The Best Destinations in the World for Free Attractions

There’s no escaping it: going on vacation is a costly business. Even after factoring in the cost of travel, accommodation and food, tourist attractions and activities can be notoriously expensive.

But look past the long lines and dollar signs and you’ll find that every tourist destination has something to offer for no cost at all. Even the most popular destinations have free things to do; take Paris, far and away the world’s leading travel destination — just a short walk away from the très busy Louvre is the free-to-enter and just-as-Instaworthy Petit Palais art museum.

Free doesn’t necessarily mean a lesser-quality experience; they say the best things in life are free. But which of the world’s tourist destinations boast the best-quality free attractions based on the opinions of travelers who have been there before?

In search of the answer, CashNetUSA analyzed publicly available traveler reviews for free attractions on offer at nearly 1,000 vacation destinations to uncover the tourist spots with the best availability (and best quality) of free attractions.

Key Insights

  • San Antonio, TX, in the United States, is the best destination in the world for highly rated free tourist attractions (89.66% of them have an average rating of 4.5 stars or more).
  • Mar del Plata in Argentina has the highest proportion of free attractions of any destination (20.65% of its attractions are free).
  • Yellowstone National Park is the best destination in the U.S. for the highest proportion of free attractions (10.94% of its attractions are free).
  • In Europe, Ayia Napa in Cyprus ranks as the best destination for highly rated free tourist attractions and has the highest proportion of free attractions (85.71% of them are rated 4.5 stars or above, and 12.07% of attractions are free).

The Home of The Alamo is the Best Place for Highly Rated & Free Attractions

Put away your wallets — our ranking below uncovers the top destinations in the world for highly rated attractions that are completely free, ranked by their proportion of free attractions with an average public rating of 4.5 stars or above.

Infographic of the top 20 destinations with the highest-rated free tourist attractions.

San Antonio, Texas, in the United States, tops our ranking for highly rated free tourist attractions, with almost 90% of its free attractions receiving 4.5 stars and above. San Antonio is best known as the site of The Alamo, an 18th-century Spanish mission now serving as a museum focusing on the 1836 battle for Texan independence. Entrance to The Alamo is free, as it is at other major tourist sites around San Antonio, such as the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park, and San Fernando Cathedral.

Mar Del Plata in Argentina Is the Best Destination for Finding Free Tourist Attractions

While some destinations have a gold-plated price tag, others are packed with free things to do. Our next ranking reveals the top destinations around the world for free attractions based on the proportion of local attractions that don’t cost a penny to enjoy.

Infographic of the top 20 destinations with the highest percentage of free entry tourist attractions.Mar del Plata in Argentina comes out on top, a city where just over one in five (20.65%) tourist attractions are completely free to enter. These include Argentina’s sole official nudist beach and — for tourists happier to keep their clothes on — a tranquil garden center.

South American countries dominate the top five places on our ranking with Argentina and Brazil featuring twice and Chile’s Vine del Mar (19.09% of attractions are free) coming in second place.

Locations around the U.S. Lead as North America’s Top Destinations for Highly Rated Free Attractions

Seven of the 10 top destinations for highly rated free attractions are in the U.S. As mentioned above, San Antonio, TX (89.66%) has the most highly rated free tourist attractions. Following in a close second is another U.S. tourist spot, Cleveland, OH (88.46%). Cleveland can be a dream for an art lover on a budget, with both Cleveland’s major galleries, The Cleveland Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, being free to enter.

List of the best free to enter tourist attractions in North AmericaIf you’re wondering about your chances of finding a free tourist attraction as a tourist hot spot then head over to Yellowstone National Park, which has the highest proportion of free attractions (10.94% of its attractions are free) of anywhere in North America.

Outside the U.S., Banff, Canada, is a great destination for tourists looking for free attractions. Not only are 82.61% of free attractions in Banff rated as 4.5 stars or higher, but 10.13% of all attractions are free. This includes picturesque Lake Minnewanka and Bow Falls.

In Europe, Ayia Napa Is the Best Destination for Top-Rated Free Attractions

Over in Europe, Cyprus’ Ayia Napa ranks as the best destination for highly rated free things to do, with 85.71% of its free attractions boasting an average rating of 4.5 stars or more. Ayia Napa is famous for its nightlife, with partygoers filling the resort town during summer, giving it a festival feel. But it’s the town’s many natural attractions, such as beaches, caves and lagoons, that make it a real draw for the budget-conscious tourist.

In stark contrast to the party town of Ayia Napa stands Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and the second-best destination in Europe for highly rated free things to do. Tourists are brought to this capital for the stunning architecture and culture. One popular tourist spot that can be visited for free is Beogradska Tvrđava (Belgrade Fortress), a large castle founded in the 3rd century BC that features historic architecture and beautifully maintained gardens.

Infographic of the best free to enter touring attractions in EuropeLooking at the availability of free attractions, Ayia Napa again comes out on top in Europe. 12.07% of attractions are free to enjoy at the seaside destination. Coming in a close second is the capital of Luxembourg, Luxembourg City, where 11.52% of tourist attractions are free including the National Art and History Museum and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Luxembourg.

Quito, Ecuador, Is South America’s Best Destination for Highly Rated Free Attractions

The capital of Ecuador, Quito, has the best quality free attractions in South America, with 74.07% receiving 4.5 stars or above from tourist reviews. Popular free attractions include the 165-acre Parque La Carolina in the heart of the city with its impeccable waterways and diverse flora and El Panecillo, the 200-metre-high hill that offers fabulous views over the southern and central parts of the city.

Inforgraphic of the best free to enter tourist attractions in South AmericaBrazil claims five destinations in this ranking, including Armacao dos Buzios, a seaside resort where 51.43% of free attractions have an average 4.5-star rating online. These include pretty beaches like Ferradurinha Beach — which gets busy quickly — and a monument to fishermen.

Regarding availability, Mar Del Plata in Argentina has the highest proportion of attractions that are free. An incredible 20.65% of attractions, such as the beautifully tranquil Bosque Peralta Ramos Nature Reserve, are free to visit.

Vina Del Mar in Chile comes in second place, with 19.09% of the local attractions being free. Tourists love visiting parks like the Hacienda Floresta, bustling shopping malls, religious sites and art museums.

Macau is Among the Top Asian Destinations with the Most Free Attractions

Macau, an autonomous region on the south coast of China — boasts the highest proportion of top-rated, free attractions (10.06%) of any destination in Asia. Many of Macau’s free attractions speak to its history as a former Portuguese territory. The Ruins of São Paulo are the baroque remains of a Catholic Cathedral built in 1580, and the Monte Fort is a 16th-century former military base that now contains a public park, observatory and the Macau Museum. However, for a sight of something quite rare, you could visit the Macao Giant Panda Pavilion and Pavilion of Rare Animals which houses both giant and red pandas in large conservation habitats that visitors can view via special elevated viewing paths.

Infographic of the best places in Asia for free entry tourist attractions.For high-quality free attractions in Asia, nowhere beats Nepal, with 76.32% of its free attractions getting 4.5 stars or above from tourist reviews. The World Peace Pagoda in Lumbini, a shrine that features relics of the Buddha, is a highly-rated free attraction that offers travelers incredible views of the nearby Fewa Lake and Pokhara Valley.

Hobart Named One of the Best Destinations in Oceania for Free Attractions

There are 14 countries in Oceania, but only Australia and New Zealand appear in our continental ranking of the top destinations for free, highly-rated attractions. Hobart in Australia leads overall: here, 86.36% of free attractions have an average rating of 4.5 stars or more. Free attractions on offer include art galleries (like the “wonderful” Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery), botanical gardens, museums and markets.

Infographic of the best places in Oceania for free entry tourist attractions.Meanwhile, Dunedin comes top in New Zealand (80% of free attractions are highly rated), where tourists can pay a free visit to cathedrals, beaches and an incredibly steep street. For adventurous souls, the “wild and windy” Sandfly Bay Track is a top-rated hiking trail on the Otago Peninsula.

Turning our attention to the best destinations for the availability of free attractions, New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, takes the crown — 9.01% of its attractions are free. At the top of the list of free spots to visit in the capital of New Zealand is the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which features exhibits covering the vast history of the islands, its peoples and its environment.

How to Save Money While Traveling

As anyone who’s ever been on vacation will testify, traveling is a big drain on the bank account, even before taking into account the countless must-do tourist attractions waiting at your destination. With this in mind, we’ve put together five top tips to help you save money on your next trip so you can worry less about your budget and focus more on your adventure.

1. Stay away from tourist traps

Tourist traps are attractions specially designed to part tourists with their hard-earned cash. It might seem obvious, but one way of saving money while traveling is to give these traps a wide berth and stick to attractions off the beaten path. To spot a tourist trap, look for long lines, crowded gift shops and employees trying to sell you expensive tickets. Research and ask locals for recommendations about free or cheap things to do.

2. Eat and drink as the locals do

If you’re in an area popular with tourists, you’re likely to encounter inflated prices for food and drink at restaurants and bars. Stories of vacationers being charged outrageous prices for simple snacks in tourist-heavy destinations like Rome are not uncommon. You can save money by packing a lunch before you head off for the day or sticking to authentic eateries recommended (and frequented) by locals.

3. Research public transport offers

When you need to do some serious sightseeing on vacation, skip the taxis and rideshare apps; if you’re in a busy city or town, there’s likely a reliable public transport network to get you where you need to go. Research cost-cutting deals on tickets before you book your vacation; for example, in London, you could pick up a Day Travelcard for about $20 that will cover you on all local buses, trains and trams.

4. Get a local SIM card

Having mobile data available is a relief when traveling as it means you don’t have to rely on sometimes temperamental public Wi-Fi. Make sure to check your phone plan’s data roaming allowance, though — not keeping track of your data usage while abroad can run up shockingly high charges. It might be cheaper for you to get a prepaid SIM or E-SIM card that you can switch to once you get to your destination so you can use all the data and make all the calls and texts you need without worry.

5. Find accommodation outside of a popular area

If you want a hotel room with a view of the Eiffel Tower, prepare to pay the big bucks. If you’re not as bothered, you can save lots of money by selecting accommodation a bit further out from the tourist hotspots and traveling in with your public transport pass in hand. Use a budget filter to help you browse the likes of Airbnb and Vrbo to find the perfect place to set up camp. For even cheaper rates, try local hostels, where you might even make a friend or two.

Researching ahead of time will give you the best chance of making your vacation budget go the distance. The internet is also full of forums and websites to help you make informed decisions about whether a particular accommodation or attraction is safe, appropriate and worth it for your family.


The goal of this research was to determine the popular destinations worldwide that have the best availability of free attractions (represented by the proportion of local attractions that are free) and the best-quality free attractions (destinations with the highest proportion of free attractions that are 4.5+ star-rated with more than 50 reviews).

We started by building a seed list of close to 1,000 destinations, which were pulled from popular destination pages for every country online.

For each destination, we recorded the total number of attractions and free attractions, allowing us to calculate the proportion of free attractions.

We then recorded the star rating and review count for all free attractions by destination, allowing us to calculate the proportion of free attractions that are 4.5 star-rated or above and have more than 50 reviews.

Countries in Africa failed to meet the threshold for volume and quality of reviews so have been omitted from our continent rankings.

This data analysis was completed in March 2024.

DISCLAIMER – This content is for informational purposes only and should not be considered advice of any kind. Any information herein is as of the date published, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CashNetUSA or its affiliates. This information should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. We do not warrant that the material herein will continue to be accurate or that it is completely free of errors when published. You should verify any information before relying on it. Any entities mentioned herein are not an affiliate or agent of CashNetUSA.

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