This list of my favorite things to see and do in Melbourne is perfect for anyone visiting on a budget. There are tons of freebies in the city and it’s easily walkable. Melbs is bursting with eclectic culture and unique sights!
Be sure to explore the nooks and crannies of this city; there’s so much to be discovered. Here are 15 free things to do in Melbourne!
Snag breakfast at one of the many amazing restaurants on Acland Street. I really enjoyed window shopping along this famous street.
There are some pretty eclectic boutiques and bakeries with delicious treats filling the windows. Hit the beach for a sunrise stroll and get a glimpse of Luna Park.
The St. Kilda Esplanade Sunday Market
Every Sunday, hundreds of artisans line the Upper Esplanade showcasing their artistry and craftsmanship. You can easily take a stroll here from Acland Street in St. Kilda and get an eye full of the colorful artwork.
The Royal Botanic Gardens
From the Esplanade, you can walk north past Albert Park Lake to The Royal Botanic Gardens. You could spend DAYS here exploring the massive gardens that cover over 36 hectares with more than 50,000 plants!
These are by FAR the biggest and most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
You can grab a map from one of the kiosks located along the walkways, visit the visitor center or walk the paths and discover the gardens on your own!
Flinders Street Railway Station
When you’ve gotten your fill of nature head north of the Botanic Gardens on St. Kilda Rd. and cross the Yarra River to the CBD (Central Business District).
The beautiful and bright Flinders Street Railway Station was the very first railway station in all of Australia! You’ll know you’ve arrived in the CBD when you cross the bridge and run straight into the station.
The Ian Potter Centre
The Ian Potter Centre is part of the art collection of the National Gallery of Victoria and is located in Federation Square near the Railway Station on Flinders Street.
It is free to enter and full of incredible art. The exhibits rotate but when I was in Melbs there was a beautiful exhibit on Aboriginal art.
The Australian Center for the Moving Image
Screen Worlds is a free permanent exhibit at the ACMI that follows the development of the moving image through the story of film, television & digital culture.
There’s even an interactive Timeslice experience here inspired by the iconic ‘bullet time’ sequence in The Matrix. 36 cameras snapshots as you jump, flip or strike a pose capturing a 360° video that you can email to yourself.
Needless to say, I spent far too much time here.
The streets of the CBD are lined with tons of restaurants, cafes, and shops. Don’t be afraid to explore the alleyways as you never know what you might stumble upon. The best part of Melbourne was unexpectedly finding hidden treasures!
The Parliament Gardens
After walking north through the CBD head east on Lonsdale St. until you reach the statuesque Parliament building. The gardens here may be small, but the Coles Fountain is worth a visit.
This work of art turns into a splash zone as kids and adults alike pose inside the water! For this exact reason, it’s great for people watching and a good laugh!
The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
Just north of The Parliament Gardens, if you take Nicholson Street, you will reach Carlton Gardens. Enjoy a stroll through the beautiful Victorian-era gardens and get a glimpse of the impressive Royal Exhibition Building that sits behind an incredible French Fountain.
The Melbourne Museum
The Melbs Museum is located in Carlton Gardens just beyond the Royal Exhibition so it’s an easy next stop. Ok, so it’s not free… but admission is only $10 so it’s still budget friendly!
I never get sick of museums and could spend all day winding through the exhibits.
Aside from dinosaur fossils, the museum has rotating exhibitions as well as a particularly great exhibit, The Melbourne Story, that has over 1200 collection objects detailing the unique history of the city.
Walking northeast from the Carlton Gardens you will eventually reach the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. This area of the city is one of my favorites with lanes lined with vintage shops, intimate cafes and the Rose Street Artists Market on weekends.
Be sure not to miss brunch or a beer on Brunswick Street!
The State Library of Victoria
I am OBSESSED with libraries. There is something so nostalgic about ceiling-high shelves lined with old books. This library takes the cake!
The dramatic 6 story La Trobe Reading Room contains more than 32,000 books! The library is absolutely stunning and the outside lawn is a spectacle in itself- packed with students and lovers alike.
Heading south of the library you will reach Little Bourke Street. Home to fabulous food and Melbourne’s Chinatown! This Chinatown dates back to the gold rush days of the mid-1800’s and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world.
Stop by for a look at some Chinese history!
Melbourne Street Art
Make some detours along the way to discover the spray-painted city streets. You’ll never know when you might find something unexpected!
Melbourne’s Graffiti Management Plan establishes permits for artists and endorses their work in designated areas of the city. The artwork is internationally celebrated and is hard to miss.
Melbourne at Night
Last, but probably my favorite freebie, is strolling Melbourne at night. The City Lights Project, the intimate lighting of the alleys and the amazing nightlife make this city something to truly marvel at!
As you can see, Melbourne is not only a budget-friendly destination, but it’s easily walkable! Be sure to let yourself get lost, chat with some locals and discover your own adventures in Melbourne!