I left some of my soul in Melbourne and I think most people who go there do the same. A captivating city with a rich beauty and culture, these are 5 things that I recommend to anyone spending any amount of time in this great city, plus they are free!
1. Federation Square
Free Wifi and ultimate people watching. Federation Square huge public space is the favourite of my free places to visit in Melbourne, slap bang on one of the business intersections in the Melbourne CBD. Opposite Flinders Street Station on the corner of Flinders and Swanston, this massive place is where I spent a lot of time. Filled with deconstructivist architecture and a few good watering holes, it became a safe haven for me when I was lost or needed to meet someone “Meet at Fed Square” never failed. Home to the National Gallery and the ACMI, there is plenty to do here to waste some time and soak in Melbourne culture. On the bank of the Yarra river and on the edge of town, the trams have a major stop here and the main train station is opposite. There are a few choices for food and drink including the Transport Bar, which is right on the river side where we frequented very often. There are loads more places to eat and drink and if you fancy a laugh, go to the ACMI and have a flip book created from 5 seconds of you in front of a camera doing anything.
Home to Australian Cricket and a major home for cricket worldwide. The MCG is held in the same esteem as Lords and The Oval in the UK and Eden Gardens in India, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is an epic stadium that can fit over 90,000 fans around a huge circular pitch. I did the tour and visited the museum and went watch an Aussie rules game – Essendon Bombers vs. Carlton Football Club. The stadium is huge and wonderfully designed. Sitting close to the CBD, it’s clear that this stadium is part of Melbourne’s soul. The MCG is easy to get to and you can have a restricted walk around for free, including views of the pitch and the museum lobby areas.
3. Crown Casino
The largest casino in the southern hemisphere…the competition is tough! Full of some of the most sumptuous casino design I’ve ever seen, shops, restaurants, bars, clubs and even a daily fire show along the Yarra river. The Crown Casino is a wonderful place. Especially during Christmas. I worked here for a while as a bartender and DJ, doing a set at the 28 Skybar (the only way I would ever be able to get through the doors of this uber exclusive night scene).
Taking a walk along the Southbank there are also some nice restaurants and bars along the river. Christmas 2009 was spent here doing a 56 hour shift. My Christmas dinner was served in the staff canteen and was actually amazing albeit lonely. I did earn enough in this one shift to fund a month up the east coast though! My friendship with the kitchen staff also meant that they gave me $1,000 worth of food, including lobster, turkey, crab and cake, that was meant to be thrown away at the end of the day, for me to take to the Salvation Army where I was heading after my shift.
4. Victoria Market
In the northern quarter of the CBD is home the Vic Market. An awesome 5 day a week market for fresh food, street food and merchants. I often said that if I owned a house or flat in melbourne, I would have it close to the market so I could furnish it with stuff from the market and eat there everyday. The night market on Wednesdays during certain periods of the year run until 10pm and are accompanied by live music and entertainment. I thoroughly recommend it.
5. St Kilda Esplanade
When I landed in Melbourne this was the first place I went. Staying at a hostel in St Kilda for the first week, Acland St, Fitzroy St, The Esplanade, all became home. The beach and pier were frequent go to’s for a bit of self reflection and a stroll. I remember going there with my friend Sarah who I had met on my first day and we were still chilling out together 5 months later reminiscing about the trials and tribulations of working and travelling, right at the end of the pier watching the silhouettes of massive shipping tankers move in the night. It has a great vibe for culture, music, relaxing and fun. The Espy (Esplanade Hotel) is a great venue for indie gigs and a hipster hangout. I saw one of my dj heroes there, DJ Qbert and was the first place I had ever witness a live rap battle. Check out Luna park, the wacky amusement park in the heart of St. Kilda, it’s free to get in and walk around.
Bonus place – If you get a chance to visit the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for something then take a visit. It is opposite the main entrance to the Crown Casino. It’s a great place of design and brilliant put together centre. It also has the hardest working backstage staff in the world :-) – I used to be one. This is also free to wander around and they have lots of break outs areas and free wifi to sit and do some work, writing or reading. They have the most incredible auditorium called “The Plenary” where I met the Dali Lama during the Parliament of World Religions in 2010 – he told me I had good hair!
So that is a very quick list of 5 free places to visit in Melbourne, one of the world’s most expensive cities. Each of these can cost if you decide to spend the money but you can explore and take in some of the city’s delights from these places and easily go back for something new each time.