Museum-mooching can be a pricey pursuit, but there’s no need to dust the cobwebs off your wallet to enjoy these esteemed collections. This extract from Lonely Planet's new edition of The Best Things in Life are Free tells you where to see world-class art and ancient artifacts in Europe without spending a penny.

The Prado Museum is considered one of the world's finest collections of European art © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
The Prado Museum is considered one of the world's finest collections of European art © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The Prado – Spain

Formerly a royal collection, this feast of fine art is now free every evening. One of the world’s greatest galleries, it boasts paintings by Goya, Raphael, Rubens and more.; Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain; free evenings Mon-Sun.

A shot downwards of a long hallway lined with paintings
See historic paintings for free in the Civic Guard Gallery, or Shuttersgalerij, in Amsterdam © Martin Moos / Lonely Planet

Schuttersgalerij – Netherlands

One of the world’s only "museum streets", the walk-through Civic Guard Gallery at the Amsterdam Museum mixes historic portraits with a sprinkling of Dutch Masters, some amusing modern artwork and a 350-year-old statue of Goliath.; Kalverstraat 92, Amsterdam, Netherlands; free.

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A close-up of a section of wall which gives way to a series of metal supports embedded in the ground
The open-air Berlin Wall Memorial is a moving insight into the realities of life in war-time Berlin © Torval Mork / Shutterstock

Berlin Wall Memorial – Germany

This poignant museum preserves the last surviving piece of the Berlin Wall, tells the story of the ghost station of Nordbahnhof S-Bahn, and relates tales of horror, heroism and hope on Bernauer Strasse.; Bernauer Strasse 119, Berlin, Germany; free.

Graffiti on a wall of a man looking out of a window with a woman standing behind him. A naked man dangles from the window ledge
You'll spot many murals and artworks on a stroll around Bristol's streets © 1000 Words / Shutterstock

Bristol Street Art – England

Free-range chinstrokers can enjoy some of the world’s best modern street art in Bristol. In Banksy’s home town, the al-fresco scene is sensational, with public spaces splattered with murals and installations by guerrilla artists.; Bristol, England; free.

A room with walls painted with murals of woodland and birds, with an ornate table and two chairs in the center
The Musée Carnavalet reopened in 2021 after a five-year renovation © Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Musée Carnavalet – France

History meets art in this peculiarly Parisian institution, where 100 Tardis-like rooms transport visitors through time, via paintings and artifacts from the City of Light’s illuminating past.; 16 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris, France; closed Mon; free.

The magnificent Great Hall of the British Museum © Chris Dorney / Shutterstock
The magnificent Great Hall of the British Museum © Chris Dorney / Shutterstock

British Museum – England

London’s full of famous freebies, but this mothership museum, packed with souvenirs accumulated during Britain's years of colonization, is top. You’ll never get around in one day – just come back.; Great Russell St, London, England; free.

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This article was originally published on August 1, 2016.

This article was first published Aug 1, 2016 and updated Oct 4, 2021.

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