Budget travel doesn’t have to mean staring at the outside of old buildings and museums, and the must-sees and must-dos of the world don’t always cost an arm and a leg. In fact, sometimes they cost nothing at all. Here are 9 worldwide attractions won’t cost you a dime.
Symphony of Light Show – Hong Kong, China
The views of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour are a cost-free delight in what is typically a very expensive city. From the Avenue of the Stars in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, you can see Hong Kong’s famous skyline in all its densely packed glory. Explore the Avenue of the Stars (a Hong Kong version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame) and enjoy the view during the day, and come 8 p.m., enjoy the world’s largest permanent sound and light show. The sound is piped directly onto the Avenue of the Stars. Across the Harbour, Hong Kong’s skyscrapers are lit up and lasers and spotlights dance to musical and narrative choreography.
Caminito Street Museum – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Crowded with tourists though it may be, the Caminito Street Museum is still definitely worth a visit on a trip to the Argentinian capital. The small district bills itself as the world’s first outdoor pedestrian museum. The first things you’ll notice are the brightly coloured facades that face the street, which represent the old conventillos (shared housing units) that were torn down in the 50s. The rebirth of the district was spearheaded by a local artist, and other artists followed. Now, you can expect to see numerous stalls selling souvenirs and works of art along the street and of course, the famous tango street performers dancing to tango music emanating from the local bars and restaurants.
Smithsonian Museums – Washington, DC, USA
Barring the odd time they’re closed due to a government shutdown, the Smithsonian Institution‘s 19 museums and galleries are must-sees on a visit to America’s capital. Among the Institution’s many historically and culturally significant pieces are the Spirit of St. Louis, housed in the National Air and Space Museum; the Hope Diamond, housed in the National Museum of Natural History; and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, which reside in the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian’s museums and the National Zoo are free of charge and open year-round except Christmas Day.
St. Louis Zoological Park – St. Louis, USA
One of the top-rated zoos in America just happens to be free as well, thanks to a district tax. The zoo has been around for over a hundred years, with its first exhibit (an aviary) opening way back in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair. It currently houses 655 different species, with over 19,000 animals in total. Most large fauna are represented in some form at the zoo, which includes everything from big cat exhibits to penguin enclosures. In 2013, the zoo began construction on a new $15 million polar bear exhibit. Opening in 2015, it will house an male and female adult polar bears that, it’s hoped, will bear some little polar cubs.
Moganshan Art Street – Shanghai, China
China’s contemporary art scene has flourished in recent years and nowhere is this more apparent than at 50 Moganshan Road in Shanghai. A community of artists live and work in a series of studios along the road, which are open to the public. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the artists at work in their studio when you stop by, and you can bear witness to the creative process in person. Further up the road is one of the best places to see street art in Shanghai: a 100-meter section of wall that the city has OK’d for graffiti.
Chat With a Monk – Chiang Mai, Thailand
So you’ve been traveling around Southeast Asia for a bit and while money is no longer burning a hole in your pocket, you have developed some burning questions about local culture. In Chiang Mai and other Southeast Asian destinations like Luang Prabang in Laos, having a dialogue with a local monk is a perfect way to get those questions answered. Maybe you want to know more about Buddhism or the monks’ ascetic lifestyle? Anything respectful is fair game. And lest you think it’s a one-way street, the monks benefit, too. Not only do they get to learn about other cultures without leaving the temple, they get to practice their English, as well.
Glenlivet Scotch Whisky Tour – Ballindalloch, Scotland
Nearly half of all Scotch whisky distilleries in Scotland operate in Speyside, and of those, Glenlivetwas the first to produce a single malt legally. The distillery has grown massively since opening in 1823, and is now one of the most popular single malts in the entire world. The free Glenlivet tour offers visitors a glimpse of the distilling process and a visit to one of Glenlivet’s storehouses. Best of all, and reason enough to go even if you’re not a Scotch aficionado, your free tour comes with a complimentary dram of Glenlivet.
Lunchtime Concerts – Amsterdam, Netherlands
From September to June, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam offers free 30-minute concerts by world-renowned musicians every Wednesday afternoon. Typically, a concert at this exclusive concert hall would cost up to $100. These lunchtime offerings are often practice sessions by the same orchestras, soloists and up-and-coming artists one would be dressing up in black tie to see in the evening. Elsewhere in Amsterdam, at the Muziektheater also provides free concerts from October through June, featuring some of the best choirs and orchestras in the country. These musical treats take place every Tuesday at 12:30.
Urban Beaches – Major Cities in Europe
Major European cities are often blessed with fantastic history and architecture and interestingly contrasting doses of modernism. But it can’t be said that they are great beach towns (except some lucky ones like Barcelona). In order to rectify this apparent deficiency, there has been a boom in recent years of “urban beaches”, strips of sand complete with sun loungers and beach umbrellas, smack in the middle of the city. They can be found in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Vienna and many other unlikely urban landscapes. Generally there’s no swimming available, but that shouldn’t stop you from donning your best beachwear and catching some rays in the middle of Europe’s oldest cities.