*This is a guest post by Mimi McFadden of The Atlas Heart.
It’s no secret that Australia is an expensive country to visit and travel around, Melbourne is no exception. I lived there for just under 5 months, and even in the chilly winter, found the best free ways to spend my days in the city.
The thing about Melbourne is that its layered, like a wedding cake or an onion (a la Shrek). There is so much more to the city than initially meets the eye. It’s built on the underground culture, the dark and dingy nondescript bars, the vibrant cafes, and hidden street art around every corner.
Melbourne is the cool European-flavored city of Australia. It was my first city to live in for my two years abroad, and I easily fell in love with it.
These are my tips, whether you’re living there or just visiting, on how best to use your time in Melbourne. The old adage that the best things in life are free is honestly the truth when it comes to this city.
Spend a day (or week) at the Free Museums of Melbourne
Melbourne has the coolest perk ever: free museums.
On those cold and rainy days, I would just pop into a museum and still have a delightful afternoon learning something new or admiring art that I didn’t quite understand.
My top 3 favorite free museums in the city are as follows:
- Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI)
A refreshingly unique interactive experience through the history of film, video games, and music in Australia. It’s located in Federation Square and is a great way to enjoy a hands on approach to an interesting part of Australian history.
- Ian Potter Centre
Also located in Federation Square, the Ian Potter Centre is a museum that showcases a modern side to local art and politics. While I was there they had a fascinating aboriginal history exhibit and a 1980s exhibit that looked like something out of Saved by the Bell.
- National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
This is a classic museum in Melbourne, which mainly highlights renaissance and baroque styles of art. With that said, it’s a huge place and there is a little something for everyone. There are usually more modern exhibits on the higher floors, to complement the classic artwork nicely.
Window Shop on Brunswick Street
I quickly realized how much I adored Fitzroy, the quirky, artsy, second-hand store loving neighbourhood in Melbourne.
Yes, there are a lot of hipsters to be found there.
Brunswick Street is one of my favorite spots in the area. There are tons of locally owned shops, warm cafes, and nooks and crannies of art with which to fill my days. It’s fun to just sit in a cafe and look at all the different styles of fashion and types of people that walk by, because there are so many unique characters.
People Watch Just Off Degraves Street
Degraves Street is the famous cafe alley that resembles something out of a Parisienne neighborhood. It’s great to experience it once, but I found it to be a bit too much bustle.
I would instead recommend Centre Place laneway, right across from Degraves Street.
It has the atmosphere without the hoards of people. I would go there, grab a pot of tea, and read Oscar Wilde in the overcast streets before work.
And of course, if you don’t want to spend the $3-$4 on tea, you can always just walk around the area and people watch. Degraves Street and Center Place don’t just attract tourists, but the intellectuals artists of Melbourne as well.
Dymocks Books and the State Library of Victoria
Dymocks Books is an amazing place. When I first discovered this bookstore, standing at the top of the escalator, my mouth hung agape in wonder at how a place like this could exist. If you’re from the States, it’s like a Barnes & Noble on multicolored steroids.
Located on Collins Street, Dymocks is a candy store for book lovers, a warm place to explore new releases and their wide variety of travel memoirs.
The State Library of Victoria will amaze you just as much, if not more, as Dymocks. It’s still to this day the most beautifully crafted public library I’ve seen, and that’s including the New York State Library. The architecture is perfected to produce the most ethereal natural lighting, and it’s another great place to immerse yourself in a good book for the afternoon.
Get Lost Looking For Street Art
Melbourne is a haven for some of the best street artists in the world. One of my favorite things to do around the city is to simply get lost.
More often then not, you’ll come across a new mural or spray paint masterpiece in your first 5 minutes. The city is overflowing with underground street artists that are always keeping the streets bright and expressive.
The most popular street for art is Hosier Lane in the CBD, but you can literally find new art almost anywhere in the city.
Other things to do in Melbourne, Australia
Of course, there are so many more things to do around the city. If you’re willing to spend a little money, a footy game in Melbourne is a one-of-a-kind experience.
The Australian Football League (AFL) or “footy” is extremely popular in Melbourne. Pick a team, get decked out in their colors, and have fun yelling your heart out while trying to figure out a confusing game that can be best described as 3 different sports in one.
Melbourne also has cheap live music every night of the week all over the city. Go check out local bands and the character bars that make Melbourne such an unique city.
St. Kilda is a charming seaside escape from the CBD, offering beach views, delicious restaurants, and some great live music as well.
And my last (and possibly best) recommendation is to get the pork dumplings in hot chili sauce at Dumplings Plus on Swanston Street. They will change your life.
About the Author:
20-something solo female adventuress, traveling the world with an open mind and a touch of spontaneity.