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The best Art Galleries & Museums for Backpackers in Melbourne

Discover Melbourne's art world through a backpackers eyes: from NGV's masterpieces to street art gems, this guide covers must-visit galleries and museums.
melbourne art galleries, museums and street art man and girl walking beside building
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As you get under the skin of the active Melbourne art life, you come to realize that it is like a peeling layer from a bright tapestry that never stands still. The outstanding works at each gallery and museum, tell stories, attracting backpackers and travellers to plunge into the depth of the Australian cultural spirit. Here’s why these artistic havens are must-visits on your Melbourne adventure.

National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

Backpackers exploring ngv melbourne standing near white statue
  • Admission: Free general entry (some special exhibitions may have an admission fee)
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Address: 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006
  • Website: National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is a true artistic gem, housing an extensive collection of artworks spanning various periods and styles. Established in 1861, it is Australia’s oldest and most visited gallery. The NGV’s collection includes over 75,000 artworks, ranging from Renaissance masterpieces to contemporary installations. Notable works include Frederic McCubbin’s iconic painting “The Pioneer,” Tom Roberts’ “Shearing the Rams,” and John Brack’s “Collins St, 5 pm.” The NGV also features rotating exhibitions showcasing local and international artists, ensuring there’s always something new. Take advantage of the breathtaking stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall or the tranquil water wall in the sculpture garden.

Why Backpackers love it: 

Free of charge, smack in the absolute centre of town, and offers everything from the staid Great Hall with its world-famous stained-glass roof to a tranquil garden. Ideal for those feeling in need of a cultural fix without the price tag.

  • Attend art workshops and classes to enhance your artistic skills.
  • Enjoy live performances, including music, dance, and theatre, held in the gallery spaces.
  • Relax at the gallery’s cafes and restaurants, offering a range of culinary delights.
  • Browse the well-curated museum shop with art books, prints, and unique gifts.
  • Join guided tours or audio guides to gain deeper insights into the artworks.

Getting there: 

Situated at 180 St Kilda Road, it’s easily accessible by tram. Hop on any tram heading south from Flinders Street Station and disembark at the Arts Precinct stop. The gallery’s majestic facade will be your beacon.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

Backpackers australian centre for contemporary art
woman in white dress sitting on floor

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is a must-visit for those seeking cutting-edge contemporary art. Located in the vibrant Southbank precinct, the gallery showcases thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge traditional notions of art. ACCA is dedicated to presenting contemporary art in all its forms, including installations, performance art, and multimedia presentations. The gallery actively supports emerging artists and encourages experimentation and innovation. Visitors can explore exhibitions by emerging and established artists, attend artist talks and performances, and participate in workshops that delve into contemporary art practices. The striking architectural design of the building itself is worth admiring.

Why Backpackers should Visit: 

Its location is within touching distance of the NGV, so one could easily tick two of Melbourne’s cultural highlights off their list in one go. ACCA’s contemporary focus will appeal to the young and curious looking for a new angle on the art world.

  • Participate in artist-led workshops and interactive installations.
  • Engage in discussions and debates through public programs and lectures.
  • Explore the artist-in-residence program and witness artists at work.
  • Visit the ACCA Library to delve deeper into contemporary art literature and resources.
  • Enjoy the panoramic views of the city from the rooftop terrace.

Finding ACCA: 

Located at 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, ACCA is a short stroll from the NGV. Wander down St Kilda Road, turn left onto Southbank Boulevard, and then right onto Sturt Street. The striking rust-red building ahead is your destination.

Heide Museum of Modern Art

Heide museum of modern art backpackers at artwork gallery
  • Admission: Adult – $20, Concession – $15, Children under 16 – Free (prices may vary for special exhibitions)
  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Address: 7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen VIC 3105
  • Website: Heide Museum of Modern Art

Nestled amidst picturesque gardens, the Heide Museum of Modern Art offers a serene setting for exploring modern and contemporary Australian art. The museum is significant in Australian art history, as it served as a meeting place for the Heide Circle, a group of influential artists and art patrons in the 1930s and 1940s. The collection includes works by iconic Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, and Charles Blackman.

Wander through the indoor galleries and outdoor sculpture park to experience the connection between art and nature. Take advantage of the historic Heide Cottage, once home to art patrons John and Sunday Reed, which provides a glimpse into the lives of these influential figures. The museum hosts guided tours, sculpture park walks, and cultural events, including live music performances and film screenings.

What makes it special for Backpackers: 

The road towards Heide is no less interesting than the museum itself, surely adding curiosity while exploring the suburbs of Melbourne. And there you have just the story for the perfect alibi for a day trip: a museum themed on the avant-garde spirit of the Heide Circle with its awesome sculpture park.

  • Attend artist talks and lectures to better understand the exhibited works.
  • Take guided tours highlighting the history and significance of the art and the Heide Circle.
  • Enjoy a picnic in the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum.
  • Browse the Heide Store for unique homewares, books, and artwork.
  • Visit the on-site cafe for a delicious meal or a relaxing coffee break.

Venturing to Heide: 

Situated at 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Heide is a bit of a trek but worth every moment. The easiest route is by bus 200 or 207 from the city to the corner of Manningham Road and Bulleen Road, with a short walk to the museum.

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Melbourne skyline under blue sky during daytime
  • Admission: Free general entry (some special exhibitions may have an admission fee)
  • Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Address: Federation Square, Flinders St & Russell St, Melbourne VIC 3000
  • Website: The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

The Ian Potter Centre is dedicated to Australian art and celebrates the country’s rich artistic heritage. The collection spans Indigenous art, colonial works, and contemporary pieces, offering visitors a comprehensive overview of Australian art history. Explore the impressive Indigenous art section, featuring traditional dot paintings, bark art, and sculptures, providing profound insights into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The gallery also showcases Australian modern and contemporary art, including works by renowned artists such as Grace Cossington Smith, Sidney Nolan, and Brett Whiteley. The Ian Potter Centre provides a platform for Australian artists to showcase their talents and serves as an important cultural hub.

Why it’s a Backpackers gem: 

Found in the busy Federation Square, so pretty easy to find and free to enter.

It is a great place to get a handle on the history and cultural identity of Australia through art—from works by the indigenous people right through to contemporary pieces.

  • Engage in hands-on art activities and workshops for all ages.
  • Attend artist-led talks and discussions that provide insights into the artworks.
  • Explore the NGV Kids area, featuring interactive installations and creative play spaces.
  • Visit the gallery’s research library, offering a wealth of art resources.
  • Attend film screenings and performances related to Australian art and culture.

Reaching the Ian Potter Centre: 

Located at Federation Square, right across from Flinders Street Station, it’s perhaps the easiest to find. Simply cross the street from the station, and you’re there, ready to explore Australia’s artistic legacy.

Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)

Australian centre for the moving image (acmi) building with a lot of backpackers walking around it
  • Admission: Free general entry (some special exhibitions may have an admission fee)
  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
  • Address: Federation Square, Flinders St & Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
  • Website: Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is a must-visit destination for those interested in the intersection of art and technology. Located at Federation Square, ACMI is dedicated to exploring the world of film, television, video games, and digital art. The museum offers interactive exhibitions that allow visitors to delve into the creative process behind moving image productions. Discover the history of Australian cinema, explore virtual reality experiences, and engage with innovative installations. ACMI also hosts screenings of classic and contemporary films and film festivals and events that celebrate the art of storytelling through moving images.

Why it’s a Backpackers delight: 

It is now considered at another level because of its interactive exhibits and digital cultural focus among those travellers who are tech-savvy. The chance to dive into the world of Australian cinema or experience cutting-edge virtual reality is a unique draw.

  • Immerse yourself in interactive exhibits allowing you to create digital art.
  • Participate in filmmaking workshops and learn about the process of movie production.
  • Attend screenings of classic and contemporary films in state-of-the-art cinemas.
  • Explore the ACMI Shop, offering a range of film-related merchandise and souvenirs.
  • Enjoy a meal or a drink at the ACMI Cafe and Bar.

How to get there: 

Being in Federation Square, ACMI shares the same convenient location as The Ian Potter Centre. It’s directly accessible from Flinders Street Station, making it an effortless addition to your art journey.

Gertrude Contemporary

Contemporary museum a couple of people that are standing in a room
  • Admission: Free
  • Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm
  • Address: 21-31 High St, Preston South VIC 3072
  • Website: Gertrude Contemporary

If you’re interested in contemporary art and emerging talent, visiting Gertrude Contemporary is necessary. Located in the vibrant Fitzroy neighbourhood, this artist-led gallery provides a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work. In addition, the gallery hosts regular exhibitions that highlight experimental and innovative art practices. Explore the ever-evolving exhibits that feature contemporary art across various mediums, from paintings and sculptures to video installations and performance art. The Gertrude Contemporary also offers artist residencies, studio visits, and public programs encouraging dialogue and engagement with contemporary art.

Why Backpackers must visit:

 It’s more of a gallery; rather, it’s a community space offering emerging art and free access to all. The vibrant Fitzroy area, known for its cafes and street art, makes visiting Gertrude an immersive cultural experience.

  • Attend artist-led talks and discussions, gaining insights into contemporary art practices.
  • Join studio visits to witness artists’ creative processes in action.
  • Participate in curated events, including performances, installations, and experimental projects.
  • Engage with the Gertrude Editions program, featuring limited-edition artworks and publications.
  • Connect with artists and fellow art enthusiasts at regular social events hosted by Gertrude Contemporary.

Navigating to Gertrude Contemporary: 

Located at 21-31 High Street, Preston South, the gallery is best reached by taking the 86 tram from Bourke Street towards Bundoora RMIT and alighting at the Bell Street/Plenty Road stop, with a short walk to High Street.

The Hellenic Museum

The hellenic museum backpackers
  • Admission: Adult – $12, Concession – $6, Children under 5 – Free
  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
  • Address: 280 William St, Melbourne VIC 3000
  • Website: The Hellenic Museum

Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Greek art and culture at The Hellenic Museum. Located in the former Royal Mint building, the museum offers a fascinating insight into Greek civilisation and its enduring influence. Explore the collection, which includes classical sculptures, Byzantine artifacts, and contemporary Greek art. Notable artworks include ancient pottery, intricate mosaics, and religious icons. The museum also hosts cultural events, performances, and workshops celebrating Greek traditions and fostering cross-cultural understanding.

Backpacker appeal: 

This golden chance you will never want to miss exploring the ancient civilizations of the world right at the heart of Melbourne. Sitting within the historical Royal Mint building, it is home to the museum, which adds to its appeal with an interesting contrast: ancient vis-à-vis colonial.

  • Take part in Greek cooking classes and learn to prepare traditional dishes.
  • Attend Greek language lessons and immerse yourself in the language and culture.
  • Participate in traditional dance workshops and learn popular Greek dances.
  • Experience Greek music performances and concerts that showcase the country’s musical heritage.
  • Join cultural festivals and celebrations that highlight various aspects of Greek culture.

Directions to The Hellenic Museum: 

Situated at 280 William Street, it’s within walking distance from the city centre. From Melbourne Central, head west on La Trobe Street, then turn right onto William Street. The grand entrance to the museum is hard to miss.

The Dax Centre

Backpacker standing beside white painted wall
  • Admission: Free
  • Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 12 pm – 5 pm
  • Address: 30 Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052
  • Website: The Dax Centre

The Dax Centre focuses on the intersection of art and mental health, showcasing creativity’s therapeutic and transformative power. The gallery features artists who have lived through mental illness, offering a unique perspective on mental health issues. Explore the exhibitions that aim to reduce stigma and raise awareness about mental health in the community. The Dax Centre also offers educational programs, workshops, and talks that promote mental well-being through art.

Why it’s worth a visit:

It offers an overwhelmingly intimate look at art as a vehicle for personal expression and therapy. And so, for any backpacker who is quite passionate about psychology or is on a quest to find more insight into the human experience, The Dax Centre is valued with highly meaningful and thought-provoking visits.

  • Attend art therapy workshops and explore the therapeutic benefits of creative expression.
  • Engage in guided meditation sessions held within the gallery space.
  • Participate in panel discussions and forums addressing mental health and well-being.
  • Contribute to community projects that promote mental health awareness through art.
  • Attend special events and fundraisers that support the Dax Centre’s mission.

Getting to The Dax Centre: 

Located within the University of Melbourne at 30 Royal Parade, Parkville, it’s easiest to reach by tram. Take any tram on the Elizabeth Street route heading north, alight at the University of Melbourne, and enjoy a scenic walk through the campus to the centre.

Street Art in Melbourne

Backpacker drawing graffiti
  • Admission: Free! (self-guided walking tour)
  • Address: Various locations in Melbourne, particularly in the inner-city suburbs of Fitzroy and Collingwood
  • Website: Street Art in Melbourne

Melbourne is an open-air gallery with an expanse of colourful street art from the laneways to the neighbourhoods. Backpacker’s Guide to Street Art: It provides an easily accessible, free, and constantly changing street art scene that offers the perfect authentic snapshot of Melbourne’s creative pulse. Walking the lengths of the colourful streets here offers some of the most incredible photo ops, in addition to a peek into the soul of the city, for each piece tells a story of community, resistance, or celebration.

Summing all this up means that each of those features has been added to Melbourne’s artistic landscape by its corresponding destination—features that all together represent an uncommon way towards understanding the culture, history, and topical problems of Australia as seen through the prism of art for a backpacker. Some inspiration, maybe history, for peace, it’s a surety that Melbourne’s galleries and museums will take you through some of the most enriching journeys that go well off the beaten tourist path.

Why backpackers love street art:

Free and constantly evolving, the street art scene offers an authentic taste of Melbourne’s creative pulse. Exploring these colourful streets not only provides incredible photo ops but also a glimpse into the city’s soul, as each piece tells a story of community, resistance, or celebration.

  • Join street art walking tours led by knowledgeable guides who share insights into the artworks and their creators.
  • Participate in street art workshops and learn techniques like stencilling and spray painting.
  • Engage with local street artists and witness live mural painting in progress.
  • Capture Instagram-worthy photos with colourful street art as your backdrop.
  • Explore the vibrant neighbourhoods where street art flourishes, discovering trendy cafes, bars, and shops.

Getting there: 

Easy! Wander the laneways of the CBD or head to Fitzroy and Collingwood to discover the best of street art.

Backpackers art getaway in the heart of Melbourne

Melbournne body of water near high-rise buildings

Melbourne’s art galleries and museums offer diverse artistic experiences, from traditional to contemporary, showcasing local and international talent. Whether you are a seasoned art enthusiast or a curious traveller, exploring these cultural institutions will give you a deeper understanding of Australia’s rich artistic heritage.

In addition to the incredible art collections and exhibitions, these galleries and museums offer a range of experiences that allow backpackers to immerse themselves in the art scene, learn new skills, engage with artists and experts, and enjoy the cultural offerings beyond the artworks themselves.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and let the city’s creative energy inspire and captivate you.

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