Want to know What to do in Melbourne for free? Well Australia is an expensive country to visit especially if you’ve just arrived from backpacking through Asia! But that shouldn’t put you off, there are plenty of cheap activities in Melbourne. Melbourne is constantly voted as one of the world’s most liveable cities and after 18 months of calling it home we can see why! There’s lots to do here if you have the money, but it is also a city where you can wander and take in so much for free and you can easily do Melbourne on a budget and still have an amazing time. In fact many of my favourite days in the city were doing just that, walking several KM with my camera in hand, always discovering something or someplace new! Backpacking in Melbourne is a challenge but it’s not impossible as we well know! Here’s our list of free things to do in Melbourne and some great cheap things to do in Melbourne too… though I know I’ve missed some out as the list could literally be endless!! Here’s our second home!
Getting To Melbourne:
Melbourne is served by two main airports being Tullamarine and Avalon.
Avalon is technically in Geelong though it is connected via an skybus service which cost around AUD$24.00 and takes about an hour to Southern Cross Train Station. Many of the budget airlines will fly here and you can sometimes get better fare options to Avalon. The first time we went backpacking in Melbourne we arrived here and had no idea there were two airports!
Tullamarine is the main airport from Melbourne (it’s the second busiest airport in Australia!) and where you will find most of the international flights. It’s well connected to pretty much every corner of the world with many connecting flights available through Asia. You can also travel to many domestic destinations from here too including some quite small and regional destination such as The Whitsundays and Uluru.
Transport from Tullamarine to the CBD is mostly skybuses, local buses or taxis, through you can get a bus to a nearby train station. The local authorities are currently in talks about extending one of the northerns lines to the airport which would make visiting Melbourne on a budget a lot easier!
Accommodation in Melbourne can be expensive so it’s key to shop around and to be flexible with where and what type of accommodation you choose, especially if you’re backpacking in Melbourne.
Firstly, keep an eye out for deals especially if your plans are not set in stone, this is a great way to find budget accommodation in Australia.
Another cost saving tips is to try out the BreakFree apartments available not just in Melbourne but across the country. These economy apartments come with kitchenettes which makes them perfect for saving money on dining out as well as for those planning longer stays.
Book around 30 days before you travel to get the best prices available, booking 4 or more days is also another way to get access to the cheaper rates which is helpful for visiting Melbourne on a budget.
Look not only in the CBD but have a look at what is available in the different neighbourhoods and suburbs, especially if they are on a train line.
Transport Around Melbourne:
Public transport in Melbourne covers wide areas of the city, each neighbourhood and suburbs and is affordable which is great for backpacking in Melbourne.
The train, tram and bus network is connected through the MYKI card which is a prepaid card that you use to tap on and tap off with a maximum daily spend for weekdays and weekends. You can top your card up online too and it can also go into a small amount of debt that you can then payoff when you get to a station.
The trams are centred more around the CBD and the closest neighbourhoods such as Richmond, Fitzroy, Collingwood etc. The metro trains go all the way out to the city limits on several lines to all sides of the city but annoyingly not to the airport just yet. Buses fill in the gaps and connect the train lines together as they fan out further into the suburbs.
For further travel in Victoria Southern Cross Station is also connected to the V-Line trains.
Melbourne CBD is itself very walkable too.
Eating out in Melbourne, especially the CBD, can be expensive which makes backpacking in Melbourne hard!
However there are some great budget places to eat especially in areas like Footscray and further out into the suburbs as well as areas like Chinatown. Our favourite place is OM Vegetarian, it’s a little Indian cafe right on Swanston St that does all you can eat Thali for $7.50 and other curries for $11!
Another way to save a lot of money is to stay somewhere with cooking facilities and buy food from places like Coles and Woolworths which have large stores in the CDB. There are also Aldi’s in the suburbs too which are even cheaper.
Free Things To Do In Melbourne/ Cheap Activities In Melbourne:
Take In The Iconic Flinders Street Station
For many people walking under the famous clocks of Flinders Street Station and right into the heart of the city is their first experience of Melbourne. How ever many times I have walked in and out of this station it still takes my breath away. The station is over 100 years old and one of Melbourne’s most well known and iconic buildings.
Recently renovated it is back to its former glory as the hub of this bustling city. You will most likely enter the city through this historic terminal, but don’t forget to look back and take in its splendor as you do. As a backpacker in Melbourne you will probably be using a lot of public transport too and Flinders St is one of the main hubs alongside Southern Cross Station.
Hey, I love it so much I even got a tattoo of it to remember our time living here, so yeah, it’s one of our favourite free places to visit in Melbourne.
Cheap Things To Do In Melbourne: Head Down To The Coast To See The Penguins of St. Kilda And Luna Park
Just a short tram ride from the city centre of Melbourne and you will find yourself in St. Kilda. On a beautiful summer’s day this is the perfect place to head if you want to chill out on the beach and cool off in the sea all within view of the Melbourne skyline! St. Kilda is also a hub for those backpacking in Melbourne too.
This lovely little beachside town has become rather trendy too in recent years and is home to many wonderful cafes, bars and of course it’s famous bakeries. Another icon of St. Kilda is Luna Park, opened in 1912 it has that strange but fascinating old fairground feel and is free to explore, you just pay for the rides! A guide to Melbourne would be incomplete without this legendary sight and if you’re a backpacker in Melbourne you will likely spend quite a bit of time around here!
Another amazing sight on St. Kilda pier are the little penguins that call this place home! A great time to spot them hiding in the rocks is the late afternoon, but stick around until after sunset to see groups of them waddling in after a day out catching fish! That has to be one of the coolest free things to do in Melbourne!!
Taking the tram of course isn’t free but it is budget friendly and included on your myki which makes taking the tram out to St Kilda one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne.
Wander Through The Beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens
One of the most stunning parts of the city to explore is the Royal Botanic Gardens, taking a stroll around here or even a summer’s day picnic you could be forgiven for forgetting you are in the heart of a busy city. Dating back to 1846 it covers over 36 hectares (89 acres), that’s a huge space for a central city location and one of the loveliest cheap activities in Melbourne.
The park contains over 8,500 different species of plants and is a real oasis. Even if you’re not particularly interested in plants as such, everyone can appreciate the beauty of nature in this wonderful place and escape the city for a while here! It’s one of the most relaxing free things to do in Melbourne.
Pay Your Respects And Take In The View From The Shrine of Remembrance
The shrine of remembrance in Melbourne is a special place to visit and there is much more to it than you might first imagine. The shrine itself is a wonderful tribute to the ANZAC soldiers lost in various conflicts across the worlds and over generations. We were lucky enough to be in Melbourne for ANZAC day, attending the dawn services at a local cenotaph with the family we are living with before heading into the city to see the parade to the memorial.
However, the shrine itself is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne for a couple for reasons. Firstly, it’s a beautiful area surrounded by gardens and nature. Climbing up to the roof of the classical style shrine which was built in 1934 offers amazing views of the city and is one of the best free vantage points in Melbourne. It certainly made it on to our comprehensive Melbourne 5 Day Itinerary we recently planned.
Secondly is the museum that sits below the shrine. From the outside the scale of the warren like museum isn’t apparent, but once you are down here you can discover the whole history of the ANZACs for free.
Cheap Things To Do In Melbourne:
Soak In The Unique Hipster Culture of Melbourne By Exploring Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond And Carlton!
Melbourne is a deceptively huge city, but that is one of the things we really love about it. The CBD (Central Business district as the city centre is known) is actually pretty walkable and there are the free city trams too. However Melbourne is a city of districts and neighbourhoods, each one with their own unique vibe and culture. Exploring the different neighbourhoods and getting a bite to eat or buying some cool new clothes is one of our favourite cheap activities in Melbourne.
Many of these districts you will notice are names of Australian Rules football teams too (You will also notice the vast majority are not only Victorian but specifically based in Melbourne!) , and that’s really an interesting piece of Melbourne’s history. These areas that surround the CBD would have once been the heartland of the working class of the city and though they have evolved hugely over the centuries they are still a place for the people but they are also very much sought after and expensive area now, but exploring them is one of our favourite free things to do in Melbourne.
Fitzroy is the typical hipster hideout of Melbourne, it’s brimming with independent shops, vegan, veggie and multicultural restaurants, innovative street art and free thinking individuals that celebrate diversity! It’s really a wonderful place to be in the city and of course, you could spent a fortune here, but you can also soak it in by just walking for free!
Other great areas to explore are neighbouring Collingwood with it’s Keith Haring mural and cheap international eats. Richmond is like a village in the city being right next to the MCG (Melbourne Football Ground) and home to the best footy team in the land (Go Tiges!!!) as well as some wonderful local shops and cafes. Carlton is more upmarket but is historically home to the Italian community of Melbourne and a great place to treat yourself to a nice meal or just to take in the atmosphere! Exploring the suburbs is one of the best non touristy things to do in Melbourne.
If you do want to spend a little bit of money then these are also great places to get some bargain souvenirs and also some great budget food too making Fitzroy one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne!
Explore The Incredible Laneways And Street Art That Make This City So Cool!
Melbourne is a creative city where attitudes are open and anything goes! Right in the heart of the city are many laneways that are designated legal graffiti and street art areas that shift and evolve literally day to day. Laneways are a big deal in Melbourne and are result of the unique layout of the city creating a labyrinth of colour and expression. Visiting the laneways is essential on any backpacker things to do in Melbourne list and one of the best free fun things to do in Melbourne CBD.
Hosier Lane is the most famous of these laneways and is an ever changing heartland of the free street art movement in Melbourne, visiting is one of our favourite things to do for free in Melbourne and we’ve visited many times. Other amazing laneways include AC/DC lane, named after the awesome Aussie rockers, then there’s centre place, a trendy spot to get coffee or visit a cafe and union lane right in the centre of the CBD! No matter how many times you visit these laneways you see something new each time! Exploring the laneways is definitely the coolest of the free things to do in Melbourne!
Take A Walk Along The Yarra River Southbank
An amazing place to walk in Melbourne is down the South Bank of the Yarra river, starting further out towards the newly redeveloped docklands area you can follow the river right back into the heart of the city. The riverside walk offers some of the best views of Melbourne’s skyline and some of its most interesting bridges. It’s one of the best free fun things to do in Melbourne CBD.
Wandering down here you will also find a lively area full of riverside bars and restaurants, people sat along the river chilling out, street performers every few metres and just generally a happening atmosphere of people enjoying this beautiful city, especially on a sunny day! You can also take river tours and the ferry over to Williamstown (another nice place to visit) from here but of course, that’s not free but it’s one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne!
Free Things To Do In Melbourne:
Take A Ride On The City Circle Tram
Free stuff to do in Melbourne? Hop on the old trams!
Trams are a part of the fabric of what makes Melbourne and we love them (coming from a fellow tram city in Manchester!) They are a great way to get around the city and also pretty historic too! But one of the really cool things about the trams in the free city circle trams that does loops around the CBD and its one of the unique free things to do in Melbourne.
Using a fleet of historical red and green W-class trams it allows both Melburnians looking to get across the city quickly or tourists wanted to take in the cities most important buildings make use of this great service. There is also audio commentary on board too giving insights into the city as as it trundles along. It’s a great thing to do when you first arrive to go backpacking in Melbourne as it helps you get your bearings.
Explore The History And Incredible Views of Birrarung Marr Park
Probably my favourite spot in the city for taking a stroll through the city, this urban park reminds me a bit of Central park with it’s greenery surrounded by incredible cityscape. The park, Birrarung Marr sits right next to the Yarra River and Federation Square, but somehow manages to create an area of both natural tranquility and historical importance. The park is a celebration of Victoria’s indigenous people and walking through you can spot several artworks telling the story of the Wurundjeri people. Not only that but the park itself offers stunning views over the city and for us is the perfect route to take when walking from the city towards the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)
If you do want to spend some money you can take the boat down the river for a reasonably price. It’s one of the fun cheap things to do in Melbourne!
Things To Do In Melbourne For Free: Visit The State Library of Victoria
Established in 1854 the State library of Victoria is the oldest public library in Australia and was one of the first free libraries in the new world. Not only is it of course a place for study, education and resources but it is also a great meeting place for the people of Melbourne. For me I use it as a refuge from the rain on a chilly day and from the chaos of the city for a few moments peace.
The central La Trobe Reading Room that sits underneath the dome is also a must see and one of the most stunning free places to visit in Melbourne.
It’s also great if you want access to computers or free internet too.
Free Things To Do In Melbourne:
Walk! Explore The City On Foot And Take In Some Of Its Unique Architecture
Melbourne is a big city but it is also quite walkable too, I love to walk and one day clocked almost 30 km walking around the city just exploring, getting lost, taking pictures and soaking in this awesome place. The city is also home to some wonderful architecture both historic and modern and it does a great job of blending these things together and at times reminds me of the buildings in our hometown of Manchester. Just walking around this grand city is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne for sure.
Some of the most noteworthy buildings to check out if you love your architecture as we do are: Parliament, Melbourne Town Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne City Baths, Manchester unity building, The buildings on Elizabeth and Bourke streets as well as the many small Victorian houses around Fitzroy, Abbotsford, Richmond etc and the impressive buildings on Collins Street. Some of the more modern architecture to check out is the Eureka tower, the Art spire and Federation square… and those are just some of the more well known ones!
If you do want to spend some money you can head up Eureka Tower for around $25 but it’s worth checking out websites such a Groupon for deals. It’s one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne for sure!
Cheap Things To Do In Melbourne:
Head Down To The Brighton Bathing Boxes For A Day By The Seaside!
Another great place to escape the city on a hot and sunny day is Brighton Beach and it’s a one of the best cheap activities in Melbourne. A short train ride out of Flinders Street station drops you in this perfect beachside neighbourhood complete with a thriving high street culture and multi million dollar houses overlooking the coast! Visiting the beach and bathing boxes is free and the train fare is low and included on your myki.
The main attraction here is the colourful old bathing boxes, these rickety and unassuming huts were once just a way for locals to keep their modesty whilst getting changed, but today they are a tourist attraction and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and a highly sought after piece of beach real estate! These bathing boxes have been a feature of this popular Melbourne beach for over 100 years and attract people because of their unique style and the nostalgia they provide of a bygone era of bathing. Iconic and free, perfect for backpacking in Melbourne!
if you’re looking for free things to do in Melbourne today, then the Brighton Beach boxes are open to visitors 24/7, so one of the most accessible free things to do in Victoria.
Free Things To Do In Melbourne:
Enjoy The Many Parks And Green Spaces Of The City
Melbourne is a well designed city with a grid format for the CBD and lots of surrounding green space which really allows the city to breath and those within it to seek out some peace. One of our favourite parks in the city it Fitzroy Gardens which is just behind the back of Parliament and towards Fitzroy itself. Set aside as a reserve in reserve in 1848 it is one of the most historic parks in the city and is also home to Australia’s oldest building, Cook’s cottage, built in 1755 in Yorkshire it was shipped over brick by brick and rebuilt here in 1934. You can visit the outside for free or venture in for a small fee so it’s another of the great cheap things to do in Melbourne!
Of course, we’ve already mentioned the incredible Botanical Gardens and our favourite Birrarung Marr, but there are so many other lovely places to stroll around in nature in the city too. Another lovely park is Queen Victoria Gardens over the Princes Bridge near the Art Gallery which includes a floral clock, ornamental ponds and monuments to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, visiting is one of the best cheap activities in Melbourne.
Yarra Park in which the MCG sits in a fun place to visit on match day as the crowds practice their kicking before the game, it is also home to an historic aboriginal scar tree. Other noteworthy parks are Carlton Gardens near the impressive Melbourne Museum, Flagstaff gardens, Princes Park and the huge Royal Park. When we were backpacking in Melbourne we would love to just hang out in the parks in summer.
Cheap Things To Do In Melbourne: Meander Around Queen Victoria Markets
To the north of the city are the famous Queen Victoria Markets, a great place to visit just to soak in the atmosphere of the night markets that run every Wednesdays and Saturdays through the summer months as well as a few days in the winter. It is however open all year round and it’s historic sheds are a great place to sample the freshest produce on offer and try some unique cuisines alongside live music.
It’s also a diverse and interesting place to shop for souvenirs, homeware and vintage products which makes it a cool place to head when backpacking in Melbourne. This Melbourne institution dates back to 1878 and is still a hub for trading in the city to this very day. The market offers food and produce at reasonable prices as well as a fun experience making it one of the best cheap things to do in Melbourne.
Free things to do in Melbourne today: Check out this website for more info on opening times.
Things To Do In Melbourne For Free: Discover Culture And History In The City’s Many Museums And Galleries
Melbourne is a historic and culture filled city, so it’s no wonder that it is also home to many museums and galleries. Visiting these institutions is a great way to learn more about Victoria as well as discovering some incredible artwork from locals and international artists alike. Soaking in culture is one of the many free things to do in Melbourne!
The Koorie Heritage Trust’s Cultural Centre in Federation Square is a perfect place to learn about the aboriginal heritage of Melbourne and the surroundings areas. The Old Treasury building near to Parliament is a great free museum in Melbourne which chronicles the history and development of Melbourne and a stunning building too. The ANZ Banking
Free galleries to visit include The Ian Potter Museum of Art and The Ian Potter Centre:
Free Things To Do In Melbourne:
Hang Out In Federation Square!
Built in 2002 and sitting across from Flinders Street Station, Federation square is one of the first sights that will greet you as you come into Melbourne and encompasses many modern minimalist style buildings. This wonderfully modern public space is home to many museums, galleries and cultural spaces that we mentioned above which are mostly free to visit.
But even if gallery hoping isn’t your thing, Fed Square is a great place to hang out especially on a sunny day and one of the fun free things to do in Melbourne. Grab a veggie burger from Lord of the Fries over on Swanston street and sit back in this public plaza and just take in the beauty of the city from here! You can also find the visitors centre here which is a great port of call when you’re first backpacking in Melbourne.
Cheap Things To Do In Melbourne – Watch Some Footy!
Footy or Australian Rules Football is like religion in Melbourne! You will find most of the teams in the Australian Football League are actually based in various Melbourne suburbs, so if you’re interested in discovering this unique sport then this is the place. We actually fell in love with footy whilst living here and are now loyal supporters of the Richmond Tigers! But you’re free to barrack for whoever you like, well, as long as it’s not Collingwood!! It’s one of the cool non touristy things to do in Melbourne, sitting alongside locals and watching the most Aussie game there is.
However, the MCG and the Marvel stadium host games through the Autumn and Winter season and with so many teams based in the city there is almost always tickets available for most games and you will find pretty much every weekend throughout the season there are games in Melbourne. Often tickets in the upper reaches of the stadiums are pretty cheap starting at around $27, which compared to the Premier League in England is super cheap for top league football!
Want to go even cheaper or for free and experience this part of Melbourne on a budget? Have a look out for some of the smaller local teams in the suburbs. Again, footy is huge here so you will easily find a game, some will charge a small entrance fee which really helps the club but with other smaller ones you can just walk up to the oval and watch which is an ideal thing to do when backpacking in Melbourne.
Also look at VFL fixtures, this is the second tier of Aussie Rules footy and includes many of the AFL reserve teams too, most tickets for VFL games are around $10. It is also worth supporting the up and coming AFLW league with many matches being free or very cheap, these talented and hardworking girls need support so get on it as it’s one of the best cheap activities in Melbourne.
What Are Your Tips For Free Things To Do In Melbourne/ Melbourne On A Budget?
Have you ever been a Backpacker in Melbourne? What Was Your Experience?
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