Meandering your way through the vast spaces of the NGV International and NGV Australia is a great way to get a culture fix. The permanent exhibitions and all but the major touring ones are free. You might also want to head up Swanston Street to the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art.
There are not many venues where you can be guaranteed to see an act for exactly no dollars, but Brunswick’s famous Retreat Hotel has live acts of all persuasions every night of the week and often during the afternoons on weekends and public holidays. You might need some beer money, but thankfully the bar often has drink specials.
Ever wondered how pollies make the decisions that affect us all? Check the Parliament of Victoria’s website to find out the sitting dates and take a seat in the gallery to observe the action. On non-sitting days there are a number of free tours of the building.
Finished your book? Don’t worry. You can take it to the Little Library on level two at Melbourne Central and exchange it for something on the shelves.
Or, if you’re feeling less than energetic, walk its 3.8-kilometre path, which takes you past the Yarra River and around the King’s Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with fit locals, sports stars in training and other visitors.
Most of the guided tours around the city cost at least a few dollars, but if your interests lie in the architecture and history realms, join a free tour of Federation Square. It leaves each day (except Sunday) at 11am from outside the Melbourne Visitor Centre. In fact, all the activities – from tai chi classes to drumming workshops – held at Fed Square are free, so check the website to see what’s on while you’re visiting.
It’s one of Melbourne’s favourite destinations, and you can wander around for as long as you like. Queen Victoria Market (closed Monday and Wednesday) acts as both a local shopping centre and a place for socialising. Depending on when you visit, you may also catch the summer or the winter Night Market, with free live entertainment.
Everyone uses trams to get around the city, but if you jump on the free City Circle Trams – they’re the red heritage ones – you also get an audio commentary pointing out landmarks and other places of interest. It’s the best way to get your bearings if you’re new to Melbourne.