Melbourne is quite possibly the most incredible city I’ve been to yet.
It has everything you’d need plus a plethora of things you want and it’s all set in intricately beautiful buildings that are surrounded by lush parks.
This city isn’t your typical concrete jungle by any means.
The people are lovely, the infrastructure is extremely effective, and it’s just so damn cool.
It’s a bit of a shame, though, I will admit, despite having six months here, I didn’t get to explore as much as I wanted. I’m here on my working holiday visa and I’m WORKING HEAPS. But I did get to enjoy the city a bit here and there, but since I was saving everything, I was broke!
RELATED: How I’m saving thousands living and working in Australia
What to do when you’re broke? I got your back on this!
(Don’t worry, I have a few ways to treat yourself at the bottom too!)
What to do in Melbourne When You’re Broke AF:
These are all very cheap or free things to do!
Melbourne is literally littered with parks. There’s a park everywhere you look. Since I lived in Carlton, Carlton Gardens was my neighborhood park, but Edinburgh was a close second. Bring a picnic and even some wine, people drink at the parks here! Just don’t be a moron about it.
Queen Victoria Gardens has sculptures and the Shrine of Remembrance is just next to the Royal Botanical Gardens. There’s paths of greenery everywhere here. Plop down with a book, wine, just to chill, whatever!
It’s like a step back in time. It’s a really cute and quaint beachy town with better beaches than St.Kilda.
I LOVED this spot. Located in Westgate Park, you will find a Pink Lake. Literally, no joke, the lake is pink. Due to natural algae, you’ll see something you don’t get to see every day! It’s pretty cool and a stroll around the park after will make for a chilled out afternoon. This is still a relatively new thing for what to do in Melbourne.
Careful: If it’s been raining or weather has been nasty, it could just look like a regular old brown lake.
Only about 15 minutes from Westgate Park and its Pink Lake is Princes Pier. This was the first thing many WW2 immigrants saw when they came over to Australia to seek refuge. The pier is a humbling place to be when you think of all the history. They left the pier’s stumps jutting out of the water after they rebuilt it which makes for quite a cool spectacle.
Walk along the Yarra
There’s a trail along the Yarra. You can go from the city up to Abbotsford and all around the east side of Melbourne. Get those runners on and go for a walk!
Pretty much all the museums cost money, but if you bring your student ID, you can get a discount/get in for free. NGV is actually free, but any special exhibitions will cost extra.
The laneways are probably my favorite thing in Melbourne. The graffiti here is simply and truly remarkable. The street art is EVERYWHERE. Hosier and Union laneways are probably the most popular and touristy places to go to see this art, but really, anywhere you walk in Melbourne will bring you a laneway full of graffiti. Living in Carlton/Fitzroy area was incredible for this reason too, so much street art and no tourists. Wander and get lost…
Speaking of wandering around and getting lost, you can do it all day and never get bored in Melbourne. Not only will the graffiti captivate you, but the architecture as well. The buildings are really something else. The old gothic churches and Victorian buildings are so charming and beautiful. Another one of my absolutely favorite things about this city! This is NOT your average run of the mill city where it’s a concrete jungle of the same buildings that could be anywhere. The buildings are preserved well and you can find yourself walking into an H&M that looks more like a historical palace!
With every step I wandered around the city, I felt more inspired and gracious to live amongst the history and beauty of the funky and fresh capital of Victoria.
RELATED: How I’m LEGALLY living and working in Australia.
HO.LY.CRAP. Melbourne takes coffee seriously. Like, VERY seriously. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, you don’t even know what real coffee is until you’ve been to Melbourne and had a proper coffee. I could talk for hours about all I’ve learned about the coffee scene in Melbourne, it’s crazy, it’s real, it’s SERIOUS coffee. Just walk into a shop and see for yourself. Coffee is a CULTURE here, not just a drink.
What to do in Melbourne? DRINK COFFEE AND LOTS OF IT!
Some of my fav coffee hangouts:
- Campos in Carlton! Literally two seconds away from where I lived. Their cold brew will have you reeling for HOURS. I’m convinced it’s laced with speed.
- Aunty Pegs in Collingwood is out of the world! They have a factory in the back and have done crazy things to coffee like adding nitro to coffee and having it on tap as a nitro cold brew. DELICIOUS! They switch their coffees up all the time and give you little slips of paper with info on each of their carefully crafted blends. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable if you want to pick their beans, I mean brains!
- Cup of Truth at Flinders Street Station. A tiny coffee shop that serves up a good brew in a dungeon-y hall of the famous train station.
- Black Cat in Fitzroy is a place to just be. You will see all sorts of characters walking in and out of this eclectic cafe that also is a bar. Grab a coffee or different bevy of your choice and people watch.
A chill day with wifi needs
If you need wifi and hate your hostel, Melbourne has EXCELLENT libraries and they all have free wifi. The libraries I always went to were:
State Library of Victoria – Huge, incredible looking both inside and out, many desks and nooks to hole up in, the internet can be weighed down at times due to the volume of people.
Melbourne Library (near Flinders Station) – Small, but accommodating. There are a decent amount of desks and outlets to use.
Katherine Symes – This became a favorite because it was so close to our house, and was a bit less busy than the Carlton Library. There were semi-private rooms in which you would share with only another person or two if it was busy.
Carlton Library – This was our favorite until we found Katherine Symes. This one has a lot of families. I came here to work so it was a bit distracting at times.
I didn’t personally do this as I lived in Melbourne and gave myself a tour everyday, but if you’re just visiting and want to see the hot spots right away, there’s a free walking tour everyday! Just tip the nice tour guide at the end.
This is the cool backpacker spot and where lots of hostels are. Go chill on the beach for the day! The beach isn’t really the nicest, but it’s still a decent spot to hang for the day and watch the kitesurfers and penguins.
Wait, what? Penguins?
Yep, at dusk/right after sunset you can see the cutest little penguins (literally the smallest in the world) at the St.Kilda pier! Look out for the guides with the bright vests on, they will help point them out.
OK, so besides cooking for yourself, how else can you get a good cheap meal? Timeout Melbourne has a fab list of places to go for under $20, but here are my fav’s and they are even cheaper.
Pretty much anywhere on Central Place
What to do in Melbourne when you’re starving?
Down a small dark and dingy alleyway in the CBD holds some of my fav little sandwich shops. I can honestly tell you I don’t even know the names of these places but I’ve eaten on this street a hundred times. Chock full of a little hole in the wall type cafes, this street is a budget eaters dream. Soup, salad, and sandwiches (my three favorite s’s) are what’s on offer here along with coffee and perhaps a few other treats for a BARGAIN. Regularly costing about $5-8 for a sandwich, if you wait until just a bit after lunch, say after 2pm (I’m a late eater) you can get a big and delicious sandwich for $3! They mark down all their stuff to get it sold for the day and it’s a HUGE score. You can get a tuna sub for $3, a fresh roasted veggie sandwich for $3 or a bowl of bean soup for $3. THREE DOLLARS. It’s a steal.
Cost: $3-5 for a baguette sandwich
So you can do what we used to do and get some of Domino’s alright tasting $5 pizza when you go and pick it up. OOORRR you can go to Thresherman’s Bakery in Carlton and spend just one dollar more for an even better-tasting pizza and support a small business and not a mega corporation. Tot’s worth the extra buck.
BONUS: At night, they will put some of their treats (cakes and other dessert items) on special to get them sold for the day. Bread too!
Cost: $6 a pizza (personal size)
Lentil as Anything
I wish I got to go here more often. Set in a gorgeous convent in Abbotsford with gardens and church bells, it initially feels like you’re in the wrong place. Walk around the convent and to the back and you’ll find Lentil’s as Anything nestled in a homey setting. Here, the food is vegetarian and is made fresh by volunteers every day. This restaurant isn’t your typical restaurant as you don’t get a bill at the end of your meal. Scattered around the dining hall will be little treasure chests for your donations for the meal. That’s all this place runs on! So scoop up whatever food is on special at the buffet for the day and be sure to donate accordingly! Free meals are available to those in need, REALLY in need, so please show your support and help them out while having a fantastic veggo meal.
(Locations also in Footscray and St.Kilda)
Cost: Donation based ($15+ ish)
A dingy dive bar in Fitzroy serving up some pub grub. They are famous for the Philly cheese steaks… Pretty American of me to include this, huh? They are a popular joint though and have a nice craft beer list that changes often to keep things fresh. (veggo phillies are available!)
Def go to Victoria Market! Here are the hours the market is open and if there are any special events going on. Get yourself a mulled wine or a hot cider during the winter (at the Wednesday night market) and if you’re indecisive about what to eat, go here and have a bit of everything within 5 minutes walking distance. It’s just north of the city.
It’s also a good market to get some amazing fruits and veggies to cook something for yourself. You can get things cheaper when you buy in bulk/ when you buy the stuff that is close to going off and needs to be eaten within the next couple of days.
Cost: a hot cider is $4 a snack $5+
Treat yo self!
OK, so hopefully you’re not broke ALL the time. We made it a choice to treat ourselves here and there, but nothing TOO crazy. Here’s where we went to eat/drink…
This place isn’t even THAT expensive depending how much you drink but it’s a sweet spot to chill out with a beer and enjoy some live music. You can go upstairs and see their brewing factory too which of course, my beer crazy boyfriend was a huge fan of.
Eau De Vie
OoOOohHhhhHHHooOO!!!!! Get those pinky fingers ready people this place is just so cool and fancy. Definitely, don’t rock up in flip-flops and a t-shirt, and you should probably come early or make the reservation. It gets PACKED and for good reason too. Their drinks are crafted to the highest of standards, using incredible ingredients. Garrett had a honey bacon infused bourbon Old Fashion that they make in-house, yeah… it’s crazy. The setting is warm and cozy, it’s like a 50’s speakeasy type of place where their waiters are adorned in suspenders and an abundance of whiskey and spirit knowledge. This place is quite possibly the epitome of hipster and I loved it. Oh, and did I mention it’s located down a dark alley behind a secret door that has no sign? Uber awesome!
Some of the best burgers in town served in an old train car that’s on top of a building overlooking Melbourne. Do I need to say anything else?
They were voted as having the best margarita pizza in the whole world! it was pretty damn good, but saying it’s the best is, of course, according to your own personal taste. Definitely worth a go if you LOVE pizza like we do.
Brunetti’s for ice cream
They make their own ice cream and it’s actually reasonably priced. It’s $6 for two scoops in a cone and they are heaping scoops too. Delicious!
If you want to treat yourself in the form of entertainment, Melbourne is definitely the place to do it. There is constantly something happening. Whether it’s a music festival, comedy month (we went to a show!), or a huge night event like White Night, take yourself out! Here’s a link to what’s on in Melbourne any night, any day.
I want to cry as I write this because I LOVE Melbourne and I miss it so much! It’s the most incredible, lively, funky, hip, eccentric, and fab city I’ve been to. Ever. I miss it dearly and I hope to live there again one day.
I love you, Melbourne!
Have you been? What else can you contribute for those wondering what to do in Melbourne?
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