35 Budget Friendly and Free Things to do in Brisbane
Planning a trip to Brisbane but unsure whether it’s for you? Well, let me tell you that this city is full of fantastic things to do, see and eat. Even in winter, Brisbane doesn’t sleep and the weather is just too good to not check things out. What’s even better is that Brisbane is the perfect place for budget minded travellers. So today I wanted to share my guide to keeping busy in Brisbane without going broke.
1. Free walking tour
Free walking tours run from the Tourist Information Centre on Queen Street and there is also the Brisbane Greeters who offer an amazing range of completely free tours to cover everything you might fancy. If there’s something you want to see in particular then just say and they can often arrange something for you too!
2. Explore by foot
Brisbane is a fantastic city to just walk around and not too big to do so. There is also some great walking routes on the Brisbane Council website to choose from to help you learn more about the city.
3. Ride the free City Hopper
These red boats run between North Quay and Sydney Street every 30 minutes and are completely free. They start at 6am and run until midnight every day of the week so hopping on and off of these is a great way to explore the city, as well as getting some lush views.
4. Free bus loop
Another great way to get around is using the 2 free bus loops. Route 40 goes clockwise and route 50 goes anti-clockwise around the city. They run every 10 minutes Monday – Friday between 7am and 6pm.
5. Check what’s going on for events
There’s always something happening in Brisbane ranging from food to comedy to fireworks. Make sure you check out what’s going on before you get here to help you plan your time.
6. Check out the public art
All over the city you will find great sculptures and street art showcasing a range of styles. I’m a massive fan of this type of art and everywhere you go there will be a piece to see. The council website offers a walking loop specifically for this too.
7. Go for a swim at Streets Beach
Want to hit the beach without going far? Head over to the man made seaside in the Parklands and take a refreshing dip. Lifeguards are there all year round so it’s a great place for all the family.
8. Learn about the ‘River City’ at the Maritime Museum
Brisbane is known as the ‘River City’ so what better way to learn about its maritime history than at one of Australia’s largest museum. Located right on the river in Southbank, it’s a great spot to spend an afternoon. It’s not free but tickets are reasonably priced.
9. Stroll along South Bank
With a calming feel to it, South Bank is my favourite spot in Brisbane. You will find tonnes of bars and restaurants here, but for a freebie spend time walking along the river and through the creative archway of The Arbour. Don’t miss the stunning Pagoda too.
10. Visit the GOMA museum
If art is your thing then some time in GOMA (gallery of modern art) will be right up your street. It’s completely free to enter, too.
11. Visit the Brisbane Wheel
You really can’t miss this iconic Brisbane feature located right on the river edge. It’s right outside GOMA and makes for great photos at night especially. It’s fairly pricey to go on though but it’s a fun atmosphere and the space around it is often used for events and festivals.
12. Pick herbs at the Epicurious Gardens
Yes, that’s right, you can pick your own herbs in the middle of a city. Located in South Bank, this beautiful garden is worth a walk around even if you don’t need anything for your dinner. Make sure you respect it and don’t take anything you don’t need!
13. Join a free workout class
Wanting to keep fit on the road or looking for something new to try? Brisbane City Council has a number of classes that are run all over the city, so book yourself on one and meet some of the locals. Find out what’s on here.
14. Take a photo of the big Brisbane letters
Who doesn’t love things like this? Sitting right next to the Brisbane Wheel you will find the colourful Brisbane letters so make sure you snap a picture. They are also lit up at night and with the city as a backdrop makes for a good photo.
15. Learn about the Mayne Family
The Mayne family were an Irish family who settled in Brisbane in the 1800s. They contributed greatly to many of Brisbane’s buildings and in particular, the beautiful Brisbane Arcade that is still there today. Learn more about the family on the free walking tour I mentioned.
16. Walk through Brisbane Arcade
I always love these old arcades where ever I go and Brisbane Arcade is no exception. It’s full of local designers and boutiques, all at the fairly high end, but the atmosphere is great and it’s a lovely place to wander through.
17. Learn about the Aboriginal history at the Museum of Brisbane
This stunning building is one of the iconic buildings in the city and where historically, and still today, many important cultural and political events have started. You can buy a ticket to take a lift up the clock tower or you can go into the Museum of Brisbane for free and learn about the important history of Brisbane’s Aboriginal people as well as the people who live there today.
18. Mess about at The Cube
At Queensland University you will find a great place called the Cube which holds different interactive exhibitions. It’s like a mini science museum and completely free to enter.
19. Explore the West End
This fantastic suburb is jam-packed full of quirky shops, boutiques, cafes and street art. It’s a cosmopolitan multi cultural area so a brilliant place to try something different or just wander and soak in the atmosphere for free.
20. Walk through the Botanical Gardens
Located on Alice Street, these beautiful gardens offer a calming space to explore to escape the CBD. Full of beautiful trees and flowers it’s a great place to chill out and why not have a picnic while you’re there too?
21. Have a night out in the Valley
Fortitude Valley, or ‘The Valley’ as they are known is home to tonnes of bars and clubs. Drinking is seriously not cheap in Australia but if you want to really go for it then this is the area of the Brisbane to go to.
22. Hit the weekend markets
All over Brisbane on the weekends you will find a variety of markets to explore. From fashion over on Southbank to bargain fresh fruit and veggies on Eagle Street or a bit of everything at the Davies Park Markets in the West End, there’s something for everyone. There’s nothing quite like checking out local produce!
23. Listen to live music
Brisbane has a fantastic programme running called City Sounds which showcases up and coming musicians from all over. They perform for free along Queen Street Mall so it’s a great way to break up shopping on this busy road. Find out what’s coming up here
24. Grab a coffee
The coffee culture is a big deal in Brisbane so it’s a bit of a must. I don’t even like coffee and even I tried some! Brisbane is one of those fantastic cities full of small quirky individual cafes too so there’s plenty of places to chose from no matter where you are in the city.
25. Wander Queen Street Mall
Ok, so hitting the shopping centre may not be great for the budget, but there’s no harm in window shopping! If you do need anything though then this is the area to go.
26. Be spoilt for choice at Eat Street Northshore
A little bit out of the CBD you will find the Eat Street. It’s full of over 70 vendors creating dishes from all over the world so there is sure to be something to take your fancy. Don’t miss out on the live bands and artists performing there too.
27. Walk along Eagle Street Pier
If you’re catching the free city hopper then stopping off at Eagle Street Pier is a great idea. There are loads of restaurants and bars here but they’re fairly pricey. However, the pier offers fantastic views of the Storey Bridge and is a great spot to admire the river views.
28. Roam through Roma Street Parklands
Right next to Roma Street train station you will find the beautiful Roma Street Parklands. From the street with the bustling traffic, it may not appear to be a peaceful spot, but it’s huge, often used for events and considered one of the best gardens in Australia.
29. Visit Kangaroo Point in the day
This is definitely my favourite spot in Brisbane. Located south of the river walk to it from South Bank and take the stairs up the cliff side to Kangaroo Point. The views of the Brisbane skyline are stunning.
30. Visit Kangaroo Point at night
Ok, so I think the only thing that makes Kangaroo point even better is visiting it at sunset onwards. The sun goes down right behind the city and once it gets dark the skyline comes to life. It looks stunning lit up and it’s great for photos.
31. Use one of the public BBQs
What’s more Australian than a BBQ? I do love a cliche sometimes and there are some great spots to do so in Brisbane. There are tonnes of BBQs dotted throughout the city but my favourite spot is on Kangaroo Point (no surprise here), but take a look at this map to see the rest. Make sure you clean up afterwards so other people can enjoy them too!
32. Grab a bargain at Op Shops
Op shops are charity shops to us Brits and there are some great ones dotted throughout the city. So if you’re fancying something new why not have a rummage through here and see what bargains you can find?
33. Walk over Brisbane’s Bridges
There are 15 bridges altogether that cross the Brisbane River and they are a great way to get a fantastic view of the city. The Story Bridge is the largest steel bridge constructed by Australians in Australia, the Victoria Bridge will take you from the CBD to the Cultural Centre on South Bank and is lit up a different colour each night and the funky looking Kurilpa Bridge has won architecture competitions previously.
34. Eat pancakes any time of the day
What could be better than a whopping great stack of pancakes whenever you fancy them, day or night? Well at the Pancake Manor you can. Sitting in a converted cathedral and with a menu to suit all budgets, it’s a place you can’t miss.
35. Indulge at the Doughnut Bar
Seriously, I had one of the best doughnuts of my life here. Made fresh every day and absolutely stuffed full of treats, the Doughnut Bar is certain to satisfy those sweet cravings. And as it’s located right in Queen Street Mall, why not have a doughnut for lunch!