Give the wallet a break and enjoy a little bit of culture free of charge with these 10 free attractions around the world that you need to add to your travel itinerary.
Visit the Musei Vaticani
The Vatican City is a microstate within Rome and one of the city’s most important landmarks. Home to the pope, it’s the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, having an undeniable religious impact on wider Italy and the world.
Within the city’s bounds are 26 world-renowned museums and ornate chapels filled with priceless artworks and treasures of all kinds. Some parts of the Musei Vaticani are household names, like the Sistene Chapel. Others, often lesser known, are waiting to be explored.
You can visit the Vatican City and St Peters Square free of charge, but most galleries and chapels cost upwards of €17 to enter. However, make it there on the last Sunday of the month (or on the 27th of September, World Tourism Day), and entry fees are waived across the entire complex.
Take one of the Cinque Terre walking rails
The best way to view the colourful houses and vineyards covering the chiselled Italian Riviera coastline is by taking one of the walking trails between towns. One of the most scenic in the whole Cinque Terre is the free walk from Vernazza to Monterosso.
This simple, 3km trail allows even beginners to enjoy the views of the vibrant Italian coastline. There are moments along this walk that beg you to stop and take a panorama of the pebbled beaches and brightly striped umbrellas below. The best part? Once you’re done, you’re just steps from one of the most beautiful beaches on the Riviera coastline. Reward yourself with a cool dip and relax by the crystal clear waters.
If swimming at the beach doesn’t entice you, there’s plenty more to discover in these vibrant coastal towns.
Browse the Victoria and Albert Museum
With over 2 million pieces of art, the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most viewed free museums in the world. It’s home to a whopping 145 galleries that span over 12.5 acres, showcasing everything from ancient artworks as old as 5000 years to exquisite Alexander McQueen evening dresses.
The main gallery sits just south of the Kensington Gardens in London, with a second in Dundee and a Wedgwood Collection museum in Barlaston. By 2024, another two locations are set to be added in London.
Learn About the Science World at the Smithsonian Institution
Washington D.C. and New York
The Smithsonian Institute is the world’s largest museum, education, and research institute, spread across 17 Washington D.C. and New York locations. You could lose countless hours, if not days, trawling through the 155 million artifacts and specimens held in their collection.
There are real dinosaur fossils housed in the Smithsonian national museum of Natural History and unwrapped mummies on display in the Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt. There’s even an air and space museum for budding astronauts to inspire their dreams further.
All but one of the museums — New York’s Cooper Hewitt — is free to enter, some requiring you to book passes online before arriving.
Invoke Plant Envy at the Royal Botanic Garden
Trade the hustle and bustle for a more relaxed pace at the Royal Botanic Garden.
With some of the best views of the Sydney Harbour and the city, the gardens have the best of both worlds — city life and nature.
Whether you consider yourself a regular Costa Georgiadis or just want to stop by and smell the roses, the Royal Botanic Garden Visitor Centre is always willing to help you out. Free guided walks depart from the centre daily, and there are several self-guided tours that you can follow, too.
Take the Staten Island Ferry
Not only is it completely free to take the Staten Island Ferry through the New York Harbour, but it’s also the most accessible way to get a snapshot in front of the Statue of Liberty.
The 25-minute trip from St George on Stratton Island to Whitehall Street in Manhattan passes right by the Statue of Liberty, affording you the perfect view and picture-perfect moment. She’ll appear in sight on the right (starboard) side of the boat, so have your cameras and best smile at the ready.
Disembark in Manhattan and spend the day wandering the buzzing streets.
Join an Apartheid to Freedom Tour
From St George’s Cathedral to the Apartheid benches, this provoking and insightful tour walks you through the history of freedom within Cape Town. Along the way, you’ll learn about the apartheid law, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the struggle for freedom and what happened the day Mandela was released.
The tour finishes in District Six, where you can see the exact spot Mandela made his first speech as a free man. Rain, shine, or hail, the 90-minute tour runs every day of the year, leaving from Church Square at 11.00 am and 4.00 pm.
Participate in a Meditation Class at Wat Langka
Originally built to store Holy Writings, Wat Langka temple in the centre of Phnom Penh city has become an integral meeting place for Cambodian and Sri Lankan Monks. It also plays host to tri-weekly meditation classes.
On Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 6.00 pm, the temple’s monks invite visitors to participate in unguided, one-hour classes. For anyone not confident in the art of meditation, the monks will provide short instructions from the front of the temple.
Visitors are advised to wear modest clothing — covering shoulders, chests, and thighs — when on the temple grounds.
Walk through the Toriis at the Fushimi Inari Shrine
With its seemingly endless vermilion Torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine has rightly become one of Japan’s most iconic attractions. Originally built to honour Inari, the Shinto God of Rice, the shrine is considered one of Kyoto’s most important spiritual areas.
The Torii gates — each donated by a business or individual — straddle a network of trails behind the main building, leading into the forest of Mount Inari. It takes around 2-3 hours to complete the trails, the walkways entirely covered by the red gates all the way through.
This is one of Japan’s top free attractions for anyone who loves a walk amongst nature and history.
Stargaze at River Murray Dark Sky Reserve
There’s no better place in Australia to see the Milky Way than the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve.
The reserve proudly boasts Australia’s most ideal stargazing conditions. Drive through when the last of the sun is gone and park up with your lights off to pick out your favourite constellations. Or, pack a swag and warm clothes to camp out under a glittering sky.
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Lead image: Jeremy Goldberg