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When I visited Melbourne (and pretty much Australia) for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. But I pretty much fell in love the first day and now I’m just trying to survive without my heart because I left it in Melbourne. Oh man, I love that city! When I first visit a city, I always create a list of free things to do and I’d love to share my Melbourne list because Australia can be a really expensive country.
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The ACMI also known as The Australian Center for the Moving Image was BY FAR my favorite free museum and you NEED to go there. It’s amazing. There’s a free permanent exhibition that follows the development of the moving image through the history of film, tv and digital culture. All the things I love 😉 I spent a lot of time in the museum, and I only visited the free exhibitions. The ACMI is right in the CBD center, near Flinder Street Station.
Did I already tell you I’m obsessed with libraries? Every time when I visit a new city, I always hop by the local library. Maybe for the free toilets and wifi (that’s weird in one sentence!) but often for to find some peace and quiet in a busy city, to browse magazines and to get some work done. The State Library of Victoria is one of the prettiest libraries I’ve ever seen. They have free wifi, although it’s hard to grab a chair because it’s crowded with students and travelers!
If you want to skip shopping, but love exploring amazing shops, visit Chinatown in the CBD, Little Bourke Street. I really enjoyed walking there without purpose and walk in and out of the shops. I also grabbed a super delicious Tuna Maki roll to go in one of the to go food stalls, but if you want to keep it free you obviously don’t have to. Melbourne’s Chinatown streetscape was established in the 1850s as a staging post for many thousands of Chinese gold-seekers who arrived at the Port of Melbourne to gather provisions and head off to the Goldfields in country Victoria. The Chinese Mission Church was built in 1872 by the Wesleyan Methodists and is known today as the Chinese Parish Office of the Uniting Church and is a cool building to see! (There is also a Chinese Museum but admission is AUD$10)
Talking about museums, The Melbourne Museum (not free for everyone, see website), The Ian Potter Center and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art are definitely three you should visit. All free to enter, and you’ll pick up new things and see amazing art. When I was there, I was lucky to see an exhibition of one of my favorite photographers, Alex Prager. I worked with her on her exhibition in Amsterdam, so it was really cool to see she had taken over Australia too!
A short walk from Chinatown brings you to the Royal Arcade, a lovely heritage shopping arcade in the middle of the CBD! Originally constructed in 1869, the arcade connects Little Collins Street to the Bourke Street Mall, with a perpendicular passage running to Elizabeth Street in the west. It also connects to the smaller Hub Arcade near the Little Collins Street end. It was not really a place where I’d shop, but it was more a place to feel like a fancy person in the 1900s and to take photos.
Tired? Just hop on the free and classic City Circle Tram and explore the city from the tram. If you’re smart, you hop on early – preferably the first stop, so you can sit. I love that the city circle tram is free in the CBD, because it’s the best way to spot places you’d like to visit later on.
I definitely think you can’t visit Australia without learning about the Aboriginal history, so visit The Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre in Federation Square. The Koorie Heritage Trust provides a unique range of programs and services to promote, support and celebrate the Aboriginal culture of South-Eastern Australia.
Enjoy!! And I’ll be back soon in Melbourne, so let me know if you want to meet up or want to hear more tips…