Enjoying the best of Melbourne doesn’t have to cost the earth. Try our insider tips to wine, dine and enjoy more for less.

Visit Bangkok on a budget

Looking for lunch for under 10 bucks? At Thai favourites Dodee Paidang, a bowl of spicy-sweet tom yum noodles is a steal at $9.50. There are more than a dozen options to tempt you. Choose your spicy heat level, but perhaps leave the level-7 Super Nova to the experts. 

Or soak up the Bangkok atmosphere at Soi 38. It’s a popular spot in the unlikely setting of a car park, where a lunchtime bowl of boat noodles with pork or beef costs just $10. The secret’s in the heavenly pork broth, and there’s a meat-free laksa for vegos. 

Asian food in bowls
Soi 38

Grab the best happy hour deals

Time things right, and a chilled cocktail can be yours at a bargain price. Visit the tequila experts at Mejico on a Monday for $10 margarita madness all day. If a Negroni is more your style, Campari House has a choice of five. And during Negroni Time, Tuesday to Saturday from 4pm to 6pm, they’re a bellissimo $10 a glass. For a $10 Aperol spritz and a taste of Milano, swing into the Campari Bar at Brunetti on Flinders Lane.

Tour a futuristic eco house

Hidden in plain sight behind Fed Square is Futurefoodsystem, the city's first 100 per cent sustainable urban farm. Created by florist-turned-eco warrior Joost Bakker, the farmhouse is currently home to chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett. From cocktails to lavish mains, the duo only use produce grown on site when catering to guests. While the dining experience might be out of our guide's price range, you can take a guided tour for just $10 per person.

A black warehouse style structure in an open city space
Future Food System. Image by Liam Neal.

Swim laps in the city

You don’t have to be a member to take the plunge at Melbourne City Baths. A one-off swim is $7, half the cost of a swim/spa/sauna visit. The 30-metre indoor pool is the city’s largest, with four lap lanes. City Baths is open year-round from 6am on weekdays, 8am on weekends.

Go for a guided stroll in the gardens

Can’t tell a rhododendron from a camellia? Take a free guided walk through Melbourne’s magnificent Botanic Gardens. Your knowledgeable guide will share insights into the gardens’ history and plant diversity. Plus you’ll see some sensational views of the city. And other than shoe leather, it won’t cost you a thing.

A woman sitting in a garden
Royal Botanic Gardens

Explore an exhibition of iconic Australian music

Pay tribute to the late great Michael Gudinski by dipping into the Australian Music Vault. It’s a great overview of Melbourne’s backstage sounds and stories. Watch rare footage and see iconic objects from hip-hop and indie music scenes and more. The free exhibition is permanently on show at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Take a crash course in cinema

Get behind the camera at ACMI’s free exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image. From the birth of film to today’s digital wonders, there’s more than a century of movie history to explore. And you can get hands-on at this fun cinema showcase, with animation and sound effects to play with.

A woman sitting in front of a projection screen
Movie magic at ACMI

Find the last cheap movie night

Most cinemas have dropped cheap Tuesdays and discount tickets all together. But on Mondays thrifty film buffs can still head to the Kino Cinema, where tickets are $8.50 all day. Whether your passion is art-house films or the latest blockbuster, you’ll have plenty of change for a choc top.

Order authentic French crêpes from a tiny icon

Dessert is a bargain at La Petite Crêperie. Join the queue at the Swanston Street kiosk to order a plain crêpe for $4.50, then add your toppings. A mix of salted caramel and almonds is $3.50. And go on, add a whirl of whipped cream for $2. Voilà, dessert is served for a petit $10.

Snack on doughnuts at QVM

There’s always a stream of people lined up outside the American Doughnut Kitchen van at Queen Victoria Market. They know just how good these jam-filled hot doughnuts can be. Plump with raspberry-plum jam and rolled in sugar. Grab a bag of five for $7.50, then go for a stroll through the market. The historic sheds are filled with fresh produce stalls and speciality stores. 

Sugar coated doughnuts
American Doughnut Kitchen's iconic treats

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