CBD & Paddington
It’s not easy to find good, cheap fun in the area. Most activities are restricted to shopping, football, dining and drinking. However, there are some less financially frightening pastimes.
There are several heritage sites in the city. Grab your map and wander from Brisbane City Hall to Anzac Square, Albert St Church and Windmill Tower. On a warm day, this is a charming way to occupy time and will give some insight into Brisbane’s often dark, prison colony beginnings. Alternatively, the City Botanical Gardens followed by a stroll up Eagle St Pier are always highlights (and free!) especially on a weekend when the markets are on.
There are art gallery openings regularly held in Paddington and the CBD. Try Metro Arts on Edward St, or Hands on Art in Paddington.
If you’re less visual and more physical, Casablanca on Caxton St offers a great Latin Dance class on a Sunday evening, and at only five dollars, they’re not only great value, but great fun, and a good way to meet new people.
Finally, for a leisurely sunny afternoon activity, hop on the City Cat river ferry and meander your way along the Brisbane River. It’ll cost around four dollars on your Go Card from Eagle St Pier to South Bank, and is a convenient and lovely way to get around and get acquainted with the city.
West End & South Bank
There’s plenty of free and low-budget activities in these areas for those that know where to look.
Davies Park Market in West End on Saturdays offers not only a vibrant atmosphere but also lots of local produce, craft and clothing at very reasonable prices. The Avid Reader Bookshop, a West End institution, regularly hosts events and book clubs which are a great way of meeting people and are often free or at maximum $7.50. Occasionally they’ll even offer a free glass of wine and nibbles!
South Bank Cultural Precinct is a great place to find a solid day of cheap entertainment. Here you will find the Queensland Art Gallery, GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), Queensland Museum and Sciencenter and the Maritime Museum, all offering free or cheap entry to certain parts of the venues.
If all the culture gets a bit much, wander down to the South Bank Markets, open Thursday through Sunday, where you will find a colourful mix of clothes, jewellery and food stalls. While the prices may be a little higher than usual for a market, it’s free to look, and there are always talented musicians around.
It’s always nice to wind down, and in the summer months South Bank often offers free yoga, pilates and exercise classes in the park on Little Stanley St. Keep an eye on the Brisbane City Council website for details.
This area has a wealth of cheap and cheerful alternatives for the budget conscious. Due to the diversity of its demographic, the Valley caters to all social groups and income streams. There is endless live music to be found for free or cheap entry at any number of the bars along the strip. The Judith Wright Centre often hosts free or low-cost workshops and is a treat to wander through the beautifully refurbished building even when there are no events on.
For an unbeatably delicious and affordable meal, head to Chinatown. While there are various great restaurants to choose from, you can’t go past Thai Wi-Rat, a Thai-Laos restaurant with top service, fresh and tasty cuisine at super cheap prices. Try the Som Tum Seafood Salad (green papaya salad) or the Duck Larb.
For those who like markets, the Valley Markets has to be one of the best in Brisbane for vintage fashion, trinkets, treasures and people watching. There’s no shortage of buskers and street performers out to keep everyone entertained.
New Farm & Teneriffe
If enjoying this picturesque part of Brisbane on a budget appeals, then it is hard to go past New Farm Park. As mentioned, the pleasant surroundings of the park itself are more than worth the visit, and completely free. Barbeque facilities are available, and in summer you can catch a movie while you’re at it. The stunning Moonlight Cinema experience, for a very reasonable $16 for students, is a beautiful way to enjoy a summer evening under the stars. Bring a picnic and get comfortable to watch either a classic or new release movie.
For cheap and unique dining, you can’t go past Tippler’s Tap. Offering up a menu of Chicago diner-style favourites, there are several options for $16 and under. The beer prices aren’t such a bargain, but with a wide selection of craft beers and ciders, it’s worth the little extra.
St Lucia, Indooroopilly & Toowong
Although many fine treats can be found in the area, it is very easy to get by on a budget too. Grabbing a bite to eat needn’t break the bank, as there’s plenty of restaurants in the precinct that offer mouth-watering menus for great low prices. The Kingfisher in Toowong is a great value eatery that offers dishes like fish and chips and burgers for as low as six dollars.
For a cheap night at the movies, once again head to the UQ campus. There you’ll find the quaint little Schonell Theatre, offering an exciting variety of arthouse and independent films, and they’ve got a reasonably priced candy bar to boot. Tickets will only set you back eight dollars for students and six dollars if you’re a UQ student.
If you’re in the mood to learn, then best hit the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. Hidden within the relaxed surroundings of the Botanical Gardens is an impressive observatory, gift shop, and access to fascinating shows about space. Entry to the planetarium is free, and once inside you can check out educational shows for as little as $12.50 for students.