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13 free things to do in Melbourne CBD via the free tram

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Melbourne, named the world’s friendliest city* is Australia’s second-largest city and is widely known as a sport, arts and culture hub. The restaurants and cafes are incredible, many of which are tucked into laneways that are hidden all over the city. International sporting events and music festivals are the highlights of the annual calendar, and it’s a city known for its great love of coffee.

Melbourne is a fantastic holiday destination, with so much to see, do and experience.  And while there is so much to offer those who stay longer, it’s perfect for a weekend break or a short stay.

This is a guide to some of the best free things to do in Melbourne on a free tram! It shows you what can be done in this great city, without spending a cent, even on transport. Melbourne is a great city, but it can also be expensive, so bookmark this for your reference if you are looking for a free day or two of sightseeing.

Needing some extra help to see Melbourne? Book a tour or activity here


How to explore Melbourne on free trams

If you plan to use the free Melbourne trams, then it’s important to understand how it all works before planning your itinerary. Get this part right, and the rest will follow easily.

Pro tip: the Melbourne free tram zone is not exactly the same as the free Melbourne tram. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but it is not entirely accurate. We explain why below.

Free tram zone

The free Melbourne tram zone is a dedicated area in the city precinct where ‘any’ tram can be ridden without paying a fare. This applies only if you start and finish your ride within the zone limits. If you start or end your trip outside the zone, you must tap on only with your Myki card.

The free zone is bordered by: the Yarra River ( at Flinders and Collins Street), Docklands, Latrobe (which darts up to Victoria and Elizabeth), Victoria Parade and Spring Street. You can view this on the free tram zone map below.

Melbourne is easy 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 free tram zone.  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.

green free tram map of melbourne cbd

City Circle Tram

The number 35 tram broadly follows the boundaries of the free tram zone, with a few small exceptions. The service operates in old heritage trams, provide some commentary along the way, and operates in both directions.

melbourne city circle tram map

Accessibility on trams: The new fleet of Melbourne trams are wheelchair and mobility aid accessible, but the old heritage trams (City Circle trams) for example, are not. To be sure that the tram you need to catch is accessible, read this guide. HEaring and vision impaired assistance can be viewed here.

1. City tour on the City Circle tram

Before all the trams were made free to use in the city, the City Circle Tram was the best way to get around.  Following a huge circle in both directions around the CBD’s perimeter, it is a great way to get your bearings. Even though you can travel on any tram in the free tram zone in the city, the City Circle tram adds some nostalgia to your ride.

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

2. Melbourne’s laneways

The hidden laneways and alleys contribute to Melbourne’s distinct cultural vibe. First and foremost, they are known to house some of the best restaurants, cafes and bars in the CBD. But they also have some of the best street art to be found in the country. It’s an ever-changing artistic landscape and a must-see when in Melbourne.  Here’s where you can find my favourite Melbourne laneways.

Hosier Lane Melbourne
Hosier Lane

3. Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal 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. It’s such a beautiful building to admire.

It is mainly used as a venue for special events, exhibitions and parties. Be sure to check out their website for free events.

Location: Carlton Gardens, Get off at stop 10 (Nicholson and Victoria St)

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

4. City Gardens

Melbourne is home to several beautiful gardens, ensuring the cityscape is not just a concrete jungle. They are perfect for taking a break, a walk or a run. Better still, buy some takeaway food from one of the fabulous cafes nearby.

Carlton Gardens ( Stop 10 Nicholson and Victoria St), Fitzroy (Stop 8 – Spring and Flinders ST or Spring and Collins St), Flagstaff (Stop 8 Peel and Victoria St) and the Royal Botanic Gardens are the premier green areas in the city.

Carlton Gardens Melbourne
Carlton Gardens

5. Federation Square

There’s always plenty going on at “Fed Square”, as it is known locally. From art and food events to outdoor buskers, markets and relaxing spots to people-watch.  There’s also a great selection of cafes and restaurants and a huge tourist information office to help you plan your time in Melbourne.

Here are the latest events at Federation Square.

Location: Cnr Swanston and Flinders St (Stop 13)

Federation Square melbourne

6. Ian Potter Centre

While you are at Federation Square, don’t miss the fabulous Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Here you will find the world’s largest display of Australian art. Immerse yourself in a few – or all – of the 20 galleries that showcase Australian art through temporary and permanent exhibitions.

7. Australian Centre for Moving Images

Also located at Fed Square – you could spend days here – is the Australian Centre for Moving Images. General admission is free, and there are various events that are also free. Just check the calendar for what’s on. There’s fun for all the family here with shows, exhibitions, movies and screenings celebrating everything about moving images, including film, tv and video games.

8. Melbourne’s historical buildings

Melbourne is an old city, and some of the best examples of architecture can be found there.  There are too many to mention here, but take the time to wander around.  Be sure to keep your eyes up, and you’ll be rewarded with gothic buildings, domes and art deco facades.

Don’t miss:

  • 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 and the Treasury Building – Spring St
Beautiful buildings in Melbourne
Princess Theatre Melbourne
The Princess Theatre

9. Flinders Street Station

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

Stop 13 – Flinders St Station is opposite Federation Square.

From here, you can also easily walk across the bridge into South Bank.

Location: Stop 13 – Cnr Swanston and Flinders St – opposite Federation Square.

Flinders St Station - Melbourne
The beautiful yellow Flinders St Station

10. Shop at The District Docklands and Spencer Outlet Centre

The outlet centre on Spencer St offers good shopping at below-usual CBD prices. It is the only outlet centre in the city. At The District Docklands, you’ll find great shopping in an easy-going atmosphere. There’s dining, bars, outdoor events like Twilight Christmas markets, music and entertainment.

While everything here might not be free, you can walk around and window shop and listen to the entertainment without pulling out your wallet.

Location: The District Docklands – 440 Docklands Dr and Spencer Outlet Centre – 201 Spencer Street

11. Queen Victoria Market

Full to the brim with incredibly fresh produce, ready-made foods, and artisanal products, there’s something for everyone here, especially the foodies. It costs nothing to get into the market or to stroll around.

Location: Peel, Franklin, Victoria & Elizabeth Streets

12. State Library of Victoria

Whether you are interested in books or not, the State Library of Victoria is one of the most incredible buildings in the city centre. The domed Latrobe Reading Room is our favourite; for the best view go upstairs. You can do a free tour, but if this doesn’t take your fancy, you can walk around and admire its many levels.

Location: 328 Swanston St

13. Free walking tour

Finally, if you’ve had enough of the free tram and just want to get out and get a bit more of the Melbourne fresh air, consider taking a free walking tour.

Melbourne logistics – a quick guide


The primary airport in Melbourne is called Tullamarine. The domestic and international terminals are located in the same precinct. The major airlines offer great airfares at various times during the year. We use and recommend Skyscanner or Airfare Watchdog for specials.

Taxis and ride-sharing transport operate from the airport. The Skybus is also an easy option and will also be less expensive. The Skybus terminal is at Spencer Street Station. From here, you can transfer to other trains, catch an uber, walk or jump on the free trams that operate within the CBD.


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.

My favourite hotels to stay at in the city (and I’ve stayed at a lot!): Rydges Melbourne | Sofitel | Stamford Plaza | Windsor | Citadines on Bourke. All offer easy access to all of the CBD and across the river to South Bank.

Looking to book a hotel?: Search for all Melbourne hotels here.


Want to have more fun in Melbourne? Book your tours ahead to save time and money!

Travel Guides

Lonely Planet Melbourne Pocket Guide

Insight Guide Explore Melbourne

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.

More Australian inspiration

10 of the best Brisbane day trips

A detailed guide to the best things to see and do in Stanthorpe Qld

Exploring South-West Western Australia: Highlights of a 12 day road trip

free things to do in melbourne

*Expat insurance company William Russell compiled a list of the world’s friendliest cities based on the following factors: resident happiness, safety, LGBTQI+ inclusivity, top attractions and highest-rated hotels. Announced December 2022.

53 thoughts on “13 free things to do in Melbourne CBD via the free tram”

  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! :)

  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. 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 :)

  6. 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 :) ), 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.

  7. Great tips and tricks, thank you for sharing. I will keep all of them in mind for my 1st visit in Melbourne!

  8. Heading to Melbourne in he doing hopefully! Thanks for all the great tips!

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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. :)

  15. And who says traveling has to be expensive?! I love free things to do / free stuff / free…everything! :)

  16. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren

    Melbourne is HIGH up on my list. Great suggestions, thanks for sharing :)

  17. 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!

  18. 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)

  19. 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

  20. Castaway with Crystal

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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 :)

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. Wow, tram and even the public transport is free. Love the old tram systems, it is such a cool way to commute within the city.

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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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