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London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, with some museums costing over $20 for a ticket. But with a little planning the tourist can find plenty of free things in London that are still outstanding.

1)      Westminster Abbey

What’s this doing on a list of free things in London? We approached Westminster Abbey and were shocked to find an admission price of 16 pounds, about $26. For a family of four it would cost over $100 to go to church, granted it’s a famous church, but still. . .

But you can visit Westminster Abbey for free. Five nights a week Evensong services are offered at 5pm (3pm most weekends). This service isn’t highly publicized. To attend the service, walk over to the iron gate by the main entrance to the Abbey, not the side entrance used for paid admissions. Guides wearing bright scarlet capes and stern expressions stand blocking the gate. Tell them you’re there for Evensong and they step aside while cheerfully welcoming you.

The 45-minute service is beautifully rendered by the Abbey choir. There is not much time for strolling about the Abbey after the service but you do get to see enough. In many ways, Evensong is preferable to walking around the Church with hundreds of other visitors during the day. The visitor gets to experience Westminster Abbey for what it was originally designed, worship and prayer.

Click the link for more information and current service times: Westminster Abbey Evensong services.

2)      The Wallace Collection

Free things in London Wallace Collection London

We love museums that can be visited in about an hour or so; with many interesting items on display but whose size isn’t so daunting that we feel like we’re missing most of it. The Wallace Collection, housed in a historic London mansion, is one of those museums. It was owned by five generations of collectors, including a few Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, before becoming a public collection.

The collection has a little something for everyone: 18th-century French masterpieces and furniture, Galleries of Old Master paintings including Rembrandt, medieval religious manuscripts and a sterling collection of swords and armor.  The museum surround an open-air courtyard restaurant for snacks and afternoon tea.

Website: www.WallaceCollection.org

3)      Royal Air Force Museum

Free things in London RAF Museum

The RAF museum is about a 30-minute Tube ride from central London. It has an incredible amount of planes and helicopters on display in four large hangars. As airplane geeks we’ve been to many aviation museums and this may be the largest. One building is devoted to RAF’s derring do in the World War II Battle of Britain. Antique plane enthusiasts will enjoy the collection of pioneering airplanes in the 1917 Grahame-White Hangar, the UK’s first aircraft factory. If you are traveling with young kids there is LOTS of room to run around and burn off some energy.

Website: www.RAFMuseum.org

4)      Museum of the City of London

Free things in London Museum of London

Photo courtesy www.TravelCultureMag.com

Long before the kings, queens and Big Ben, London was a prehistoric settlement and then a Roman outpost. This museum takes the visitor on a time travel tour from the city’s distant past up to the present day. A combination of displays and interactive exhibits hold the attention of all ages. Feel the heat of the Great Fire of 1666, attend an 18th-century garden party and stroll through Victorian streets before going to the movies in the Roaring Twenties and hanging out with Mick Jagger and Twiggy in the 1960’s. The museum’s location gets visitors in the mood: a starkly modern structure built along the remains of ancient Roman Walls.

Website: www.museumoflondon.org.uk

5)  Victoria and Albert Museum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto courtesy of Walter Lim, Flickr

If decorative arts is your thing, the “V&A” is the place to go. This mammoth museum, located in swanky South Kensington, has some of the world’s largest collections of fashion, textiles, ceramics, jewellery (the “Veddy British” spelling), furniture and glass. Channel your inner designer by viewing the stunning collection of drawings, many of which provide insight on the design process. If you still have the energy, they have wonderful paintings as well.

Note: Although admission is free, the V&A can be a little overwhelming. If you’re pressed for time, or simply prefer to have someone point out the best things to see, we recommend booking this V&A Highlights tour from Viator.

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!London  red double-decker bus with black and white background

A few other free things in London:

6)  British Museum – Massive collection of over 8 million objects. www.BritishMuseum.org

7)  National Maritime Museum – The largest maritime museum in the world with pride of place going to Admiral Nelson, including the bloody uniform he was wearing when he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. www.rmg.co.uk

8) National Army Museum — Great Britain has a pretty long military history so the Army Museum is a sprawling complex detailing battles going back centuries. I did find one glaring gap though. Their army didn’t seem to be involved in any activity between the War of Spanish Succession that ended in 1714 and the Napoleonic Wars that started in 1795. It seems a little skirmish that occurred in the American colonies has been forgotten.
Web Site: http://www.nam.ac.uk/

[Note: The National Army Museum is temporarily closed until spring 2017 due to a major retrofit.]

9)  The Wellcome Collection – The ghoulish may be interested in this medical collection which includes various body parts and antique medical devices. www.WellcomeCollection.org

10) Tate Modern – We’re not that into modern art, a pile of bricks that looked like they were left by a worker was one of the displays. But if you’re into that sort of thing this is the place to see them. Here’s information on visiting the Tate Modern.

Bonus Pick:

11) Abbey Road – Don’t forget to be a Beatle for a day and cross Abbey Road. It’s free and a lot of fun. Here’s information on how to cross Abbey Road.

This list highlighted 11 free things to do in London. Here’s a list of the 25 best things to do in London.

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Here are the top books about traveling to London.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

I must confess that I am not an opera fan but I found visiting the Luciano Pavarotti Home in Italy to be fascinating; sort of like Graceland for opera buffs. Recently opened to the public, the museum is set in a bucolic setting on a one-lane road outside his childhood home of Modena. Though he became one of the most famous people in the world who traveled everywhere, he was still a hometown boy at heart.

Luciano Pavarotti House Museum exterior

The house where he lived for the final years of his life, and where he died in 2007, is entirely open to visitors. This compares to Graceland where Presley’s second floor living quarters are off-limits.

Pavarotti House Museum in Italy

The audio guide that comes with admission shares the tenor’s role in designing the house and background information on the exhibits.

Pavarotti house museum kitchen

Visitors also learn about Pavarotti’s signature handkerchief which he always clutched in his hand during performances. He used it in his early years to overcome nervousness about performing. You’ll see them in his walk-in bedroom closet along with Pavarotti’s omnipresent Panama hats and Hermes scarves.

Pavarotti Hawaiian shirt

I didn’t realize that Pavarotti was also an accomplished painter. Many of his colorful paintings are on display as well as the equally colorful Hawaiian shirts he loved to wear offstage.

Pavarotti home costumes

Costumes from his key roles, revealing that he was not just a big man in girth but rather tall too.

Pavarotti Museum piano

An exhibit of letters from the great singer’s friends reads like who’s who of world celebrities and includes Princess Diana, Frank Sinatra, Bono and Bruce Springsteen. A room covered with pillows on the floor to sit on shows home movies of Pavarotti vamping it up around the house and getting ready backstage for his performances. In his unguarded moments you can see how much he enjoyed life and being around people.

During the tour Pavarotti’s music voice is paying out of a great sound system. Thus inspired, I went and downloaded my first Pavarotti album.

Pin it!You don't have to be an opera buff to enjoy visiting the home of the late maestro Luciano Pavarotti outside Modena, Italy

Visiting Luciano Pavarotti’s Home/Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

Address: Stradello Nava 6, Modena, Italy

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission: Adults, 8 euros; adults (over 65), children (12-18), 6 euros, children under 12, free. Includes audio guide .

Web: Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land Pass

The Modena is also the home of Ferrari. The Luciano Pavarotti House Museum can be visited as part of the Ferrari & Pavarotti Land Pass which provides admission to over a dozen attractions in the region including two Ferrari museums and artisanal food producers.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

A museum dedicated to the Man in Black opened in Nashville, Tennessee. The Johnny Cash Museum, a block off the fabled Broadway music district, almost brings the man back to life through artful displays of recordings, artifacts and memories.

The first display is a series of pylons devoted to each decade of Johnny Cash’s musical career; an imbedded iPad allows visitors to select four different music videos for each decade, allowing one to watch Cash’s career progression from up-and-coming star to American legend.

johnny cash museum nashville interior

One poignant video in his last decade highlights one of his last performances with his wife, June Carter Cash. It’s clear that they both are ailing, but once the music starts they each start swaying to the beat and belting out the song, revealing their decades of professionalism.

Interesting tidbits of Cash’s life are shared. Among them, in the 1950s he was a radio operator monitoring Soviet military traffic for the United States Air Force while stationed in Germany, and was the first Westerner to relay the news of Stalin’s death.

Cash’s deeply religious feelings are on display including a copy of his personal Bible and a documentary film he recorded in Israel. Snippets of this film are shown in a 20-seat theater along with clips from his brief movie career.

johnny cash museum nashville guitar

The museum accesses a treasure trove of Cash’s personal memorabilia, including outfits he wore on stage, guitars and notes from his songwriting. He is the only person to be enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriting Hall of Fame.

On September 12, 2013 Johnny Cash will have been gone for ten years; but at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, the Man in Black still looms larger than life.

Visiting the Johnny Cash Museum

Address: 119 Third Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37201

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Website: For further information go to the Johnny Cash Museum.

Time to allow: About an hour.

Who should go? Lovers of country music, roots music, rock and roll and Americana.

Is it worth it? At $17 for most adults it’s not cheap, but that’s the going rate for attractions in Nashville. However, the museum is thorough in its storytelling and offers a depth of personal memorabilia related to June Carter and Johnny Cash that won’t be found elsewhere.

What’s your favorite Johnny Cash song?

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Australia is often thought of as a laid-back nation whose relaxed citizens seem to be on permanent vacation. Perhaps this carefree attitude is due to more than 90% of the population living within the siren call of the beach. While much of their culture has been formed by an outlook based on surf and sand, the country has also experienced dark days and challenges throughout its history.

Victoria Barracks

victoria barracks sydney
There are several sights in Sydney that highlight the country’s military legacy.  A good place to start is at the Victoria Barracks, located on twenty-nine acres in the neighborhood of Paddington. Built in the 1840s by mostly convict labor, the colonnaded sandstone buildings are one of the finest historic barracks in the world.

Free tours are offered on Thursdays by the Victoria Barracks Corps of Guides, retired veterans wearing khaki Army slouch hats and blue blazers. Our guide, David, started our tour in the Guard House with a visit to the four cells that held “drunken and outrageous persons.” This being an Army base with young soldiers away from home, the cells were eventually expanded into another building.

victoria barracks sydney

David pointed out a metal badge on his cap and explained the significance of the crown in the center of the Australian Army symbol. The current logo has a female crown (yes, male and female crowns are different) representing the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II. He pointed out that after “Lizzie goes” the logo will be updated to show a male crown for King Charles, or perhaps King William. Loyalty to the monarchy lives on in the Australian Army.

ANZAC  Memorial Sydney

The ANZAC Memorial is located in Hyde Park in central Sydney.  The term ANZAC is a revered one. It refers to the Australia New Zealand Army Corps that fought on the shifting sands of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey in World War I. It turned out to be a disaster; the soldiers were pinned to the beach and under constant enemy fire for eight months, only to be evacuated with tremendous losses.

ANZAC Memorial Sydney

Australians, being the positive creatures they are, view the battle as a supreme example of their soldiers’ gallantry and fortitude. One Korean War veteran explained that even though Gallipoli was a major defeat, “The nation was forged by that battle, it made Australia the nation that it is today. You can’t overestimate its significance.”

The square, 98-foot tall Art Deco memorial is clad in pink granite quarried from nearby Bathurst.  The interior’s main focus is a poignant statue of a soldier, whose lifeless body lies on a sword and shield, being held aloft by three women and an infant representing mother, wife, sister and child; those who were left behind by the brutality of war.

ANZAC memorial sydney sacrifice statue

The cruciform base of the Memorial houses a museum dedicated to Australia’s military history right up to the Gulf War. In the World War II section we were drawn to the display of Warrant Officer GN Milne’s diary; he was stationed at a hospital in Darwin, Australia when it was damaged by Japanese bombing raids.

The Australian National Maritime Museum

The last stop on our personal military campaign of Sydney was the Australian National Maritime Museum; perfect for a nation that is defined by the sea. The exhibition combines the finest aspects of a traditional museum—glass cases chock full of memorabilia—with the hands-on features of a “Please Touch” display.

The interactive displays include one where the visitor plays the role of a submarine sonar technician trying to decipher garbled underwater sounds. The player guesses what each sound represents and is promoted (or demoted) based on their response. We kept at it for some time until we could finally tell the difference between a group of porpoises and a damaged piston rod.

australian mational maritime museum lord nelson figurehead

At this point we had been to enough sobering military displays for one day. Fortunately the Maritime Museum also has an exhibit devoted to the nation’s surfing heritage. This is the Australia that lives on in foreign perceptions of the country. While the typical Australian’s outlook on life is pretty sunny, it is a nation that has witnessed dark clouds as well.

In one day we were able to witness both sides of Australia. A nation that was forged on the sands of Gallipoli was later nurtured on the sands of its beaches to create the vibrant country that it is today.

Visitor information:

Victoria Barracks/Army Museum of New South Wales

Location: Oxford Street in Paddington, a ten-minute bus ride from the center of Sydney. Buses 378, 380 and 382 stop right in front.

Web: Victoria Barracks and Army Museum of New South Wales

ANZAC Memorial

Location: Hyde Park South in the center of Sydney. Pretty much every city bus stops here. The nearest train station is Museum Station

Web: http://www.anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au/

Australian National Maritime Museum

Location: Darling Harbour in Sydney. Easy access from the city center by foot, bus, light rail, ferry or monorail.

Web: http://www.anmm.gov.au/site/page.cfm

This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Centre may be the only museum in the world that prints this disclaimer on their tickets: “Everything on display has been inspected 100% free from explosives.” Would that the fields in the nearby countryside were so safe.

It was founded by Aki Ra, whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was five years old. He was later forced to become a child-soldier, receiving his first rifle when he was 10.

The museum displays the terrible toll landmines have taken, and continue to take, in Cambodian lives and advocates the banning of their use around the world. An ancillary mission is to continue the work of demining Cambodia and provide housing for about two dozen children who have been injured by hidden mines that still pose an explosion risk.

Cambodian landmine museum entrance (575x442)The museum was founded by Aki Ra, a former child soldier during the Khmer Rouge era, infamous as the time of The Killing Fields. He started clearing mines on his own in 1997, setting up the museum a short time later. The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Centre is now an NGO that raises funds for mine victims and to continue clearing fields. Over 500 people a year are still injured by mines, many of them children playing or farming in the fields.

Cambodian landmine museum minefield (575x427)

As many as six million mines were placed in the Cambodian countryside. Not surprisingly, Cambodia has one of the highest rates of mine amputee victims in the world.

Cambodian landmine museum pile of mines (575x523)

This building displays the wide variety of these lethal killers. After they were laid in fields the people who put them there often forget where they were  placed, making removal difficult.

cambodian landmine museum

Many of the mines come from Vietnam, the United States and Russia. It’s rather sobering to see all the mines tagged with “Made in U.S.A.” labels.

Cambodian landmine museum mines up close (575x438)

The mines up close. When they are placed in fields most of what you see here is hidden from any unsuspecting passerby.

Cambodian landmine museum gift shop (575x441) Yes there’s even a gift shop. Proceeds go to the Relief Fund.

angkor wat landmine victim band

At nearby Angkor Wat, bands of landmine victims play for tips from the tourists.

Cambodia landmine band Angkor Wat (575x438)

Although this site is a museum, it is not just educating about things that happened in the past. There are still thousands of lethal mines hidden in the countryside. The mission of the museum is to eradicate this ongoing problem.

Further information can be found at The Landmine Relief Fund This registered American charity assists Aki Ra in his demining activities.

For the museum’s website go to: Cambodia Landmine Museum

There are so many free things to do in New York it’s tough to know where to begin. Here are a few involving entertainment, nature and culture.

1. Watch a TV show or movie being filmed

 

Golden Boy tv show taping New York

This realistic looking press conference at the Manhattan courthouse is actually a taping for the upcoming TV series Golden Boy.

If you have a favorite show that films in NYC, you can find daily filming locations info on http://www.onlocationvacations.com/ (look a the once-a-day locations post). Their twitter @olv also posts updates throughout the day.

Stars I’ve stumbled on filming include: Julia Roberts, JLo, Pierce Brosnan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the cast of Gossip Girl. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll also see celebrities just walking around. I always do.

 2. Attend a free taping of The View

 

The view TV show studio

Wait on line outside the studio.

Going to TV show tapings is a combination of fun and torture. There’s a lot of waiting and you’re likely to be cramped and hot. But, it’s exciting to see how TV is made. My favorite taping was seeing the ladies of The View. (I don’t recommend going to a taping of a half hour TV show because the ratio of waiting time to action isn’t worth it).

For The View, you can request tickets in advance or try standby tickets. Since I live outside the US, I can’t sign up for advance tickets, so I ended up going standby. I’ve tried 4 times and got tickets twice. Both times I got up very early to be first, or close to first, in the standby line. I got there by 6am. The studio is 320 W 66th St.

If you’re trying standby, you can increase your chances by doing the following: go on a day with a less popular guest, when it’s raining, or a day they are taping two shows (you’ll need to swing by the studio at the beginning of the week to ask which is their two show day as it changes from week to week). The View typically tapes 4 days a week. And you know never what free gift they might be giving out that day.

3. Attend a free reading by your favorite author

I love seeing authors on book tour. Since NYC is the publishing capital of the world, there’s always an author event scheduled.

The best location for big name authors is the flagship Barnes and Noble on Union Square. Sometimes independent bookstores also host big names or authors who have a cult following. Try McNally Jackson (see their event calendar) or Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore. The Skint  lists author events, and lists many other free or cheap activities that well off the tourist trail.

4. Take a moonlight bike ride around Central Park

An environmental group called Times Up organizes a free 10PM nighttime ride around Central Park.  It’s only held once a month but it’s an amazing experience! Check their calendar here. If you’re not in NYC at the right time for the moonlight bike ride, you can take various free walking tours of sections of Central Park. Details here.

5. Bryant Park

Bryant Park New York CityBryant Park is on 42nd street, just a few blocks from Times Square. In winter there’s an ice skating rink that’s free if you bring your own skates. Any time of year Bryant Park is just a lovely place to sit out and people watch. If you need to do any work, you can also step inside to the reading room at the next door NYC public library (ye,s the famous one). Hundreds of desks are equipped with laptop points and free wifi, all in a historic setting. Authors, and aspiring ones too, often go there for inspiration.

6. Free Friday nights at the Museum of Modern Art

Admission to MOMA is free on Fridays from 4pm till 8pm.  It’s better to go later as it’s less crowded. The normal adult rate is $25 so this is a great saving. It’s the perfect way to start your weekend in the city that never sleeps!

Kate of 30traveler writes a blog about travel beyond backpacking, featuring short and long trips with a focus on  vegan/vegetarian travel. Check it out or follow @30traveler onTwitter orFacebook.

What free activities do you recommend in New York?

Berlin’s transit system is easy to navigate with the Berlin WelcomeCard. Because it is valid on all forms of transportation, the Berlin WelcomeCard is very convenient. Use it on the U-Bahn (underground trains), S-Bahn (surface trains), Bus and Tram. No worrying about the correct change or the right type of ticket, Read more

The National Museum of Flight in Scotland stands out even among other aviation museums. It sits on a former airfield used in both World War I and World War II. One hangar is devoted to a display of the Concorde, the record-breaking supersonic airliner. Visitors can walk inside the Concorde Read more

I tend to like museums like the Roger Maris Museum that are devoted to one person. They usually fly under the radar and reflect local civic pride honoring a native son or daughter. The Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bike Museum that I visited in Sparta, Wisconsin comes to mind. As far as I know it’s the only museum in the world dedicated to a NASA astronaut and bicycles. Who knew they had so much in common? (Although I am impressed by whoever came up with the name for the “Rockets & Sprockets” gift shop inside.)

Often the exhibits have the sort of homespun memorabilia and little known facts that aren’t found in larger museums. Thus with a high degree of anticipation I sought out the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, North Dakota.

Roger Maris Museum

Roger Maris Museum, Fargo, North Dakota

At first I couldn’t find it. I double checked the address and instead of a museum all I could see was the West Acres Shopping Center, a large regional mall. In Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania I came across a mall that has the aptly named “Church on the Mall” so I finally realized that the museum was actually in the mall; somewhere among the shops and kiosks selling personalized coffee mugs and tutti-frutti  yogurt.  I went inside and there it was, occupying a prime corner piece of real estate between Spencer Gifts and Tip Top Tux.

The tagline for the museum is “A permanent shrine to a reluctant hero.” Maris was a soft-spoken player who didn’t let his fame get to his head. He only agreed to the museum if it was placed in his hometown of Fargo, was free and was at a site where the greatest number of people could see it; and that’s how the museum dedicated to the man who broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record ended up at a suburban North Dakota shopping mall.

Roger Maris signed baseball card

Maris is in pretty good company

For being in a mall the exhibit is well done. Maris donated every major piece of memorabilia he had. On display are his two MVP awards (that’s right his record shattering year wasn’t some flash in the pan, he won the MVP in 1960 as well) and various uniforms, bats and home run balls from throughout his career. A little nook off to the side has seats from the original Yankee Stadium where you can sit and watch a grainy newsreel highlighting Maris’ career.

His single season home run record was later broken several times by players who could only do so because they were puffed up on steroids. Reflecting on Maris’ accomplishments made me realize that he should be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I’m not saying that just because when I was a chubby little kid he gave me his autograph. Although it didn’t hurt.

Here’s a link to the Roger Maris Museum. Next time you’re in Fargo check it out.