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Written by TASMIN WABY

Top 20 free things to do in Melbourne


Melbourne is consistently voted the world’s most liveable city and locals are quick to tell visitors what makes this city great.


But what makes a city really liveable is the stuff you can enjoy without opening your wallet. Here's our guide to the best free stuff to do in Melbourne.

20. RAAF Museum and Melbourne Airport

The Royal Australian Air Force Museum in Point Cook has aviation displays on show for free (donations are appreciated). Or join the plane-spotters watching take-offs from Melbourne airport.

19. Parliament

Check the government’s website to find out when you can spectate on the Legislative of Assembly for free, or take a free public tour instead.

18. Melbourne Town Hall

History and architecture buffs can enjoy a free tour of the town hall It is still a well-used venue with concerts, comedy and public talks year round.

17. Chinatown

Chinese miners arrived in Victoria in the 1850s and started to settle from the 1860s. Explore a vibrant neighbourhood of historic buildings filled with great restaurants, or visit the Chinese Museum.

16. Urban walking tours

Ditch the CBD and explore the city’s history in the neighbourhoods of the inner north. Online walking tours of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill are available from the local council’s website.

15. The Wheeler Centre

The founders of Lonely Planet funded the Wheeler Centre in 2010. Found in the State Library Building, the Centre is a space for ‘books, writing and ideas’ that holds free events.

13. The Shrine of Remembrance

The statuesque shrine was completed in 1934 as a dedication to the men and women who lost their lives in WWI. Historical exhibitions shed light on the sacrifices made.

12. Melbourne’s architectural gems

Melbourne city centre is rife with heritage-protected buildings like the Flinders Street Railway Station, Federation Square, Block Arcade, the Nicholas Building and ANZ’s gothic headquarters.

11. Melbourne’s churches

The gothic St Paul’s Cathedral is built on the same site where the first Christian service in Victoria was held in 1835. Nearby are the impressive St Michael’s Uniting Church and the Scots Church.

10. Royal Botanic Gardens

This green space is divided up into different themes with a lake at its centre. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon of picnicking and strolling. Check the website for free guided tours.

9. The State Library

The State Library of Victoria heritage building features the octagonal La Trobe Reading Room, which was completed in 1913. Grab a map and go for a self-guided tour.

8. The City Circle Tram

This tram folllows a loop around the city and down to the Docklands. Heritage ‘W class’ trams run the circuit with wooden chairs and leather hand straps like the originals from 1923.

7. The Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre

Learn about Koorie history and culture at the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Cultural Centre. A permanent social history exhibition is complemented by changing exhibitions by Aboriginal artists.

6. St Kilda foreshore

Wander along the sea front promenade and pier to take in the views. Acland Street is prime people-watching territory. Then head to Luna Park to check out its creaky amusement rides of yesteryear.

5. Melbourne’s markets

There are plenty of markets selling fresh local produce, handmade crafts and more. Queen Victoria Market is best known, but there's also Camberwell Market, the Rose Street Artists Market and more.

4. Cycle the city

Melbourne City government has a public bicycle scheme that makes exploring easier. There’s a deposit, but the first 30 minutes is free.

3. Arty laneways

Melbourne’s laneways have gone from shortcut passages to canvasses for some of the world’s best street art. Start at Hosier Lane and follow the maze of laneways heading north from there.

2. Rooftop views

It’s best to buy a drink, but you can get a lot of great views without forking out on the Sky Deck at the Eureka Tower. Roof tops bars dot the city so you can bar crawl your way around the CBD.

1. Gallery hopping

The National Gallery of Victoria has an impressive collection that can be seen for free. The nearby Ian Potter Centre has an Australian collection which includes a gallery of Aboriginal works.

1. Gallery hopping

Visit the ACMI (the Australian Centre for the Moving Image) for an interactive history of film and TV, then the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art on Southbank.

Thanks for reading.

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