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8 free things to do in Melbourne

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Free things to do in Melbourne

There is no denying that Melbourne, Australia, is a great city.  Many would argue it’s the best city in Australia.  Equally, many people would argue that the weather is its greatest downside, preferring to spend their time up in the more moderate climate like Queensland, where I hail from.

However we argue the toss, Melbourne makes a fantastic holiday destination, with so much to see, do and experience.  It’s perfect for a weekend break or a short stay, but Melbourne is also perfectly placed to stay for at least a week.  

What’s even better, is that there is so much to do in the city for free.  Here’s my list of free things to do in Melbourne on a free tram.

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Melbourne free tram zone

This is the best part.  Melbourne is an easy city to walk around, although the blocks are huge.  So, it’s great to know you can jump on a tram when your tired legs need a break.  You can catch a tram anywhere, anytime for free, as long as it’s in the green free tram zone noted below.  This covers the entire Melbourne CBD.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  There is also free wifi in most of the city area.

free melbourne tram city map

Melbourne’s Laneways

There are many hidden laneways and alleys in Melbourne, all boasting something different.  Here’s where you can find my favourite Melbourne laneways.

Hosier Lane Melbourne
Hosier Lane

Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building

The Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, sits on the edge of the CBD.  Dating back to 1880, it was built for an international exhibition.  It also became the first building in Australia to be granted a World Heritage listing.  Today it is part of the Museum of Victoria and is the venue for many fantastic events.

What’s on at the Royal Exhibition Building.

The Royal Exhibition building in Carlton Gardens
The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens

Gardens

Melbourne is home to several beautiful gardens, ensuring the cityscape is not just a concrete jungle.

Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens are the premier green areas in the city.

Carlton Gardens Melbourne
Carlton Gardens

Federation Square

There’s always plenty going on at “Fed Square”. From art and food events to outdoor buskers, markets and spots to relax.  There’s also a great selection of cafes and restaurants, and a huge tourist information office to help you with your plans.

Here are the latest events at Federation Square.

Federation Square melbourne

Melbourne’s Historical buildings

Melbourne is an old city, and some of the best examples of architecture can be found in the city.  Take the time to wander around.  Be sure to keep your eyes up, and you’ll be rewarded with Gothic buildings and art deco facades.

My favourites:

  • The former Melbourne General Post Office  – Bourke St Mall
  • Princess Theatre – Spring St
  • Regent Theatre – Collins St
  • Melbourne Town Hall -Cnr Swanston and Collins St
  • Parliament House – Spring St
Beautiful buildings in Melbourne
Princess Theatre Melbourne
The Princess Theatre

Flinders St Station

This is the hub of all train transport for metropolitan Melbourne and is the busiest station in Australia.  It is also the most beautiful station building in Australia.  Built in the early 1900s, it is an icon of this city, with it’s easily recognised colour, dome, clocks and tower.

Flinders St Station - Melbourne
The beautiful yellow Flinders St Station

City tour on the City Circle Tram

Before all the trams were made free in the city, the City Circle Tram was the best way to get around.  Following a huge circle, in both directions around the perimeter of the CBD, it’s a great way to get your bearings.

A pre-recorded tourist guide is played on board, noting some of the important places around town.  You can hop on and off wherever you like, but if you stay onboard, the whole trip will take just under an hour.

City Circle Tram Melbourne
city circl map melbourne

I’ve stayed in many hotels in the CBD, but on this occasion, I decided to stay just outside at the Melbourne Parkview Hotel. It was a great hotel and more affordable than being in the city,  with excellent access to the tram.

With such a great (and affordable) public transport system, using the tram with my Myki card was super easy.

And, as if these things aren’t enough, why not check out this great article from Wyld Family Travel.  5 things not to miss in Melbourne offers up even more awesome things to keep you occupied and on the go in this great city.

If you’re inspired by this article, or by Melbourne, please pin it to your Travel Boards.
free things to do in melbourne

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53 thoughts on “8 free things to do in Melbourne”

  1. Thanks Cynthia, pleased you can get some value out of it. The free transport in the CBD only came in, in January 2015 so still relatively new. It is such a great asset for the city though.

  2. Such a great article, thank you! Will make a wonderful starting point for my trip planning. Very excited to see they have some free transpo in the city – that wasn’t there the first time I visited!!

  3. Yes to all these! I recently called Melbourne home for nearly 13 months. It’s such a foodie city and there are always some kind of free events/festivals happening on the weekends. It really is one of the most liveable cities in the world! πŸ™‚

  4. I can argue that every great city has its share of free or low cost attractions. I am happy to know this is the case with Melbourne. What is it about the weather? Does it get too cold?

  5. I love Melbourne! If I ever moved back to Australia, I think I would choose to live there! At least for a little while! πŸ˜‰

  6. Thanks Stephanie, it’s like the same for us getting to anywhere in Europe in particular. So expensive. Envious of all the great deals that seem to happen in the US. Hope you get here someday. I can see your hair looking pretty good in some of the laneway photos πŸ™‚

  7. Haha what’s a tram without a crazy!! Yeah, I had to soften it a little as I’m a Brisbane-ite (always plenty of competition between us πŸ™‚ ), but I too spent years and years working in Melbourne and only saw hotel rooms, airports and eating establishments (there are worse problems to have). But I did love just being able to take some time out here to be a visitor.

  8. I haven’t been to Melbourne yet. This is all great information. Getting to Australia is expensive, so having some awesome free things to do really helps!

  9. I’m a Sydney Sider so I would definitely dispute that it is the best city in Australia lol but it is my second home as I am down there for work every second week. Sadly I don’t get a lot of down time in my business trips but I do live Fed Square and the laneways … I’m still not a fan of the trams … All the crazies seem to sit next to me lol

  10. I’m working through a dream of living in 10 countries and Australia is number 8, so I’m currently living in Melbourne. I loved your picks, no need to spend a fortune in this amazing city.

  11. Great article! I didn’t realize there are so many free activities. I loved the Royal Botanical Garden when I visited. Nice work on the photos, especially Flinders Station.

  12. I would love to catch the city tour on the city tram to check all these places out. I have such a terrible sense of direction, it would be great for me. Anything free is good and I wouldn’t have known about this unless you mentioned it!

  13. I love love love that they have free transit. All cities should be so smart and so generous! Oddly Melbourne reminds me of Toronto in these pictures, which means I think I would love visiting Melbourne. πŸ™‚

  14. And who says traveling has to be expensive?! I love free things to do / free stuff / free…everything! πŸ™‚

  15. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren

    Melbourne is HIGH up on my list. Great suggestions, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  16. I did all of these when I was living in Melbourne. Although, back then they didn’t have the free tram zone in the CBD! I miss living in Melbourne, such a great city!

  17. I did some of the activities you mention, yet I left with the feeling I missed many cool things in Melbourne and surroundings. Hope to visit the city again, one day (but my heart belongs to Sydney :-D)

  18. Pitterpattertravelers

    Thanks so much for sharing an inside view!. You’ve definitely included a lot of things that wouldn’t normally have been on my list. #weekendwanderlust

  19. Castaway with Crystal

    Great post idea, I had something similar in my head after my last Melbourne trip. Thanks for the budget tips! Wooooo!

  20. Beautiful captures… I missed the graffiti when I was in Melbourne … Now I wish I had visited the street. The Flinder St Station looks fascinating.

  21. Another great post about this awesome city I call home. But I totally get it – we’re an awesome spot but our weather is shocking!! The free public transport within the CBD is a recent addition and so great for tourists, and our laneway culture is fantastic!

  22. I’ve a friend who went to Melbourne several times and she’s in love with it. She always tells me that I should come visit it. I’d love to do a city tour via a tram, I think it’d be really cool to ride that.

  23. I love how you included practical information with your tips, and for me that means maps, maps that I can download, even print, and look to see what I’m bloody doing. Thanks much, and cheers then.

  24. Lyndall @ Seize The Day Project

    Thanks for the list of free things in Melbourne. I’m planning a trip there later in the year and I’ve heard it can be expensive, so your tips will be a great help in saving $$ while we’re there πŸ™‚

  25. I’m a big fan of green spaces in any city. I think it adds a natural charm that concrete lacks. I still can’t get over the fact that the tram is also Free!

  26. Lauren of Postgrad & Postcards

    FREE TRANSPORT? Wow! I remember your last article on laneways so cool to see them again on this article. They definitely seem like an awesome free activity!

  27. This actually reminds me a lot of home (Toronto) with far more historic buildings. I’m such a nut for beautiful architecture, so maybe Melbourne should, in fact, be on my list! My Mom’s been dying to go to NZ, so maybe we can do a bit of both!

  28. Wait..what.. I did NOT know that the public trams in the green zone are totally free. Thats so cool. I love walking around a new place but yes its always good to take a tram to cover longer distances while relaxing and enjoying new city views. Taking a break is always nice and if its free, no one would think twice. A free city tour of Mel sure sounds like the way to explore. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Chantell Collins

    I love how you started this article. Melbourne is my favorite city in Australia except for Brisbane (of course – it is my home town!). Although, I still do recommend Melb as a place to visit for tourists. I would have actually moved there myself if I didn’t have the cold weather so much. The last time I was there, I only used the free tram to get around and never had to pay for public transport. So amazing!

  30. The tram is free!?!? That is awesome!! I think the City Circle Tour is still worth a try even if the tram is free because you get a different experience and learn different things from it.

    And I am definitely saving that list of laneways!

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