD is Cherry Bar, which offers free entry into its blues night on Sundays, while free gigs can be found happening every day at the Retreat Hotel.
Spare no expense for a safe and comfortable base in the city at Fraser Place Melbourne. The fully furnished serviced apartments in Melbourne offer round-the-clock security and concierge services so you can rest and recharge without a worry. Conveniently located in the heart of the CBD, nearly all these attractions and activities are under a 20-minute drive away from the serviced apartment.