Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital (though anyone from Sydney will argue that). There is art around every corner and food festivals on every weekend. The colourful and diverse city caters well to tourists. There is no shortage of places to visit in Melbourne. I’m sharing with you all of the details of what to do in Melbourne.
Things to do in Melbourne for Free
You heard me, the next 21 things to do are completely free! I promise, they’re fun things to do in Melbourne.
State Victoria Library – This building is an absolute gem. You don’t have to want a book to see this place because the architecture alone is beautiful. Start by heading to the top to look over one of the reading rooms then work your way down checking out the free exhibits on each floor.
Royal Botanic Gardens – Locals love this garden and with good reason, it’s stunning! You could easily spend an afternoon roaming the grounds because they are huge. Pack yourself a picnic and sit by a lake. And don’t forget to bring some wine because it is legal to drink in the park!
Statue of Remembrance – Not far from the Royal Botanic Gardens is a memorial originally built for those who served in WWI. From the top of the steps, you can catch a wonderful unblocked view of the city. See if you can spot the face on one of the buildings.
Fairy Penguins – Yes, penguins in Australia! Head to the St Kilda pier for sunset and watch as these tiny penguins make their way back home.
Luna Park – Though the rides in the park do come at steep price, entering the park is completely free. In the summer months there is often a market held just outside the park in St Kilda.
St Kilda Beach – Spend some time relaxing and enjoy this popular beach often occupied by backpackers.
Walking tour of the city – That’s right, you can enjoy a 3-hour walking tour of Melbourne for free (though you are encouraged to tip/donate). You’ll learn more about the city’s history and then enjoy the best laneways and sites. There are tours every day at 10:30AM and 2:30PM but please make sure to check this site to ensure times haven’t changed.
National Gallery of Victoria – Love art or trying to kill some time in the city? The National Gallery is absolutely free where you can explore modern art and pieces of history from across the world.
City Circle Tram – An excellent way to see the city, to get around the city, and to learn about fun facts of the city is the City Circle Tram. It runs in a circle around the city telling you what is at each stop and what other trams to catch to other hot spots in the city. Look for the old colonial style trams (they’re burgundy) and hop on.
Brighton Beach – I’ll admit that I wasn’t amazed by the beach itself, but it’s the beach boxes that it’s famous for. It doesn’t cost a penny to see the fun designs and bright colors of these boxes. Go on, have yourself a little photo shoot.
Ian Potter Centre – Completely free and located in Fed Square, here is where you can find both Indigenous and non-Indigenous art from the colonial period to today.
ACMI – The Australian Centre for Moving Image showcases both Australian and international screen content.
Fireballs – Make your way to the casino along the Yarra River, go up to the second level and watch the world’s largest fireballs shoot up into the sky. You’ll be able to feel the heat you’re so close. It happens nightly but you can check here for exact times.
Street Art – There’s no better way to see Melbourne than through its artistic alleyways throughout the city. Skip on the guided tour and do your own. I put together all the best spots to find Melbourne street art.
Kokoda Memorial Walk – Not far outside the city (accessible from public transit) is the Dandenong Ranges National Park where you’ll find the Kokoda Memorial Walk. It’s 1000 steps up made in honour of those who walked the original trail in Papua New Guinea during WWII. It’s tough but mostly shaded with beautiful big ferns and other plants growing over the path.
Old Treasury Building – It was once the Treasury Department for the Government of Victoria but is now a museum for Melbourne history.
Fed Square – Located just across the street from Flinder’s Street Station is Fed Square that’s is filled with restaurants, the ACMI, Ian Potter Centre, cafes and more. This space also has ongoing activities that change quite frequently that are usually free to the public!
Explore the arcades and coffee lanes – Melbourne is famous for its lanes whether they are covered in street art, have hidden bars tucked away, coffee shops or the arcades. You can find them all in the city centre. For coffee check out Centre Lane and Degraves Street. You can find the best street art one’s here, or take a peek at the marble walkways of the arcades.
Attend a Melbourne festival – Easily one of the best things about Melbourne is the never ending stream of festivals the city holds. There is practically a new one every weekend and sometimes more! You can see what’s on in Melbourne when you’re visiting here. Expect lots of food festivals but there are plenty more.
Dandenong Ranges – A quick trip from Melbourne and accessible by public transit (a longer trip) are the Dandenong Ranges that offer plenty of activities to make for a day trip that will get you outside. See what you can do here.
Pink Lake – There’s a pink lake in Melbourne! It gets pretty pink depending on the time of year. The hotter it is the more the algae reacts and the pinker it gets.
Things to Eat in Melbourne
Melbourne is foodie heaven. Don’t pass up these sweet treats.
Messina Gelato – I’m a huge lover of gelato and ice cream so when I mention that somewhere is good I’m a pretty reliable source. There are a number of Messina’s in Melbourne so if you’re looking for a sweet treat it is definitely one of the top places for gelato in the city.
Try a Freakshake – Invented in Australia, the freak shake is an over the top but completely delicious shake made with ice cream and all things sugary. I recommend trying one at Rowena and Three One 2 One, both located in Richmond.
Colonial Tram Restaurant – Experience dining on a Victorian tram as you travel from the city centre to the beach and back while enjoying a minimum of three-course meal and unlimited drinks (yes, alcohol is included!). Definitely more on the pricey side but completely worth it for such a cool experience.
Aqua S – More ice cream?! With locations in only Melbourne and Sydney they change up their flavours every two weeks. You can get toppings such as cotton candy (known as fairy floss in Australia), caramel popcorn, and grilled marshmallows.
Doughnut Time – You can find Doughnut Time in 4 cities across Australia and a number of their little green shops around Melbourne. Even if you don’t get a doughnut just check it out to see how extravagant some of them are!
Parma – Parma, short for yes, chicken parmigiana, is a popular Australian dish. They’ve put a spin on the original (which you can still get) by offering Mexican and Aussie style parmas as well. I’m talking jalapenos, eggs, bacon and even more toppings. The best part? If you’re on a budget there is always a restaurant that has a parma on special. My favourite is at Veludo on Acland Street in St Kilda.
Ponyfish Island – This almost stealthy hidden bar is located under the Pedestrian Bridge on Kiosk Southbank and is only accessible by the stairs leading down from the bridge. Enjoy a drink here and be completely surrounded by the water of the Yarra River.
Nitro Ice Cream – Watch your ice cream be made in front of you. Choose your flavour and with the help of liquid nitrogen, your ice cream will become cold! There are a number of shops around Melbourne that make nitro ice cream.
Eat at a food truck – In case you haven’t guessed yet, Melbourne is big on food. Food trucks are usually found at festivals and often times present in Fed Square.
Melbourne Sightseeing and Melbourne Attractions
And now, unfortunately not free, but nonetheless more Melbourne activities to keep you busy.
Cricket Game – If you’re here for the season then check out a cricket game at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) where you can get a ticket for $20 and sit pretty close to the field! I had no idea as to what was happening but enjoyed the atmosphere and fireworks throughout the game.
AFL Game – AFL is the biggest deal in Melbourne of all the country so make sure to see a game if they’re playing! AFL is the Australia Football League and is similar to no other sport. The best way to explain it is as a bunch of people running around chasing a ball. It’s chaotic but entertaining and definitely Australian!
Queen Victoria Market – Find all the souvenirs and more that you could want. And if you’re visiting in the summer be sure to stop by the night market that features some amazing and multicultural food.
South Melbourne Market – A gem of a market where you can find fresh ingredients, plenty of seafood restaurants, little cafes and small shops with jewelry and clothing.
Melbourne Zoo – What better place to check out a museum than in Australia! With so many unique species to the large island, it’s a great place to see a good number of them. The Melbourne Zoo even has some spots where you can interact with the animals.
Melbourne Museum – A huge museum of natural and cultural history, this is one museum that is worth paying for. You can find it in Carlton Gardens and is within walking distance from the city centre.
Melbourne Aquarium – Every big city seems to have an aquarium but it must be for good reason! Though I haven’t personally been to the Melbourne Aquarium I have been warned that it is mostly targeted to children.
Eureka Tower – See Melbourne from above when you head up to the top of the tower to the Eureka Skydeck. It’s the tallest building in the southern hemisphere and offers a darning opportunity for you to walk out in a glass box that’s 300 metres above the ground.
Take a cruise down the Yarra River – Jump onboard and take a cruise down the Yarra River to see all of the sights and bustling city.
National Sports Museum – Not far from the Melbourne Cricket Ground is the National Sports Museum that is dedicated to Australian spots. Check in here to learn a thing or two about footy.
Melbourne Star – A new attraction in Melbourne, the Melbourne Star is in the Docklands and will give you a view out over the water.
Go shopping – Like any city, you can always go shopping. In the city centre you’ll find plenty. Melbourne Central and Bourke Street mall are just two places.
Hot air balloon ride – Hot air balloon rides are available over Melbourne with breakfast and champagne included in some packages.
Helicopter ride – See the city from above with a helicopter ride from along the Yarra River. Or opt for a very pricey ride that will take you across the city and out to the famous Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.
Skydive over the beach – Choose to skydive over St Kilda and Elwood beach or simply lay on the beach and watch as they fall from the sky.
Casino – Get in a quick gamble with a few rounds of slots. The Crown Casino is along the Yarra River. There’s also a bar on the second story for some good views.
Things to do Around Melbourne
Though there are plenty of things to do in the Melbourne CBD (Central Business District/what Aussies call downtown) there are a number of Melbourne tourist attractions that are worth all of the hype.
Great Ocean Road – Easily the most popular thing to do while in Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is a beautiful drive outside the city towards Adelaide that hugs the ocean giving you beautiful views. It can be done through plenty of group tours or do it yourself by renting a car (which I recommend).
Wine Tours – In Australia’s coldest region for wine, the Yarra valley is where you can find a number of wineries for lunch and some tastings.
Phillip Island – Another popular attraction in Melbourne and just outside the city is Phillip Island. Here you can watch the famous fairy penguins come home to the island at sunset. There are also plenty of other attractions on the island for a full day tour.
Puffing Billy – In the Dandenong Ranges you can find the Puffing Billy train, a heritage railway over a narrow gauge. Many tours involve seeing some Aussie animals, tea with vegemite or wine tastings.
Peninsula Hot Springs – Take a day to relax at the hot springs and spa. There’s a cave pool, sauna, bath house and reflexology walk.
Now that you know what to see in Melbourne you just need to visit Melbourne!