Melbourne on the Cheap

Don’t let your almost-empty wallet stop you. See more of the city for less with our top 12 things to do on a budget in Melbourne

Cost Around $60 for the perfect fit and ultimate comfort
 
5. Walk this way
Built on the philosophy that budget shouldn’t limit travel options, and that Melbourne is for everyone, Walks 101 offers a free tour as part of its repertoire. It covers Aboriginal history, Federation Square, Yarra River, Immigration Museum, State Library Victoria, Old Shot Tower, Flinders Street Station, Eureka Tower, Southbank and Old Melbourne Gaol. This tour operates seven days a week, 365 days a year, rain, hail or shine. 
Where Meet at the corner of Spring and MacArthur Streets, East Melbourne 
Getting there Tram number 11, 12, 48 or 109 to stop 8
Cost You’ll never be pressured to tip, but it is certainly welcome and appreciated
 
6. Sample off-menu items at Ides 
If its $120 set menu would break the budget, you can still enjoy the Ides fine-dining experience on the cheap. Just book a place at the Sample Table on a Wednesday or Thursday night. For around half the price, you’ll be served four of chef Peter Gunn’s innovative creations, so new they’re not even on the menu.
Where 92 Smith Street, Collingwood
Getting there Tram number 86 to stop 15
Cost $65
 
7. See California without leaving Melbourne
Melbourne and California share a similar climate, making the California Garden at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens the perfect spot to grow a little piece of California. Best viewed in spring, the Californian collection features a range of adaptable, water-wise plants. Imagine yourself cruising the Pacific Coast Highway outside LA, only in the heart of Melbourne.
 
Where Inside Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens. The California Garden is closest to Gate C, near Anderson Street
Getting there Tram number 5, 6, 16, 64 or 72 to stop 19
Cost Free
 
8. Go celebrity spotting at Cherry Bar
This alt rock venue doesn’t just draw punters in with its regular free gigs; Cherry Bar is also popular with bands from all over the world. One of our Melbourne Now writers once talked politics with Snow Patrol’s bass player there. You never know who you might meet, but you are guaranteed a rockin’ good time.
Where ACDC Lane
Getting there Tram number 35 (free City Circle) to stop 6
Cost Check the website, around half the listed gigs are free
 
9. Have a dumpling feast
At Shandong Mama, dumplings are such a passionate obsession the cooks make their own dumpling skins in-house… in three different grades of thickness to suit the filling. Now that’s foodie dedication.
Where Mid City Arcade, 7/200 Bourke Street
Getting there Tram number 86 or 96 to stop 7
Cost 10 to 12 dumplings will set you back around $14 
 
10. Discover Melbourne’s dark side
The Haunted Bookshop in McKillop place has been hosting night-time ghost tours for 20 years. The two-hour tour is as much a compelling lesson in Melbourne’s fascinating history, as it is a thrilling evening of tale telling and spooky yarns.
Where 15 McKillop Street
Getting there Tram number 86 or 96 to stop 4
Cost $20
 
11. Aboriginal art to admire
At the Koorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square, not only can you admire work from new and established Aboriginal contemporary artists, but you can also take home your own piece of culture from the retail shop.
Where Federation Square, Yarra Building, Gallery Level 1
Getting there Tram number 1, 3, 3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 or 72 to stop 13, or tram number 35 (free City Circle), 70 or 75 to stop 5
Cost Gallery entry is free
 
12. Circling the CBD
Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram offers the old world charm of the heritage W class tram, with an audio narration of the city’s highlights. Hop on and off as you like to explore the city.
Where The free trams circle the CBD at stops through Flinders Street, Harbour Esplanade, Docklands Drive, La Trobe Street, Victoria Street, Nicholson Street and Spring Street. 
Getting there Tram number 35 from any of the stops along the route
Cost Free

1. MEET AT SIX FOR CHEAP TIX

Ready for a spontaneous night out? Arts Centre Melbourne’s tixatsix program operates nightly at 6pm. A limited number of tickets to selected Arts Centre Melbourne performances are made available for only $30. tixatsix are offered across all genres of performance, including popular and classical music, classical and contemporary dance, musical theatre, theatre, circus, opera and more.

Where Box Office, Level 5, Theatres Building, 100 St Kilda Road
Getting there Tram number 1, 3, 3a, 5, 6, 16, 58, 64, 67 or 72 to stop 14
Cost $30

2. GET YOUR CAFFEINE HIT FOR FREE

Keen to learn about the bean? Proud Mary Coffee Roasters in Collingwood will wake you up with a caffeine hit like no other. Join other coffee lovers for a free tasting on Saturday mornings from 10.30am.

Where 200 Wellington Street, Collingwood
Getting there Tram number 86 to stop 18 then a short stroll to Wellington Street
Cost Free

3. LET'S GET TRIVIAL

The Cornish Arms in Brunswick doesn’t like to boast, but it is home to a free weekly trivia night that books out nearly every single week. Trivia master Richard is practically a local celebrity, bringing with him a dry sense of humour, quick wit and questions that skirt the thin line between humorous and challenging. It’s practically a free comedy show. There’s also solid and comforting pub food, with a vegan option to match almost every single meaty delight listed on the menu. 

Where 163A Sydney Road, Brunswick
Getting there Tram number 19 to stop 20
Cost It’s free to play trivia, with snacks from $8 and meals from $15 

4. WANNA GET INTO THESE PANTS?

With the bargain-basement prices offered by Dejour Jeans, everyone can own these high-quality wardrobe essentials. Find out why so many bloggers and bargain hunters can’t get enough of Dejour.

Where 542 Sydney Road, Brunswick
Getting there Tram number 19 to stop 24
Cost Around $60 for the perfect fit and ultimate comfort

5. WALK THIS WAY

Built on the philosophy that budget shouldn’t limit travel options, and that Melbourne is for everyone, Walks 101 offers a free tour as part of its repertoire. It covers Aboriginal history, Federation Square, Yarra River, Immigration Museum, State Library Victoria, Old Shot Tower, Flinders Street Station, Eureka Tower, Southbank and Old Melbourne Gaol. This tour operates seven days a week, 365 days a year, rain, hail or shine. 

Where Meet at the corner of Spring and MacArthur Streets, East Melbourne 
Getting there Tram number 11, 12, 48 or 109 to stop 8
Cost You’ll never be pressured to tip, but it is certainly welcome and appreciated

6. SAMPLE OFF-MENU ITEMS AT IDES 

If its $120 set menu would break the budget, you can still enjoy the Ides fine-dining experience on the cheap. Just book a place at the Sample Table on a Wednesday or Thursday night. For around half the price, you’ll be served four of chef Peter Gunn’s innovative creations, so new they’re not even on the menu.

Where 92 Smith Street, Collingwood
Getting there Tram number 86 to stop 15
Cost $65

7. SEE CALIFORNIA WITHOUT LEAVING MELBOURNE

Melbourne and California share a similar climate, making the California Garden at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens the perfect spot to grow a little piece of California. Best viewed in spring, the Californian collection features a range of adaptable, water-wise plants. Imagine yourself cruising the Pacific Coast Highway outside LA, only in the heart of Melbourne.

Where Inside Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens. The California Garden is closest to Gate C, near Anderson Street
Getting there Tram number 5, 6, 16, 64 or 72 to stop 19
Cost Free

8. GO CELEBRITY SPOTTING AT CHERRY BAR

This alt rock venue doesn’t just draw punters in with its regular free gigs; Cherry Bar is also popular with bands from all over the world. One of our Melbourne Now writers once talked politics with Snow Patrol’s bass player there. You never know who you might meet, but you are guaranteed a rockin’ good time.

Where ACDC Lane
Getting there Tram number 35 (free City Circle) to stop 6
Cost Check the website, around half the listed gigs are free

9. HAVE A DUMPLING FEAST

At Shandong Mama, dumplings are such a passionate obsession the cooks make their own dumpling skins in-house… in three different grades of thickness to suit the filling. Now that’s foodie dedication.

Where Mid City Arcade, 7/200 Bourke Street
Getting there Tram number 86 or 96 to stop 7
Cost 10 to 12 dumplings will set you back around $14 

10. DISCOVER MELBOURNE'S DARK SIDE

The Haunted Bookshop in McKillop place has been hosting night-time ghost tours for 20 years. The two-hour tour is as much a compelling lesson in Melbourne’s fascinating history, as it is a thrilling evening of tale telling and spooky yarns.

Where 15 McKillop Street
Getting there Tram number 86 or 96 to stop 4
Cost $20

11. ABORIGINAL ART TO ADMIRE

At theKoorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square, not only can you admire work from new and established Aboriginal contemporary artists, but you can also take home your own piece of culture from the retail shop.

Where Federation Square, Yarra Building, Gallery Level 1
Getting there Tram number 1, 3, 3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 or 72 to stop 13, or tram number 35 (free City Circle), 70 or 75 to stop 5
Cost Gallery entry is free

12. CIRCLING THE CBD

Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram offers the old world charm of the heritage W class tram, with an audio narration of the city’s highlights. Hop on and off as you like to explore the city.

Where The free trams circle the CBD at stops through Flinders Street, Harbour Esplanade, Docklands Drive, La Trobe Street, Victoria Street, Nicholson Street and Spring Street. 
Getting there Tram number 35 from any of the stops along the route
Cost Free

Image credit (top): Roberto Seba