Whether you’re traveling on a budget or perhaps just looking to soak up as much culture as possible during a trip to Europe, free museums are a great place to start. And while natural history and science museums offer informative views about an area, art museums tell the most about its people. Luckily for art lovers, acclaimed works by some of the greatest artists in history now hang in free museums. Check out our list for 15 of the most worthwhile free museums in Europe!
Free Art Museums in Europe
The Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art) is one of the city’s largest museums – managed by the Paris Musées public institution of 14 major city museums. The museum, which was built in the late ‘30s and inaugurated in 1961, houses more than 10,000 works from the major art movements of the 20th century, including The Blue Bird by Jean Metzinger, The woman with blue eyes by Amedeo Modigliani and various works by Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp and others. Temporary exhibits are updated every six weeks, so be sure to check back often.
Address: 11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France
One of Europe’s newer museums, the Berardo Collection Museum was opened in 2007. The museum focuses on 20th and 21st century European and American art, with works by Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Picasso and Dali and movements from body art to action painting to photorealism. Be sure to check out the vintage advertising poster section!
Address: Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisbon, Portugal
Another museum with a modern and contemporary focus, many consider the Centre Pompidou to be the most important modern art museum in the world behind the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Its impressive façade gives way to a memorable interior, featuring a massive public library and a music research center in addition to its art collection. Only main floor exhibits are included in free admission.
Address: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
Located in a renovated warehouse, the İstanbul Modern is free on Thursdays and features photography, paintins and new media to enjoy. The museum offers views of the city as well as great works by Turkish painters Hoca Ali Riza, Monica Bonvicini and Sukran Moral. Built in 2004, the two-story building also houses a shop, theater, arts library and restaurant.
Address: Kılıçali Paşa, Meclis-i Mebusan Cad., 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The Spanish national art museum, Museum del Prado, is located in Madrid and contains an art collection spanning seven centuries. The nearly 200-year-old building is one of the most popular attractions in the world, featuring famous works like Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation and Peter Paul Rubens’ The Three Graces, along with works by Francisco de Goya, El Greco and Titian. Though the museum provides a suggested itinerary for short trips, be sure to stop by more than once to soak up its treasures.
Address: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23, 28104 Madrid, Spain
The main purpose of the National Museum of Denmark is to show how life throughout the country has changed since 1660. Much of the art is physical, including cauldrons and jewelry in addition to paintings. Kids are also welcome to visit the children’s museum where period clothing is available to try on for size.
Address: Prince's Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København, Denmark
A great museum for families, HangarBicocca is located in what used to be a factory building, so it might not be immediately recognizable as a tourist attraction from the streets of Milano. Over 160,000 square feet of space are filled with contemporary art exhibits, including the unique main exhibit by German artist Anselm Kiefer entitled The Seven Heavenly Palaces, which was crafted with the gallery space in mind.
Address: Via Chiese, 2, 20126 Milano, Italy
If you’ve ever had a hankering to see five million photos in one building, visit the Reykjavik Museum of Photography in Iceland. With works dating back to 1870 and as new as 2002, the collection is bound to be diverse – including portrait photography, press photos, rolling landscapes and carefully crafted advertisement shots. Founded in 1981, the museum claims that its mission is “to awaken the widest possible interest in the cultural role of photography,” and in that it succeeds.
Address: Grófarhús, Tryggvagata 15, 101 Reykjavic, Iceland
The National Gallery, a collection owned by the public of the UK, was founded in 1924 and contains roughly 600 years of art history. The only art museums that see more traffic than the National Gallery are the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and fellow UK galleries the British Museum and Tate Modern. The collection includes Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks.
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice holds four centuries’ worth of art, including sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, paintings by Claude Monet and pottery by Pablo Picasso. If you walk through the halls of the museum, you have explored the former home of a Ukranian princess, Elisabeth Vassilievna Kotschoubey – reopened as a museum in 1928.
Address: 33 Avenue des Baumettes, 06000 Nice, France
It might be misleading to call the Sistine Chapel a free museum: It’s only free on the last Sunday of each month, but viewing the work of Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could be one of the most priceless experiences of a lifetime. Perhaps it’s worth planning a trip around your Vatican Museums visit to see The Creation of Adam.
Address: 00120 Vatican City
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a collection of four art museums, including the Wiertz Museum (dedicated to the controversial painter Antoine Wiertz) and the Constantin Meunier Museum, eponymously titled for the Belgian painter and sculptor who is more fondly remembered than Wiertz for the empathetic political statements in his work.
Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Thanks to a change in Swedish law, several museums in Sweden are once again free to both visitors and locals nine years after admission fees had been once again reinstated, including the Moderna Museet – the Museum of Modern Art – in Stockholm, with a branch in Malmö. The museum, which opened in 1958, features works by Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse and Dalí in addition to more modern artists.
Address: Stockholm, 111 49 Stockholm, Sweden
There may not be a museum more comprehensive than the British Museum, making it accessible for all crowds. With its collection of eight million works, there’s something for everyone, including prints and drawings from across the globe. It’s the most-visited museum in the world (with nearly seven million visitors in 2015), so employ the buddy system and brace yourself for big crowds.
Address: Great Russell St., London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
The East Side Gallery serves as both a Berlin Wall memorial and an art gallery near the center of Berlin. The 105 paintings of the gallery are located on the east side of the Berlin Wall, stretching nearly a mile. Though the works are often vandalized, many are restored by a nonprofit group. Perhaps the most vandalized and iconic piece of art in the gallery is My God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love by Dmitri Vrubel, portraying the iconic kiss shared between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker.
Address: Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin, Germany
This article was written by Caitlin Klask. Image by Samuel Zeller.