If you’re new to Melbourne and on a student budget, exploring the city doesn’t have to be costly. The good news is, there are lots of free things to do and places to visit that will give you a taste of what this vibrant city has to offer. From galleries to gardens, here are the best free activities in Melbourne.
Free walking tours
There’s no better way to acquaint yourself with a new city than by taking a free walking tour guided by a local. Otherwise, take a self-guided walk around the city to check out Melbourne’s famous laneways, arcades, cafes, street art, monuments, gardens and more.
How to get there: I’m Free Walking Tours runs free tours from State Library Victoria.
Best time to visit: The tours run twice daily at 10.30am and 2.30pm every day, except Christmas Day.
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
Melbourne’s much-loved NGV is a great place to spend a few hours soaking up some culture. Explore its incredible permanent collection, or book in for a tour of the many free exhibitions on show throughout the year.
How to get there: Take a short stroll across the bridge from Flinders Street Station.
Best time to visit: The NGV is a popular tourist spot and can get crowded on the weekends. Make the most of the quieter weekday mornings if you can.
State Library Victoria
Australia’s oldest public library, Melbourne’s State Library is an architectural landmark and a beautiful building to explore. Take a library tour or check out one of the many free events and exhibitions held there throughout the year.
Where to find it: Take a short walk up La Trobe Street from Melbourne Central Station.
Best time to visit: The library is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with late nights (9pm) Monday to Thursday.
Queen Victoria Market
The bustling Queen Victoria Market is an iconic Melbourne landmark and the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Wander through the aisles and explore the bustling food, clothing and bric-a-brac stalls – you may find a bargain!
Where to find it: The market is located a short walk from Flagstaff or Melbourne Central Station, otherwise catch a tram on Elizabeth Street.
Best time to visit: The Summer and Winter Night Markets are must-visits – check out the Queen Victoria Market website for opening hours.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Much like New York’s Central Park, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens occupy a large part of the central city. Stretching from St Kilda Road, through the Shrine of Remembrance and all the way across to Richmond and South Yarra, the gardens are a great spot to meet up with friends, take a stroll around the Tan, or spend a leisurely afternoon reading by the lake.
Where to find it: There are multiple entrance points – via St Kilda Road, Domain Road or Alexandra Avenue.
Best time to visit: Visit in the afternoon to make the most of sun-baking opportunities.
Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1000 Steps)
If you’re up for a challenge (and own a pair of sensible shoes), the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (known as the ‘1000 Steps’) is a great way to get out of the city and explore Melbourne’s leafy Dandenong Ranges. Just make sure to take some water – you’ll need it.
Where to find it: Located an hour out of Melbourne, you’ll need a car for this one. Otherwise, take the Belgrave train from Flinders Street Station and get off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station.
Best time to visit: This walk is hugely popular on weekends, so go early if you can.
Free music and comedy
Throughout the year, you’ll find several free comedy and music shows to enjoy at some of the venues around the city. Check out the program for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (March to April) and Melbourne Music Week (November), or browse your local event guide.
Where to find it: Around the city.
Best time to visit: Many venues hold free events on quieter weeknights (Monday to Thursday).
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Southern England when you arrive at this inner-north Melbourne oasis. The Convent is home to sprawling gardens and houses cafes and galleries, as well as regular exhibitions and workshops. If you’re an animal-lover, the nearby Collingwood Children’s Farm is a must-visit (and not just for kids), with $5 adult concession prices.
Where to find it: The Convent is a 10-minute walk from Victoria Park or Collingwood Station.
Best time to visit: Year-round.