The 18 best samples by mail to complete in Melbourne

Consistently ranking amongst the world's most liveable cities, Melbourne isn't a half bad spot to visit either, with a insightful attractions that encompass everything from sprawling markets and insightful museums to beautiful botanic gardens and vintage amusement parks. Better still news: you may enjoy a load of these experiences without spending a single cent. Here's our guide to the best free stuff to do in Melbourne.

Art galleries

The National Gallery of Victoria boasts a remarkable collection with big names like Drysdale, Rodin and Constable one of many permanent works that may be seen free of charge in its international collections. Its premier gallery on St Kilda Road is itself a work of art, worth a tour on its own, having a lofty stained-glass atrium that may make art aficionados skip with joy. In the Ian Potter Centre, just in the road in Federation Square, is the Australian collection which includes a stunning first floor gallery of Aboriginal works.

While you're at Federation Square, pop into the city's celebrated ACMI (the Australian Centre for that Moving Image) to have an interactive history of film and TV, together with a good old dose of Neighbours nostalgia (Melbourne may be the home of Neighbours, in the end). Next is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art on Southbank – another architectural gem with a revolving exhibition calendar. Still not sated? There are a number of private galleries within the Flinders Lane precinct with smaller exhibitions of local and international artists.

Shrine of Remembrance

The statuesque Shrine of Remembrance, off St Kilda Rd, was carried out 1934 as a dedication to the men and women who lost their resides in WWI. Historical exhibitions shed light on the sacrifices made and it is the website of a number of Melbourne's most significant military and remembrance ceremonies for example ANZAC day. Visible from the opposite end of town, planning regulations still restrict any building that will obstruct the view of the shrine from Swanston St dating back to Lonsdale St. A climb to the steps from the shrine will be rewarded with fine views over the city.

Melbourne's laneways

Over yesteryear decade Melbourne's laneways have gone from shortcut passages in the main city grid to proud canvasses for many from the world's best street art. You probably won't find Banksy's work here (these have reportedly been painted over or destroyed, though a minumum of one is said to stay), but what you will find is a dizzying mash-up of colourful murals by well-known local and visiting artists. Start at Hosier Lane (opposite Federation Square) and stick to the maze of laneways heading north after that.

Market browsing

Melburnians love a good market, and also the city is stuffed towards the gills together. In any neighbourhood you'll find markets selling fresh local produce, handmade crafts, secondhand treasures or gourmet hawker dishes at some point in a few days. Browsing is freed from course, and there are usually lots of food samples to taste if you're tempted.

Besides the large hitter, Queen Victoria Market, in the centre of the city, there are many less touristy markets to look at anywhere based on where you're staying. Try Camberwell Market for a Parisienne flea market vibe; the Rose Street Artists' Market in Fitzroy to take in some Melbourne creativity; the summer-time-only Night Market at Victoria Marketplace for hawker-style food and live music; and the Farmers Market at Abbotsford Convent or even the Collingwood Children's Farm for any bit of rural idyll in the city.

St Kilda foreshore

When the town scene gets an excessive amount of, head down to breezy St Kilda beach for any different kind of buzz. Wander along the sea front promenade and down St Kilda pier to take the views, watch the fishermen or gawp in the gutsy kite-surfers catching some waves. Acland Street is prime people-watching territory with pavement cafes galore; locals and tourists alike come here to window-shop and drool within the street's old-school European cake shops. Snap the obligatory photo before Luna Park's iconic grin before heading inside to look at its creaky amusement rides of yesteryear, such as the carousel and scenic railway rollercoaster. Play the spectator because the rides can cost you.

On Sundays an art market creates along the Esplanade. Families should also seek out the St Kilda Adventure Playground – a real treat for teenagers.

Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre

You may be wandering around Melbourne wondering exactly what the place appeared as if before British colonisation 220 years ago. For an introduction to the location in the traditional custodians, the Wurundjeri people, and to become familiar with a few things about contemporary Koorie history and culture, head to the Koorie Heritage Trust's Cultural Centre in Federation Square. A permanent social history exhibition is complemented by changing exhibitions by new and established Aboriginal artists. The Melbourne Museum also has excellent info on indigenous social and culture heritage but is only free for college students and members.

City Circle Tram

This is the shortcut to seeing Melbourne city centre having to break a sweat or spending anything at all (although your ear drums might not thank you – the commentary is informative enough, but a tad too loud for those but the hardest of hearing). The City Circle Tram trundles along a loop around the city and down to the waterfront precinct of Docklands. Heritage 'W class' trams run the circuit with wooden chairs, brass and leather hand straps like the originals from 1923.

City centre architecture

Melbourne city centre is rife with heritage-protected buildings of numerous eras and designs. Prepare to improve your grid as you wander the streets seeing the famous or quirky city buildings, old advertising paintings and far-out futuristic structures. Standouts range from the Flinders Street Railway Station, Federation Square, Block Arcade, the Nicholas Building and ANZ's gothic headquarters. Every July, you are able to go a step further and get a totally free peep inside many of Melbourne's off-limits architectural highlights in the city's annual Open House event.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Close to the hearts of all those who call Melbourne home, the Royal Botanic Gardens is really a top place to build relationships local life. Dating from 1857, this 38-hectare swathe of hilly green space close to the CBD is divided up into different themes having a lake at its centre. It's the perfect spot to enjoy a long afternoon picnicking and then stroll the myriad paths inside the park. There's also a purpose-built Children's Garden for families with a water fountain and man-made creek to splash in come summer.

Night and day, but particularly early in the mornings, you will be sharing the perimeter with fitness fanatics running the 3.84km circuit from the garden known locally as 'The Tan'. Keen botanists should check the website for free guided tours.

Melbourne's churches

You needn't be religious to appreciate the construction of some of Melbourne's grand churches. The gothic St Paul's Cathedral (opposite Federation Square) is made on a single site in which the first Christian service in Victoria was held in 1835. A couple of minutes away would be the St Michael's Uniting Church and the Scots Church: both also architecturally impressive and quiet oases within the city.

The State Library of Victoria

The State Library of Victoria heritage building was established in 1854 and today, their collection numbers a lot more than two million books. But they're really here for your building. Its epicentre, the octagonal La Trobe Reading Room, was carried out 1913 when its dome was the biggest available on the planet. Sun light illuminates the ornate plaster work and also the studious Melburnians who come here to pen their essays.

Grab a map at the front desk and go for a self-guided tour from the Reading Room and the exhibition galleries. The library also plays host to some revolving door of exhibitions from literary to the fine arts, in addition to free classes, workshops, talks and kids activities.

Wheeler Centre

The founders of Lonely Planet funded the Wheeler Centre in 2010, exactly the same year Melbourne was listed as a UNESCO City of Literature. Occupying a portion of the State Library Building, the Centre is a space for 'books, writing and ideas'. Regular events, including workshops and talks from artists, writers, architects and publishers are often liberated to attend. Bookings can be created through the website.

Live music

After coffee, street art and footy (Australian Rules football, that's) Melburnians love their live music. There is a host of free gigs on all around the city virtually every day of the week. In the city Cherry is infamous as a rock venue and it has a mix of free and paid-entry gigs. Also in town is Toff around. If you like folk, blues, jazz, pop, or perhaps Australian hip-hop (yep there is such a thing) check listings from our street press like Beat, which you can pick up at bars, pubs and cafes, or the indy radio-station RRR's online gig guide. Beyond the CBD, suburbs such as Northcote (Northcote Social Club), Brunswick (Retreat Hotel) and St Kilda (The Esplanade Hotel) all have lots of live-music venues.

Free walking tours

To really get under Melbourne's skin, ditch the CBD and explore some of the city's urban history within the increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods from the inner north. Online walking tours of Collingwood, Abbotsford and Clifton Hill are available from the local council's website and take you past industrial icons such as the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign (best seen in the evening) as well as Abbotsford Convent and Dights Falls, a number of rapids around the Yarra River.


Chinese miners found its way to Victoria in search of the 'new gold mountain' within the 1850s and began to stay in this strip of Little Bourke St from the 1860s. In excess of 150 years this of central Melbourne, now flanked by five traditional arches, continues to be the focus for the city's Chinese community. Explore a vibrant neighbourhood of historic buildings filled with Chinese and other restaurants. Chinatown also hosts the city's Chinese Year celebrations. To explore the Chinese-Australian story, go to the excellent Chinese Museum.

Melbourne Town Hall

History and architecture aficionados will enjoy touring the Melbourne Town Hall. Your building is made of a mixture of bluestone and Tasmanian freestone and stands authoritatively around the main city thoroughfare of Swanston Street. It is still a well-used venue with concerts, comedy and public talks held in the main auditorium as well as the smaller chambers all year round. Another big draw is the Grand Organ dating from 1929. To go behind the curtain and get up on the portico where The Beatles and Abba once waved to their adoring fans you can book a free Town Hall tour (weekdays only).

Parliament House

No, you cannot take popcorn with you for any session of Victorian parliament but watching Australian politicians debating the most recent in government policy could be entertaining. Look into the government's Parliament web site to find out when you can spectate on the Legislative of Assembly for free. If watching politicians trying to score cheap political points within the luxe leather-and-wood environment of this stately house isn't your lifestyle, you may get higher productivity from the free public tour instead.

Melbourne Airport and also the RAAF Museum

It can be a trek to get to the Royal Australian Air Force Museum in Point Cook, but the aircraft and aviation displays are fascinating and free (donations are appreciated). Call ahead to investigate about the guided tours, only on offer for categories of six or even more, if you may be able to join another group. For additional aviation enjoyment on a tight budget, you are able to join the plane-spotters watching aeroplanes removing from Melbourne airport close to the corner of Oaklands road and Sunbury Road.