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Melbourne has been voted the world's most liveable city, and there are plenty of great things to do with only loose change in your pocket.

At most of the places listed in these pages (with a few notable exceptions) you will only find locals.

You will rarely find mainstream tourists because there is no easy access for buses, or because the places involved are not promoted to tourists.

Perhaps more surprisingly, you will rarely see backpackers at these places. Our market research indicates the great majority of backpackers that visit Melbourne expose themselves to an increasingly narrow range of 'authorised' experiences.

In any week in Melbourne there is usually a festival or two, you can browse through the various markets and pick up a bargain, and enjoy some free (or inexpensive) entertainment. If you are interested in the arts, there always free concerts and exhibitions. Or you can shop till you drop.

On the other hand you may prefer to watch the passing parade in one of Melbourne's famous streets, relax in one of the beautiful parks and gardens, play or watch some sport or just do some special Melbourne things or spend some time in Melbourne's hidden gems.

Melbourne has always been a great place to bring up a family and most weekends there plenty of free and cheap family events.

But one of the glories of Melbourne is the food. You can eat royally for under $20 - in fact some of the best food in Melbourne is also some of the cheapest.

Each week in our free newsletter we have suggestions of numbers of things to do. After five years of weekly newsletters we are nowhere near to running out of suggestions which gives some indication of the variety available in Melbourne. Melbourne is a living, changing city. Prices change, some things improve, others decline, some institutions die, others emerge. And that's great - life would be pretty boring otherwise.


Free Concert at Sidney Myer Music Bowl

The Sidney Myer Free Orchestral Concerts in the Music Bowl are one of the highlights of the Melbourne Summer. The businessman and philanthropist Sidney Myer left a trust to benefit the people of Melbourne and Australia. Not only did this trust make possible the building of the public Music Bowl, it continues to continues to contribute to the quality of life of Melburnians through works and events such as the annual free concerts.

Gates open at 4pm and the concert starts at 7pm. White Hat recommends you get there early because, if the weather is fine it can fill quite quickly. This is the ideal place to have a champagne picnic with friend under the stars while listening to classical music. You are allowed to bring reasonable amounts of food and alcohol but no breakable glasses, sharp objects, or seating which obstruct the view of others. Before you decide to turn it into a fully-fledged camping expedition we suggest you check the conditions of entry.

The 2010 concerts are on February 17th, 20th, 24th & 27th. Full details at Music Bowl (please note, not all concerts listed on that page are free you may find that commercial music such as rock and pop concerts charge commercial prices of $100 per ticket or more)

Our rating - 5 Hats

Hat Hat Hat Hat Hat
  1. Go to the State Library - The State Library is like a large free theme park for the thinking person. There you will find numbers of major displays, the Stawell Gallery which has art associated with the growth of Melbourne, the Keith Murdoch Gallery with changing displays around various topics, a significant chess section where you can sit down for a game, activity areas for children and , of course, books.
  2. Visit Federation Square - Fed Square, as the locals call it, contains the magnificent Ian Potter Gallery of Australian Art, entry to which is free. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image also usually has numbers of free displays and film screenings, and the Atrium and The Edge spaces are often playing host to a display, market or performance.
  3. Ride the City Circle Tram - This service is free and runs every day. In fact, all tram services in the central city are free. More details at The White Hat Guide to Getting About in Melbourne.
  4. Borrow some books, CDs and videos from City Library - joining is free and open to anyone living in Melbourne or its suburbs.
  5. Take a free tour of Parliament House - details at The White Hat Guide to Parliament House.
  6. Visit the Melbourne Museum - The Melbourne Museum is a large museum with with exhibitions related to all manner of things - not just 'old stuff'. Adult entry is under $10 and children are free. You can get there on the Free City Circle Tram.
  7. Visit a gallery - Melbourne has numbers of fine galleries such as you can find at The White Hat Guide to Galleries in Melbourne, and entrance to many of them is free or cheap.
  8. Take a leisurely wander through the Flagstaff Gardens in the midst of the city buildings. During summer you may find free concerts or free art classes taking place. During winter you can sit and ponder the rich vein of history this place represents in the development of Melbourne. More information at The White Hat Guide to the Flagstaff Gardens.
  9. Take a free tour of Melbourne Town Hall - details at The White Hat Guide to Melbourne Town Hall.
  10. Ride the free tourist bus - see a different set of sights from the City Circle Tram and hop on and off anywhere. More details at The White Hat Guide to Getting About in Melbourne.
  11. Go to a free concert. Most weeks Melbourne has a number of free or cheap concerts. You can find a current list at The White Hat Guide to Free & Cheap Concerts in Melbourne. White Hat's favourite free concerts are the annual Sidney Myer classical concerts under the stars at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
  12. Visit a major suburban market - The queen of them all is the Queen Victoria Market in the city, but don't ignore the South Melbourne Market, Prahran Market, Preston Market or Dandenong Market. These places places are full of colour, motion, humanity and bargains. Chances are you will feed yourself or buy some clothes for under $10.
  13. Take a free tour of the Fitzroy Gardens or Royal Park. Details at The White Hat Guide to the Fitzroy Gardens and The White Hat Guide to Royal Park.
  14. Wander through a private garden - Most weekends in Melbourne you will find that some family has thrown open to the public their lovingly tended private garden for some good cause or other. You can find a listing of current private garden openings at The White Hat Guide to Private Gardens in Melbourne. We cannot guarantee that the price will be under $20 so check the individual listings.
Royal Botanic Gardens, MelbourneTake a leisurely stroll and maybe even a picnic at Melbourne's famous Royal Botanic Gardens. If you would like further background on these gardens in the grand European tradition there are free tours starting from the information centre at 11am and 2pm. on every day except Monday. You can find more information at The White Hat Guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens.


You can find a comprehensive guide to markets around Australia at The White Hat Guide to Markets in Australia.