Without question, Brisbane is one of Australia's most vibrant and fascinating cities. With a lively cultural scene, incredible natural setting, and a wealth of bars and restaurants that give it some of the best nightlife in the country, this eastern Australian city is an absolute must-visit for anyone who wants to enjoy the best of contemporary Australia. Whether you're in town to explore the natural surroundings on some of the best hikes in Brisbane or you want to immerse yourself in the city's unrivaled culinary scene, you'll find plenty to keep you busy here.
Brisbane is many things. However, cheap is not one of them. Australia's booming economy in recent years has seen prices climb in every city in the country, and Brisbane is no exception. Traveling to the city can burn a hole in your pocket quicker than you can say G'Day.
Luckily, many of Brisbane's top attractions are completely free to visit. We've compiled a list of the best free things to do in Brisbane so that you can make your dollars stretch further on your Australian trip. And don't forget to make things easier on yourself by dropping off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Brisbane. The lighter you travel, the easier it will be to enjoy these budget-friendly activities in one of Australia's greatest cities.
Fans of culture will be delighted to hear that Brisbane is a haven for free museums. Head over to the city's South Bank across the Brisbane River from the Central Business District, and you'll be in a prime position to explore Queensland's top cultural precinct. One of the highlights is undoubtedly the Queensland Museum, where you'll learn more about the history of the settlement of this Australian state and the lives of the aboriginal people who first lived in the area. This stunning museum holds major exhibitions detailing the culture and history of the state, and it holds some of the most important relics from Queensland's history.
Plus, with its towering dinosaur skeletons and the SparkLab, a hands-on interactive science lab, this is not only one of the best free things to do in Brisbane. It's also one of the best things to do in Brisbane with kids.
Queensland Art Gallery
Located right next to the Queensland Museum and part of the same cultural center, you'll find the Queensland Art Gallery. This impressive gallery contains works by Pablo Picasso as well as many famous Australian and Queensland artists, and it tells the story of art and culture in this part of Australia from the earliest prehistoric painters up to the modern day. If that wasn't enough, just across from the Queensland Art Gallery you'll find the Gallery of Modern Art, which is the best place in the state to learn more about what's exciting in the world of contemporary art. Both of these impressive galleries are completely free, and you could easily spend a day or more admiring both classical and modern art in Queensland's top galleries. There's no charge for admission to either of these impressive art spaces, so art lovers have no excuse not to immerse themselves in the creative works on offer.
Brisbane City Hall
Brisbane City Hall is an icon of the town. Dating back to the early 20th century, its impressive neoclassical façade combines elements from the Pantheon in Rome and the famous campanile belltower in Venice to create something truly unique. It's worth visiting just to admire the architectural grandeur of the building and snap a few photos while you're in the heart of the city. You should also note that the third floor holds the Museum of Brisbane, a treasure trove of local history that will explain more about the city from its earliest founding and pioneer days, through two world wars to become the vibrant and cosmopolitan place it is today. This museum is something of a hidden gem among the free things to do in Brisbane, and like the better-known museums of the Cultural Center, it won't cost you anything to visit.
Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Not far from City Hall, you can explore the more natural side of the city in Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. This impressive garden located along the river is the perfect place to take a breather from the sometimes hectic city and admire the stunning plant life you'll find here. The lily pond and the Japanese garden make the perfect places to enjoy some tranquility and recharge your batteries before you go off exploring the city again. Plus, there's lots of green space for kids to run around and burn off some energy. You can take a guided tour of the Botanic Garden to learn more about the various plant species that call it home, but if you don't want to spend any money, you can explore the gardens under your own steam without spending a penny.
Queen Street Mall
Also in the downtown core, you'll find the shopping mecca of Queen Street Mall. One of Brisbane's top retail districts, this is the perfect place to indulge in some window shopping and take in the lively atmosphere of the heart of the city. The mall contains Queensland's largest selection of fashion brands, and the covered mall is an ideal way to get out of the weather on a rainy day. Along with international brands, you'll also find a good selection of quirky local stores and boutiques that make fun places to explore. You'll also find plenty of street entertainers playing to the crowds you'll encounter here.
If you choose to buy something, you'll have to get your wallet out. But taking a stroll through the area and soaking up the atmosphere doesn't need to cost anything - if you have the willpower to resist, that is.
New Farm Park
In a city as fast-paced and hectic as Brisbane can be, sometimes all you want is to relax and get a breath of fresh air. Located in the suburbs of the city, New Farm Park is the ideal place to do that. Bring your significant other or the family for a picnic on the green lawns of this much-loved suburban park, or take part in a game of Aussie rules football or cricket for the true Brisbane experience. The park is also home to the Powerhouse Arts Center which often hosts free events and exhibitions, so it's worth checking out what they have while you're there. For a laid-back and chilled out day in Brisbane, this popular park is hard to beat and might be exactly what you need to recharge your batteries.
Roma Street Parklands
How would you like to explore the southern hemisphere's largest subtropical garden? That's the opportunity that awaits you at the Roma Street Parklands. Though this park is located in the heart of Brisbane's Central Business District, it feels like another world. Step out of the Roma Street transit station, and you'll be able to lose yourself on the gorgeous forest trails of this incredible park. On the first Sunday of every month, concerts are held in the park, making this a fantastic place to enjoy live music in the city. You'll even find free-to-use electric barbecues so you can participate in that classic Australian pastime, the open-air barbecue. Even one-hour tours of the parklands are totally free, so you can learn more about this incredible park without blowing your budget.
Kangaroo Point Cliffs
If you want to see a wilder side of Queensland without heading far from the city, Kangaroo Point Cliffs is the place to go. These heritage-listed cliffs rise just across the Brisbane River from Brisbane CBD, but they offer a fun place to get some exercise and enjoy incredible views of the city. The cliffs were created by convicts who quarried the rock to help build Brisbane's historic buildings, but now, this park is one of the locals' favorite places to relax. If you fancy an adrenaline rush, you could try your hand at climbing the cliffs for an incredible view over downtown. Or you could just relax at the base of the cliffs and enjoy the atmosphere.
Brisbane is a city defined by its river, and the Brisbane Riverwalk is an absolute must-do while you're in town. This 870 m/2800 foot-long path doesn't run along the banks of the river but instead heads out over it on a series of raised decks. The pavement is divided into a walking and a cycling lane to avoid collisions, and the views of the city are simply incredible. Getting out on the water without having to get in a boat is a unique experience to enjoy in Brisbane, and you'll be glad you took the opportunity, especially on a sunny day.
Mt Coot-tha is an icon of the city and is also one of the best free things to do in Brisbane. Rising 302 m or 990 feet above sea level, the mountain forms the dramatic backdrop to this world-class city and functions in many ways as the backyard of Brisbane. The views from the summit are truly incredible, especially at sunset, and there are almost limitless trails for hiking and biking so that you can work off your dinner in this mountain playground. Speaking of dinner, you can enjoy a barbecue among the trees or take advantage of the restaurant at the mountain's summit. There's also a tropical dome full of greenhouse plants to explore and an observatory which lets you gaze at the stars and ponder the mysteries of the universe. Many of these attractions require a ticket, but exploring the mountain itself is free for anyone and is definitely worth trying.
For the most interesting walks in Brisbane, head out to Wellington Point by car or public transit. From there, you can walk around one kilometer or 0.6 of a mile to King Island. Yes, you read that right. Thanks to Brisbane's tides, this island is only an island when the tide is high. At low tide, you can make your way over the sandy causeway to explore this iconic Brisbane location. Make sure to time your visit right so you can get the island and back again before the tide comes back in. Otherwise, you'll either have a long wait for the tide to recede again or a long swim ahead of you.
Food in Brisbane is big business, and the locals are passionate about what they eat. This passion is reflected in the many farmers markets of the city. At these lively locations, you can not only try the local produce, but you can also enjoy live entertainment, street food, and people watching to your heart's content. Check out Eagle Street Pier on a Sunday for one of the city's liveliest and best-loved markets. Alternatively, the South Bank Lifestyle Market is open all weekend and focuses on crafts and fashion. Alternatively, the Jan Powers farmers markets are one of the best places in the city to try exceptional food.
No one's likely to accuse Brisbane of being a budget travel destination anytime soon. Australia's economic boom has made this and cities across the country some astonishingly expensive places to visit.
However, Brisbane does have some excellent free attractions to visit, including some of its best museums and parks. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Brisbane, and you can have several great days out in the city without spending anything.