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Birrarung Marr
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Cheap Melbourne: Tours and talks

You don’t need to be rich to enrich your mind. If you know where to look, there are plenty of affordable ways to hear from fascinating people and explore hidden corners of Melbourne

Written by
Time Out editors

There's no such thing as knowing everything about your city. So whether you're a tourist or you've lived here all your life, you'll want to know about these cheap (and in some cases, free) ways to learn new things in Melbourne.

Love to learn? Head out on these great Melbourne tours, including walking toursIndigenous history tours and ghost tours.

Cheap tours and talks in Melbourne

Free public lectures at the University of Melbourne
  • Things to do
  • Parkville

Instead of adding to your hefty student loans by enrolling in a degree, be enlightened by the University of Melbourne’s series of free, accessible lectures. One week you could be hearing from human rights lawyers; the next from scientists tackling antimatter in space. Book ahead, because they sell out fast.

They say you never stop learning – and that applies to your understanding of your own city. Check the map and hop on at any of the shuttle’s 13 stops. Once you’re on, audio commentary will share stories behind some of the city’s best-known landmarks.

The Wheeler Centre
  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

Founded in 2010 as part of Melbourne’s journey to become a UNESCO City of Literature, the Wheeler Centre hosts cheap and free talks from some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from politicians to novelists to podcast stars.

  • Things to do
  • Melbourne

This inner-city walking tour takes visitors through Federation Square and down to the Birrarung Wilam Aboriginal art installations to learn the history of Birrarung Marr and the Kulin nation. Led by a local Koorie guide, you’ll learn about how the land on which Melbourne is located has changed over time and gain a deeper understanding of Melbourne’s importance as a meeting place and location for social, educational and cultural events and activities. Tours run for one hour and bookings are essential.

City Circle tram

You’ve seen these cute heritage trams rattling around the city – why not hop on? This free shuttle loops the CBD and Docklands, all the while playing an audio commentary that focuses on the history of Melbourne.

  • Attractions
  • Libraries
  • Melbourne

Did you know that the State Library is home to Ned Kelly’s armour? Seeing it up close is just one drawcard of this free tour, which delves into Kelly’s divisive place in Australian identity and reveals other artefacts like the Jerilderie letter and eyewitness photographs from the Glenrowan siege.

Heidelberg School Artists Trail

Get to know the key figures of the Heidelberg School art movement in the green riverside bushland where they worked. This picturesque trail by the Yarra is punctuated by 12 signs depicting paintings by six artists including Arthur Stratton and Walter Withers.

More thrifty thrills in Melbourne

  • Things to do

They say the best things in life are free. We're not 100 per cent on board with that sentiment (have you had a perfectly prepared cocktail? That ain't cheap), but not everything in Melbourne has to cost a bunch of money. From art shows to wine tastings, there are a bunch of things to do in this fine city that you can do for free. Yep, free. Zilch. Nada. Zero dollars. 

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