Free things to do in Brisbane

It’s no secret that travelling can become quite expensive but there are many ways that you can get to know a city and its culture without breaking the budget. Brisbane is emerging as a modern cosmopolitan city and embraces its tropical climate with alfresco dining, rooftop bars, outdoor parks, gardens, markets and even city beaches. Here is a list of a few ways that you can experience the best Brisbane has to offer for FREE.

South Bank

South Bank Parklands

South Bank is the cultural centre of the city housing the Queensland Museum, Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery. These art galleries are free unless there are visiting exhibitions charging admission fees. The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art has an exceptional collection of Indigenous Art and free movies are screened here at different periods.

The art galleries provide relief from the harsh sun in the peak of summer but if you are not really interested in art you may prefer to spend some time browsing through the gift shops or enjoy a coffee and the beautiful river views at the GOMA Café.

At the opposite end of South Bank Parklands you will find the city beach and people can be found swimming here year round because of the warm tropical climate. The parklands are the perfect place for a picnic or BBQ by the river. Buskers and weekend markets add to the atmosphere. In summer, there are even free exercise classes open to everyone to join in.

Cityhopper Ferry

The Brisbane River runs through the centre of the city and separates the North Bank from the South Bank. Visitors will comes to realise this when they jump on a ferry. The Cityhopper Ferry is a free commuter service that was designed to transport locals and visitors around the city.

The service runs from Sydney Street to North Quay taking in popular sights such as the Riverside Centre, City Botanic Gardens, Kangaroo Point and South Bank. This is by no means a fast way to travel and there is no commentary provided but it is great way to orientate yourself around the city when you arrive.


There are no shortage of markets to choose from when in Brisbane. It doesn’t cost you anything to browse and if nothing else it is great place to grab a bite. Brisbane is fast becoming a foodie city and one of the best markets in Brisbane to sample the goods is at the Eat Street Markets at the Northshore.

The unique markets are set up in 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers by the river. They have become so popular with the locals that they had to relocate to a larger venue to cater to number of people attending. The markets are held on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sundays.

The weekly collective markets at South Bank, the City Farmers Markets on Wednesday or the trendy Boundary Street Markets at West End are recommended.

Mt Cootha

Mt Cootha is Brisbane’s answer to an observation deck and is located on the outskirts of the city. The lookout is a must do as the panoramic views of the city truly tell the story of the city surrounding the Brisbane River as well as views out to Moreton Bay and the Scenic Rim.

Walkers will enjoy the many short walking tracks that surround the summit. Be sure to pop into the Botanic Gardens and Planetarium. Entry to both is free but shows at the planetarium are ticketed.

Mount Cootha is popular at sunrise and sunset but people also head here for aeroplane watching and storm chasing. Public transport can get you here but check the timetables as buses are infrequent and stop early in the afternoon.

Brisbane City Hall

Brisbane has an interesting mixture of heritage listed buildings and modern architecture. One of the more interesting heritage buildings you will come across is the Brisbane City Hall. The town hall is a chambers for local politicians but the building and clock tower are  open to the public for free guided tours .

Recent renovations of City Hall in 2013 revealed the discovery of a WWII signature wall in the basement. Hear the story about the discovery and see the wall when you take a tour of the building. Tours are free but bookings are required. Whilst you are here head up to the clock tower that has been in operation since 1930 for views of the city.  The building also houses the Museum of Brisbane showcasing Brisbane artists and stories.

Brisbane Greeter Tours

It is always a little intimidating to visit a new city and not know anyone, how to get around, where to visit or even where to avoid. Perhaps you have a special interest and you are hoping to meet someone that shares your special interest?

The Brisbane Greeters program has been designed with the purpose of getting visitors to not only meet the locals but also allow locals to take ownership in showcasing their city to visitors. Choose between a greeter’s choice tour which will showcase the city highlights or specify what you wish to see based on your interest. Tours are free and can be tailored to your interests and language with a variety of guides being bilingual. Tours must be booked at least one week in advance though so do keep this in mind.

Outdoor Picnic

Brisbane is the perfect city to head outdoors for a picnic with a warm tropical climate and over 250 days of sunshine a year. Head to any of these spots for a relaxing picnic or BBQ lunch in beautiful settings.

-Kangaroo Point Cliffs
-Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
-Roma Street Parklands
-South Bank Parklands
– New Farm Park
-Mount Cootha

Walking/Cycling Paths

Brisbane by Bicycle

Brisbane has fifteen bridges that cross the river and most of them have pedestrian and bicycle lanes. From public art trails through or heritage trails, strap on your walking shoes and get out exploring. Not only is it good exercise but it is also the best way to discover the hidden sites of different cities and maybe meet a local on the way.

Brisbane has hundreds of kilometres of walking trails that run parallel to the Brisbane River through national parks and in the many inner city parks and gardens. The popular and scenic river loop takes approximately 90 minutes.

Starting from the Treasury Casino at the top of Queen and George St, head across the Victoria Bridge to South Bank. Walk along the South Bank Promenade take in the sights before reaching the Goodwill Bridge at the end of the promenade. Walk across the Goodwill Bridge and into the City Botanic Gardens. Follow the pathway through the botanic gardens past the Government and Parliament House before exiting the gardens and walking up George St past several heritage buildings and ending again at the Treasury Casino.

Free comedy at the Powerhouse

Image: Brisbane Powerhouse

Each Friday night at 6pm the Brisbane Powerhouse delivers laughs by local comedians that is sure to get you joining in on the weekend vibe. Enjoy a drink and a meal at this riverside location.

City Sounds Program

Some of Australia’s most well known bands such as Savage Garden, Powderfinger, The Veronicas, Sheppard, Pete Murray and more have Brisbane roots and the City Sounds program is all about bringing free live music to the people. You will find free music at Queen Street Mall, Post Office Square, South Bank and other locations around Brisbane. The gig guide is posted on their social media pages and everything from alternative, jazz, rock, country, pop and classical music is performed.

Aboriginal Cultural Performance

Every Wednesday on the Queen Street Mall you can watch a traditional Aboriginal performance celebrating their culture and history.

December Christmas program

Credit: Visit Brisbane

Brisbane comes alive in December with a jam packed Christmas program full of nightly parades, light projection shows, markets, live music, Christmas carols in the Botanic Gardens, fireworks and more.

Tour Parliament House

The parliament house in Brisbane is open to the public on certain days for tours on days when the parliament is not sitting. The tours are run on Monday to Fridays in the afternoons.

On days when the government is in session the public is welcome to view the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly public gallery. Guided tours are free of charge and run for approximately 30 minutes. If you are interested in politics or Australian history then this one is for you.

Antique shopping

Wooloongabba Antique Centre

Credit: Visit Brisbane

This one is aimed at the ladies. Vintage has become trendy but even if you don’t intend to purchase anything you can still easily spend several hours looking through the many antique stores in Brisbane.

Paddington Antique Centre has become an institution selling precious jewellery, costumes, vintage clothing, furniture, home wares, military items and more. The centre is housed is an old cinema and there is even a café to grab a bite to eat while you are there.

Woolloongabba Antique Centre is another that you should visit. The first thing that you will see is the fifty’s style café before you enter the shop. Clothing, jewellery, furniture and a variety of different items are on sale here.

Scenic Drive

Lavender Farm Scenic Rim

Credit: Visit Scenic Rim

If you have some wheels then there are so many scenic drives that you can take around Brisbane.  The Moreton Bay Tourist Drive will take you to the North East to Redcliffe and Sandgate and Wynnum and Manly. If you head west you will find yourself in the rural areas of the Scenic Rim. These areas are approximately one hour’s drive from the city centre and you will delighted to find beaches, national parks, lookout points, wildlife, picnic spots and rural country areas. Head to the Visitor Information Centre for maps and recommendations of scenic drives.

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