For those who carry Philippine passports, Europe doesn’t fall under the category of budget travel. Pre-trip expenses like Visa application will take a chunk out of your travel fund. Add that to the average round-trip fare of ₱45,000, and you’re already breaking the bank. But if there’s one thing I learned from my first backpacking trip to the old continent, it’s this: While there are itineraries worth splurging on, there are many free (I repeat, FREE!) things you can do in Europe.
1. Wait for museum window hours.
When I was in Athens, they were celebrating European Heritage Days, which means free tickets to all museums and ancient ruins that weekend. In Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is free to enter from 7-9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays to Saturdays, while Museo del Prado has free window hours of 6-8 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays and 5-7 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
Before you swipe your credit card for museum tickets, ask Monseiur Google for information on museum window hours, free entry dates, and freebies/discounts for student, seniors, and PWDs.
2. Join free walking tours.
As I discussed in my previous vlog, Europe’s free walking tours aren’t actually free. They’re graituity-based. You decide how much you want to tip at the end of each tour, which still beats overpriced tours that aren’t really great. But if you want walking tours that are absolutely free, just Google “self-guided walking tours in [insert city of choice],” program the locations into your Google maps, and go!
3. Visit public cathedrals, gardens, parks, and plazas.
There are many public parks and plazas to explore on foot when you’re in Europe, each with its own distinct architecture. Things you can do there: have a picnic (which also saves money compared to dining in touristy restos), people-watch, and Instagram to your heart’s content. For cathedrals and gardens, look for the ones with no entrance fees.
4. Join backpacker activities.
If you’re a backpacker or flashpacker who booked a hostel, you’ll get access to their free daily activities, like rooftop parties, acquaintance parties, and game nights. Check the hostel bulletin board for updates.
If you didn’t book a hostel, you may still hang out with other adventurous travelers by downloading the Couchsurfing app. If, like me, you’re still wary about full-blown Couchsurfing (sleeping in a fellow member’s couch for free to save money), you may use the app’s other feature, Hangouts. It’s where you can browse through members’ organized activities—whether it’s a group hike or just a coffee break with other travelers.
I don’t see the point of paying travel organizers exorbitant amounts of money to take you to see a sunset. With so many picturesque public locations around Europe, just choose a spot where you can catch that amazing sunset for free.
6. Swim or sunbathe at public beaches.
Many of Europe’s public beaches are within walking distance or a quick bus/metro ride from the main city. Just bring a sarong or beach blanket, choose your spot, and work on your tan. Make sure you follow beach etiquette.
7. Explore street art.
Wherever you are in Europe, each city has its own community of artists. You’ll see a mix of both commissioned and illegal graffiti on the streets. There are walking tours that focus on exploring street art, but you may also go DIY. Just download a list of must-see murals and have a walk around the neighborhood.
8. Look for free events.
I’m not talking about buskers on the street. There are plenty of free public shows commissioned by the local government and events organized by the community. Check out the official city website to see what you can watch while you’re there. You might just catch something big, like a free concert or cultural show.
9. See natural formations.
Whether it’s a hill with a majestic view, secret cave, family-friendly lake, or lush forest, there are plenty of natural formations that you can explore for free. Join travel forums on Facebook to ask for tips from local guides and fellow travelers.
10. Explore the markets.
Free sights, sounds, and smells await you at the local markets. But when it’s time to pacify the other two senses, you need to whip out your wallet.