We all like to get out and about in our glorious city, but sometimes the budget is a little tight. We’ve got your back though, getting out and having a ripper day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We’ve teed up twenty of the best cheap and free things to do in Melbourne to keep both you and your hip pocket happy.
Southbank and CBD
As always, the National Gallery of Victoria both at Southbank and Fed Square are completely free to visit. They do have the occasional ticketed exhibition, but the permanent collections and the majority of exhibitions are all there for you to enjoy free of charge.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Pack a picnic, bring a frisbee or a book, and spend your day in the serene Royal Botanic Gardens. The new Arid and Sensory Gardens are open for you to enjoy, so get back to nature in a shady pocket of the beautiful gardens.
Heide Sculpture Garden
Heide Museum of Modern Art’s sprawling sculpture garden is a real stunner—and not bad for anyone needing some Instagram fodder—it’s also completely free to wander through and provides a perfect locale for a stroll or a picnic. If you fancy spending just a little, you can also visit the gallery for a modest $20.
BBQ Along The Yarra
You can’t beat a barbecue for summer catch-ups, and in Melbourne one of the best barbie spots is on the banks of the Yarra. Dotted along Alexandra Avenue you’ll find public barbecues and picnic tables ready to go for your al fresco cook up. They’re free to use, just BYO food and remember to clean up when you’re done.
Wherever you live in Melbourne, there’s bound to be a farmers’ market not too far from you. They’re the perfect way to do your weekly veggie shop while getting to know Victoria’s farmers, and you might even get a hot tip for shaking up your weekly meals. Most require a gold coin donation at entry, check out our guide to Melbourne’s best farmers’ markets here.
Walk Around Albert Park Lake
Stretch your legs and take a leisurely walk around Albert Park Lake. You’ll be treated to one of the best views of the CBD, and there are plenty of cafes right on the waterfront if you’re in need of a bowl of chips at the end.
Dandenongs and Sherbrooke Forest
Forest walks, waterfalls, picnic areas, gardens, sweeping views—the Dandenong Ranges have got it all. Take the train or head up in a car for the day and enjoy that sweet serenity.
Collingwood Children’s Farm
You could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into regional Victoria when you visit Collingwood Children’s Farm. Nestled on the bank of the Yarra just next to the historic Abbotsford Convent, this working urban farm is a little inner-city oasis. Tickets are super cheap, with adult tickets at just $12 and children and concession tickets at just $5.
Queen Victoria Market
We’ve included this historic gem because entry is free, but we can’t guarantee you’ll have a cheap day. There are simply too many gourmet treats and handmade treasures to be found at Queen Victoria Market, we never leave empty-handed.
Laneway Art Trail
Melbourne’s laneway art is world famous and constantly changing, so you’ll always have something new to see each time you wander through the city. You can take a guided tour or go your own way, the choice is yours—check out this guide to get started.
Melbourne is home to so many independent makers, artists and designers who collectively make up the iconic Rose Street Market in Fitzroy, the Sunday Market at the Arts Centre, the St Kilda Esplanade Market, the Heide Makers’ Market and several virtual marketplaces. Take yourself on a gander through the markets but be sure to keep a budget if you’re wanting to stay savvy.
Want to catch a great view without forking out for one of the observation decks? No problem, just climb up to one of Melbourne’s many rooftop bars. Entry is free, though we’d recommend buying a drink while you’re there. Some of our favourites are Madame Brussels, Naked in the Sky and Siglo.
Koorie Heritage Trust Centre
Learn about the history of Aboriginal Victoria at the Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square. The free exhibition space includes a gallery and holds events and workshops throughout the year. There’s also a shop where you can buy Victorian Aboriginal handmade gifts.
Tucked beside the State Library is the Wheeler Centre, if you haven’t heard of it you’ve certainly heard of some of their guest speakers—Paul Kelly, Helen Garner, Zadie Smith, the list goes on. This literature hub often hosts authors and free events for book buffs, so check out their website to see who’s coming up.
Day Trip To Yarra Valley
Nominate a deso-driver and spend your day sampling some of the region’s best wine. Pack a picnic and take in those rolling hills before you roll on home. Stop by Four Pillars for some gin samples while you’re there too.
Check out our 24-hour itinerary to the area here.
Herring Island Sculpture Trail
You can only get there by punting across the river from Como Landing, but once you’re there, chances are you’ll have this little island almost to yourself. Herring Island, the only island along the Yarra, is a tiny slice of nature just out of the city with a free sculpture trail and picnic area for you to enjoy.
Free Comedy at Spleen Bar
Have a laugh on the house at Spleen Bar every Monday night. These guys have hosted big names in Aussie comedy like Josh Thomas, Frank Woodley, Tom Ballard and Adam Hills to name just a few. Drinks are cheap so you’ll be laughing all the way home.
Melbourne Theatre Company
We know what you’re thinking, theatre tickets can be pricey. But did you know you can get preview tickets for Melbourne Theatre Company script readings at just $12? You’ll be the first to hear new stories as they’re coming together, straight from the playwrights themselves. Book your tickets here.
Southbank to Williamstown
Take the ferry to Williamstown for the day. An adult ticket is just $32 return, which leaves you plenty for fish and chips.
The Break Room
Image Credit: Heide Museum of Modern Art