If you’re anything like us, then the word free will always get your attention (especially when it comes to food). Unfortunately, though, it can be hard to find fun things to do when you’re running low on funds. Luckily for you, we’ve teamed up with the legends at Ola to show you that the best things in life really are free.
Ola is one of the world’s largest ridesharing companies, and they have just brought their unique urban mobility service to the shores of Australia. The best bit? They’re offering two free rides valued at $20 each in your city when you sign up!
Oh, and in case you need some inspiration on where to go with your free ride, then here are 20 free things to do in Melbourne.
- Check out the rooftop bars for stunning Melbourne views, not to mention live music. You don’t have to buy a drink to enjoy these bars (but we won’t judge if you do). Bar crawl your way around the CBD, soaking up the Melbourne skyline as you go. From Swanston Street’s Rooftop Bar and Cinema to Madame Brussels on Bourke St, Melbourne isn’t short on great rooftop bars—here are our faves.
- Explore Melbourne’s epic art galleries. The National Gallery of Victoria and State Library are always good places to start, but make sure to check out a few smaller spots like Anna Schwartz, The Sutton Gallery and Gertrude Contemporary.
- Wander through the alleyways. It's a cliche, but you have to start somewhere, and the street art in Melbourne's CBD really is second to none. Start at Hosier Lane and wind your way through the maze of painted street walls. Be sure to wear your coolest sneakers and don some denim, because you’re going to want to get some 90s style street shots in front of these walls. Also check out ACDC Lane, Cocker Alley, Caledonian Lane and Rutledge Lane.
- Cycle through the city, thanks to Melbourne Bike Share. The first 30 minutes are free, which is just enough time to cruise from one end of the CBD to the other. When your 30 minutes runs out, you can just use your free ride with Ola to get home!
- Check out Melbourne’s killer market scene. Be sure to visit Queen Victoria Market, Rose Street Artists Market, and the Camberwell Market (for a pic-n-mix flea market feel). If you swing by South Melbourne Market, make sure to get brekky at My Son, Joy, just across the road. No one does markets better than us!
- Soak up Melbourne’s rich history at the Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre. To get a culturally significant intro to Melbourne from the traditional custodians of the land, be sure to check out this amazing Cultural Centre in Fed Square. We bet you've lived in Melbourne your whole life and never checked this out. We're reeeeeally hoping this place doesn't turn into an Apple Store...
- Relax bayside at St Kilda foreshore. Escape the buzz of the city for some chilled seaside vibes and wander down the seafront promenade and along the St Kilda Pier. Check out Luna Park while you’re there, and get a pic in front of that iconic grin. Keep your eyes out for fairy penguins near the marina too—they've got a nest down there, behind the fencing.
- Score a free ride on the City Circle Tram. It's not just for tourists, guys, the City Circle Tram is a great way to see Melbourne’s bustling city centre. It runs alongside City Museum, Parliament House, Docklands, Federation Square, Melbourne Aquarium and the Princess Theatre, and you can hop on or off any time.
- Picnic at the Royal Botanic Gardens, it's a classic for a reason. Enjoy an afternoon surrounded by lush plants and beautiful flowers, the best spots are the Oak Lawn, the Princes Lawn and the aptly named Picnic Point, on the north side of the lake. For the botanists out there, there's also free guided tours of the gardens.
- Play some chess in the State Library of Victoria. With a collection of more than two million books, the State Library of Victoria is one of the biggest libraries in Australia. Even if you’re not the biggest bookworm, you’ll definitely be impressed by the building itself. Built in 1854, the library boasts some amazing old-school architecture, and there are free chess boards under the dome in the reading room. Anyone can sit down for a match.
- Insta some of Melbourne’s architectural gems. They don't call Melbourne 'Australia's most European city' for nothing. There's a heap of amazing Victorian architecture in the CBD if you just raise your eyes about 45 degrees. Must-sees include Flinders St Station, Federation Square, The Block Arcade, ANZ’s gothic headquarters, GPO Post Office (which is now an H&M) and the Nicholas Building.
- Two words: FREE GIGS. Gigs are great, but they’re even better when they cost you zero dollarydoos. There are free gigs all over the city pretty much every day of the week. Be sure to check out Cherry Bar, Ding Dong, Toff in Town and the John Curtain Bandroom for Melbourne’s best free live music. Out Brunswick way, try The Spotted Mallard, The Retreat or Cornish Arms. And don't miss Howler's Bandroom, that's about as Melbourne as it gets.
- Get educated at the Wheeler Centre. Located in the State Library building, the Wheeler Centre often runs free talks and workshops from writers, publishers, artists, and architects. If you can scrape some shrapnel together, head downstairs for a post-workshop nosh at The Moat.
- Tour Melbourne Town Hall, it's not just good for the Comedy Festival and political intrigue. History and architecture enthusiasts can join a free guided tour to check out the beautiful corridors, stately rooms and massive organ. Definitely one for the history buffs.
- Test your board game skills at the pub. Every second Wednesday at the Royal Standard Hotel, locals and tourists test their hand at nostalgia-soaked board games and a bit of giant Jenga. It’s the perfect way to have fun at the pub without spending any money (but if you do have a sneaky drink, get a free ride home with Ola).
- Explore Southbank. Stretched out along the Yarra River, the Southbank entertainment precinct is packed with things to do. With talented buskers and stunning river views, there's always some passing entertainment on weekends. Just pull up a chair and enjoy the show. If you get peckish, we recommend The Merrywell for insanely good burgers.
- Watch a session in the Victorian Parliament. Stay with us. Although you may not think it, watching Aussie politicians debating the latest government policy packs as much drama as an ep of Bachelor In Paradise. Lucky for you, you can spectate on the Legislative Assembly for free and watch them debate over their latest decision. Bring popcorn.
- Get a pic at Brighton Beach. Head to Brighton Beach to get a snap in front of the brightly coloured bathing boxes and stroll along the sand. Got a pooch? That's cool—there's a bunch of excellent bay beaches that allow dogs on and off the leash.
- Fancy a laugh? Have a chuckle at the Spleen Bar’s free comedy night on Mondays. It's been running every week for yonks. Although it's technically free, they do ask for a gold coin donation (but who can put a price on a good laugh anyway?).
- Travel back in time at Royal Arcade. Take a trip down memory lane by window shopping in Royal Arcade. It's sort of a flow-on from The Block Arcade, so you can get them both done at the same time. It’s the perfect place to while away a lazy afternoon, and maybe treat yourself to something fancy (after all, your ride home with Ola will be free, so you’ll have some spare cash). Pro tip: most visitors miss Basement Discs downstairs (great record store), and Somedays upstairs.
Okay people, there’s no excuse now. Make the most of your free rides with Ola and experience Melbourne without breaking the bank. Download the Ola app stat and get those free rides!
Editor's note: this article was produced in partnership with Ola. Thank you for supporting the partners who make The Urban List possible, to read our editorial policy, click here.
Image credit: via NGV