Free things to do in Melbourne
Lucky for us, and you, there are lots of free things to do in Melbourne. We’ve been in Melbourne for 4 weeks and had ample opportunity to explore the free attractions. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of free things to do in Melbourne. Here’s our top 8!
8. Visit the libraries (and play computer games!)
The libraries in central Melbourne aren’t your usual dusty rooms filled with old books. Oh no, the two we visited had fast wifi, exciting exhibitions and computer games! We visited The State Library of Victoria and The Library at the Dock. Both libraries have ample space and a whole calendar full of free classes, exhibits and things to do. Look up the calendar when you’re in town and there might be something you’re interested in. Alternatively if you’re just passing through and need wifi for a little while… hop off the free tram at the state library!
7. The Royal Botanical Gardens
Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens were first established in 1846 so they’ve had plenty of time to mature. The gardens are world famous and with over 10,000 species of plants you can see why. Located just behind Flinders Street Station they are accessible from town and offer a hours of relaxation. We tied our trip to the gardens in with a visit to The Shrine of Remembrance. A great free day out – don’t forget your picnic!
6. Street art tour
We should confess while we set off to do this tour it was so warm that we quit mid way through and took shelter in the AC of the Melbourne Museum. But it is there if you’re interested and what we saw was intense and different. You can pay for a guided tour of the street art but I think it’s much more fun to find a rough guide online an set off on a treasure hunt!
5. St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is a Neo Gothic cathedral facing flinders street station. From the outside it dominates the street and from the inside there are some beautiful stain glass windows. The cathedral has its own app(!) and you can download it for free and use it to tour the cathedral.
You can get more information about the app and visiting on their website.
4. National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public art museum and it’s still going strong. On the day we visited it was filled with adults and children enjoying the exhibitions. We visited when it was a stifling 40 degrees out so the AC was very welcome. The NGV operates across two sites: NGV International, located on St Kilda Road in the heart of the Melbourne Arts Precinct of Southbank, and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, located nearby at Federation Square. The galleries are a mixture of free and paid exhibitions. We attended several free exhibitions and enjoyed David Shrigley the most. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier was the paid exhibition while we were there but it was a bit too pricey for us at $22.
3. The Circle City tram
With the arrival of 2015 all of the trams operating in Melbourne CBD are now free however we still recommend making a special effort to hop on the Free Circle City Tram. The City Circle tram service operates within Melbourne’s central business district and takes in most of the major tourist attractions. There is also a good audio guide that plays while you ride the tram giving you information about nearby attractions. The tram runs between 10am and 6pm every 12 minutes! Skip paying $30 for the City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus and get on the City Circle tram instead.
3. St Kilda beach and the little blue penguins!
Ok so we visited this free attraction twice. Once was during the day in 40 degree heat when the wind was blowing and it sucked. We waded in the grey water and got lashed by a load of sand before we decided to go home 30 minutes after we arrived. It wasn’t great. But we did return in the evening to see the little blue penguins and that was great. Having seen the penguins on Phillip Island we had an idea of what to expect, penguins arriving after sunset, slowly making their way of the water then disappearing. There aren’t as many penguins as Phillip Island but this attraction is free compared to the $23 we paid on Phillip Island! The penguin watching takes place at the end of the St Kilda pier, behind the Little Blue cafe. We went on a Sunday night and it was very busy, I’d recommend getting there 30 minutes before sunset to get a good view. Take something to keep you occupied, sometimes the penguins are a bit slow to appear.
2. The Shrine of Remembrance
Located on St Kilda Road just outside of the city The Shrine of Remembrance is a wonderful dedication to all the men and women who went to war for Australia. The design of the Shrine is said to be based on he Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus and the Parthenon in Athens. Surrounding the shrine there are a number of memorial gardens and quiet areas to think and give thanks. There is also a cenotaph and eternal flame lit outside which is very striking. The visitor centre offers the usual facilities as well as a humbling exhibit to those who fought in the war.
The Shrine of Remembrance is located on Birdwood Avenue and St Kilda Road, 1.3km from Flinders Street Railway Station. It can be reached by a pleasant 10 minute walk. We walked through The Royal Botanical Gardens to get there.
1. Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Located next to Federation Square we really enjoyed this attraction. Over one floor of the centre you can play vintage video games like Tetris, film yourself in a matrix style time slice and see a very cool zoetrope. I loved the modern zoetrope! The exhibition was huge and could be divided up over several days to really take it all in. This was our favourite free thing to do in Melbourne.
Click here for more information on current exhibitions.
And for those things that aren’t free you get discount vouchers in the official visitors guide for Melbourne. You can pick up a copy of the guide at the airport or one of the tourist offices. We hope you enjoy the attractions as much as we did!
Take care, Lisa
We’d love to hear your thoughts about the free things to do in Melbourne that we’ve mentioned. Have you been? did you like them? Alternatively if we missed an attraction that you think should be included let us know in the comment section below. Thanks.