Suellen is a Study Melbourne Ambassador. Study Melbourne has 22 international student and alumni ambassadors for 2018. During their time as ambassadors, they regularly share insights and experiences to help international students have a great experience while studying here in Victoria. Check out our Facebook, Instagram and website for their wonderful stories!

Explore markets, festivals and exhibitions – there’s something for everyone to enjoy this winter

By Suellen Smosinski

Winter has officially arrived and you might be thinking what is there to do in Melbourne? For most international students living in Melbourne during the coldest season means school holidays or a semester break but sometimes, we have no idea how to have fun and enjoy our leisure time without spending a lot of money! But, believe me: it’s possible. Here’s a few free or low-cost activities that you can do in the city during the colder months. Enjoy!

QVM Winter Night Market

The Winter Night Market can be considered a Melbourne institution, and it is a must-attend event. The winter edition starts on June 6 and runs until August 29, from 5pm to 10pm every Wednesday night, at the Queen Victoria Market. At the market, you can find food from all over the world, with more than 30 street food stalls, including Hawaiian, Brazilian, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Chinese cuisines. Most of the vendors have options that can satisfy the student budget and cater for different dietary requirements, and you can easily find plenty of options for around $8 to $15 a plate. The market also provides free entertainment every week, with live bands and artistic performances.

Because of its popularity, some food stalls usually have big queues between 6:30pm and 8:30pm - my advice is to arrive early so that you can explore the market at a leisurely pace.

Visit the Night Market page on the Queen Victoria Market website.

Docklands Firelight Festival Opening Weekend

The Firelight Festival in Docklands celebrates the winter solstice with a lot of fire and free entertainment. Running from June 29 to July 1, from 5pm to 10pm, you can experience nightly pyrotechnics, flame jets and fire drums. Each night, you will be able to watch the burning of one of three handmade, giant wooden sculptures created by Melbourne-based artist, Christian Patton.

The festival also showcases a variety of musical performances from different countries and cultures which will be dispersed across the three precinct promenades: New Quay Promenade, Harbour Esplanade and Victoria Harbour Promenade. Delicious food and beverages will also be available for purchase.

Visit the Firelight Festival page on the Melbourne Whats On website.


This winter, the National Gallery of Victoria, in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presents MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art. It is a unique opportunity to see masterpieces from worldwide renowned artists right here in Melbourne, including Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo. Tickets cost $24.50 for full-time student card holders. The exhibition starts on June 9 and runs until October 7.

Visit the MoMA page on the NGV website.

Free exhibitions at NGV

If you love the arts, but can’t afford to visit the paid exhibitions, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) also has some free exhibitions, such as Japonisme - Japan and the Birth of Modern Art (open until October) and Guerrilla Girls Portfolio Compleat (open until September). You can also visit the NGV Collection, which has more than 70,000 works, daily from 10am to 5pm.

Visit the NGV website

Wonderland at ACMI

This winter season, ACMI at Federation Square presents Wonderland - an exhibition celebrating Lewis Carroll's most famous tale, focusing on Alice’s adventures on the big screen. It is a must-see exhibition for film and literature lovers. Concession tickets cost $21. The exhibition is on until October 7, and is open 10am to 5pm on weekdays and 9:30am to 5:30pm on weekends.

Visit the Wonderland page on the ACMI website.

Screen Worlds at ACMI

Screen Worlds is a free and permanent exhibition at ACMI, which is open daily from 10am to 5pm, with free tours at 11am and 2:30pm every day. The collection features film, television, video games, virtual reality and digital art. Have you ever imagined playing a video game in a museum? Here you can! Different from other traditional museums where you can’t touch anything, in this exhibition you are welcome to interact with some of the pieces and even play with old games consoles!

Visit the Screen Worlds page on the ACMI website.

Open House Melbourne

If you are interested in architecture or ever wanted to explore the insides of some of Melbourne’s most iconic buildings, mark this weekend in your calendar, July 28-29. On this weekend, 224 buildings, will be open to the public to explore. The popular tours are worth a try but bookings are required (there is a small booking fee). The first release of the tour bookings will open on July 13, with a second release scheduled for July 20.

Visit the Open House Melbourne website.

Melbourne Writers Festival

If you love writing, reading and literature or are just keen to explore something new, then the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) might be of interest. Running from August 24 until September 2, the festival brings together artists across the world. This year’s program will be announced on July 17, with tickets available for purchase four days later. There are a number of free events, but booking is recommended as the free events fill up quickly.

Visit the MWF website.

If you are looking to find out about what else you can do in your spare time, head down to the Melbourne Visitor Centre, at Federation Square, or check out the Study Melbourne events page. Happy exploring Melbourne!

About the author

Sue describes herself as a curious person, a quality that initiated her desire to learn how to speak English in Victoria. In her spare time, Sue loves to read, explore Melbourne’s laneways and street art, listen to different types of music and make new friends.  Meet all the Study Melbourne Student Ambassadors.

Suellen Smosinski