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Some cities like London and New York have enough exceptional free activities to easily fill a week. Other destinations want money from you for something as simple as peeking in the front door (Le Grand Casino in Monte Carlo), sitting down for a few minutes (Las Ramblas in Barcelona), or voiding your bladder (pretty much all of Norway).

Here are a few free attractions that are indisputably superior to others and, in many cases, completely outshine their un-free neighbours.

The Roof Gardens, London
Located one hundred feet above Kensington High Street, the 1.5-acre Roof Gardens  are comprised of three different style: the Spanish Garden, Tudor Garden and English Woodland. Unfortunately, its popularity means this freebie is frequently closed for special events.

Street art, Buenos Aires
The Argentinean capital is full of streets known for outdoor artistic expression, including La Boca, Caminito and Calle Lanín. To find the best outdoor street art, follow one of the self-tour maps and itineraries from Buenos Aires’ official tourism site.

St Peter’s Basilica, Rome
In addition to being one of the world’s holiest Catholic sites, St Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, capable of holding 60,000 people. It contains works by Michelangelo (notably the dome), Raphael and Bramante among many others.

Bahá’í House of Worship (aka Lotus Temple), Delhi
Completed in 1986, the Lotus Temple serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and is famous for its award-winning, flowerlike architectural design.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
The world’s largest museum and research complex includes 20 free attractions, like the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Zoological Park.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris (aka Notre Dame), Paris
One of the world’s great landmarks, Notre Dame took more than 200 years to construct, including its (at the time) cutting-edge flying buttresses, three spectacular sections of stained glass windows and a 7,800 pipe organ. Incredibly detailed, free English language tours run on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm and Saturdays at 2:30 pm. Bonus freebie: if you are in the neighbourhood after 6 pm on Fridays, or on the first Sunday of the month, cross the river for free entry to the mammoth Louvre Museum.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
There are remarkable markets around the world, but few compare in historical significance and sheer size to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Opened in 1461, it is one of the largest covered markets in the world, comprised of more than 58 streets and more than 4,000 shops.

Mosquée Hassan II, Casablanca
Morocco’s largest mosque -- and the fifth largest in the world -- has a glass floor, the world’s tallest minaret and a retractable roof. Non-Muslims may only enter the building on guided tours, but everyone is free to wander the grounds.

Central-Mid-Levels escalator, Hong Kong
This 800-metre-long, outdoor covered escalator is the largest system of its kind in the world. Opened in 1993, it carries people up the 135m from the Central Business District to the Mid-Levels residential neighbourhood.

Gateway of India, Mumbai
Stand under the monumental arch that faces Mumbai Harbour and bask in the chaos of touts and laughing kids. It is a fitting start to a trip to India.

 

© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Fantastically free attractions around the world’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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