Come the month of January and Melbourne is abuzz with sports talk. It is time for the much awaited Australian Open. People of Melbourne dig sports. Melbourne is also the cultural capital of Australia and its second biggest city. Several local theaters as well as restored heritage theaters host shows ranging from the comic and experimental to the extravagant.
The colorful laneways of Melbourne lit up with neon installations and dotted with quirky bars, ensure you never spend a single dull moment in this city. There are also a lot of things you can do for free when you are here. Do not miss out on them.
1. Watch Nature at the Royal Botanic Gardens
Make a trip to the lungs of Melbourne- the Royal Botanical Gardens. You will find amazing plant collections, tranquil lakes, and great views. Black swans, eels, bell birds, cockatoos and kookaburras- all these birds fill the Garden skies with their clamor. The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden- apart of the Royal Botanical Garden- has plant tunnels to crawl through and rocks to climb on. Exhibitions, outdoor movies and theater performances are a regular feature here.
2. Leaf through Victoria’s History at State Library of Victoria
The State Library of Victoria houses a wealth of information on Victoria- its past and present. You can also view an exhibition on how life in Victoria has evolved over the ages- right from the times of European settlers till today. Another exhibition Mirror of the World, showcases the collection of rare books in the library’s collections.
3. Let the City Circle Tram be your Guide
The City Circle Tram does not only take you from one important destination to another for absolutely free, it also offers free maps of Melbourne and guided audio commentary. The tram itself is a heritage W class tram colored in maroon with bright gold stripes.
Destinations the tram covers are Flinders Street, Harbour Esplanade, Docklands Drive, La Trobe Street, Victoria Street, Nicholson Street and Spring Street.
4. An Evening at the Federation Square
Federation Square is the cultural hotspot of Melbourne. With a number of events held every week, a choice of fine restaurants and bars, and a line of souvenir shops- the Federation Square is easily the most happening place in Melbourne.
5. Catch a Film Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television and Digital Culture is an exhibition hosted by ACMI that takes you through the history of films and digital entertainment. Besides Screen Worlds, ACMI has several exhibitions and live chats with celebrities happening all the time. Entry to some of these events is free, while others are chargeable. A movie at ACMI is chargeable, but definitely worth the money spent.
6. Immerse your Senses in International Works of Art at the National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (called NGV) houses international art from Europe, Asia, Oceania and America- by some best selling names like Drysdale, Rodin and Constable. The permanent collection is always free to view. The gallery has a collection of more than 70000 great works of art. The NGV building atrium is a work of art par excellence.
7. Look at indigenous Australian Art at Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia
Just as NGV International houses renowned works of international artists, the NGV Australia houses some of the best works of Australian maestros. The permanent art collection here is free to view. The range of art on display here is vast- from works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Communities, to works of contemporary Australian artists.
8. Relive the Gold Rush Era at the Old Treasury Building
Talent is not a function of age. The Old Treasury Building was designed by a nineteen year old architect by the name of JJ Clark. This 19th Century building is widely hailed today as one of the finest architectural specimens of Australia. The building stores the orginal gold vaults in which gold bullion was hoarded during the gold rush era. For long been, the Old Treasury was used by government offices. Today it is a museum showcasing Melbourne’s maritime past. ‘Sailing into Melbourne’ is a free exhibition at Old Treasury. Other permanent exhibitions are Built on Gold, Victorian Archival Treasures and Growing Up in the Old Treasury.
9. Browse the Fruit Stalls at Queen Victoria Market
The Queen Victoria market is central to the daily life at Melbourne, so much so that Melburnians lovingly call it ‘Queen Vic’ or ‘Vic Market’. Of course, you need money to buy the juicy organic cherries or the honey dumplings sold here. But you can always stroll around, enjoy free wi-fi and have a good time ‘people watching’.
10. Browse all you want at these free WiFi Hotspots
Melbourne offers a lot of free WiFi spots. So every time you are unsure about directions to a place, or which restaurant to eat at, find yourself a spot at any one of these places and make use of free WiFi. Federation Square, Flinders St Railway Station, City Library, NGV International, North Melbourne Library, Melbourne Airport, State Library Victoria, Melbourne Museum, The Hub Docklands and Melbourne Visitor Centre. Besides these areas, many cafes and restaurants offer free WiFi. You just need to buy a coffee or a small meal, and you can enjoy all the WiFi you want.
11. Tour the Laneways for Street Art
The tiny lanes that connect the city, have been transformed over the years, from lifeless alleyways to a dazzling medley of murals, many of which are by renowned street artists. To make sure you do not miss the best street art found here make these streets a part of your walking tour- Hosier and Rutledge Lane opposite Federation Square, Caledonian Lane off Little Bourke Street, Union Lane , a two minute walk from Bourke Street Mall, the backside of 280 Queen Street, 21 Degrave Street, Cnr Flinders Lane and Cocker Alley, 122 Palmerston Street, Carlton and Centre Place between Collins Street and Flinders Lane.
12. Cycle Melbourne for free
You can hire a cycle at a bike kiosk by paying a holding deposit. But the first thirty minutes of your ride is totally free. You can use the time to cycle through the Central Business District of Melbourne. However you can also choose to be smarter. Keep picking and dropping bikes at the several public bike kiosks available around Melbourne, at thirty minute intervals. In this way, you can make several short trips an discover all of Melbourne, practically for free.
13. Enjoy the Sun at St Kilda Beach
The St Kilda Beach awaits those who have had enough of art and culture, and now simply want to soak in the sun, and enjoy views of the sky and sea merging at the horizon, undisturbed by the city skyline. Saunter along the promenade and watch fishermen and surfers at work. Walk down the Acland Lane- the kind of dreamy place that looks like it belongs to a bygone era. Visit the Luna Park, which is fun enough, even if you do not get on the rides.
See also: Places to visit in Australia
14. A Tryst with God in the Churches
Built in the neo-Gothic transitional style, the St Paul’s Cathedral merits a visit not only for its architectural beauty but also for its historical and cultural significance. The St Pauls’s Cathedral opposite Federation Square is built on the site where the first public Christian service in Melbourne was held. Also standing at the busiest intersection of Victoria, at the crossing between Flinders Street and Swanston Street, the cathedral plays an important role in the bustling socio-cultural life of Melbourne.
15. Spend a Moment in Mourning at the Shrine of Remembrance
The stately Shrine of Remembrance made of granodiorite and sandstone is a memorial dedicated to all the men and women who had lost their lives in the WWI in particular, and to all Australians, who have served in war, in general. Regulatory authorities have ensured till date that no building is constructed in Melbourne that obstructs the views of the shrine from Swanston St and Londsdale St.
16. Tap a Foot at free Music Shows
Live music shows are held all over Melbourne. The Cherry Bar has many rock bands playing at any time of the week. Check out the Beat magazine to check which band is playing where.
17. Book a free Town Hall Tour
This is the place where the Beatles had performed. You can take a behind- the- scenes tour of the Town Hall for free, and stand on the portico where the legendary singers once stood. The building made from bluestone and Tasmanian freestone is still a very popular venue for concerts and public speeches.
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