As you might have guessed from our escapades around Europe this summer, BF and I are kind of culture junkies. Museums are one of our favorite ways to experience a new culture and gain exposure to new forms of expression and ways of life. We love a good art/history/science/music/whatever museum, and seek them out wherever we go.
The downside to museums is that all of the fun they offer often comes at a price. Depending on the size and type of museum you’re visiting, a ticket can range from a few dollars to $20+ per person. As much as I love a museum, I really don’t love paying tons of money to spend an afternoon looking at art. I MUCH prefer to look at art for free, and luckily there are many ways to do that!
Today I’d like to share a few tips for visiting amazing museums completely for free. As long as you’re willing to be a little flexible and/or plan ahead, you can easily take advantage of these opportunities to visit museums for free all around the world.
- Find free museums. While many museums charge an admission fee, many don’t! Some cities, like London, Washington DC and New York, are known for high profile free museums (think the Met and the Smithsonian). Often these museums will charge admission for special exhibits, but just visiting the main galleries can be a full day event. To find free museums in your city, just do a quick Google search. Don’t overlook local museums or museums that are part of universities. Smaller museums often have excellent collections, are much less crowded, and are cheap or free to get into.
- Get passes from your local library. I’ve shared my love of the public library before, and museum passes are just one more reason why I think the library is the best. The Cambridge Public Library (and, I’m led to believe, most other public libraries) offers free passes to patrons that entitle you to either free or substantially reduced admission to local museums. The one downside here is that passes usually get scooped up pretty far in advance, so you have to plan ahead. My library has a great, online system for reserving passes, so it is easy and quick to go online and reserve passes for my chosen date.
- Go to museums on free days. Most paid museums have certain days or times when they are free. For example, most museums in Paris are free on the first Sunday of the month. We took advantage of this over the summer and visited two museums on a free day, saving over €50. Museums tend to be a bit more crowded on free days, but I’ve always felt that it is well worth the savings.
- Take advantage of “memberships.” Are you a AAA member? That might entitle you to a discount. Are you a student or a senior? That might entitle you to a discount. The list goes on and on, but the important thing is to think through what “groups” you belong to, and take advantage of that. One great program that I benefit from is the Bank of America Museums on Us If you have a Bank of America account, you can get into certain museums for free on the first weekend of the month. Similarly, I can get into several Harvard museums for free simply because I’m a Cambridge resident.
What are your tips for visiting museums or other cultural institutions on the cheap?