The best of Melbourne on a budget: top 5 things to do

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things to do in Melbourne when you’re on a budget.

  • Jetstar
  • January 2018

So you’ve heard people say Melbourne is the ‘most liveable city in the world’ and you’re wondering if it’s true. Well, believe the hype. While it’s a thriving city that almost feels purpose-built for foodies, fashionistas and festival-goers, what separates Melbourne from the pack is its budget-friendly eclectic charm. Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Melbourne when you’re counting your holiday pennies.

Learn about the city on a free walking tour

There’s so much to see and do in Melbourne, but where do you start? Our suggestion: meet up with a friendly guide who’s passionate about the city and go on a free walking tour. On the tours offered by I’m Free, your knowledgeable, entertaining guide will take you on a two- to three-hour walk around the city centre, explaining the history of Melbourne and showing you the sights.

In return they ask you to tip them what you thought the tour was worth. Whatever you decide to give, it’s most likely the best value for money you’ll get in Melbourne. Tours leave at 10:30am and 2:30pm every day. Look for a guide wearing a very bright green ‘I’m Free’ T-shirt.

Location: 28 Swanston St, Melbourne

Our favourite link: Melbourne Free Walking Tours opens in new window

Take street-art selfies on Hosier and ACDC Lanes

Nothing is as quintessentially Melbourne as the street art-lined lanes and arcades that criss-cross the city’s easily recognisable ‘Hoddle Grid’. Originating as service laneways for horses and carts in the Victorian era, collectively they have now assumed great cultural significance. Since the 1990s, talented (legally commissioned) urban artists have been bringing the walls to life with some seriously impressive spray-can work. While we wouldn’t recommend testing out your own graffiti skills, you can definitely take as many epic selfies and creative photos as you like down at iconic hotspots Hosier Lane and ACDC Lane (yes, it’s named after the rock band).

Location: Hosier Lane and ACDC Lane, Melbourne

Our favourite link: Melbourne Street Art: Best Locations opens in new window

Marvel at the penguins as the sun sets over St Kilda

Luna Park, forming the backdrop to a cluster of cool shops and quality eats and drinks in St Kilda, is hard to beat for a chilled afternoon. Just before sunset, stroll down Jacka Boulevard and along St Kilda Breakwater to see a colony of little penguins. It’s a lovely spot of unexpected wildlife-spotting to go with that slice of cake from one of the suburb’s famous old-school patisseries.

The adorable penguins can be seen from the pier at approximately dusk every day, all year round, completely free. Just make sure you stick to the rules: no touching, no feeding, no flash photography, and no climbing on the rocks where these cuties lay their eggs and rear their young. This is their home, after all.

Location: St Kilda Breakwater, St Kilda

Our favourite link: St Kilda Penguins: Viewing Information opens in new window

Shop ‘til you drop in trendy Brunswick

If you enjoy a bit of alternative bargain hunting, hop on the route 19 tram from the city to Brunswick, one of Melbourne’s most vibrant and multicultural suburbs. Among the splendid selection of shops you'll find a vintage and antiques emporium and a bunch of great thrift stores with something for everyone. Break up your day by popping in for a refreshing beverage or quick lunch at one of the new hipster bars or charming old pubs. You can’t go too wrong here, but the courtyard at Little Mess and the free-range ‘parma’ (that’s chicken parmigiana) at The Retreat Hotel are worth discovering. Keep wandering down bustling Sydney Road until your legs have had enough, then cross over and take the 19 straight back to the city.

Location: Sydney Road, Brunswick

Our favourite link: Timeout Melbourne: Things to do in Brunswick opens in new window

Walk, run, or ride the Merri Creek Trail

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply love the great outdoors, spend a day walking, running, or cycling a section of the scenic Merri Creek Trail. This gently undulating shared path (bike riders keep to the left side and give way to walkers) starts close to where Merri Creek enters the famous Yarra River, and winds its way through the picturesque northern suburbs of Melbourne.

A popular option is to start at Fitzroy North and walk 8km of the trail to Coburg. If it’s summer, you can cap off your walk with a dip at the Coburg Swimming Pool, before taking the tram back to where you started. Whatever time of year you go, you’ll enjoy a lovely morning or afternoon soaking up Melbourne’s urban nature playground.

Location: Start at Miller St and St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North

Our favourite link: Walking Maps: Merri Creek Trail opens in new window