If you’re a seasoned Melbournian resident or visiting and wanting to get the authentic Melbourne experience, here is what you’re really looking for - what the sightseeing will really cost you. Saturated with eclectic street art, enthralling live music, renowned coffee and captivating architecture from the 19th-century gold rush – Melbourne has earnt its liveable city status for seven consecutive years. Nevertheless, your bank account may disagree after a few weeks of sightseeing. If you’re a student, backpacker or frugal spender here is a price-oriented guide to seeing the Melbourne essentials.
Let’s start with the free things to do in Melbourne. If you’ve got a day off, but at the end of pay-week, these are the activities that’ll get you the best bang for no buck.
1. National Gallery of Victoria
NGV is the first and most popular gallery in the country. Founded in 1861 and operating from two locations (180 St Kilda Road and Federation Square) it features and celebrates over 70,000 works. Both sub-galleries, NGV International and NGV Australia offer free entry and free exhibitions.
- The Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift
- A Fairy Tale in Red Times
- Alexander Calder: Workshop for Kids
- Designing Women
- 2018 NGV Architecture Commission
- From Bark to Neon
- SO- IL
- Liquid Light
- Rosslynd Piggott
- Top Arts 2019
- Julian Rosefeldt
- Imari Porcelain
- John Dermer
- John Wardle Architects
- Turning Points
- NGV International Art Collection
- NGV Australian Art Collection
- The Joseph Brown Collection
2. Penguin Watching at St Kilda Breakwater
If making the journey to Phillip Island to pay and see its adorable penguin colony isn’t justifiable at the minute, make the much shorter night journey to the St Kilda breakwater at the end of the St Kilda Pier for the cutest after-dark activity. Friendly and free for everyone, about 1400 fairy penguins make their way to the breakwater every night of the year. Cared for by Earthcare St Kilda, their Penguin Guides ask visitors to respect regulations of no flash photography and answer your wildlife conservation questions. The recommended viewing time for these endearing animals is 30 minutes after sunset. So, go for a seaside sunset stroll and head to the breakwater.
Nestled in the historic suburb of South Yarra (5km from the CBD) over 8,500 international plant species surround lakes, trees and house beautiful wildlife. Pack a picnic or visit the café, the gardens are all age inclusive with a children’s garden too. Even in winter, the Royal Botanic Garden is still an amazing place to witness some natural beauty and kill the day.
4. Soak up Melbourne Architecture
The city is full of historic and rich buildings, each with their own story and absolutely flawing design. Some notable buildings to explore and photograph are:
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- State Library of Victoria (specifically the La Trobe Reading Room ‘The Dome’)
- Flinders Street Station
- Royal Exhibition Building (Carlton)
- ANZ Bank Collins/ Queen Street
- The Forum Theatre
- InterContinental Melbourne and the Rialto
5. White Night Reimagined
Melbourne’s annual White Night Festival has been reconfigured into a three-night winter solstice festival from August 22nd – 24th, this free event transforms the city into a light and art extravaganza with large-scale live performances and new music offerings. Mainly taking place in Carlton Gardens, Treasury Gardens and Birrarung Marr it is definitely worth attending this world-famous event at least once in its duration.
6. American Doughnut Kitchen at the Queen Victoria Market
Que up at Queen Victoria Market outside the original 1950s van to watch your hot jam doughnuts being fresh for you. With 5 doughnuts for $6 you really can’t go wrong with a wander around the specialty stores and produce in the market and a sweet treat.
7. Happy Jappy Hour at Bosozuku Bar South Yarra
With Karaoke, pool tables, Nintendo, dart boards and table tennis, you won’t be short of entertainment at the hippest Japanese bar in Melbourne. Heighten the fun with $2.50 pots from 4-6pm every day. Bosozuku is a must.
8. Astor Theatre
The Astor Theatre is a historic film screening institution, opened in 1936 it is the last of its kind. This beautiful art-deco single-screen cinema is the perfect place to relax and embrace its nostalgic atmosphere. What’s especially enticing are the old-school prices- Magic Monday, Wicked Wednesday and Fantastic Thursday selling all tickets at $14.
This iconic Fitzroy bar is renowned for its Spanish-style tapas and rooftop bar showing you the best free viewing of the city skyline. Their specials are too good to pass up, enjoy a Pampelle, Aperol, Campari or Montenegro Spritzer with a view for just $8 on Sundays 12-3pm. Or enjoy a meal in the sky with all lunch dishes Monday to Friday (12-3pm) only $11.
10. Artvo Immersive Gallery
If you’re looking to embrace the illusory, why not try the innovating, all ages friendly immersive gallery Artvo only a short tram ride from the CBD? Closing down for a temporary makeover August 4th, this illusion filled photo opportunity wonderland is an amazing experience, with an adult ticket at $28.
11. KBOX Karaoke
Unleash your inner sing-star with a few drinks and KBOX Karaoke (points if you can do this sober). In a private room, choose from thousands of songs and go all out. With one singing pod for 2-8 people costing $38 (per person with two drinks included). Located in the CBD, KBOX is too accessible to pass up.
12. Get the Melbourne Look and Shop Melbourne Vintage
When it comes to Melbourne op-shops and vintage, $50 or less can buy you a whole new look. Extremely popular, ethical and environmentally friendly, check out some tried and true op-shops to find your next come up:
- Retrostar Vintage Clothing
- Vintage Sole
- Storehouse Thrift
- Red Cross Op-shops
- Salvos Stores
- Chapel Street Bazaar
13. Unlimited Rides Pass at Luna Park
Be the King/ Queen of the playground for the day and let out your inner child at Lunar Park with an unlimited rides pass at Luna Park. Unlimited rides passes are $49.95 for a day of adrenaline.
14. Get over your Ex in The Break Room
Need to blow off some steam? Make your way to The Break Room, put on a Break Suit and break things with bats – cool right? Get over your ex from $55 per person.
Spice up your date night with a casual axe throwing session. Book a date night two-person session for $110 or $55 per person and wear your best lumberjack shirt.