In Europe’s major cities, buildings and landmarks with historical significance are all around you. And while entry may seem relatively inexpensive at €2-10 a pop, even these small entrance fees can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are hidden gems with free admission in pretty much every city in Europe.
When you’re sightseeing, there are things you don’t mind paying for, and then there’s this list—the things you don’t have to pay for at all.
Museums: For free museums in Amsterdam, there’s the Civic Guard Gallery and the Multatuli Museum, which gives a look inside one of Amsterdam’s grand canal houses and was home to the famous Dutch writer.
Best Views: For a high up view of Amsterdam, head to the top floor of the Central Library, which is open to the public. You can also check out the Sky Lounge at the DoubleTree hotel to get a great view (but you will have to buy something at the cafe).
(Photo: ardenswayoflife via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
Museums: If you’re looking for culture in London, you’re in luck. The city’s top museums (including The National Gallery, the Tate, the Natural History Museum, and the British Museum) are all free.
Landmarks: The House of Parliament, St. Paul’s Church, and Temple Church.
Best Views: Take in the sights at Parliament Hill, the Royal Observatory, or the Skygarden, which requires advanced booking but is ultimately free.
Music: Head to Westminster Abbey any day at 5:30 p.m. to catch the Evensong. When the choir sings, you don’t have to pay.
Museums: Stroll along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to enjoy the National Museum of Scotland, the Edinburgh Writers Museum, Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, and the People’s Story, which are all free.
Landmarks Take a free tour of Scottish Parliament or discover St. Giles’ Cathedral.
Best Views: Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat.
Music: Free entry at Whistle Binkies, the best place to check out Scotland’s up-and-coming bands.
Museums: While in Paris, you can check out the Museum of Modern Art for free, and if you happen to be in the city on the first Sunday of each month or Bastille Day (July 14) then entry to the Louvre is free, too.
Landmarks: If you’re looking for free sights, try the Sacre Couer Basilica, Montparnasse Cemetery, or Arenes de Lutece.
Best Views: For the best and totally free view of Paris, head to Park de Belleville.
Museums: Nice offers plenty of free art with free entry at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Chagall Museum, and the Matisse Museum.
Landmarks: Monastere de Cimieze offers both a beautiful building and gorgeous view of Nice.
Best Views: For another fantastic view that only requires a little bit of hard work, explore Castle Hill.
(Photo: Eiffel Tower via Shutterstock)
Landmarks: Save your sightseeing day for Sunday, because that’s the day when all city attractions in Lisbon are free.
Best Views: Viewpoints in Portugal are often referred to as miradoura, and you can find them all over the city. Check out Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara overlooking Baixa, and then Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
Museums: While entry to the Bullfighting Museum is free every day, you’ll have to time it just right to take advantage of a free ticket at the city’s other museums. You’ll find free entry the Prado between 6:00-8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and the Reina Sofia Monday through Friday from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Landmarks: Templo de Debod is an authentic Egyptian temple donated to the city in 1972. Inside, you’ll get close enough to touch the ancient walls and explore the mini-museum showing the temple’s origin. It’s completely free.
Museums: Free museums are harder to find in Barcelona, but if you wait until Sunday, all museums offer free entry.
(Photo: Placa Reial via Shutterstock)
Museums: Athens is full of museums with free entry, including the Kanellopoulous Museum, Museum of Greek Popular Instruments, Epigraphical Museum Centre of Folk Art & Tradition, and many modern art museums.
Landmarks: In a city as ancient as Athens, the ruins and landmarks are hard to miss, and some of them are free. Check out the National Gardens, Aristotle’s Lyceum, Antonis Tritsis Park, Syntagma Square, Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Panathenaic Stadium.
Best Views: Getting the best views of Athens takes a little walking. Hikes up Lycabettus Hill or Filopappou Hill will pay off with gorgeous free views.
(Photo: Rick Steves)
Museums: Many of the public museums and archeological sites in Rome can be enjoyed for free on the first Sunday of each month, such as the Vatican Museums and the Gallery of the National Academy of San Luca. If you won’t be around for the first Sunday of each month, you can visit the historic Liberation Museum, where you’ll be able to learn about Rome’s long process of gaining liberation from the Nazis.
Landmarks: Many of Rome’s most beautiful cathedrals are free of charge, such as St. Peter’s Basilica and Basilica di Santa Prassede. And if you’re looking for a colossal experience without the price of entry into the Colosseum, Teatro di Marcello is a great way to experience ancient Roman architecture without the crowds.
Best Views: Jaw-dropping views of Rome cost nothing more than a short hike. Many hills around the city offer stunning vantage points for free, such as Janiculum Hill, Capitoline Hill, Palatine Hill, and the Garden of Oranges located behind the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
(Photo: St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome via Shutterstock)
Landmarks: Enjoy a free stroll through the city’s Botanical Garden and check out the famous statue of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid.
Best Views: Take advantage of free entry at Christiansborg Palace and climb the tower at the King’s Gat entrance for sprawling views of the city.
(Photo: Rick Steves)
Landmarks: The majority of mosques in Istanbul offer free entry, but you’ll have to be careful to avoid prayer times in which you won’t be allowed to enter, such as the Blue Mosque and Eyup Sultan Mosque. And if you tire of mosques, you can always visit the Basilica Cisterne or explore the Grand Bazaar and Hipodrome Square for free.
Best Views: Head to Suleymaniye Mosque and Complex to get the best views of the city.
(Photo: Lindsay Taub)
Museums: Seeing the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery is always free, but if it’s raining there are many free indoor museums to visit, such as the historical Anti-War Museum and literally obscure Museum of Unheard-of-Things. (See the full list here.)
Landmarks: Aside from its museums, Berlin doesn’t offer much more for free admission, but fortunately there are still many outdoor attractions like Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, and the Holocaust Memorial that you can explore without charge.
Best Views: To get the best free view of Berlin, take the elevator to the top of the Reichstag to view the city from the iconic dome. You’ll have to book in advance, though, and it is not possible to book over the phone.
Museums: Unfortunately, Munich doesn’t offer much in terms of free museum admission, but you can pay a discounted price of €1 to Museum of Man and Nature on Sundays.
Best Views: St. Peter’s Church offers free admission and access to their tower, where you’ll be able to take in expansive views of the city.
Free for Students
It’s worth noting that if you’re studying abroad or just a student traveling in Europe, your student ID card will get you a long way. Double-check museums and landmarks for student discounts or free entry.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Tried and True Student Travel Discounts in Europe
- World’s Best Free Museums
- 6 Ways to Humiliate Yourself in Europe
Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always on the lookout for free attractions. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.