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Free Things to Do in Canberra for Maximum Fun & Good Times

Here is our list of the best free things to do in Canberra and your guide to having fun without spending a single cent.

Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra has as many great free things to do as they do roundabouts… which is to say - plenty! 

For the seekers of arts and culture, Canberra has everything from galleries and glassworks to markets and museums. If you’re an adventurous type looking to fill your time in the great outdoors, you'll find loads of parks, gardens and lakes waiting to be discovered.

Here are the best free things to do in Canberra to enjoy your next weekend without plans.

Free Things To Do in Canberra: Arts & Culture

National Gallery Australia

Canberra is home to Australia's most impressive galleries and sites, including the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia, but our favourite is the National Gallery of Australia.

It is home to the iconic Pollock’s Blue Poles, pieces by Australian expressionist Tony Tuckson, Hockney, Picasso, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings, and the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Check out the sculpture garden while you’re there, with striking pieces silhouetted against the serene waters of Lake Burley Griffin. 

Admission to the National Gallery is free, however, it is preferred to book a ticket online to ensure you have the best experience.

Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm

Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country, Parkes Place East, Parkes ACT

Gallery of Small Things

Gallery of Small Things

Canberra’s tiniest walk-in gallery highlights local talent from established to emerging artists. The gallery is bathed in a hygee haze with works of textiles, ceramics, paintings, photography, jewellery and more.

Plus, items are available at the Gallery of Small if you find anything you fancy taking home. 

Open Thursday – Sunday

27 Wade Street, Watson

Haig Park Village Markets

Visit a local market

Is this Canberra or Cannes? As you stroll through farmers markets, flower markets and vintage clothes markets you’ll feel like you just stepped into the quaint European towns of your linen-clad dreams!

Our favourite is the Old Bus Depot Markets in the heart of Kingston. Pick up everything from homemade jams to jewellery and put in some face time with local artists and artisans.

Check out our favourite Canberra markets here.

Canberra Glassworks

We’re honestly so mesmerised by glass blowing - and so is everyone else if the popularity of Netflix's Blown Away is anything to go by. Luckily, Canberra boasts its very own Glassworks!

Check out their exhibitions, watch their artists in residence create incredible hand-blown glass pieces and then head to the shop to pick up a stunning statement piece for your home.

10 am – 4 pm, Wednesday - Sunday

Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country, 11 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

With stunning portraits of Australians from all walks of life, including the famous, notorious, remarkable and glorious, the National Portrait Gallery is full of interesting and engaging artworks.

With permanent displays and limited exhibitions, events and workshops, this is one of the best free things to do in Canberra time and time again, with something new to see with each visit!

Open daily, 10 am – 5 pm

King Edward Terrace, Parkes Canberra

National Museum Australia

National Museum Australia

With art, artefacts, sculptures and skeletons this is the perfect place for anyone looking to delve into the past and learn about local and global history.

You can take a free self-guided audio tour to make the most of your visit, and there is a stunning cafe with views over Lake Burley Griffin if you want to combine your museum hopping with cappuccinos and a bite for brunch.

Open daily 9 am – 5 pm

Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra

National Film and Sound Archives

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Australia’s living archive with over 3 million items, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia is one of our favourite free things to do in Canberra. General access to the archive is free and tickets to film screenings and special exhibitions range between $10 to $15 - bargain!

Check out costumes from classic Aussie films and images of Australian cities in the past. Check out their in-house Arc Cinema line-up to watch everything from chick flicks to Aussie classics like Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Open daily, 10 am – 4 pm

McCoy Circuit, Acton

Free Things To Do in Canberra: Nature & The Great Outdoors

Walk or Ride Around Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra’s spiritual heart, Lake Burley Griffin is one of our favourite spots to explore in Canberra. You can explore from the water on a paddleboard, paddle boat or kayak, from the foreshore on bikes, on foot or segways, or even from the air with a hot air balloon ride.

With plenty of parklands around the man-made lake, this is also a beautiful spot for a summer's day picnic!

Nara Peace Park (@visitcanberra)

Nara Peace Park & Canberra Beijing Garden

Want to experience a getaway to Asia in the heart of the ACT? These two gardens in the Lennox Gardens District Park with formal gates celebrate Canberra’s link to their sister cities - Beijing, and Japan’s ancient capital of Nara.

The Beijing Garden is designed in the traditional Qing Dynasty styles and the Japanese-themed garden is complete with a traditional wooden gate and pink cherry blossom trees.

Lennox Gardens District Park

Mount Ainslie

Take a Hike 

You are spoiled for choice and beauty when hiking in Canberra, so best hop to it! One of the best free things to do in Canberra, find bushy walking tracks, 180-degree views of the capital and lush vegetation all around.

With so many routes, we suggest reading through our edit of the best hikes in Canberra here

National Arboretum

The National Arboretum

This tiered forest is a living, breathing monument. A mosaic of greenery and lush bushland in Canberra’s Molonglo Valley, you can expect to see over 44,000 rare and endangered trees across a beautiful 250-hectare site.

One of our favourite places to visit for free things to do in Canberra, you can take a stroll through the forest, discover the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, let the kids run free on the POD Playground, or make your way through the Forest Sculpture Gallery.

Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Molonglo Valley

Australian National Botanic Gardens (Image Credit: Christine Aldred/@Booming_On)

Australian National Botanic Gardens

Get back in touch with nature mere minutes from the centre of Canberra. Expect the world’s most diverse collection of Australian plants with more than four thousand species at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

Picnic on the Eucalypt Lawn, learn about Aboriginal culture from the local Ngunnawal people on the Aboriginal Plant Use Trail or check out the on-site, award-winning Pollen Café and pick up some brunch.

8:30 am – 5 pm

Clunies Ross Street, Acton

Old Parliament House Gardens

Pack a Picnic

Sometimes the best way to soak up the essence of a place is by heading out for a picnic and embracing a sunny afternoon. Eat, drink and be merry whilst getting amongst it!

If you're feeling savvy, swing by one of the local markets to gather some treats to enjoy at one of the best picnic spots in Canberra

Did you enjoy our roundup of the best free things to do in Canberra? You'll love our edit of Canberra's best happy hours. Once you've ticked all of these off your list, why not get started on Canberra's wineries

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