Traveling around the world can be pricey but many cities offer lots of inexpensive, even free options for the Savvy Explorer. Here is our list of 50 free things to do in cities around the world.
Benaroya Hall: Take in a free recital at Seattle’s Symphony, complete with a 1,190 pipe organ in the mix, offered bimonthly on Mondays at 12:30pm. Or take a tour of Benaroya Hall every Tuesday and Friday at noon or 1pm. website
Hong Kong, China
Symphony of Lights: Every night at 8pm, the world’s largest light and sound show dazzles spectators at Victoria Harbour. View it from the Avenue of Stars, and watch its lasers, pyrotechnics, and the lighted choreography of 40 buildings on both sides of the harbor. website
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum: Discover history of the commercial food keystone microwaveable ramen noodles. The museum has free entry, but you can pay $6 to choose your noodles to make at the end. website
Tate Modern: London is also famous for its many free art museums. Head to the Tate Modern for masterpieces from Picasso to Pollock to Andy Warhol. For more information on art museums in London, check out our London Art Trail story. museum website
Edvard Munch: The Norwegian artist is all over Oslo. During winter, the Munch Museum is free to view his thousands of paintings and drawings. The always free National Gallery has Norway’s largest public art collection, including Munch’s famous “Scream” paintings. website
The Denver suburb of Littleton is host to a unique look at Colorado’s pioneering past, the Littleton History Museum. Set over 14 acres, this window into history features two farm houses, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse and other exhibition spaces. A special exhibit features a look at the early settlements of the Denver area. website
Musée des Beaux-Arts: One of many free art galleries and museums in Montreal, the Beaux-Arts features European art dating back to the Middle Ages, as well as African, Islamic and Buddhist artworks and sculptures. Don’t forget the collection of Canadian art. website
Vienna State Opera: Head to the square in front of the opera house to watch the normally expensive show be broadcast for free on a 50-foot jumbotron. Listen to Puccini or Mozart in the open air April through June, as well as September. website
Queen Victoria Market: Take the free Circle City Tram to Victoria Street and enjoy the many precincts of the market. Fresh produce stands, organic foods, a wine shop, seafood, meats and even clothing and accessories. website
Shilin Night Market: One of the largest markets in the world with over 600 shops and attractions of food, curios and even karaoke bars. The Yang Ming theater section stretches further down the road.
Tsukiji: Over 1,500 stall make up Japan’s largest fish market, where almost all of Japan’s seafood arrives at the docks every morning. Arrive early to see fish auctions, there are places for onlookers not participating as well.
The Markt: In the heart of Bruges, this center point is a hub of markets surrounded by traditional architecture. The Belfort, bell tower, is here, as well as medieval structures and contemporary cafes.
St. Lawrence Market: One of the top markets in the world, St. Lawrence sprawls over three historic buildings, with antiques, food and an upstairs gallery. Free to browse, fun to explore. website
Machane Yehuda Market: This 19th century market has places to shop and taste products from all over the world. When the stalls close, bars open at night in their place. website
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fería De Mataderos: Gauchos on horses, tango dancers and market vendors make up a rich cultural experience. The fair is open and free to visitors every Sunday.
San Francisco, California
Anchor Steam Beers: Taste San Fran’s home-grown beer at Anchor Brewing Company. The tour of the historic brewhouse and a tasting of six Anchor Steam beers are free, as long as you book in advance. website
Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethel M. Chocolate Factory: Go behind the candymaking process free of charge, just a few miles from the Vegas Strip. If you want to burn off the sweet treats, stroll through their Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden, one of the largest in Nevada with over 300 species of plants. website
USS Constitution: Tour the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Nicknamed “Old Ironsides,” its neighboring Navy yard and exhibit hall can be viewed 10am-4pm Thursday through Sunday. website
The Gateway of India: Considered Mumbai’s Taj Mahal, this arch stands at the water’s edge in Mumbai Harbour. It offers a view into India’s colonial history, as well as the modern day with festivals and markets that take place around the monument.
Suomenlinna Fortress: Beautiful grounds of this bastion built in the 1700s are completely free to explore. There are galleries, a church and onsite museums including a full submarine. website
Lenin Mausoleum: Probably the most bizarre Russian attraction, the preserved body of Vladimir Lenin is housed in his tomb in Red Square. Free to enter and view the body of the Soviet Union’s founder, on display since 1924.
The Reichstag: The seat of the German Parliament, this building doubles as a free attraction. The top offers a 360 view of the city, and the building itself is a modern marvel. website
Khao San: Wander down Khao San Road to take in the vibrant atmosphere of Bangkok, and head to The Golden Mount (Wat Saket) nearby. Climb the steps to see a large golden Buddha statue and a view of the city from above.
Notre Dame: Free to visit and enter, the iconic cathedral is worth the line to get inside. Massive and laden in gargoyles, the medieval structure is a fine sight along the Seine. website
Piazza del Duomo: The Duomo is the fourth largest Cathedral in Europe, and the tallest building in Florence itself. The Piazza, the square in front of the cathedral, has a bell tower as well. website
St. Peter’s Basilica: A necessary visit in Italy’s capital, with the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is open daily and free to enter and view, as well as the Swiss Guard, or the elite Vatican Army members that look on in tradition. website
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: It’s grandiose and can’t be missed, taking up five football field lengths and accommodating 40,000 worshippers at once. Four huge minarets, reflective pools and columns covered in semiprecious stones, and even the world’s larges chandelier create an amazing space to visit. website
Church of Agios Dimitrios: The largest church in Greece and an interesting sight for non-orthodox visitors. Rebuilt in 1948, the plans followed the exact original structure from 313 AD.
Gardens by the Bay: Completely unique to Singapore, the gardens include the Supertrees, giant artificial trees, which use solar energy to illuminate themselves at night, and serve as rain collectors to irrigate the greenery below. Walk the elevated Skyway between the “trees” to take in the view. website
Royal Botanic Gardens: Located right at Sydney Harbour with views of the Opera House, the Gardens offer rare and exotic flora, and offer free guided tours. Its most unique residents are fruit bats, some 200,000, which are a sight to be seen as they take off at sunset. website
Arthur’s Seat: A natural formation that stands over the city with excellent views from above. The walk up takes about an hour, but it’s worth the hike for a free view from the top.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens: A noted film location for the classic The Sound of Music, the gardens are a beauty with or without star power. The Angel Staircase and the Dwarf Garden are places of note, all free to explore. website
Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Copacabana Beach: Famous and perpetually busy, this beach has white sands, great food, and stunning architecture features as well. It is wild and crazy but always visitor friendly.
Costa Verde: Parks and bike paths enhance Lima’s pedestrian friendly coastline. Watch para-gliders, skaters and surfers form the shore in the Bohemian district of Peru’s capital city.
Barton Creek Greenbelt: Conveniently near downtown Austin, 809 acres of land includes hiking, biking and even natural swimming holes. Dog friendly, people friendly and entirely free. Follow the trail to Zilker Botanical Garden, open year-round and also free of charge. website
New York, New York
The High Line: Stretching from the trendy Meatpacking District through West Chelsea, the reclaimed railway tracks have been turned into an elevated green space, complete with gardens, artwork, and walkway with views of the Empire State Building and the Hudson River. The third and final section debuts in 2014. website
Navy Pier: Chicago’s 3,000 foot long Navy Pier is worth a visit any time of year, from its Ferris wheel, to the Landshark Beer Garden, to an ice skating rink. Catch a free fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day. website
Little Havana: Head to Calle Ocho on Fridays for “Viernes Culturales,” an open air gallery of art and music, plus free walking tours of the area known for its Hispanic history and culture. Check out the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame, or try Casa Panza for the legendary flamenco-dancing fiestas, all gratis.
New Orleans, Lousiana
The French Quarter: Walking through the historic section of New Orleans is an attraction in itself. The oldest and most famous neighborhood offers beautiful architecture and eclectic restaurants and foods to enjoy. Stop by Jackson Square for live music, sketch artists and tarot readers in view of the St. Louis Cathedral.
Panama City, Panama
Casco Viejo: The colonial sector, almost 350 years old and full of Spanish colonial and canal-era history. With ocean and bay views, and stunning atmosphere and nightlife, the area can be enjoyed and explored easily on a budget. Check out many historic churches, or admire the bay view from Paseo Esteban Huertas, the promenade built on top of the city’s old outer wall.
The Bund: Walk down the bustling avenue and you will get a glimpse of classic Shanghai that has been preserved and renovated. It is fashionable and current, with the original building structures intact from World War II era.
Changing of the Guard: Watch the procession of the 30,000 guards of the Swedish family, including a parade and a military band. It takes place at the Royal Palace every day.
The Little Mermaid: An homage to Han Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale, the bronze statue of the Little Mermaid is located in the northeast corner of Frederiksstaden. She is over 100 years old and one of Copenhagen’s famous symbols.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Nevsky Prospect: St. Petersburg’s main street, its most famous heart of shopping and city life. See the Kazan Cathedral and Gostiny Dvor- a 19th century shopping mall.
Las Ramblas: The series of avenues joined together create one of the most famous tourist streets in the city, from the center of the city to Barcelona’s harbor. Lined with cafés and bars, packed with street performers and markets, it’s an interesting slice of Spain’s most cosmopolitan city.
Alfama: High above the city, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood affords stunning views of the city and Tejo River from the Castle of São Jorge. Wander the ancient streets and admire the tile covered houses then take in the expansive views at one of the miradouros (scenic overlooks).
The Canals: Exploring Amsterdam’s iconic waterways is never a disappointment. The ring of canals, which turns 400 years old this year, radiates out from the center. Here you will also find the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market, with houseboats full of blooms and seeds for sale.
Prague, Czech Republic
Old Town Square: Head here to see Prague’s 15th century Astronomical Clock. Join the masses for the hourly show on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall. Afterwards, marvel in the architecture of this meticulously preserved medieval town square.
Cape Town, South Africa
Sea Point Promenade: 11 kilometers long, the stunning ocean views in the shadow of Table Mountain make this a perfect stroll for any time of day. The restaurants, beaches, bars and parks lining the promenade make it an ideal place to play for any age, especially during the summer when ice cream vendors abound – try the frozen granadilla (a fruit similar to passion fruit).