The best free things to do in Melbourne

State Library of Victoria


Posted March 06, 2024

Looking for family-friendly things to do on the weekend that won’t break the bank? Here’s our guide to the best free things to do in Melbourne. 

There are plenty of free things to do around Melbourne that mean you can have a good time without breaking the bank. From gratis exhibits at world-class museums to free public art installations, live gigs, laneway tours and night markets, Melbourne is the place to be if you want to have fun on a budget.

The best free things to do in Melbourne

Tour the State Library - or visit your local library

The State Library of Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free public libraries in the world. The heritage building, which was established in 1854, is a kaleidoscope of stunning spaces, from its 19th century Ian Potter Queen’s Hall to the contemporary theatrette to the domed reading room. Book in for a free History of the Library Tour, check out Ned Kelly’s armour, join a free Storytime session or bask in the beautiful surroundings with a picnic on the lawn and a game of giant chess on the forecourt.

Melbourne is full of great local libraries too, from Narre Warren's family-friendly Bunjil Place Library to Dockland's sustainable masterpiece Library at the Dock. Along with massive collections of books to choose from, there are cosy spaces to curl up and read, and often fun, free community events.

Hunt for Melbourne's unique street art 

Melbourne is the country’s street art capital and, if you’re yet to explore the vibrant urban alleys that have earned the city its reputation, there’s no time like the present. From edgy laneway works to colourful commissioned pieces, Melbourne’s CBD is painted with an ever-changing street art display.

Ride the free city circle trams

Melbourne’s free City Circle trams aren’t just for tourists. Travel across the city in style on a vintage W-Class Route 35 tram to see your city in a new light. The iconic carriages connect the Docklands to Parliament, making them a great option for your next city sightseeing adventure.


Busker at Bourke St Mall in Melbourne

Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall is a popular spot for buskers. Image: Visit Victoria

Watch buskers at Bourke St Mall

Melbourne is also known for its vibrant street entertainment scene. From Federation Square and Southbank to the Princess Bridge and Bourke St Mall, Melbourne’s airwaves on any given day are tuned in to the dulcet sounds of the city’s talented busking brigade.

Wander through Queen Victoria Market

There's always something interesting happening at the Queen Victoria Market. Melbourne's biggest market is full of food trucks, artisan shopping stalls and sometimes even live performances. If you have kids, pick up a Kids Passport from the Visitor Hub then journey around the market collecting stamps before returning to the hub to claim a prize.

Catch the punt across to Herring Island 

Go island hopping without leaving the city with a trip to Herring Island. The 3.2 hectare man-made island in the middle of the Yarra River, just 3km from the city centre, is home to a sculpture park, walking trails, picnic and barbecue facilities, as well as plenty of wildlife. If you don’t own your own boat or kayak, the island is accessible via is a free punt service. You can catch the ferry from Como Landing between 11am and 5pm on weekends and public holidays, only during the warmer months.

Fire up a riverside BBQ 

Level up your weekend grill game by taking your tongs riverside. Pull up a picnic table overlooking the Yarra River and fire up one of the city’s free barbecues. There are plenty of picnic spots along Alexandra Avenue between the Swan Street and Morell bridges, as well as along Birrarung Marr.


Treasury gardens

Take a stroll through Treasury Gardens. Image: Visit Victoria

Explore Melbourne's famous gardens

Melbourne didn’t become the garden state by mistake. If you’re keen for a lush urban day out, why not plan a self-guided walking tour through some of the city’s prettiest public parks. Up your step count and embark on foot or get on your bike. Start in the north at the gorgeous Carlton Gardens, then head southeast through College of Surgeons Gardens and into Parliament Gardens. Skip across to Treasury Gardens, then through Fitzroy Gardens (via Cooks Cottage and the Fairies Tree), Yarra Park and Gosch's Paddock until you reach the Royal Botanic Gardens - don't miss the Shrine of Remembrance just across the road. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, continue along the Yarra River Linear Reserve to Alexandra Gardens before crossing Princes Bridge to Birrarung Marr.

Check out a free exhibit in Melbourne 

From art to science to music, there are a range of free permanent exhibits across Melbourne’s leading contemporary art galleries. Head to NGV International or The Ian Potter Centre for provocative art exhibits, to ACMI for a deep-dive into film, television and gaming exhibits, or journey into the Australian Music Vault to relive some of the best moments in Aussie music history. There's also the Koorie Heritage Trust, which celebrates contemporary Victorian Aboriginal art and artists. Alternatively, delve into Greek art and history at the Hellenic Museum. You can even explore the big, bold roadside art across Melbourne on your next drive. There's truly something for everyone in Melbourne's art scene.

Cycle one of Melbourne's best bike trails

Whether you're riding solo or with the family, Melbourne has plenty of gorgeous urban bike trails. From coastal reserves to bush sanctuaries to wetlands, there's plenty to explore on two wheels. Check out the inner-city Merri Creek Trail from Coburg to Abbotsford, the Williamstown to Altona Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail, or the Yarra Trail from Fairfield to Bulleen.

Visit Skypark at Melbourne Quarter

Suspended above Collins Street in the Melbourne Quarter precinct, and accessible via a dramatic staircase (or glass lifts), you’ll find Skypark. The elevated urban garden is a lush oasis surrounded by towering skyscrapers and offers city slickers a verdant escape from the heat-conducting confines of the concrete jungle. Enjoy a picnic lunch or stop in to recharge your soul (and your phone battery) using the park’s free USB charge points. Skypark is currently open to the public during business hours from Monday to Friday.


two people cycling along the river

Enjoy a bike ride along Melbourne's Yarra River and take in the city skyline views. Image: Getty.

Go for a swim at the beach

Melbourne is home to some beautiful beaches. St Kilda Beach is arguably Melbourne's most famous, and is a popular destination thanks to its scenic foreshore, Sunday market, and  proximity to Luna Park. Half Moon Bay is a particularly delightful swimming spot, with the bay producing a calm natural pool. If you've got a pooch, Port Melbourne's Sandridge Beach is a favourite with both dogs and their owners.

Adventure on a day trip from Melbourne

Melbourne is surrounded by plenty of incredible areas that you can spend a day or more exploring. Victoria's Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Ballarat and Geelong areas are all close enough for a fun day trip with plenty of free things to do with family or friends.


Kids exhibit at National Gallery of Victoria

Immerse yourself in creative play at NGV. Image: Visit Victoria

See what's on at Federation Square

Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne always has something on. Right now, Federation Square is hosting PHOTO 2024, a modern photography exhibit showcasing both local and international artists.

In summer, Federation Square has a plethora of free workshops and gigs, from yoga to meditation to cocktail classes. Keep an eye out for movie screenings on the big screen too.

Go on a relaxing walk

Health experts recommend clocking up 10,000 steps a day, which can be tricky in winter's colder weather. But with beautiful walking tracks located across Melbourne, it's time to rug up and tie those shoelaces. Alphington's Darebin Parklands has the chance to spot echidnas, while Ivanhoe's Wilson Reserve is the location of the last bunyip sighting in Melbourne. There's also the famous Tan Track in the Royal Botanic Gardens, which was originally constructed as a horse-riding track but is now a beloved walking and running route.

Play a game at a free sports court

There are plenty of free sports courts hidden in parks and gardens across Melbourne. Albert Park, Carlton Gardens, Prahran Park and Richmond Citizens Park, for example, have free-to-play basketball courts - just bring your own ball. There are also free tennis courts all over Melbourne. Contact your local council to find the nearest free tennis court to you.


RACV Members save more on must-do Melbourne attractions and activities.
Discover more →