A little while ago, I did a post called "Best of London on a Budget" where I listed 20+ free to relatively cheap places to visit. I wrote it for people like myself who enjoy travelling and want to get the most out of a location without breaking the bank or going completely broke. The feedback for that post was so amazing with a lot of people mentioning that they had no idea there were so many free to see and do in London. This led me to think, why not do one for the city I'm currently living in? Especially since the day I'm writing up this post happens to be Australia Day.
I know a lot of my readers are from the US, UK or somewhere in Europe so you maybe wondering, "Why on earth would I want to sit on a plane for 20+ hours to visit Melbourne, Australia?" Well (not trying to boast or anything) Melbourne was named the "world's most liveable city" for the fifth year running since the year 2010.
Getting around Melbourne is easy, with our iconic tram system dating back to 1889. All the trams run through the city frequently with a tram free zone located in the CBD. I would highly recommend getting a Myki card, which works for buses, trains and trams. The trains system is extremely easy to figure out as well. Think of Melbourne as a tree and Flinder's Street station as the tree trunk. All the trains run from Flinders Street out to different branches and then come back in.
Here are some of the touristy things you should do/see while in Melbourne:
Free | Take a stroll through the Royal Bontanic Gardens
A.K.A 'The Tan', the Botanic Gardens located near the CBD and feature 94 acres of native and exotic vegetation. The Gardens were established in 1846 and bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958. The Gardens are perfect for picnics, jogging and there are some tours that happen throughout the year.
Free | Visit Degraves Street and have a coffee
To get a full understanding of Melbourne's culture and atmosphere, Degraves is a must! There are lots of little cafes and restaurants that branch off to smaller lane ways. Degraves is easily one of my favourite places in Melbourne to get a good coffee and listen to some of the street performers.
Free | Visit the National Gallery of Victoria
There are actually quite a few things to see inside without paying. Every seasons, they'll bring in a special exhibition such as Monet which has an entrance fee. There's an Indigenous Australian art exhibition as well as Asian art and European art which are all free. To check what's on at the moment you can visit their website.
Free | Ride on the City Circle Tram
It's a free journey that takes you around the central city. It's usually quite full as you can imagine being free but it's a relaxing way to get to know the city before you decide to venture off. You won't confuse it with other trams as it's coloured maroons and yellow coloured with a vintage look. It runs every twelve minutes between 10am to around 6pm all days of the week.
Free | Visit Melbourne Town Hall
Located on Swanston and Collins street, it was incorporated into Melbourne in 1842 by Henry Condell, the first Mayor. The architect was designed by Joseph Reed and Barnes who also designed the State Library. You can take a free tour of the Town Hall and learn about it's rich history. During Christmas time at night, there are spectacular lights that shine on to the building to make it appear 'gift wrapped'.
Free | Visit Federation Square
There's actually Visitor Centre located in Federation Square where you can get more information on places to visit. Federation Square places to eat, drink and hang out basically. There are special events that happen quite frequently at Fed Square including music concerts. Although it's a great place to visit, the architecture was actually questioned by many and listed as 'ugly' on Virtual Tourist.
Free | Walk through Hosier Lane
Located opposite Federation Square, Hosier Lane is home to Melbourne's ever changing street art. It's an interesting place with a very Urban feel where you can take lot's of artsy photos. It's pretty cool how dull and boring laneways can be transformed with some spray cans. If you visit the next day, it may already look different!
Free | Visit Lygon Street
Also known as Little Italy and home to some of the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne. Lygon St, Carlton is full of culture and life. It's hard to resist walking past the restaurants when there are waiters at the doors persuading you to eat at their restaurant. I'd recommend Brunetti's, an amazing cafe with lots of cakes, gelato and some savoury food to tickle your taste buds.
Free | Visit the Arcades
Melbourne has four main arcades, The Block Arcade, Royal Arcade, Campbell Arcade and The Walk Arcade with it's own individual character and charm. Inside you'll find small shops and cafes that you wouldn't find in the main streets of Melbourne.
Cheap | Visit Haigh's Chocolate
Basically our version of Lindt chocolate. Although pricey for chocolate, I would recommend having a look inside. They might even give you a free sample of some chocolate to taste if you're lucky! Haigh's chocolate was founded in 1915 in Adelaide but as open around Australia.
Cheap | Talk a stroll through Chapel Street
Although walking through the street is obviously free, it's hard to resist not going into a shop and buying something. If you're interested in vintage shopping, fashion and antiques I'd highly recommend it. If you're not and your friend drags you along, I'd recommend getting some ice cream at Gelato Messina!
Cheap | Visit the Queen Victoria Markets and South Melbourne Markets
There's a lot of variety at both markets, both with a fairly different feel. The Queen Victoria Markets is slightly bigger and has everything ranging from fruit and vegetables to meat, cheese, souvenirs and clothing. If you visit South Melbourne, I'd recommend checking out Bibelot, an amazing cake house!
Pricey | What a performance at the Art Centre/Hamer Hall
Melbourne is the city of arts which makes it the perfect opportunity to watch a ballet, see the opera, watch a play or listen to a music concert. Both the Art Centre and Hamer Hall are located next to each other always plenty to see. You won't miss the Art Centre with it's huge spire that lights up at night, definitely something worth seeing!
Pricey | Visit Crown Casino
Even if you don't gamble, there is plenty to do at Crown. A lot of shopping, bars, bowling and even a buffet great for families. There's also a fire show that happens every hour durning the night which lights up the entire South Bank.
Pricey | Visit the Eureka SkyDeck
The tallest buildling at the moment in Melbourne, you can take the elevator up to the top floor and get a glimpse of the entire Melbourne. There's also a little cube that comes out the side of the building called the Edge which is completely made of glass. The ride up is about $19/adult and the Edge experience is about $12.
Pricey | Watch the Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (MCG)
If you're interested in the cricket and other sporting events, there's the MCG you can visit as well as the Rod Laver Arena, AAMI park and a few other arena's. (As you can tell I'm not that into sport so I can't tell you much more than that!)
Pricey | Visit Luna Park
Melbourne's little theme park built in 1913 and still going. It also happens to be right down by St. Kilda beach so if you've had enough of the rides and rollercoasters you can walk to the beach, relax and enjoy the sun. Tickets are $50AUD/Adult for unlimited rides.
Pricey | Take a Tour tour along the Great Ocean Road
Not technically in Melbourne but definitely worth seeing. There are some tours that go for under $100AUD per person that drive you along the Great Ocean Road where you can see the Twelve Apostles (well 8 now). It's a really wonderful trip actually with very beautiful scenery.
Pricey | Visit Phillip Island
Take a tour to visit Phillip Island where you get to see little penguins come out of the water every evening. Most of these tours also stop by a koala or Australian animal wildlife reserve where you might get the chance to see some koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus and wallaby!
Pricey | Ride the Puffing Billy Railway
Ride an old steam train along the country side of Victoria. The train opened in the 1900 still runs along the same track through the Dandenong ranges. Depending on what tickets you buy, you can have lunch/dinner and jazz/blues concerts on the train while you enjoy the scenery. Tickets are around $50AUD/Adult.
If you ever plan a visit to Melbourne, I hope my guide helps you make the most of your trip! Melbourne is quite different to other parts of Australia and there's always something to see and do. Just be warned that we're also famous for having four seasons in one day, it can be sunny one minute, raining the next and back to being sunny straight after!