Free things to do in Melbourne

Melbourne is a great city with all sorts of things available to keep visitors busy. Melbourne can satisfy most general interests and even offer specific subjects such as immigration history and digital culture. Here are the top things to do in Melbourne that are completely free.

Admire Melbourne architecture

Melbourne prides itself on being the artistic and cultural capital of Australia. Nowhere is this more evident than in the blending of old and new architecture across the city. Striking juxtapositions present themselves such as 19th century St Paul’s Cathedral and the very modern-looking Australian Centre for the Moving Image just across Flinders Street. Flinders Street Station (pictured above) was also built in the 1800s and is a great example of an historic building being preserved and continuing to be used today. The stations façade (main image above) dominates Flinders Street and is rather beautiful.

Enjoy the quiet at St Paul’s Cathedral

Not quite as enormous as the cathedral of the same name in London, Anglican cathedral St Paul’s Cathedral is still impressive as one of the few significant cathedrals remaining in Australia. It was built on the site where the first Christian services in Melbourne were led in 1836. This stone building was built in the late 1800s. It features beautiful stained glass windows, an interesting wooden effect ceiling and a still functioning organ.

Check out some street art

Hosier and Rutledge Streets, Caledonian and Union Lanes, Finlay Avenue, Degraves Street, 122 Palmerston Street, Centre Place and the Corner of Flinders Land and Cocker Avenue. Other examples around the city, include Giuseppe Roneri’s mosaic benches on Victoria street, Westgarth Street, and Russian dolls on Brunswick Street. Read more about Melbourne Street Art here.

Street art on Hosier Street, Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne museums and galleries

The National Gallery of Victoria has two galleries housing over 70,000 works of art from European, Asian, Oceanic and American art collections. The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia contains indigenous and non-indigenous art from the colonial period to the present day. It is home to more Australian art than anywhere else in the world. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a haven for movie buffs and TV addicts. The futuristic building is full of film, television, digital culture and has a free exhibit called Screen Worlds that is well worth a look. The ACMI store contains lots of treasures for movie fans.

Get outdoors in Carlton Gardens

Melbourne has several park areas including Flagstaff Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens, Treasury Gardens, Kings Domain. World Heritage listed Carlton Gardens cover 64 acres just north east of Melbourne’s city centre. The area is home to the Royal Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Museum, Imax cinema, lakes, tennis courts and a playground. The gardens feature wide expanses of lawn, European and Australian plants, and a tree-lined avenue leads to the exhibition centre. The gardens are also home to possums, ducks, kookaburras and bats.

Carlton Gardens, Melbourne, Australia. Photo credit: Julia Kuleshova

Ride an historic tram

Not many cities look after tourists the way Melbourne does. Melbourne’s tram network runs an historic tram on route 35 for free. It circles the city roughly every 12 minutes passing significant tourist stops and making useful transport connections.  Tram 35 runs from 10am to 6pm Sunday to Wednesday and 10am to 9pm Thursday to Saturday.

People watch at Federation Square

Centrally located in the middle of the city, Federation Square really is the beating heart of Melbourne. The modern piazza is full of cultural attractions, specialty stores, restaurants and bars, making it Melbourne’s favourite place to catch up and people watch.

Research the State Library of Victoria

Victoria’s most valuable research library is more like a museum. It contains thousands of books, but also houses historical items of interest telling Victoria’s history, such as John Batman’s journal, Ned Kelly’s armour and various paintings. For a one-stop history lesson on all things Victoria the exhibit ‘the changing face of Victoria’ is a must. It includes maps, pictures, and other items exposing daily life over the years.

Spend some time by the Yarra River

Take a riverside stroll along the southbank for a great view of the city. The southbank is lined with restaurants and cafes, and street performers compete for attention. There is also a cycle path for those wishing to take in the riverside on two wheels. Crown Promenade around the casino is a good place to head to for quality restaurants.

Melbourne at night, Australia. Photo credit: Adam Selwood

Hit the beach at St Kilda

While Bondi is Sydney’s beach destination, St Kilda is Melbourne’s. St Kilda beach is long, well maintained and clean. For those needing a bit more than beach, it is also lined with markets, amusement parks and nightclubs.

Well those were my favourite free things to do in Melbourne. Have you got any tips of your own? If so, please share your ideas in the comments below.

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