We know that when you’re on a student budget, it’s nice to know what’s out there for free. Whether you are studying in Brisbane, or just going for a visit, we thought you would appreciate this up-to-date list of places to visit and things to do – all free!
We have to put the Brisbane Greeters first, because how cool is it that the city offers free tours in more than 20 different languages? You might see the Brisbane Greeters around town in their red shirts – don’t be shy to say hello. If you would like to book a tour, it can easily be done on their website, with two options for how your tour unfolds: Greeter’s Choice or Your Choice.
If you are after farm fresh produce, artisanal products or something for lunch then check out the Brisbane City Markets. Conveniently located in the CBD, the markets are on every Wednesday from 8am – 6pm, live music and all. There is of course no cost to wandering about, though we do recommend bringing your wallet with all the wonderful local goods available.
If you like to take a Sunday stroll then be sure to put the Riverside at the Gardens Market on your list. With the usual suspects (produce, arts & crafts, fashion, plants, skincare, live music, etc.) and a host of multicultural food stalls, there is something for everyone. Check them out every Sunday between 7am – 3pm at the City Botanic Gardens.
The City Botanic Gardens are an outdoor living museum. Since 1828 they have had with an uninterrupted horticultural history, making them the only gardens in Queensland with this claim. The gardens have seen many changes since then, but remain a lovely place to spend the afternoon, or to simply pass through on a walk in the CBD.
The Cube is located at the Science and Engineering Building at QUT’s Gardens Point campus, close to the City Botanic Gardens. With 48 multi-touch screens across two storeys, The Cube is one of the world’s largest digital interactive learning and display spaces. It gives visitors a chance to experience some of QUT’s Science and Engineering research.
If you want to cool off in the middle of the city, then take a dip at Streets Beach. It is Australia’s only inner city man-made beach. It even has sand, blue water and subtropical plants! Located at Stanley Street Plaza in the Parklands, this beach is free and safe, with lifeguard patrolling year round.
These two galleries house Australian and international exhibitions. Although the major exhibitions are often ticketed, the permanent ones are not, and all are welcome. QAGOMA also offers free screenings and programs so be sure to check out their site for what’s on.
Queensland Museum has permanent and changing displays of natural history, cultural heritage, and science & human achievement. They aim to share the changing story of Queensland through the millions of objects and specimens on display. Some special exhibitions and events are ticketed, but most are free.
The city’s newer Botanic Gardens opened in 1976, and offer locals 56 hectares of subtropical botanic gardens. With more than 200,000 plants of about 5,000 different species, there is much to be seen. They have a library, planetarium, café, trails and more. The ring road can also be explored by bicycle. If you want to learn more you can join one of their free guided tours.
The Brisbane Twilight Market gives visitors and locals a chance to support Brisbane’s best designers and makers. Live music and food stalls are the perfect complements to shopping for handmade clothing, jewelry, leather goods, home wares, paper goods and more. 2019’s dates are 10 May, 26 July, 6 September and 30 November, all in King George Square. Dates have yet to be announced for 2020 so check back in for an update.
The Peace Pagoda is a work of art. Handcrafted by 160 families in the southern jungles of Nepal, it was originally brought to Brisbane as the Kingdom of Nepal’s contribution to World Expo 88. It is now located in the heart of the Parklands, open for visitors to wander its intricate lower level.
South Bank Parklands is one of Brisbane’s top destinations. With 17 hectares of riverfront land, the area has swimming facilities, walking tracks and licensed picnic areas. Close to the Nepalese Pagoda is a manmade rainforest that will make you feel a world away from the city. With raised wooden walkways through a canopy of tropical trees, visitors will see an array of tropical and subtropical plants. The walk also has beautiful water features, including its award-winning stormwater harvesting and reuse centre, Rain Bank.
If you loved South Bank Parklands then be sure to check out Roma Street Parkland. The subtropical urban gardens give visitors 16 acres to explore. With waterfalls, a fern gully, public art pieces, a café, skyline lookouts, children’s play areas, barbecues and an abundance of Queensland vegetation, this downtown park is a special place to spend some time.
If you feel disconnected from your food, then you may like to visit South Bank’s Epicurious Garden to reconnect with how it’s grown. With seasonal, edible fruits, vegetables and herbs, this garden is open year round. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 7am – 2pm, the public is welcome to the free harvest cart. Get there early to avoid disappointment.
City Sounds brings music to urban spaces, giving artists the opportunity to share their voices with the public. Like a boutique music festival that offers music from all genres, it is Australia’s largest and longest running free live music program. Check out their gig guide to see who’s on this week.
If you’re in South Bank then bring some blankets and a picnic to enjoy at Picnic Island Green. It’s a licensed area between 10am – 8pm daily. That means that if you are over 18 years of age and have food with you, the consumption of your own alcohol is permitted. It’s the perfect place to chill out for a day drink with friends, surrounded by gardens and tall trees.
Every full moon, you can catch the Fire Fest (or Glow Fest) in Orleigh Park. This free event is all about a community gathering that celebrates music and arts. With electronic music, fire spinning, a drumming circle and more, this event is on from 6-10pm. Bring a blanket and sit back to watch the magic!
If you’re looking for a quiet and cool place to read your book then visit the State Library of Queensland. They have free wifi access, and many free events year round. Be sure to see what’s on since some events require pre-booking.
Want to go on a self-guided adventure? Download the Classic City Centre Heritage Trail map and put on your walking shoes. The map will take you to 26 points of interest that were all important sites and events that shaped Brisbane’s history. Included is Brisbane’s early convict history and the Great Fire of Brisbane in the 1860’s.
If you want a bird’s eye view of the city then hop in the beautiful old hand-operated lift at the Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower. The view from the observation deck, which is 64 metres up, keeps changing, and the lift will bring up 8 people at a time to check it out. Before or after your lift, check out the connected Museum of Brisbane, which is also free.
The Brisbane Riverwalk is a river highway for pedestrians and cyclists. From the CBD you can walk 870 km to New Farm – finishing near New Farm Park. With jacaranda trees, rose gardens, free wifi and picnic areas, the park attracts more than 18,000 visitors each week. With a host of free and paid activities, there are many reasons to come. Every Saturday, the Jan Powers Farmers Markets are on from 6am – 12pm. And if you have some extra energy, join the free 5km timed park run at 7am, before indulging in a coffee and croissant. Either walk back to the CBD on the Riverwalk, take the bus or hop on the CItyCat.
Last but not least, check out the CityHopper – a free ferry service that runs along the Brisbane River. With 8 stops, you are free to hop on and off between 6am and midnight, seven days a week. The views are lovely and it’s a great way to get to nice walking areas, like Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park. You can then walk from Kangaroo Point to South Bank, and enjoy some of the city’s nicest areas.