As tourism destinations, many major cities across the globe — New York and Paris, Stockholm and Sydney — are certainly monumental or historical or beautiful or all of the above. What they often aren’t, however, is cheap. The good news is that if you’ve got your mind set on visiting any of these metropolises, you can often find free activities to enjoy when you’re there. We’ve built a list of museums, cultural events, and even transportation that won’t cost you a thing in 10 notoriously pricey locales.
Yes, your wallet will take somewhat of a hit if you’re traveling across the pond — London was named the world’s most expensive city earlier this year. Still, a number of cultural institutions let you in for free every day, including the National Gallery, home to more than 2,300 paintings from the 1250s-1900s. Among the masterpieces are works by Monet, Rembrandt, da Vinci, and van Gogh. Also available gratis are 10-minute talks that deliver more insight on specific paintings, held almost daily. The only fees would be for special temporary exhibits.
2. New York
Want to expand upon your knowledge of Grand Central Terminal and its surrounding neighborhood? Take the Grand Tour, a free 90-minute walking tour offered every Friday at 12:30 p.m. by the Grand Central Partnership. Visitors are taken through the terminal’s Whispering Gallery to learn little-known facts, and also go to the Chrysler Building and Pershing Square.
In the City of Lights, poet and novelist Victor Hugo’s Paris apartment is open daily for tours, in which guests can view the space where some of his notable works were written (including part of Les Miserables). It won’t cost visitors a franc to view the permanent collections, which include furniture, objects, and works of art that belonged to Hugo or that he created himself.
Looking for something unusual, peaceful and free to do in this part of the world? You can explore Skogskyrkogården, a cemetery surrounded by woodland that’s not only known as the final resting place of thousands of departed souls (including Hollywood legend Greta Garbo) — it’s also celebrated for the unique architecture of its chapels and other buildings.
Heading north, you can leave your wallets in your pocket if you catch a show in the free concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Ampitheatre, held on most Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon and on some Wednesdays at 12 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. late September through early June. Performers include vocalists, jazz artists, pianists, dancers, and duos and chamber orchestras. Because admission is first-come, first-serve, it’s a good idea to head over a bit earlier.
Though getting to Sydney costs time and money, once you’re there, you can forgo the car rental and take advantage of a free shuttle that circles the city center. The shuttle runs in both directions from Central Station to Circular Quay along George Street, operating from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays (until 9 p.m. on Thursdays) and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends.
Here, you can watch a enjoy 30-minute concert every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Royal Concertgebouw. Attend everything from public rehearsals by the Concertgebouw’s own orchestra to chamber music played by up-and-coming talent. Programs are listed a week prior on its website.
Entrance to the Norwegian Customs Museum don’t cost a thing. On display are original uniforms and other items like models and documents that showcase the history of import and export to and from Norway.
Green thumbs and botany lovers will delight in the free guided tours through some of the Eternal City’s leafiest parks and neighborhoods. Offered by the city’s garden service, the experience takes participants to different parks, gardens, and even a wetland. They’re available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.
10. San Francisco
Cable cars are synonymous with getting around SF. Those who are particularly charmed by this mode of transportation can check out the Cable Car Museum, where there’s no charge for admission. It’s located in a cable car barn and powerhouse, allowing you to actually see how the engines and wheels make the cars go. Showcased in the museum are three antique cable cars from the 1870s, models, different mechanical devices, and a collection of photographs.