Free time: 8 cost-free things to do in Melbourne

Image Courtesy of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, photographer Adrian Vittorio

Image Courtesy of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, photographer Adrian Vittorio

Exploring the city of Melbourne doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, many of Melbourne’s best activities don’t cost a cent/penny/dime/yen/yuan. From listening to live music to viewing rare artefacts and getting involved in literary debates, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Melbourne without spending.

Take a walk in the park
Open from 7.30am to sunset every day of the year, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a place to breath in the clean air for people of all ages. The Children’s Garden contains water features, sculptures and a bamboo forest while the Australian Forest Walk is home to trees, scrubs and flowers from all over Australia. Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne, +61 9252 2300

Enjoy a free ride
Melbourne’s tram system is the backbone of the city and visitors can access free rides on all commuter trams if travelling within the city centre’s Free Tram Zone. Alternatively, there’s no better way for first-time visitors to get a feel for the city than hopping on the Route 35 City Circle Tram. Designed for tourists, this free tram passes many iconic Melbourne monuments including Flinders Street Station and the Princess Theatre.

Go gallery hopping
As one of Australia’s leading epicentres of art and culture, Melbourne has a proliferation of galleries with free exhibitions. Open daily from 10am Federation Square’s ACMI has a range of free, interactive exhibits focused on the power of the moving image. Known as the NGV, many of the National Gallery of Victoria’s collections are free to admire. From Indigenous art to Australian fashion and textiles, photography, sculpture and more, wandering around the NGV is a perfect rainy day activity that comes at no cost. Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne, +61 3 8663 2200 and 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne; +61 8620 2222

Get stuck into the street art scene
In Melbourne, art doesn’t just live within the walls of galleries. Visitors can create their own DIY street art tour by walking around the city’s laneways, with AC/DC Lane, Hosier Lane, Union Lane and Degraves Street packed with eye-catching graffiti, stencil and paste up works. The hip hoods of Fitzroy, Richmond, Brunswick and Collingwood are also street art hotspots not far from the city centre.

Experience an outdoor symphony
During the summer months, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform a free concert series in the spectacular Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to bring along a picnic blanket and gourmet snacks to enjoy a rousing classical music performance without having to pay a cent. Kings Domain, Linlithgow Ave, Melbourne 

Hit the books
Opened in 1856, the State Library Victoria is open to all visitors (no library card necessary). Running a range of free tours that can be booked online ahead of time, guests can view the iconic armour of infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, admire rare manuscripts and books from the past, and gain access to parts of the library not usually open to the public. 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, +61 8664 7000

Go to a literary talk
As a UNESCO City of Literature, Melbourne is a top place to get in touch with the local literary scene. The Wheeler Centre runs a range of free talks and book launches throughout the year featuring high profile international and local guests from the media, literature and arts worlds. 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, +61 3 9094 7800

Listen to the music
From rockabilly to folk, jazz, big band and more, many of Melbourne’s pubs and bars offer free live music. From upscale gastropubs that offer an afternoon jazz session to go with a Sunday roast, to hip bars with acoustic folk musicians playing on small stages and gritty pubs that host local rock, punk and rockabilly outfits on Saturday nights, scratch the surface of Melbourne and free music can be found almost everywhere.

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