Some of the world’s most renowned collections of art and artifacts call Europe home. But when you’re traveling on a budget, museum entry fees can add up in a hurry. So how can an art-loving Cheapo avoid paying the entry price?
Our advice is to visit your top picks on the free or reduced price days, or even better, stick to the many galleries and collections that are free and open to the public all day, every day.
More tips for visiting museums and attractions
• Tips for beating the crowds at top sites in Paris
• 10 Free museums in Stockholm
• How to save money and time at the Prado in Madrid
You are probably familiar with the big-name museums, so we came up with a list of 10 favorites that you might not expect. From Paris to Berlin, add these free museums to your to-do list for your next trip.
Free Museums in Paris
Paris hosts a few of the world’s most beloved collections — among them the Louvre and Musée de Orsay. We’re not at all suggesting you should skip these stops if it’s your first time exploring the City of Light. That said, if you’re not a first-timer or you’re a museum-lover with excess time on your hands, 14 of the City of Paris Museums are free to the public throughout the year. Want a couple of more specific suggestions? Here are two of our favorite free collections in the French capital.
1. The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
11 Avenue Du Président Wilson
MaM, located in the east wing of the Palais de Tokyo a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, is an excellent free option to get a look at contemporary art. The collection contains more than 8,000 works of art including pieces by Picasso and Matisse.
2. The Musée de la Vie Romantique
Hôtel Scheffer-Renan – 16 rue Chaptal
Located in the former residence of the painter Ary Scheffer, this 1830 home in Paris’ Pigalle neighborhood gives visitors the chance to relive life in Paris’ romantic period. The artwork by George Sand and Ary Scheffer is set amid furniture, portraits and jewelry from the 18th and 19th century.
Check out our full list of free museums in Paris and book a cheap hotel for your trip.
Free Museums in Barcelona
Spain’s second largest city, Barcelona boasts noteworthy collections you simply won’t find anywhere else. Beyond everything Gaudi, there are also museums dedicated to Spanish and Catalan artists like Picasso, Miró, and Tàpies. While most major museums have at minimum, a free afternoon during the week and free first Sundays, there are a few always-free options in the Catalan capital as well.
3. Museo de Carruajes Fúnebres de Barcelona
Carrer de la Mare de Déu de Port, 56
While it may be a bit out of the way, Barcelona’s collection of funeral carriages is worth a visit as it features everything from the carriages themselves to funerary ornaments and artifacts. Besides, it’s in Barcelona’s most famous cemetery (Montjüic), which should be on your itinerary for while you’re in town anyway. It’s more than just funerary art — it’s a great place to get sweeping views of Barcelona and beyond.
4. La Virreina Centre de la Imatge
Palau de la Virreina, La Rambla 99
Perched near the top end of La Rambla, this 18th-century baroque and rococo palace hosts temporary photo exhibitions and is always free of charge. Even folks who aren’t particularly interested in photography should take a few moments to explore this relatively peaceful space amidst the hubbub of Barcelona’s most boisterous street. You can also see Barcelona’s massive puppets that are used in parades housed on the ground floor here.
Related: Tips for saving at Barcelona’s top attractions
Free Museums in London
Keeping more of your pounds in your pocket can be a tall order in the British capital. There are loads of things to see in London, and most of it can cost a pretty penny. But don’t despair. If there’s one thing London has more of than most European capitals, it’s free museums open to the public. Near the top of your list should be the British Museum, aka, the magical place where the Rosetta Stone lives. Sure, there’s usually a suggested donation, but you don’t technically have to pay it. Here are two other world-class spots that are always free.
5. The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road London SW7 5BD
Learn about the natural world in one of the world’s best science museums with an extensive collection of fossils (including dinosaurs and stuffed animal specimens, many of them now extinct) and interactive exhibits on volcanoes and earthquakes.
6. The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Gawk at over 2,300 pieces of artwork in Britain’s National Gallery, free of charge. There’s something for every type of art-lover here from masterpieces by Italian greats like Titian to impressionists like Cézanne.
Looking for even more freebies? Read our guide to 20 free museums in London. If you need a place to stay, check out our top budget hotels in London.
Free Museums in Dublin
While comparisons between Ireland and England aren’t typically welcomed by either party, there’s one good thing that these two countries have in common — the wide range of free national museums that are open to the public. In Dublin, this means visitors can see all of the artifacts at the National Museum’s collections around town and all of the art at the National Gallery of Ireland without paying admission. The National Gallery even offers free tours on weekends. Meet at the information desk at 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, or 1:30 pm.
7. Irish Museum of Modern Art
Royal Hospital, Kilmainham
A former hospital, this museum is considered Ireland’s most important modern art gallery. Add to that the fact that it’s surrounded by gorgeous gardens perfect for a leisurely stroll, and it’s worth a visit even in a city like Dublin with a multitude of free museum options.
8. Chester Beatty Library
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, Ireland
Head to Dublin Castle for a look around book-lover Alfred Chester Beatty’s worldly goods and explore his collection of ancient scrolls, books and art objects.
Free Museums in Berlin
Good news! Almost all of Berlin’s regional museums and memorial sites charge no admission, no matter the date. But unfortunately, gone are the days of free admission on Berlin’s famous Museum Island, unless of course, you’re a minor (admission is free for folks under 18 years of age). That said, if it’s your first time in town and you’re much of a museum buff, you probably should shell out the €18 for entry to all five museums. You can also look into picking up a Berlin WelcomCard for discounts. But for everyone else, or folks that have already been, here are two free options we highly recommend.
9. Topography of Terror
This museum near Potsdamer Platz stands on the historical site of Gestapo offices and SS leadership headquarters in Berlin. It’s the place where the persecution and extermination of political opponents to the Nazis, as well as the coordination of the extermination of Jews, Sinti, and Roma, was organized and managed. The emotional exhibition examines this dark history in a very open and honest manner. Parts of it are outdoors, so bring a jacket.
10. Museum der Unerhörten Dinge
The Museum of Unheard Things is above all things about the story. This curio cabinet — in museum form — showcases a wide range of curious objects (everything from a letter written by Freud to a cowpie), and more importantly, tells the story of their significance.
Are you headed to Berlin soon? Add these 15 free museums in Berlin to your to-do list and browse our top cheap hotels in the city.
What are your favorite free museums in Europe? Are there any places you’d add to our list? Let us know in the comments below.