Shoestring Melbourne: Lygon St and the Melbourne Museum

Like a lot of people, I’m new to Melbourne. I moved from Adelaide to study at RMIT and try my luck in a city with a more vibrant and, dare I say it, artistic culture. I whittled my possessions down to as little as I could bear to survive with, sold my car, gathered as much money as I could, and uprooted everything in pursuit of something bigger, if not better.

So, of course, I have no idea what there is to see in Melbourne, where I can go for cheap food or entertainment, and will have little to no money on a weekly basis, even if I find gainful employment that suits my study commitments (and my crippling reading habits.)

I suspect that I’m not the only person in this situation, given the large number of students emigrating across state, or even national, borders every year. Across the upcoming semester, I’ll be getting out and exploring this city with fresh eyes and an empty wallet, looking for any, and every, thing that’s out there to see and do. Remember; I can’t possibly cover everything, so get out there and do some exploring of your own!

So, getting in to the meat of it!

I figured I’d tackle something close to campus for the first week. If you get yourself to Russel St as it runs up the eastern side of RMIT and head north, past the Old Melbourne Gaol which will regrettably not be featured in this blog ($20 a ticket is a little too rich for my blood), you’ll fairly quickly find yourself on Lygon St and venturing in to Carlton. Along Lygon St is a rather famous collection of restaurants, known less for the specific restaurants, but as being a good source of good food. You’d think, since it’s so close to one of Melbourne’s big universities, you might find some cheap fare on offer, right? Dead wrong.

There are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of places to get a meal along here and the variety of the cuisine types is quite remarkable; I saw Italian, Japanese, Greek, Malaysian, Indian, Dessert, Thai, and Fish and Chip shops count as British, right? But the pricing is clearly not aimed at students.

It’s pretty clear that these places cater for professionals who work in the area and the people who want to have a meal in the city, but prefer a place off the beaten (read: tourist) track. I’d estimate that a nice meal, with drinks, at one of these places would set you back maybe $50+ (or 100 instant ramens) per person.

Still, let’s not rule it out immediately; if you’re looking for a good restaurant for a big date, or just want to blow a bunch of money that’s fallen in to your lap, or maybe your parents are in town and want to take you out for dinner, then this could be a good place to go. If you’re looking for a cheap lunch between lectures though, steer clear.

What Lygon St does have, though, is the Cinema Nova. This place is definitely one to bear in mind since tickets will only put you back $6 on Mondays. Understandably, it gets super busy, though, so you might want to head in early to grab your tickets.

A couple of streets to the east of Lygon St sits the Royal Exhibition Building which houses the IMAX Theatre (again, too rich for this blog) and the Melbourne Museum, which gives free entry to concession holders.

I was actually really surprised as I walked around the Museum. The only museum I could actively remember visiting (since I went there in December) was the Adelaide Museum, but I’d always had a sense of what museums tend to be from visiting a bunch as a teenager. I expected museums to be collections of old things with some exploration of what they were, plus a collection of (sometimes quite hilarious) dead animals on display.

What I didn’t expect was a dissection of current medical science (hah!) alongside the historical perspective. I did not expect an exhibit entirely devoted to the mind, the subconscious, and various maladies that can affect them. I did not expect such in depth data surrounding collections of butterflies, insects, and spiders that reaches beyond simple ‘here’s where they live and how they survive’ explanations and in to the beginnings of genetics and species classification.

This is a museum that doesn’t just present something; it invites further participation in the subjects and, maybe more for children than university students, that’s an important thing for what is essentially a house of the sciences to do!

Also, their ‘Wild: Amazing Animals in a Changing World’ exhibit is good on many levels.

Museum - In Text

Get it?

So, that’ll about cover the first week of ‘Shoestring Melbourne’, so get along to have a look at the Melbourne Museum (especially the upcoming Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum of Kabul exhibit from March 22), and keep your eyes on the films playing on Mondays at Cinema Nova on Lygon St. Check back next week to see what I get up to. I’d tell you what I’m planning, but why spoil the surprise?

If you do have suggestions for things to be included in future articles, though, feel free to drop them in the comments below and share your local knowledge!

Alastair Collins


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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