Cheap Tricks in Europe - Page 2

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Even better than discounted admission is free admission, and you'll find plenty of that throughout Europe. Some museums, historic sites and attractions are open free on select days, such as the first Sunday of the month; others are free all the time. Take Glasgow, where virtually all of the major museums are open free of charge, including the gorgeous Kelvingrove Museum, which will host a massive "Doctor Who" exhibition next year (Trust us, you'll like it, even if sci-fi isn't your thing). In London, the Tate Modern is free to visitors, although you have to pay for certain exhibitions. In Oslo, you'll find a slew of free museums, including the National Gallery, the Norwegian Museum of Magic (which hosts magic shows on Sundays), and the newly reopened Norwegian Museum of Architecture.

Speaking of architecture, Europe's many beautiful buildings offer the best free sightseeing anywhere. Walk by or wander into many of the world's great architectural treasures without reaching into your pocket, from the Eiffel Tower (no charge for looking from ground level) to the Houses of Parliament in London (you can watch parliamentary debates for free), to the breathtaking cathedrals in Florence, Milan, and Siena (many request a donation; the amount is up to you).

If you prefer to be on the outside, be sure to include city parks and squares on your itinerary. The life-affirming pandemonium of London's Piccadilly Circus, the baroque gardens of Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace, the sculptural tour de force of Oslo's Vigelandsparken; they're all fantastic and free. Also, take note of free fairs, festivals, and concerts, as well as regularly occurring spectacles like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, at Copenhagen's Amalienborg Palace, or in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, that give you an opportunity to rub elbows with locals and travelers. Wander through flea markets, farmer's markets, flower markets, or, in the winter, Christmas markets that offer great people-watching, cheap eats, and bargains.

Many tourist boards offer free, self-guided, walking tour maps with routes that include the top sites so you can plan your own rambles. You can also download free podcast walking tours, like the Dublin iWalks series, the Jane Austen downloadable MP3 tour of Bath, England, various city guides available from Enjoy England, or the "Walks of a Lifetime" series by Rudy Maxa, which includes Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Venice.

If you prefer to do your sightseeing in the company of a real live guide, there are ways to save on that too. One of the best is Sandeman's New Europe Tours. This Berlin-based company runs "tips-based" guided walking tours in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Hamburg, London, Munich, Paris, and of course Berlin. Your guide will likely be a student, teacher, local historian, journalist, or simply a genial resident, who will fill you with knowledge during a three-hour city walking tour. Technically, the tour is free, but the guides work for tips and they really do earn them.

For getting around most cities, your best and most economical modes of transportation are your own two feet. Wear comfortable shoes and walk, it's good for you and it costs you nothing. Cabs can be costly, so if you really feel the need to take a taxi, save it for a special occasion. Instead, familiarize yourself with public transport and use it when you need to. With few exceptions, it will be clean and reliable, and will take you where you need to go. (Remember, if you've purchased a city card for admission to sites and attractions, unlimited use of public transportation is usually included in the card's price, so get your money's worth!).

Another option that's becoming more and more widely available: free bikes. Look for special racks offering bikes at no charge or for nominal fees in Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Lyons, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, Vienna, and Zürich. In most places, swiping a credit card or inserting coins in the lock will release the bike for your use. When you're done, you simply return the bike to any designated rack and, in some cases, your coin will be returned.

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