The Best Free Things To Do In The Maldives: A Guide To Exploring The Islands For Free – Consistently ranked among the world’s most liveable cities, Melbourne isn’t a half-bad place to visit, with everything from sprawling markets and insightful museums to beautiful botanical gardens and vintage theme parks. Even better news: you can enjoy these experiences in abundance without spending a dime. Here’s our guide to the best free things to do in Melbourne.
See classic and contemporary art at the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne’s other art centers © Asanka Ratnayake / Getty Images
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The National Gallery of Victoria has an impressive collection of great names such as Drysdale, Rodin and Constable, with many permanent works for free in its international collections. The main gallery on St Kilda Road is a work of art in itself, worth a stroll in itself, with a towering stained glass atrium for art lovers to jump into. The Ian Potter Center down the road from Federation Square houses the Australian Collection, with a beautiful ground floor gallery of Aboriginal works.
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While in Federation Square, visit the city’s famous ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) for an interactive history of film and television with a dose of good old fashion.
, finally). Next is the Australian Center for Contemporary Art on Southbank – another architectural gem with a rotating exhibition calendar. Still not satisfied? There are many private galleries in the Flinders Lane district that hold small exhibitions of local and international artists.
In 1934 the magnificent Shrine of Remembrance near St Kilda Rd was completed as a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in WWI. Historical exhibitions highlight the sacrifices made and it is the site of some of Melbourne’s most important military and commemorative ceremonies, such as ANZAC Day. Visible from across the city, planning regulations continue to prohibit any building obstructing the view of the sanctuary from Swanston St to Lonsdale St. A beautiful view of the city can be seen by climbing the steps of the shrine.
Over the past decade, Melbourne’s back streets have transformed from small streets on the city’s high streets to proud canvases for some of the world’s best street art. You probably won’t find Banksy’s works here (they are said to have been painted over or destroyed, although at least one is said to survive), but what you will find is a brilliant mishmash of well-known local and colorful murals. Visiting artist. Start from Artist Hozier Lane (opposite Federation Square) and follow the Maze of Lanes north from there.
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Melburnians love a good market and the city is full to the brim. In almost every neighborhood you’ll find weekly markets selling fresh local produce, handmade crafts, second-hand treasures or gourmet hawker fare. Of course, browsing is free and there are plenty of food samples to try if you’re tempted.
Apart from the big hit Queen Victoria Market in the heart of the city, depending on where you stay, there are less touristy markets to visit in the city. Try Camberwell Market for a Parisian flea market vibe; Rose Street Artists Market in Fitzroy to boost Melbourne’s creativity; the summer-only night market at Victoria Market for hawker-style food and live music; And the Farmer’s Market at Abbotsford Convent or Collingwood Children’s Farm for rural delights in the city.
When the city scene is too much, head to the breezy St Kilda Beach for a different kind of guzz. Take a stroll along the promenade and St Kilda Pier to enjoy the view, watch the fishermen or brave kite surfers riding the waves. Acland Street is the main people-watching area with many outdoor cafes; Locals and tourists flock there to window shop and flock to the old European pastry shops of the street. Take the obligatory photo for Luna Park’s iconic smile before heading inside to check out the cracking amusement rides of yesteryear, such as the merry-go-round and scenic roller coaster. Play spectator, because the rides will cost you.
A craft market is set up along the esplanade on Sundays. Families should also visit the St Kilda Adventure Playground – a real treat for older children.
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You will walk around Melbourne wondering how the place looked like before it was colonized by the British two centuries ago. For an introduction to the area by its traditional custodians, the Wurundjeri people, and to learn a thing or two about the contemporary history and culture of the Kuri, head to the Kuri Heritage Trust’s Cultural Center in Federation Square. A permanent social history exhibition is complemented by rotating exhibitions of new and established Aboriginal artists. The Melbourne Museum also has excellent information on local social and cultural heritage, but is free for students and members only.
It’s a shortcut to Melbourne city center without breaking a sweat or spending a dime (although your eardrums won’t thank you – the commentary is informative enough, but a little too loud for anyone to listen to). The City Circle Tram runs through the city to Docklands Waterfront. Heritage ‘W Class’ trams run around the track like the original 1923 trams with wooden seats, brass and leather hand rails.
Melbourne’s city center is full of heritage buildings from different eras and styles. Get ready to refresh your appetite as you wander the city’s famous or quaint buildings, old advertising paintings and far futuristic structures. Highlights include Flinders Street train station, Federation Square, Block Arcade, the Nicholas Building and the Gothic headquarters of ANZ. Every July, you can go one step further and take a free look at many of Melbourne’s forbidden architectural highlights at the city’s annual Open House event.
Close to the hearts of all who call Melbourne home, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the ultimate place to take part in local life. The hilly green site of 38 hectares on the edge of the CBD, which dates back to 1857, is divided into several themes with a lake in its center. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a long afternoon of picnicking and then walking the park’s many trails. There is also a specially designed children’s playground for families with water fountains and an artificial river to release water in summer.
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Day and night, but especially early in the morning, you’ll share the perimeter with fitness fanatics running the garden’s 3.84km circuit, known locally as ‘The Tan’. Avid botanists should check out the website for free tours.
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the construction of some of Melbourne’s largest churches. The Gothic St Paul’s Cathedral (opposite Federation Square) is built on the same site where Victoria’s first Christian service was held in 1835. Minutes away are St Michael’s Uniting Church and the Scots Church, both architecturally impressive and peaceful oases in the city .
The heritage building of the State Library of Victoria was established in 1854 and today their collection exceeds two million volumes. But you really came for the building. Its centerpiece, the octagonal La Trobe reading room, was completed in 1913 when its dome was the largest in the world. Natural light illuminates the ornate plasterwork and student Melburnians who come here to write their essays.
Pick up a map of reception and explore the reading room and exhibition rooms on your own. The library also features a revolving door of exhibits ranging from literature to fine art, as well as free classes, workshops, lectures and children’s activities.
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The founders of Lonely Planet funded the Wheeler Center in 2010, the same year Melbourne was listed as a UNESCO City of Literature. The center occupies part of the State Library building, and is a place for “books, writing and ideas”. Regular events, including workshops and lectures by artists, writers, architects and publishers, are usually free to attend. Reservations can be made through the website.
After coffee, street art and footy (Australian rules football, that is), Melburnians love live music. There are many free exhibitions throughout the city almost every day of the week. In the city, Cherry is notorious as a rock venue and has a mix of free and paid gigs. Also in the city is tof in town. If you like folk, blues, jazz, pop or even Australian hip-hop (yes, there is such a thing), check out local street press like The Beat, which you can pick up in bars, pubs and cafes, or indie Radio station RRR’s online gig guide. Beyond the CBD, there are plenty of live music venues in suburbs such as Northcote (Northcote Social Club), Brunswick (Retreat Hotel) and St Kilda (The Esplanade Hotel).
To really get under Melbourne’s skin, leave the CBD and explore some of the city’s urban history in increasingly modernized districts on the outskirts. Online walking tours of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill are available on the council’s website and will take you past industrial landmarks such as Skipping.
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