There’s no doubt that Europe has some fantastic attractions. Iconic buildings and fascinating museums see millions of visitors every year – visitors that part with their hard-earned cash as they enter.
However, it’s not just the attractions that charge an entry fee that are worth seeing.
There is a wealth of great days out waiting for you all over the continent with the added bonus of not costing you a penny, cent, kuna, forint, koruna or franc to get in. Here are 10, some well-known and some less so, that we think are worth seeking out.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
We start with one of the most famous buildings in Europe. Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral has featured in film, art and literature for centuries and is sure to be on the must-see list of every tourist to pass through the French capital.
Luckily, whilst there is a small charge if you want to ascend the bell tower or descend into the crypt, entrance into the main building, where you will find the stunning rose windows, is completely free. It’s best to get there early though before the crowds build up and avoid public holidays.
Incidentally, if you have ID to prove you are under 26 and live within the European Union, there are plenty of other Paris attractions that are free or offer a reduced entrance fee. This handy website lists them all.
Kalemegdan Fortress, Belgrade
Belgrade has some excellent attractions that allow you to learn about the history of the city and Serbia on the whole. Standing in a commanding position, overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, the Kalemegdan Fortress is one such place and entry through the main gate is free.
Like Notre Dame, it will cost you to climb any of the towers or see the Roman Well but you can experience what it’s like to be inside the walls, explore the castle grounds and enjoy some great views without doing this.
Museo del Prado, Madrid
If you’re a fan of art then the Prado is one of the best museums in Europe and so the fact that entry is free every evening is fantastic if you find yourself on a Madrid city break. Visit between 6pm and 8pm on Monday to Saturday or 5pm and 7pm on a Sunday or Bank Holiday and you can enjoy as much Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya as you like.
Famous for having a comprehensive collection of European art from the 12th century to the 20th century, Museo del Prado is home to paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs. Don’t worry if you don’t have the time to see it all though, there are specific routes designed to show you the highlights on a whistle-stop tour.
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo
If you prefer your art to be out in the open air, be sure to venture into the Vigeland Sculpture Park on your next Oslo city break. This is the largest sculpture park in the world created by just a single artist (in this case, Gustav Vigeland) and features over 200 different statues made from bronze, granite and wrought iron.
One of the great things about this public attraction is that it is situated within the larger Frogner Park. Once you have finished admiring Vigeland’s work, take a peaceful stroll around the rest of the area. There’s a swimming pool, ice rink, restaurants and the city museum to discover.
Fishermans’s Bastion, Budapest
Climb to one of the highest points on the Buda side of the river and you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Budapest’s parliament building, Chain Bridge and the Danube waterfront. Take the funicular or a leisurely 10-minute stroll up the hill and you’ll find yourself in the castle district. Whilst you’re here, you can also see the beautiful Matthias Church and the fascinating Hospital in the Rock museum.
The Fisherman’s Bastion was built as a viewing terrace around the edge of the castle and coincided with renovations to the Matthias Church. There are seven towers to represent the seven Magyar tribes of Hungary. They have started to charge a small fee to climb up to the top level of the bastion but it is free to enjoy the views and take pictures from the bottom level or the adjacent steps.
Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Whether you are religious or not, Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world. This part of Rome is jam-packed with iconic tourist attractions, including the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Square and Castel Sant'Angelo, but if you’re on a tight budget and you have plenty of time on your hands, a visit to the basilica is a must.
Crowds have been known to snake around the square, so there’s a need to time your visit right. However, once inside, you’ll be able to see St. Peter’s Baldachin and plenty of other gilded treasures and adornments. Don’t forget to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, and arrive as close to the 7am opening time as possible to avoid the lines.
Prague Castle, Prague
Many believe that the famous Charles Bridge is the best free attraction in the Czech capital (and it definitely is worth a visit), but getting to see Prague Castle for yourself is arguably more impressive. True, there’s a charge to enter the interior but tourists are free to wander the castle grounds and view structures built in various different architectural styles.
Having initially been founded in the 9th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site looms over the city from almost every angle. As well as exploring the area, you can watch the changing of the guard every day at Midday.
Of all the buildings that make up the Berlin skyline, the Reichstag stands out the most. And, whilst the main part is reserved for the German government, it is possible to tour the roof terrace and the iconic dome. All you need to do is register here and you can choose the date and time that you wish to visit.
When you enter the dome, a structure created by architect Norman Foster to celebrate a reunited Germany, you will be able to learn about the history of this important building and admire fantastic views over the rest of Berlin.
The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen
This is one of the most photographed spots in Copenhagen and you’re sure to see a crowd of people at the end of Langelinje Pier every day trying to catch a glimpse of the unassuming statue. Gifted to the city by brewer Carl Jacobsen, the sculpture celebrates Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Little Mermaid, later turned into a blockbuster Disney film.
After snapping your shots, you can head to Assistens Cemetery to pay your respects to the author himself. There are other notable Danish people buried here too and the park is very peaceful.
Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, Vienna
The free part of the attraction may be quite restricted but you will still get the chance to see the resplendent palace and gardens in all their glory. The palace itself and many of the special gardens required a ticket to enter, but the rest of the complex is open to be explored.
You’re free to enter any time after 6.30am and admire the manicured lawns and brightly coloured flower beds. Many people also use this as an interesting setting for a morning jog.
If you would like to visit any of these free attractions, we can tailor-make a city break to your requirements. Just tell us when and where you would like to go and we will do the rest. Call the Fred.\ Holidays team on 0800 988 3369 or click here to fill in an online form.