10 Free Ways to Spend Your Time in Melbourne

Those with a limited travel budget can rejoice, here are the best free things to do in Melbourne.

Melbourne has so many things to do that cost absolutely nothing that it can be overwhelming. We’ve taken the time to break down the very best that money can’t buy. There’s a reason that Melbourne is consistently voted the most liveable city in the world and we think it’s down to the number of things you can do for free. Experience galleries, laneways, music, gardens, beaches and more.

City Ambassadors in Melbourne Laneway
Lose Yourself in Arty Laneways (Courtesy City of Melbourne)

Street Art

Melbourne is bursting with vibrant street art. So much that it’s one of the most iconic things about the city other than the coffee. While you could grab a map, we suggest putting down your phone and getting lost in Melbourne’s mazes. Start at Hosier Lane, the place that put Melbourne’s street art on the map and enjoy a dizzying array of colours and shapes. You’re sure to find some special pieces of art. 

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is Australia’s only museum devoted to film, video games, digital culture and art. ACMI lives in Federation Square. With a bunch of vibrant, interactive and uber-contemporary exhibitions to experience, you’ll learn more about the moving image than ever. Whilst some exhibitions cost money, there’s still plenty to experience without spending a cent. There’s even a cinema inside showing a boutique selection of hand-picked films. 

National Gallery of Victoria
Explore the National Gallery of Victoria. (©Robert Blackburn/Visit Victoria)

National Gallery of Victoria

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia’s oldest and most visited gallery. Situated across two buildings in the heart of Melbourne, it’s easy to get to from any destination. There’s a wide range of exhibitions, events, fashion, design, dance and sound on offer. Art from across the globe and through thousands of years is showcased at NGV in an ever-rotating roster of excellence. You won’t be disappointed.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Ultra-modern and slick as heck the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) sits right on Melbourne’s Southbank. As the name suggests, ACCA is a proud champion of the contemporary, commissioning works from local and international artists so that they can display truly unique pieces of art. You’ll find a range of talks, lectures, symposia, performances, screenings and music alongside the traditional artworks. There are also free tours through the gallery.

City Circle Trams
Tour Melbourne's CBD on the City Circle Tram. (©Yarra Trams)

City Circle Trams

What’s cooler than a free ride through central Melbourne on a classic tram that takes you past all the major sites such as the Old Melbourne GaolImmigration Museum, Docklands, Federation SquareSEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium and the Princess Theatre? Nothing. Glad we agree. City Circle Trams run in both directions and depart every 12 minutes, so you’ll never have to wait long. Plus, there’s onboard audio commentary so you get the history behind the sites. 

Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens

Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city right in the centre of the CBD. The Gardens are home to over 50,000 plants from around the world, some of which are extremely rare. Inside the gardens is the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. It’s perfect for letting the kids loose so that they can explore and discover the natural world.

State Library of Victoria
Wonder at the State Library of Victoria (©John Gollings)

The State Library

The State Library is not as boring as the name suggests. Inside this 19th century cultural icon is more than two million books, hundreds of thousands of pictures, newspapers, maps and manuscripts. There’s also two permanent exhibitions and free guided tours. There really is no better way to learn about the history and culture of Melbourne. If none of that takes your fancy, find your favourite book and enjoy it under the Library’s majestic domed ceiling. 

Live Music

Melburnians love live music and as such, there're heaps of places to catch a gig for absolutely nothing. Cherry Bar (pictured) sits on AC/DC Lane and claims to be “pretty much the best rock n’ roll bar in the world.” We can’t argue with that. There’s a free gig almost every night so it doesn’t matter when you’re visiting Melbourne. Conversely, there’s the Evelyn Hotel which is always buzzing with electric energy.

St Kilda Beach
Swim at St Kilda Beach. (©Josie Withers/Visit Victoria)

St. Kilda Beach

St Kilda Beach is the place to be when the sun comes out. Only a short tram ride from the CBD there’s heaps of cafes and restaurants looking out over the glistening ocean. The foreshore is bustling with activity as joggers, walkers and rollerblades whiz past. Don’t forget to check out the iconic St Kilda Pier. When you decide to take a dip be sure you swim between the flags for optimum safety.

The Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance is Victoria’s national war memorial. It was built for the grieving community post World War One and honours all the fallen soldiers of that conflict and those since. Alongside the names of all those who have fallen there are talks, exhibitions and services for those wishing to pay respects. The Shrine is an awe-inspiring visual, towering from the grassy areas which surround it and offers panoramic views of Melbourne.