Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own city, so every once in a while, Emma and I head into town and have a little adventure. It’s easy to take the place where you live for granted, so when you need a holiday (and can’t get out of town) why not try looking at your city, or town with new eyes. Recently we set ourselves the challenge of finding and experiencing the best FREE things Melbourne has to offer. It was a fun way to spend the day, and super easy on my wallet. We visited some of our favourite haunts, as well as a few I never knew existed. If you are visiting Melbourne, or even if you are a local, this list of family friendly free things to do is sure to entertain and educate.
1. Get Cultured
Melbourne is lousy with amazing public art galleries and museums. One of my favourite places to spend a few hours is the NGV International. Founded in 1861, today the NGV holds the most significant collection of art in the region, ranging from Modern art to treasures from ancient civilizations, fashion and textiles exhibits, photography, furniture and sculpture, there is something for taste. The NGV Kids Space always has hands on activities to entertain and educate kids of all ages. General entry is free. Enjoy!
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne VIC 3004
2. Discover some Street Art
In most cities wandering around back alleys is not a great idea, but in Melbourne lanes and alleys have been transformed into outdoor galleries. Melbourne is known as one of the world’s great street art capitals for its unique expressions of art on approved outdoor locations. Street art includes stencils, paste-ups and murals. Due to the nature of street art, this outdoor gallery is constantly changing as works are painted over so it’s always interesting to see the new pieces pop up and fade away. On Saturdays it’s not uncommon to see wedding parties use these colourful lane ways as backdrops for their wedding photos, which makes for interesting people watching and bridesmaid dress critiquing.
To see some of the city’s best street art locations, head to:
- Hosier and Rutledge Lane, opposite Federation Square
- Caledonian Lane, off Little Bourke Street
- Union Lane, off Bourke Street Mall
- Rear of 280 Queen Street in Finlay Avenue
- 21 Degraves Street
- Cnr Flinders Lane and Cocker Alley
- 122 Palmerston Street, Carlton
- Centre Place, between Collins Street and Flinders Lane
3. Ride the Trams
Melbourne’s iconic trams are a fun and practical way to get around this beautiful city. In fact Melbourne is the only city in Australia where trams still operate, and luckily for us, as of January 1st 2015, all tram trips within the designated ‘Free Tram Zone‘ will not require a ticket. You can now criss cross the Melbourne CBD area on the modern trams for free, or if you want a more classic ride hop on the City Circle Tram.
The City Circle route is serviced by the much loved heritage W class trams decorated in special maroon and green with yellow and gold trimmings. Riding them takes me back to the days when I caught an old rattly W Class home from school every day.
To catch the free City Circle Tram service (route number 35), simply board the tram at any of the specially marked stops on the route.
Frequency in every 12 minutes, and approximately 48 minutes to complete a loop.
To ride free on regular tram services look for the The Free Tram Zone signs at tram stops which will identify the boundaries of the zone.
4. Step back in time
During the gold rush of the 19th century and the great boom that followed in the Victorian era, Melbourne was a happening place. You can soak in some of that history in some of Melbourne’s beautiful heritage listed public buildings. ‘Step out’ in the Royal Arcade and the Block Arcade just like high society ladies and gentlemen of the day. Drool over the delectable cakes in the window of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms which still has it’s original etched mirror from 1891, the largest etched mirror in Victoria.
Take the stairs down to the basement of the Old Treasury Building to see the original gold vaults where gold bullion was stored during the gold rush era, as well as rare and historic documents from Public Record Office Victoria highlighting key moments from Victoria’s history.
Old Treasury Building
Spring Street (top end of Collins Street)
282 Collins Street
335 Bourke st Mall,
5. Take a Tour
No matter how well I know a city, you can always learn something new when taking a tour. Not only are guides full of interesting facts, they are great for gleaning anecdotes and stories that aren’t found in guide books or websites. Short on cash, not to worry, Melbourne has a ton of great free tours available.
Here are just a few.
Fitzroy Gardens – Did somebody say Fairies’ Tree and model Tudor village? Explore one of Melbourne’s most historic and beautiful Gardens.A free guided walking tour departs from the visitor centre every Saturday at 10 am.
Melbourne Town Hall Tours – Free tours of Melbourne’s historic Town Hall give visitors the chance to learn about the architectural, social and political significance of this impressive 19th century building. Weekdays at 11am & 1pm
NGV Gallery Tours – NGV Voluntary Guides conduct free daily collection and exhibition tours at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square and NGV International, St Kilda Road. See website for current times.
Melbourne Greeter Service – The Melbourne Greeter Service is a free multilingual, two to four hour walking orientation of the city for visitors to Melbourne, conducted by a volunteer. Departs from Federation Square, bookings required.
Do you have any favourite free things to do in Melbourne?