The Top 9 Extraordinary Free Museums in The World Last Updated 17-12-2019

Museums are one of the most interesting and popular places among new visitors to a city. Especially for those who like culture tours, museums are gems. I put together the top free museums I love across the globe. Be aware – these are not like the popular museums on every guide. I guarantee they are unusual free things to do for travel lovers.


1- For Art Lovers: Salt Galata, Istanbul

Salt Galata is one of the art galleries of Istanbul that has been hosting many art events in recent years. It was designed by French-born architect Alexandre Vallauri and first opened in 1892. It currently hosts an auditorium that can accommodate 230 people, the Museum of the Ottoman Bank, workshop rooms, open archives, cafes, bars and restaurants and shopping stores.

Must do when in Salt Galata: Visit the library. It’s a wonderful ambience, one of the most beautiful libraries in Turkey.

Suggested art tour when in Istanbul: Art Walks

Photo credits to Levent Kopuz.


2- A paradise for art, colour and architecture: Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen

Thorvaldsens Museum is one of the most popular cultural institutions in Copenhagen, Denmark. The museum holds a large collection of art by world-known sculptors from the beginning of the 19th century. The museum is also known for the vivid colour works and its grand architectural design.

It’s free admission to this Museum on Wednesdays. Check their website for the latest info.

Photo credits to Kristoffer Trolle.


3- Play on a giant chess board in the open air: Chess Museum, Amsterdam

Max Euwe, famous for his quote "Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation" was the fifth player to become the World Chess Champion. This museum is for chess lovers and for people who would like to learn the history of chess and the history of Max Euwe. It’s quite central, in the Leidseplein in the direction of Cultural Center De Balie. Visit chess museum page for directions.

Must do when in Leidseplein: Visit Holland’s best-known coffee-shop The Bulldog.


4- Treasures of China: Red Sandalwood Museum, Beijing              

Beijing brings together the arts and sciences in a wide range of fascinating museums. But this museum is not like any other. It is the first and largest private museum in China dedicated to the collection, research, preservation and display of red sandalwood ancient architecture and artworks. Red sandalwood is a rare Chinese wood. For those inspired by the visit, the museum shop has many gift options from budget to luxury to take home. It offers free admission on the first Saturday of every month and special days. For the latest information, check their website.

Photo credits to beijingattractions.org.


5- Cutting-edge Art: The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles

The Hammer Museum hosts of one the best lecture halls in LA. It is a cultural hub in Westwood while also being an experimental museum that hosts the works of artists who challenge us to see the world in a new light and to experience the unexpected. This intellectual culture spot has free admission. See Hammer Museum page for opening hours.

Must do when in Hammer Museum: Visit its museum shop which is named one of the city’s best by Los Angeles Magazine.

Photo credits to Joseph Maddela.


6- Museum of Unheard of Things, Berlin

The oddest objects – and the even odder stories behind them… The museum does not have a specific theme. The Museum der Unerhörten Dinge has such a variety of unexpected items, from a letter from Sigmund Freud to a piece of iron from Chernobyl. There is no need for further explanation. If you visit this museum, you will have a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s open Wednesday - Friday 15:00 - 19:00.

Photo credits to Roland Albrecht.


7- MusEYEum, London

As the name suggests, this museum, officially named the British Optical Association Museum, is all about eyes and historical ophthalmic instruments. This museum consists of two tiny rooms. It is recognised as the oldest optical museum in the world and is based adjacent to Charing Cross railway station in Westminster. Are you ready to learn why the optometrists’ symbol is a turtle?

It’s free of charge, however by appointment only (+44 20 7766 4353).

Suggested alternative London tour: Tour of the London Underground

Photo credits to MusEYEum.


8- International Banana Museum, Mecca, CA

They name themselves as “the most aPEELing destination on the planet.” This museum actually costs 1 dollar to enter, however it is well worth the money. It’s the world's largest collection devoted to a single fruit (I will let you guess which :p ), surprisingly family-friendly and of course full of fun.

This video will give you the taste of this extraordinary place:


9- Cute & Fun: The Puppet Museum, Lisbon

My last suggestion is in the city of elegant sidewalks, Lisbon. This delightful puppet museum is one of the most enjoyable places to visit in Lisbon for both children and adults. Puppets in this 1,000+ puppet collection come from all over the world, from China, Indonesia, India, Italy, New Zealand and many more. The museum also performs various puppet shows and performances.

This museum is free on holiday mornings and Sunday mornings. Check the full list of free Sunday morning museums in Lisbon at Live Portugal.

Must do when in Lisbon: Do a day trip to Sintra – the cutest town I have ever seen in my life.


by Ayşem Zorlu

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