Five things to do in Melbourne on a budget

The sun sets on the markets but the crowd is still in its thousands.

In a city rich with culture and entertainment, it’s easy to assume that only travellers with loaded wallets should pay Melbourne a visit. The secret to a successful visit to the Victorian capital, without the need to scrimp, is to live like a local.

Walk Japan

Words: Rhianna Osborne Photos: Rhianna Osborne and Connor Bourne


In most cities, venturing down dark alleyways is probably not the best idea, but in Melbourne it’s encouraged. Tucked away in the central city are a number of ‘secret’ bars -no signposts, no advertisements; however secluded they may seem, they’re always packed. Melbourne locals say the harder the bar is to find, the better it is. After venturing down two very poorly lit side-streets and following the sound of a few suspicious bangs and crashes, we finally discover Croft Institute.

This bar looks and feels like something straight out of the 70’s due to the fact that the interior is, indeed, from that era. The retired science laboratory is now a cocktail bar with a creepy atmosphere. Drink a cocktail from a syringe while eyeing up the original beakers and test tubes preserved in display cabinets.



A visit to these markets is a sensation overload;  the smell of steak charring on the grill, sticks of candy floss bigger than the average sized head and the shrieks of over-excited children. The ‘Queen Vic’ or ‘Vic Markets’ are held day and night during summer on Elizabeth Street just beyond the inner city; a 15 minute walk or free tram ride from the CBD.

The day markets consist of stalls stocking all sorts of keepsakes for travellers and there’s always room for a bit of bartering to land the best price for that ‘I love Melbourne’ t-shirt.

At night, the markets turn into a celebration of cuisine from all corners of the globe; it’s a great place to try cheap street food- pick up a plate of paella or a pork dumpling for no more than $8 per serving.


The brown and murky waters of the Yarra River mean it may not be the most postcard-friendly waterway, but it’s iconic to Melbourne’s landscape. It’s an ideal spot to have a cold drink to combat the city’s notoriously humid summer. The river’s floating bar Ponyfish Island is  suspended from a bridge in the middle of the river, and is the best place in the city to watch rowers go by. Bonus: most of the drinks are under $10. When back on dry land, there’s a shopping centre nearby as well as the National Gallery of Victoria to explore.


Go from 0 to 88 in 38 seconds, is it a car? Is it a plane? No it’s…the fastest elevator in the Southern Hemisphere. Not only is it 88 storeys high, the Eureka Skydeck (located a couples of blocks from the Yarra River) has a 360-degree view of Melbourne for only $20 per person. Nerves of steel? Try the Skydeck’s Edge, an add-on experience that leaves visitors suspended 300 meters above ground in a glass cube. For only $12 extra per person, that’s a pretty cheap adrenaline rush.


Melbourne and shopping go hand in hand; whether it’s upmarket boutique stores such as Oscar and Wild, the Royal Arcade for something quirky, or an outlet mall such as Harbourtown with more sales than a fashionista knows what to do with. Both Harbourtown and other outlet malls are within the free tram zone, which means less time walking and more time bagging a bargain.  Don’t be surprised if by the end of the trip those luggage bags are tipping the scales.

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