Top 10 affordable things for international students to do in Melbourne

21 February 2024

Melbourne is proud to be a home away from home for our community of international students. We want them to experience the attractions of our beautiful city without breaking the bank.  
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said Melbourne is a leading student city for many reasons. 

“Not only do we have some of the best universities, the best entertainment, and the best food, we are also an affordable city that offers plenty of wallet-friendly options for people on a budget,” the Lord Mayor said. 

Discover how enjoying the best of Melbourne doesn’t have to cost the earth. There are so many affordable ways for our international students to make the most of their time here. Try the Lord Mayor’s top 10 tips to experience the city for less.  

Meals for $15 and under

The City of Melbourne is full to the brim with cheap and cheerful eats, from lunch deals to student happy hours – you just have to know where to look. For wallet-friendly lunch deals, check out:

For drinks with friends pop by Mejico for $10 margaritas on Mondays or stop at Workshop Bar and Café for their student happy hour, happening from 4-6pm daily (keep your student ID on you for this one).

“There are more free community events in Melbourne than in any other city in Australia, and you can’t explore areas like Chinatown without stumbling upon a savvy and tasty meal deal,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

Grab a cheese toastie from former international student Hakim Halim at his award-winning business RIPE Cheese, located in the Dairy Produce Hall at Queen Victoria Market

Free community events

Every week something sensational is going on in magnetic Melbourne.

The City of Melbourne frequently hosts free public events like the iconic Moomba Festival, Melbourne’s oldest and biggest annual community festival held every March, where you can catch fireworks, a carnival, and a range of live shows.

A person in a parade with a shiny fan
A performer in the beloved Moomba Parade

This year we debuted our new annual Now or Never festival, exploring art, ideas, music, and technology at some of Melbourne’s most iconic historic buildings, city streets and nightlife spots.

Our city is also known for its vibrant art scene. Entry to the National Gallery of Victoria is free, so be sure to visit to enjoy the extensive collection of international art.

ACMI, Australia’s national museum of screen culture, also regularly features free exhibitions like the Story of the Moving Image and has cheaper student rates for ticketed exhibitions.

Search for more free things to do on What’s On Melbourne, and subscribe for weekly email updates.

Self-guided walks to explore the city

Stretch your legs in between classes and get familiar with Melbourne’s best sights and attractions.

What’s On Melbourne boasts a wide range of self-guided walks and itineraries with a variety of themes – grab a friend and explore the best of the city’s street art or learn more about Melbourne’s Aboriginal heritage and culture on a walking tour of significant sites.

Three people standing in front of laneway street art taking a selfie photo
Explore city laneways on self-guided walking tours

A home away from home at the Couch

Are you looking to meet new friends, needing some volunteer experience or just hankering after a home-cooked meal?

Head over to The Couch on Bourke Street – a hub for international students to access support and connect with the community. Drop in for a Zumba session, a seminar about employment opportunities or board games night – all for free.

The Couch is open from Monday to Thursday, 6pm to 8.30pm.

Theatre on a budget

Melbourne is known for its performing arts and theatre scene – but your weekly budget might not stretch to afford full-priced tickets.

Get the most bang for your buck and experience the magic of theatre with City of Melbourne sponsored services like Halftix – you can drop in to purchase tickets on the day of the performance for a heavily discounted price.

Or try Arts Centre Melbourne’s affordable ticket program Tix at 12 – offering a discount to select shows every Tuesday from midday to midnight.

The Princess Theatre

Welcoming libraries and makerspaces

You’ll find even more than books at the City of Melbourne’s public libraries. Sign up for a free library membership for easy access to a wide range of resources, facilities and book clubs.

Learn new skills at one of our makerspaces, which offer the equipment and knowledge you need to try anything from coding to 3D printing.

A person using a sewing machine
A person using a sewing machine in one of our makerspaces

Cheap and cheerful groceries

The Queen Victoria Market is home to weekly deals for fresh produce and specialty goods. Check the Dizzy Deals section of the market’s website for bargains on anything from avocados to artisanal cheese every Thursday and Friday.

“Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market is an ideal choice for fresh, affordable and seasonal produce, and there are some fantastic happy hour deals in the city that offer top notch food and drink for a fraction of the usual price,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

A woman with red hair and a yellow shirt shopping for fruit and vegetables at a market
Stock up on fresh fruit and veg at Queen Victoria Market

Free tours of iconic Melbourne landmarks

Get to know the history of our beautiful city with free guided and digital self-guided tours of iconic Melbourne buildings and landmarks.

Stroll through the State Library of Victoria, Australia’s oldest public library, which houses exhibits, artworks, and rare books for you to peruse.

You can also head over to Parliament House for the free guided Heart of the House tour, which takes you through the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as famous tapestries and architecture.

The domed La Trobe Reading Room at State Library Victoria

Parks and gardens

Melbourne is blessed with many stunning parks, gardens, and outdoor spaces.

Take a stroll through the lush Royal Botanical Gardens, home to more than 8000 plant species as well as the Melbourne Observatory, with free guided walks on offer.

Another stunning park to explore is the Fitzroy Gardens, where you can visit the free Conservatory and see seasonal floral displays.

Whether it’s a picnic with friends or going for a run, the city’s outdoor spaces offer fantastic ways to connect with nature. Explore more parks and gardens in your neighbourhood.

A leafy spot at the Royal Botanic Gardens
A leafy spot at the Royal Botanic Gardens

Affordable gyms, pools and fitness classes

Our city’s recreation centres provide Melburnians with an affordable range of health and fitness services. Ask about a cheap pass for swimming, sports and fitness programs and access to state-of-art gym facilities.

Learn more

For more information about what’s on for international students, and to meet new friends, join the My Melbourne Program. And sign up to the City of Melbourne’s International Student Newsletter for free tickets and giveaways.

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