The world's top 50 free attractions

MICHAEL GEBICKI
Last updated 11:56 09/07/2013

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"Free admission."

It's music to the traveller's ears, one of the happiest phrases ever, and you can hear it around the world.

From art galleries to dance classes, boat rides, museums, zoos, and high-altitude viewpoints, here are 50 prime attractions that don't require you to fish for your wallet.

Getty Museum, Los Angeles

A treasure trove of Greek and Roman antiquities and also one of the world's great collections of Renaissance and baroque paintings. getty.edu.

Ferry to Governors Island, New York City

South of Manhattan, Governors Island is a 70-hectare playground and a fabulous place to ride a bike, stretch your legs and admire the Statue of Liberty. Weekends only. govisland.com.


Millennium Stage Performance, Kennedy Centre, Washington DC

Every evening at 6pm, local, national and international musicians perform a free one-hour concert. After the event, go to the terrace for a fine view of the Potomac River. kennedy-center.org.

The Smithsonian, Washington DC

This vast complex explores just about every facet of science and technology, from dinosaurs to space exploration, in its 19 museums and galleries. si.edu.

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

From elephants to leopards, polar bears, rattlesnakes and the tiny blue-faced honeyeater, this zoo, close to the city's downtown district, casts a wide-ranging eye over the animal kingdom. lpzoo.org.

Staten Island Ferry, New York City

The commuter ferry that links Manhattan with the leafy dormitory of Staten Island also offers iconic views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to 19th century America. siferry.com.

The British Museum, London

Plumbing the gamut of human history and civilisation, the museum features one of the largest collections of artefacts ever assembled, from flint axe heads from Africa's Olduvai Gorge to the manga culture of modern Japan. britishmuseum.org.

The Wallace Collection, London

A splendid tribute to an age of opulence, the collection's 25 galleries feature an outstanding collection of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish and 18th-century paintings, porcelain and a superb array of European and Oriental armour. wallacecollection.org.

Tate Modern, London

A powerhouse of modern art, dedicated to art from 1900 onwards, the Tate is housed fittingly in the gargantuan shell of the Bankside Power Station. The cavernous Turbine Hall encourages sculptors to create giant works. tate.org.uk.

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The Roof Gardens, Kensington, London

Overlooking Kensington High Street, this is one of London's most amazing sights. Half a hectare of rooftop garden features full-size oaks and fruit trees, an English woodland and a stream with fish, ducks and flamingos. Call ahead on 0207 937 7994, the gardens close for private events. roofgardens.virgin.com.

East Side Gallery, Berlin

The longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall has become a giant open-air gallery with more than 100 murals that celebrate freedom, often in unexpected ways. eastsidegallery-berlin.com.

St Peter's Church Tower, Munich

It's 306 steps to the top of the tower of Munich's oldest church, but the view is well worth the climb. Don't miss the jewel-encrusted skeleton of St Mundita lying on a cushion in a glass case.

Sandemans Free Tour, Dublin

This walking tour departs several times daily, led by a self-employed guide well versed in the nuances of Dublin life. newdublintours.com.

St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Staggering in its power and beauty, the centrepiece of the Roman Catholic Church also holds some treasured artworks, from Bernini's bronze canopy above the Papal Altar to Michelangelo's Pieta.

Pantheon, Rome

Originally a temple to all the gods, later a church and now the oldest domed structure in Rome, the Pantheon is known for its oculus, the hole at the top of the dome that lets in natural light. rome.info/pantheon.

Ducati Museum, Bologna

The museum attached to the factory of the world's numero-uno snorting red two-wheeler is subtitled "The story that excites", and they're not kidding. Combined with the factory tour, this is guaranteed to leave any red-blooded male weak at the knees. Bookings essential. ducati.com/company/book-your -visit/index.do.

Glass blowers, Murano, Venice

The island of Murano is where the city's celebrated glassblowers tease and coax their fabulous coloured creations to life, and many artisans will let you watch them work.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and Isadora Duncan are just some of the famous bodies that are interred in this sprawling graveyard, many of them in imposing marble tombs and sepulchres. pere-lachaise.com.

Plages, Paris

The sandy "beaches" that the municipal authorities create each summer along the Seine are chic-to-chic with the fashionably undressed, buffing their tans, eating ice creams and ducking through the misting machines that providing chilly relief on hot days.

Musee Matisse, Nice

This 17th-century villa houses one of the largest collection of Matisse's work. The collection includes early paintings from the 1890s to his later works in scorching primary colours and his nudes. musee-matisse-nice.org.

Magnum Gallery, Paris

Photo agency Magnum is a collective of photographers that has some of the most distinguished names in photojournalism on its books. This compact gallery exhibits past and present work from the legendary agency. magnumgallery.fr.

Sony Building, Tokyo

A landmark in the city's Ginza district, the Sony Building's showroom is a hands-on display of the very latest in gleaming, high-end techno-gadgetry that you can try as well as buy, including robots and laptops. sonybuilding.jp.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatories

The observatory on the 45th level of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office offers a fine view of the city by night, open daily until 11pm. Access is via the Observatory Elevator from the first floor of Main Building No. 1. metro.tokyo.jp.

Kyoto Imperial Palace

Home of the Japanese imperial family until 1868, the palace preserves the feel of Japan before it was exposed to Western influences, reflecting the architectural styles of several different dynasties. Guided English-language tours take place several times daily, but you need to apply in advance. sankan.kunaicho.go.jp.

Sardana, Barcelona

Placa de Sant Jaume, the main square of the Barri Gotic, is the venue for a mass performance of the sardana, Catalonia's national dance, every Sunday at 6.30 pm. Audience participation is obligatory. 

Music in the Parks, Barcelona

Between early June and the end of August, the city hosts a program of free outdoor concerts. Held in the city's parks, the program alternates between jazz and classical music, usually commencing at 8pm or 9pm, Wednesday and Saturday.

Prado Museum, Madrid

One of the greatest of the world's art galleries, the Prado offers free admission from 6-8pm, Monday to Saturday; 5pm-7pm on Sunday. museodelprado.es.

Bullfighting Museum, Madrid

Dedicated to the uniquely Spanish sport of murdering bulls in front of thousands of cheering spectators - images, memorabilia, capes and the costume worn by Manolete when a bull took his revenge.

Hong Kong Zoo and Botanic Gardens

Located on the northern slope of Victoria Peak, the zoo provides a habitat for several Asian primate species, reptiles and birds. lcsd.gov.hk.

Tai Chi, Kowloon

Between 8am and 9am each day, William Ng and Pandora Wu teach free tai chi classes for visitors in the Sculpture Garden in front of the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Kowloon's Tsim Sha Tsui district.

Symphony of Lights, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

Every evening, 44 buildings on either side of Victoria Harbour are lit by lasers in a spectacular show with a musical accompaniment, best seen from the waterfront in Wan Chai or Tsim Sha Tsui. discoverhongkong.com.

Wonder Full, Singapore

Every evening the Event Plaza at Marina Bay Sands become a blaze of colour for Wonder Full, a 13-minute sound and light show with lasers and giant water screens. Daily at 8pm and 9.30pm, with additional shows at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. marinabaysands.com.

The Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore

This statuesque hotel at Singapore's Marina Centre has a world-class collection of modern art on display in its public areas. Included in the 4200-piece collection are works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Henry Moore and crystal glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

Aurora, St Petersburg, Russia

The firing of one of the guns on this cruiser signalled the assault on the Winter Palace, the final act of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Now tied up on the banks of the Neva, the vessel is maintained by cadets from the local Naval School, who operate the ship's small museum and a quick tour. saint-petersburg.com.

Lenin's Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow

The waxy corpse of the father of the revolution still draws visitors, although rumours persist that the body might one day be removed. No bags or cameras allowed, and follow the sombre protocols. lenin.ru.

Buenos Aires Free Tour

Just what the name says, these city walking tours take place twice daily except for Sundays, exploring either the city centre or the elegant boulevards that give BA the title "the Paris of South America". bafreetour.com.

National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires

A feast for art lovers, the museum includes works by Tintoretto, El Greco, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet Klee, Kandinsky, De Chirico, Modigliani, Picasso, Rothko and Pollock. The collection devoted to Argentine and Latin American art, including pre-Columbian Andean art, is equally impressive. mnba.org.ar.

Te Papa, Wellington

The Museum of New Zealand is a rich and satisfying experience that uses a variety of storytelling techniques to explore New Zealand's ecology, Maori and contemporary culture and sporting and intellectual achievements. tepapa.govt.nz.

Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, Beijing

At the southern end of Tiananmen Square, this mausoleum contains the embalmed body of Chairman Mao, and attracts crowds of tearful Chinese. Open 8am-noon, Tuesday to Sunday. travelchinaguide.com.

798 Arts District, Beijing

Designed by East German architects in the Bauhaus style in the early 1950s, this flourishing arts precinct in the north-east quarter of the city brings together designers, software engineers and architects, but the main attraction is the art galleries, including that of the provocative Ai Weiwei. 798district.com.

M50 Galleries, Shanghai

One of the best places to see Chinese modern art, this large creative art district is home to more than 100 artists who open their studios to the public. Wander at will. m50.com.cn.

Music Theatre concerts, Amsterdam

Musicians from the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir of De Nederlandse Opera and the Dutch Opera Studio present quality musical performances every Tuesday between 12.30pm and 1pm. het-muziektheater.nl.

Gassen Diamond Factory Tour, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has been in the diamond business for 425 years and this historic diamond factory offers tours to watch the diamond cutters as they slice and polish raw stone into precious gemstones. Don't ask for free samples - they're not amused. gassan.com.

The Cannabis College, Amsterdam

Amsterdam's favourite weed is the star attraction at the college's information centre, which offers a non-hysterical view of the uses of the cannabis sativa plant. cannabiscollege.com.

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Explore the mystery and diversity of world cultures, the natural world, art and design, science and technology and treasures from Scottish archaeological and mediaeval history. As well as artefacts from ancient Egypt, the wide-ranging collection also features one of Sir Elton John's extravagant suits and the stuffed body of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep. nms.ac.uk.

Glenlivet Distillery Tour, Ballindalloch, Banffshire

The home of single malt whisky offers a guided tour of the distillery, a visit to one of its bonded warehouses and a complimentary dram. The tour operates from March 25 to October 25. maltwhiskydistilleries.com.

Granville Island Water Park, Vancouver

Open from late May to early September, the water slide and geysers at this giant water park are a squirting, spurting kids' delight, just perfect for a sunny day.

Musee des Maitres et Artisans du Quebec, Montreal

Celebrates the traditional craftworkers of the province of Quebec with a fine display of the tools, furniture, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, statues and sacred objects from the everyday lives of French-Canadians from the 1600s onwards. mmaq.qc.ca.

Baha'i temple, New Delhi, India

Bearing more than a slight resemblance to the Sydney Opera House, this lotus-shaped temple is one of the centrepieces of the Baha'i faith, based optimistically on the oneness of God, the oneness of religions and the oneness of humankind. bahaihouseofworship.in.

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, India

This curious little museum dives into the depths of the throne we all share, to unwrap the evolution of the toilet, with examples dating back through history, as well as poetry, pictures and anecdotes. sulabhtoiletmuseum.org.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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