Do you want to see as much as possible in this world but tight budget restrictions are holding you back? Luckily, your financial situation won’t stop you from experiencing some of the world’s most significant and cultured cities. Many places offer free attractions for budget travelers wanting to discover a new place without going into debt, but some cities are more generous than others with the freebies. We made it our mission to seek out five cities around the globe with the biggest offerings of gratuitous attractions. Check out which cities made the list:
Washington D.C., U.S.A.
Visiting America’s capital is a great choice for travelers who want to stick to a tight budget but don’t want to skimp on activities. Washington D.C., is flush with museums and attractions, most of which are completely free to enjoy. There are so many, in fact, that it’s possible to not spend a dime on sightseeing or entertainment for the duration of a two-week trip.
The Smithsonian Institute offers free admission to 17 museums and galleries in the D.C. metro area, turning the city into an art lover’s and history enthusiast’s playground. The foundation’s collection includes heavy-hitters such as the Museum of Natural History, American History Museum, the Air and Space Museum and the American Art Museum.
The National Zoo (also free), housing giant pandas, elephants, and tigers, creates an enjoyable and affordable way for families to enjoy D.C., too.
The abundant offerings from Smithsonian can easily distract from the many other worthy attractions in D.C.—like free walking tours of The White House or U.S. Capitol Building. Or why not join a free bike tour of the city’s most famous monuments and memorials?
And this is just the beginning. It doesn’t take much digging to find out that Washington D.C., is an absolute goldmine when it comes to free attractions.
One of the last places you may think of when planning a budget holiday is England’s posh capital, London. However, give this city a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the ways to stay entertained for free.
London is kind of like Washington D.C.’s sister city when it comes to free stuff. It boasts an excess of free museums and art galleries just like its American counterpart. You can wander around freely at over two dozen museums and art galleries. Some of the best include the prestigious National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate Modern.
Visit the House of Parliament, admire the neo-gothic architecture of the Palace of Westminster and gaze up at the iconic Big Ben clocktower situated on the north end of the complex. Buckingham Palace is an obvious site to see, and although you aren’t welcome inside, you can witness the Changing of the Guard that takes place every morning.
Want a tour guide to lead you around to all these cool spots? Consider checking out Free Tours By Foot. This company will happily show off all its city’s highlights—sans charge.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its gorgeous natural scenery and Vancouver is no exception. This city bubbles with a distinct culture and style, and this can certainly be enjoyed—but it’s not free. What is free? Many of the outdoor activities and green spaces scattered in and around the city. Trust us, you won’t want to waste your time indoors once you get a taste of this nature-lover’s mecca.
Avid hikers have their pick of trails, from the locally favored Grouse Grind to the panoramic summit of Hollyburn Mountain (rent snowshoes and you can even trek it in winter!) to the miles of oceanfront walking trails weaving throughout the city’s first ever greenspace, Stanley Park. Additionally, Baden Powel Trails and Lynn Canyon Park are North Vancouver’s naturalist hot spots.
When you tire of the great outdoors, head in town and check out some of Vancouver’s famous art galleries like the Contemporary Art Gallery, or tour the 2010 Winter Olympics sites scattered about the city.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tour the neighborhoods in Buenos Aires known for their artistic expression and experience first-hand what gives Argentina its spicy flair. Neighborhood-hopping provides a behind-the-scenes peek at everything that makes this city tick. Shop, eat and drink ‘til you drop in Palmero, release your inner fashionista in La Boca, admire the rainbow dwellings of Caminito, get in touch with your bohemian side in revamped San Telmo (also known for tango and flamenco clubs) and stroll the open-air art gallery in Calle Lanin.
Visit the historic square of Plaza de Mayo and snap a shot of the president’s pink headquarters, aptly named Rose House, and the city’s oldest monument, May Pyramid. If your visit falls on a Sunday, you can’t miss the Fair of the Mataderos, a lively festival packed with gauchos, street performances, dance competitions and market vendors. History and art aficionados should take the time to visit the National Museum of Fine Art (housing works by Rembrandt and Picasso) on Tuesdays when admission is free for foreigners. The nearby Recoleta Cemetery is an art and history lesson rolled into one and offers free English tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Lastly, escape from the city’s hustle and bustle and find refuge in Buenos Aires' green spaces like Carlos Thays Botanical Gardens or the Rose Garden Walk.
New York City, U.S.A.
The Big Apple isn’t known for being the most affordable place, which is why we had to include it on this list when we discovered all the free things you can do here! It’s easy to spend a lot in New York, clearly, but do not discount this city if you’re on a budget. Feeling the magic of New York is possible without dropping a dime.
First up is Central Park. With free events, historic sites, and artistic creations, this sprawling space is much more than a simple “park.” The artistically inclined should head to Chelsea for as much free art gallery-hopping as they can stand. After that, step up to The High Line and cross over to the Meatpacking District via the abandoned-railway-turned-park-slash-walkway and browse the Chelsea Market.
A diverse spattering of museums and historic sites with free entries wait to welcome thrifty travelers around the city. Among our favorites are the African Burial Ground (Lower Manhattan), City Hall (the oldest in the U.S. still in use) and the National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian Institute’s collection). If you like the idea of an experienced guide showing you around, hit up the team at Grand Central Partnership for a free walking tour of Midtown Manhattan, including places like Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building.
Get down to Battery Park and hop a boat to Governor’s Island ($3 for a round trip and free on Saturday and Sunday mornings) and enjoy the island’s free art and cultural events and recreational activities. Another ferry trip to take advantage of is the Staten Island Ferry, which cruises right past the Statue of Liberty, allowing you to snap the iconic photo without shelling out for the more expensive tour boat.
Finally, for some free entertainment, head to Brooklyn for an on-the-house tour of Brooklyn Brewery.
These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. For such a sophisticated city, it’s hard to believe how much it’s willing to give away.