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. mozarteum.at
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. smk.dk
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. ram.ac.uk/events
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 (musee-moyenage.fr) and Museum of Arts and Sciences (arts-et-metiers.net) 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. bayerische.staatsoper.de
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. concertgebouw.nl
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. museuberardo.com
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.