Affordable Europe: High culture on a low budget

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012

In 2008, there are several ways for culture hunters to sample Europe's fine arts without spending a eurocent.

Austria: Mostly Mozart

Amadeus aficionados should head to Salzburg for the free Mozart Sound and Film Museum, featuring set designs, costume samples, and a film loop of scenes from Amadeus. It's the free part of the International Mozarteum Foundation.

Brussels, Riga, Rome, Madrid, and Paris: White Nights

These capitals have become famous for their annual White Nights festivals. Between the end of August and early September, each city hosts an all-nighter with free admission to museums, theaters, and various concerts. Berlin, Prague, and Zürich host similar Museum Nights. Info available from each city's tourist office and tourism websites.

Denmark: Strokes of Genius

A brilliant intersection of old and new, the Statens Museum for Kunst is the best source for free art in Copenhagen. Through August, you can watch restorers touch up a masterpiece by Jacob Jordaens, if you beeline for Room 272.

England: The Royal Treatment

London's Royal Academy of Music offers free concerts by its students nearly every day. You may earn bragging rights years from now when you can say that you saw the next Yo Yo Ma or Callas when he or she was still in school.

France: Très Chic!

Paris has many free museums, such as the Museum of the Romantic Life and the Paris Fashion Museum. Recently, the Museum of the Middle Ages ( and Museum of Arts and Sciences ( also became free—through at least June 2008.

Germany: Support the Opera—Have a Beer

In Munich, beer was taxed to fund the Bavarian State Opera, and now the opera company is giving back to the community with outdoor "Opera For All" concerts. On July 12, the company will perform works by Charles Ives and Franz Schubert on the Marstallplatz, which is a secluded square behind the opera house. The next day, you can watch a live simulcast of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin on the house's façade.

The Netherlands: Going Dutch

In Amsterdam, take a lunch break with the national orchestra, which plays free Wednesday concerts of (primarily) classical music September through June, from 12:30 to 1:00, at the concert hall Het Concertgebouw.

Portugal: Dollar Power

Lisbon is one of the cheapest capitals of Western Europe, relatively speaking. While most of Lisbon's museums are free on Sundays, the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is free seven days a week through 2008.

Olivia Giovetti, who runs the fabulous blog, High Culture on a Low Budget.


Read Budget Travel's April article "10 Tricks to Beat the High Cost of Europe", which goes beyond common sense advice for truly creative solutions.

The article's by Tim Leffel, who runs the blog Cheapest Destinations.

PHOTO Courtesy of SantaRosa Old Skool's via Flickr and Creative Commons

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London: A guidebook with a new gimmick

Debuting this month, Ideo Eyes Open dispenses with the trappings of the standard city guidebook. Its New York City edition, for instance, doesn't have a subway map or info on the city's most famous museums. Similarly, its London edition points you to the city's hottest cupcake shop rather than Big Ben. What the guidebooks do offer is plenty of captioned photos of spots where you rub shoulders with locals, not tourists—as this slide show illustrates. In a surprise move, the photos are cross-indexed by theme and activity, somewhat like a children's Choose Your Own Adventure book. You're encouraged to flip back and forth through different pages, discovering boutique shops, foodie havens, and similar venues. The Wapping Project is a "former hydraulic power plant turned gallery/restaurant/bar hybrid." Another tip from the book: Instead of taking high tea at a hotel lounge, go to Coffee@157. The light fixtures in this coffeehouse, as you can see, are made of to-go cups. Outside, a yellow vending machine dispenses artworks for less than 5 pounds each. (011-44/20-7729-2666). The Ideo guidebooks will amuse some travelers and irritate others. The only way to find out how you'll react is to take a peek for yourself. We've collected a bunch of images and tips from the London edition in our slide show. Images courtesy of Ideo Eyes Open: London by Fred Dust and Ideo (Chronicle Books), recently $16 at Amazon. EARLIER Paris through a photographer's eyes.


Shopping: Souvenir savior

Ah, souvenirs—the tangible (and sometimes embarrassing) reminders of a trip. But did you know you can buy souvenirs for trips you haven't taken? In 2005, Alisa Grifo started Kiosk, full of thriftstore-like finds from across the globe. About three times a year, she goes on a trip to scavenge for true-to-their-origin items—Chinese New Year pinwheels from Hong Kong, Ice Fishing Line Weights from Finland, and handmade dishes from Mexico. She goes to markets, grocery stores, cafes—anywhere locals go, picking the shop owners' brains all the way. As she wrote on her site, "The goods assembled together in Kiosk become a rough portrait of each trip." Grifo focuses on offering items from one destination at a time. Currently, it's Hong Kong. You'll find her wares at Kiosk, a brick-and-mortar shop in New York City on 95 Spring Street, and at —JD Rinne Birdwhistles, $3 each, from Kiosk CORRECTED at 10:25 a.m.: Due to an editor's error, this post originally gave the incorrect price for the birdwhistles.


Paris through a photographer's eyes

We challenged a photographer to capture glimpses of unexpected, everyday life in Paris—and found ourselves falling in love with the city all over again. Ian Gittler is an author, photographer, and designer living in New York City. He is currently working on two new long-form books, one about youth culture and another comprised of detailed still lifes of vintage motors. Check out his slide show of fresh, evocative images of Paris. You can also catch him online at


A tour of baseball's cathedral

If baseball is a religion, then Yankee Stadium is its grand cathedral. In its 85 years of existence, "The House That Ruth Built" has played host to some of the greatest moments in baseball history—as well as the greatest players. But with its destruction imminent, and a new stadium slated to open in 2009, now is your last chance to take in the history of baseball's grand old lady. As game tickets are hard to come by, there's no better way to do so than to take the Yankee Stadium tour. Check out my slide show and read all about my tour of Yankee Stadium after the jump. I discovered the benefits of attending ballpark tours as opposed to actual games last year when my wife and I visited Seattle. The Safeco Field tour was much shorter than a game (45 minutes vs. three-plus hours) and easier to schedule (10 a.m. vs. 7:30 p.m.). The tour also granted us access to areas a casual fan would never see. And it was a huge bonus not having to sacrifice a night of our trip for two teams we couldn't care less about. Back home, I told my wife that as a lifelong Yankees fan, I had to tour Yankee Stadium before it was destroyed. Recently, I was fortunate enough to make the trip to the Bronx. The Classic Tour begins at the Yankee Stadium press gate. Your guide will lead you up the winding ramps to the Press Box, where you can sit in the same seats as the reporters who cover the game. You get a firsthand look at how a sportswriter sees the game. From there, it's down an elevator to the Yankees' clubhouse, where the players dress, eat, shower, and work out. No photography is allowed in this inner sanctum, but there's plenty to see. Lockers line the walls, and above each is a replica of the famed Yankee Stadium frieze. If you look closely in the back left of the room, you'll see the locker of beloved team captain Thurman Munson—untouched since his tragic death in a plane crash in 1979. Next you'll head to the field level for a chance to sit in the dugout. You can see what every major league ballplayer sees when he's not out on the field. You'll also see why most of these players lean against the railing during games rather than sit down. It turns out the view from the bench isn't all that good! You'll then walk along the outskirts of the field (be sure to stay off the grass!) to left field and Monument Park—the most famous location within Yankee Stadium. It's a shrine to all of the legendary players who have donned the pinstripes over the years. You'll find monuments to Hall of Fame players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle, as well as plaques for non-players, like the one for long-time stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard. Depending on the season, there are more than half a dozen tour guides. If you're lucky, though, you'll get Tony Morante. Not only is he the head honcho of the tour department, but he's also been a Yankee employee for fifty years, so you know he's got his share of really good stories! The Yankees haven't officially announced an end date for the tours, as they haven't even finalized when the old stadium will be destroyed. They're still in the midst of planning special events to commemorate the end of an era, including a Papal Mass on April 20 and the hosting of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 15. MORE INFO Yankee Stadium tours are held most days except on weekends when the Yankees are home and weekdays when the Yankees have a home day game. Through March 16, 2008, prices are $15 for adults and $8 for children (14 and under) and seniors (60 and over). The tours end then, and resume on April 8, with prices rising to $20 for adults and $15 for children and seniors. For full details, visit the official site of the New York Yankees.