Are winter heating bills and an insatiable desire for mulled wine giving you the budget blues? Cheer up at these fabulous free events!

Open House Melbourne

Now in its 12th year, Open House Melbourne is an annual highlight for lovers of urban design and cool free stuff. Access to some of the 200+ buildings on the 2019 program require bookings, so get in early. It’s a big weekend of architecture, heritage and the seriously curious, in normally off-limits spaces. Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July.

A large historic building on a street corner lit up at night

See some of Melbourne’s most miraculous buildings at Open House

Anything But Square Festival

Fed Square’s re-launching with a month-long program of exciting events and experiences. Free highlights include White Night wonders and Winter Garden, a fantastical installation of thousands of handknitted woollen flowers in the Fed Square Atrium. The latest creation spearheaded by Lynn Berry OAM – who also curated the internationally-renowned 5000 Poppies exhibition in 2015 – it features creative contributions from hundreds of makers across Australia. The blooms will be curated into a stunning series of colourful floral motifs mounted onto recycled bicycle wheels and hung throughout a walk-through thoroughfare. The work of  26 July to 26 August.

Celebrate Aboriginal culture during NAIDOC Week

The land we now know as Melbourne has changed dramatically over the past 200 years. The Geography of Docklands lecture reveals the area’s long history as a meeting place for Kulin nation peoples, who feasted on the former wetland’s bounty. It’s on 23 July, during NAIDOC Week, so why not keep learning about and celebrating Aboriginal culture at Koorie Heritage Trust’s Koorroyarr exhibition. On until 28 July, it showcases two Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong sister-artists’ work, which incorporates possum skin, weaving, sculpture, wood and canvas.

Melbourne Rare Book Week

This UNESCO City of Literature’s love of the printed word gets turned up to 11 during Melbourne Rare Book Week. It’s a feast of free lectures, discussions, book launches, tours and workshops, plus the 47th Australian Antiquarian Book Fair. There’s something for every bookish taste and budget, from serious bibliophiles to little kids who’ll love the Classics Storytime library sessions. 5 to 14 July.

Shelves on a wall stacked with brightly coloured books

Book Rare Book Week into your diary for July

Bastille Day French Festival

Get ready for France’s national holiday on 14 July in the best way possible – at the Bastille Day French Festival. There’s a fantastique program of free entertainment, including can-can dancers and French gypsy jazz, plus exhibitions, fencing demos, kids activities and more. Maybe bring some spending money: there are 40 French food and drink stalls, plus well-priced talks and masterclasses. Friday 12 and Saturday 13 July.

Different cheeses on the counter of a small store at the market. Paris, France

Indulge in fromage on Bastille Day

K-Pop World Festival

K-pop is taking over the planet, especially during the K-Pop World Festival. The Melbourne preliminary round of this annual international dance/vocal cover competition is on Friday 5 July. Which BTS-inspired boy band or Blackpink-obsessed girl group will move closer to the grand final in Korea? Entry’s free, so come along and show Melbourne’s K-pop kids some love.

Branch Out: Talking Trees

Midwinter may not seem ideal for walking in the Royal Botanic Gardens, but it’s actually prime time for admiring the intricate branching structures of the trees. Many of them have dropped their leaves, so arboriculture manager Will Jones can more easily point out how amazing they are. Learn about trees’ seasonal changes while warming up on this walk, and get a cup of botanical-inspired tea at the end too. Branch Out: Talking Trees is on 30 July, plus every day at 10.30am there’s a free guided walk exploring garden highlights.

#IAMWOMAN by Jody Haines

The #IAMWOMAN exhibition is the end point of photographic artist Jody Haines’ social portrait project, which involved intimate one-on-one sessions with her subject-collaborators. These large-scale portraits explore female representation, and invite viewers to ponder what it means to be a woman. 11 July to 4 August.

Signal

Save money and your sanity with Signal’s program of free winter school holiday workshops. Kids can safely get busy with aerosol paint in Street Art Mentoring (10-12 July). Mix and match beats in DJing with Kalyani (4 July). Make a pinhole camera and develop their own pictures in Analogue Photography (4-5 July). Embroider textile wallhangings with Bats of Leisure (9-12 July). Or drop in to Signal Open Artspace and get creative on their own terms with new materials each week (Saturdays 29 June and 6, 13 and 20 July).

Indian Festival

Warm up with spicy curries and lively Bollywood and bhangra dancing at Queen Victoria Market’s Indian Festival. More information about the program is coming soon, but for now put Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July in your diary!

Assorted Sri Lankan food on dark wooden background. Dishes and appetizers of indian cuisine. Curry, butter chicken, rice, lentils, paneer, samosa, naan, chutney, spices. Bowls and plates with Sri Lankan food

Indian Festival