For visitors to a major city confined to a low budget, many major sights and attractions are often out of reach. Not so in Melbourne. This Australian city is bursting at its seams with things to see and do no matter how fat ones wallet is. While Melbourne does have an abundance of free sights and events, from festivals to the impressive city parks, it also boasts quite a few popular museums which are very cheap and affordable – and for students or children, they’re often free of charge.
Melbourne’s Immigration Museum is Cheap for Adults & Free for Kids
A popular one with tourists, The Immigration Museum is dedicated to chronicling the influx of immigrants into Australia, and Melbourne in particular. With interactive displays, the museum captures visitors interest and provides a moving account of immigrants from the 19th century to now. Housed in the restored Old Customs House (corner Flinders St & Queens St), the museum depicts in detail Australia’s long history as an immigrant country and the nations strong links to a huge number of countries worldwide. Open 10am-5pm, the museum admission fee is a thrifty $6 and for children or students with a valid student card, it’s free.
In keeping with Australia’s immigrant history, the Museum of Chinese Australian Historydocuments the long history of Chinese people Down Under. An interesting place for an in-depth look at Australia’s history, the museum (22 Cohen Place) is open 10am-5pm and admission is just $6.50 ($4.50 concession.)
Located in Federation Square, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is a popular museum dedicated solely to film, tv and digital media. Boasting a state-of-the-art digital gallery, cinemas, a studio and a lending library / research centre, the museum hosts a range of temporary exhibitions, both domestic and international and holds talks and creative workshops. While tickets are required for most exhibitions, many of them are quite affordable and there’s always an exhibition of some sort that’s free of charge.
Melbourne Museum Offers a Great Slice of Australian Culture on a Budget
By far the best museum in Melbourne is the Melbdourne Museum. As all-encompassing as its name suggests, the museum is dedicated to all things Australian. With an emphasis on educating and interacting with visitors, it’s been labelled the largest and most innovative museum south of the equator. A popular attraction in this sprawling museum is the Aboriginal Centre which displays Aborigines’ impressive artwork and divulges details on their poor treatment by the Australian Government and recent attempts to rectify this.
Another highlight for tourists is the Australia Gallery which honours all things uniquely Aussie, from vegemite to the kangaroo. Unfortunately, the ‘Neighbours’ set (the kitchen from No 26 Ramsay Street) which was on display in this area has been removed, to the dismay of fans of the Melbourne soap who set up a petition in the museum for its return. Fingers crossed. Located in the picturesque Carlton Gardens next to the Royal Exhibition Building, the museum is open 10am-5pm and costs a very affordable $6. Like the Immigration Museum, it’s free for both kids and students.
Melbourne’s Best Popular Shopping Malls
So good is the shopping in Melbourne that many Sydney-siders come down to their rival city just to shop. No surprise then that Melbourne has malls aplenty and great ones at that. Below is a guide to the top shopping centres in the Victorian capital for recognisable brands and top highstreet stores all under the one roof.
Melbourne’s Best City Centre Shopping Malls
As the name suggests, ‘Melbourne Central’ is smack bang in the heart of the city centre. A huge mall complete with a supermarket and food court, Melbourne Central boasts hundreds of popular, mainstream fashion shops. Top stores include Roxy, Ozmosis, Guess and G-Star. At times confusing in layout, the shopping centre has infomation points and maps available for all visitors. Located on the corner of Swanston Street and LaTrobe St, it’s the city’s best place to find the latest quality highstreet goods all in the same place.
If the hundreds of stores above don’t suffice, around the corner on Bourke Street lies the city’s main shopping strip for highstreet fashion. Standing out amongst the row of stores on the street lie Australia’s two main department stores, ‘Myer’ and ‘David Jones.’With twelve floors of different departments linked by an elevated skywalk, Myer is a popular place for affordable, recognisable brands. It’s also the place to bring kids over the festive season when the store pulls out all the stops with its impressive Christmas window displays.
Myer’s more upmarket cousin, David Jones is the best department store for top quality goods. Selling a range of wellknown brands from Levi’s to Calvin Kleins, the store also has a food hall, tempting shoppers with some fantastic culinary gems. The oldest department store in the world still operating under the same name, David Jones (or ‘DJ’s as it’s affectionately known) spans two blocks and sells mens, womens and childrens fashion.
Although not a mainstream mall, the city’s ‘Direct Factory Outlets’ (DFO) are fast becoming the most frequented shopping centres during these trying recessionary times. Packed with past season stock or current over-stock, DFO is Melbourne’s best and most popular factory outlet mall and is home to some of the best bargains. From highstreet shops to designer labels, Australian stores (Quiksilver, Cue) to top international brands (Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger), DFO boasts over 100 stores with quality goods, at up to 70% off original retail prices. There are three locations for DFO: Spencer Street in the city, Moorabbin and Essendon. For more info on these, have a look at Melbourne’s Best Factory Outlet Shopping.
Newly opened as of early 2009, Harbourtown is Melbournes latest shopping mall. Gaining popularity on a daily basis, the mall is Melbournes lastest example of the regeneration of the Docklands area. With numerous stores, Harbourtown is a combination of regular retail shops and factory outlets so bargains are almost a given. To get there, catch the free City Circle tram from Flinders St which stops outside it.
Melbourne’s Largest Shopping Malls are in the Very Accessible Suburbs
Slightly outside of the city, ‘Chadstone Shopping Centre’ is the largest mall in the Melbourne area. Packed with all the usual, mainstream Australian and international stores, from Jeans West to Mango, plus a few designer boutiques along the way, Chadstone is a popular place. Dull and factory-like on the outside, the interior is quite pleasing with palm trees dotted along the shopping aisles. Although it’s a bit out of the city (20 minutes by train), it’s well worth the trek, especially for country, interstate or overseas visitors who are entitled to a discount of up to 30% in over 200 stores in the mall. This generous incentive makes the mall a popular tourist attraction. While most participating stores require a minimum purchase, there is one chocolate shop that gives visitors a free sample upon presentation of their discount card.
Complete with Hoyts multiplex cinema and a great food court, Chadstone has everything you need in the one place. Located at 1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone, it’s accessible by public transport by catching the Pakenham/Cranbourne train line and alighting at Hughesdale. A 5-10 minute walk up Poath Road then brings you to Dandenong Road and the mall is there on the right. For those less energetic, bus 767 towards Box Hill can be caught outside Hughesdale station. Alternatively, a free shuttle bus service runs Thursday – Saturday (11am pick-up, 4.30pm return) and Wednesday and Sunday (10am pick-up, 3pm return). Bookings (1300 558 686) are essential.
The most popular one around Melbourne, ‘Westfield Doncaster’ is – like most large shopping centres –slightly outside of the city (20 minutes) but a great place to shop nonetheless. Home to lots of the top highstreet brands (such as Bardot, Cue and Guess), Westfield (a.k.a. Shoppingtown or ‘Shoppo’) also has a food court and cinema multiplex to entertain visitors from morning til late. To get there, catch bus 203, 305 or 307 from the corner of Spencer St and Lonsdale St.