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How to Spend a Weekend in the Heart of Melbourne on a Budget

Take yourself on a DIY art tour, catch a gig and eat tasty multicultural fare — without breaking the bank.
By Kat Hayes
June 25, 2019
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How to Spend a Weekend in the Heart of Melbourne on a Budget

Take yourself on a DIY art tour, catch a gig and eat tasty multicultural fare — without breaking the bank.
By Kat Hayes
June 25, 2019
  shares

in partnership with

Got an empty wallet but a full itinerary? Good news. Melbourne might have its fancy restaurants and exclusive cocktail bars, but it's also the great provider of a true city experience if you're on a budget. Staying at youth hostels has long been the domain of the cleverly thrifty, not to mention those who love meeting new mates and maybe even sipping a beverage on a rooftop bar. Who says a budget trip can't be ritz, too?

YHA Australia turns 80 this year, and it's well and truly proved its mettle as a mainstay of budget travellers — not least Melbourne Central YHA. Be you solo travellers (there are plentiful common areas to meet new people) or a group of friends (ensuite rooms and small multi-share rooms are very affordable); a keen stayer-inner (kitchen facilities are available for whipping up a feast) or a ready-to-partier (it's BYO, but there's also a bar on premises) — you're going to have a top time.

Melbourne Central YHA rooftop.

Need to find some equally thrifty things to do around the city while you're there? We've rounded up our best penny-pinching tips for a weekend down south. Check 'em out, then get booking, 'cause it's fun to stay at the Y. H. A.

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GET A COFFEE AND CREAM CHEESE BAGEL AT 5 AND DIME BAGELS — $8

5 and Dime is right around the corner from Melbourne Central YHA and churns out traditional, boiled bagels inspired by the way they make 'em overseas. Opened by a New Jersey native, the small cafe honours the bagel's roots in the Jewish communities of Poland and Israel and, in particular, its intense popularity in New York. You'll find schmears, lox and pastrami here to top your doughy treat with. But, the best part, is the meal deal — you can nab a toasted bagel of your choice with cream cheese and a coffee for just $10. It's the perfect fuel to enjoy on the go as you start your busy day of exploring.

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Visit Victoria

CHECK OUT INDIGENOUS ART AT KOORIE HERITAGE TRUST CULTURAL CENTRE — FREE

The Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre is an integral part of Melbourne's history and context, and it's smack bang in the middle of town — you'll find it in the Yarra Building in Federation Square. Entry is free (with a gold coin donation to the Trust) and it's open seven days a week. Go in to learn about Koorie culture and heritage and of the traditional owners of the land. It's also an important stop for any art loving out-of-towner — especially now that ACMI is closing for a while. Right now, you can see Ngarigo artist Peter Waples-Crowe's exhibition insideOUT. The solo collection of collages, animations and live-art activation tackles being both queer and Indigenous.

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KEEP THE DIY ART TOUR GOING AT KINGS ARTIST RUN — FREE

Want to clock more free art? Head over to King Street to the small in size (yet hefty in breadth) art gallery Kings Artist Run. Blink and you'll miss the door — so don't. The contemporary gallery and studio space is driven by a community of artists, writers, curators and academics, and the range of art within is worth much more than the free entry. Three exhibition spaces and an array of events pepper the space. Right now, you can catch a collection of Japanese artists approaching the consumption of video as an artefact — Black_Box: And again {I wait for collision}. There's also a study on how artists incorporate language into their practices with these words.cp-line

HAVE A BARBECUE IN BATMAN PARK — FREE

Batman Park is the most urban of Melbourne's parks — it's just a hop, skip and a jump from the city centre and is basically next door to Melbourne Central YHA. The park is small, but it's worthy of a stroll, a run around or a picnic. Eucalyptus trees cloak the smell of traffic and the views of the Yarra cloak any winter coldness you might be feeling. Barbecue facilities mean you can have a budget cook up — just BYO an eight-pack of snags from the supermarket and six-pack of beers of your choosing. Crack a cold one and say cheers to the founding father John Batman.cp-line

TUCK INTO A JAPANESE RICE BOWL AT DON DON — UNDER $10

If you've spent all that time tramping around arty and historical sites of the city, chances are you're a hankering for a hot (and cheap) lunch. You're in luck — Don Don's Francis Street outpost isn't far from the hostel. Here, you'll find rice bowls for between $7 and $8 — you have a choice of teriyaki or curry. The bowls are big and the service is fast, so it's not a place to linger. It is, however, a place to come back to every day of your trip. You'll need to in order to try the popular Don Don box, with chicken, beef, salad and rice for under $10, plus miso soup on the side for an extra $1.50. It's one of the best value meals you'll find around the traps.cp-line

CURL UP WITH A BOOK IN THE STATE LIBRARY'S READING ROOM — FREE

If you're after some quiet time, let us guide you to the very beautiful, and very free, State Library Victoria's domed La Trobe Reading Room. Reminiscent of eras gone by (it was built in 1913), the reading room is six storeys in height and can be home to any 320 readers at a time — but, since it also houses up to 32,000 books, they're probably not reading what you are. As well as being a perfect space for getting through a chunk of an epic novel, doing some trip planning or even meditating, the State Library also houses art exhibitions and a viewing platform up high for panoramic views of your new calm place.

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CATCH SOME LIVE MUSIC — FREE

A trip to Melbourne isn't complete without checking out one of the sticky (in a good way) dive bars that the city is famous for and catching a gig. Cherry Bar might be your best bet when it comes to music, free stuff and character (via said stickiness). Head to the legendary spot on AC/DC Lane for the regular Sunday Blues sessions. Or, you could pay a visit to Ferdydurke — the venue is similarly equipped to give you a good (free) time on a Sunday with its weekly live hip hop night.

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Peterdownunder via Wikimedia Commons

DIVE INTO GREEK CULTURE AT THE HELLENIC MUSEUM — $10

The Hellenic Museum, based inside the former Royal Mint building, paints a solid portrait of 8000 years of Hellenic history and Greek culture. Now in its 11th year, the space gives the huge population of the Greek community in Melbourne a well-deserved place to both celebrate and inform. The Hellenic Museum's entry fees are $10 (or $5 concession), which includes access to multiple installations it has going at any one time. Right now, you can go and see Oneiroi, a photographic installation by Bill Henson, or Beyond Attica: Art of Magna Graecia.

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GRAB A BITE TO EAT AT CROSSWAYS — $8.95

One of the best meal deals in all of Melbourne has to be at Crossways Food for Life. The Swanston Street vegetarian spot, run by Hare Krishnas, has fed many a hungry city-goer in the 30 years-plus it's been operating. The menu changes every day but the deal remains the same: two courses, plus a drink, for under $10. Vegan options are available, too. And — the greatest news for hungry travellers — seconds and thirds are free because it's all-you-can-eat. Roll up for dinner and sticky date pudding (if you're lucky).

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Let YHA Australia help you explore more of Australia without breaking the bank. Plan a trip to Melbourne (or Sydney or Brisbane) and book a stay right in the middle of the city with YHA Australia.

Top Image: Jake Roden.

Published on June 25, 2019 by Kat Hayes

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