Experiencing the word’s most incredible collections of art, history and culture need not be expensive as many are completely free to visit. Check out the list below to add some of these free museums, from London to Tokyo, to your list of must-do’s next time you head off on a city break.

The Tate Modern, London

Situated on London’s iconic Southbank with views across the River Thames, the Tate Modern is one of the UK’s most iconic free modern art museums. Many of London’s museums are free to visit, which is handy in a city famous for its high cost of living. The building itself is striking, having been converted from a power station, it was opened in 2000 and features 10 storey’s full of modern and contemporary art. You can spend an entire day wondering around, looking at the various instillations which change periodically. The permanent collection contains work by Picasso, Dali, Miró, Mattise and many others. Free guided tours operate 4 times every day and audio guides are available in multiple languages.

Tip – visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and head up to the rooftop café for incredible views of the city of London.

Nicholson Museum, Sydney

On the opposite end of the world, the Nicholson Museum in Sydney also opens its doors for free to visitors. Housed on the grounds of the University of Sydney campus, the museum has been around since 1860 and has one of the largest collections of antique artefacts in the world. Named after its founder, Sir Charles Nicholson, the collection continued to expand and now contains fascinating pieces of history from Europe to Asia.

Tip – be sure to check out the popular Egypt section and the mini-Pompeii model made of LEGO

The Palace of Tears (Tränenpalast), Berlin

The Palace of Tears, or Tränenpalast as it is known by the locals, is an incrredibly moving and emotive museum. It is housed near the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn train station in Berlin, which, during the Cold War was the departure station for travellers leaving the former East Germany to West Berlin. The museum now stands as a reminder of the hardships during this era, the families which were torn apart due to the divide and the tears which were shed as a result. As well as having many original items on display, the museum also recreates history through videos, interactive exhibitions, photos and audio tools.

Tip – be sure to listen to some of the real life accounts and pick up a free audio guide.

Smithsonian Museums, Washington DC

The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC actually consist of 17 different museums and galleries – and they are all free to visit. The entire collection has over 150 million displays as well as a zoo and cultural centres. All the museums can be found along the strip called ‘the National Mall’ and are all really worth a visit. But, in the interests of time, the ones that are absolutely not to be missed are the American History Museum, the National Air and Space Museum; and the US Botanic Garden.

Tip – Start at ‘The Castle,’ which is in the very centre of area and contains all the information you need to know about visiting the various museums and galleries.

National Art Centre, Tokyo

The National Art Centre in Minato-ku, Tokyo is one of the most spectacular and largest exhibition centres in Tokyo. It was built in 2007 so the building itself is ultra-modern, with glass encasing the entire façade. It is also one of the very few museums in the world which does not host a permanent exhibition; instead it features a continuously rotating roster of temporary exhibitions. The three story’s of exhibition spaces are filled with ancient and modern artwork as well as workshops, talks from featured artists and even an atrium.

Tip – check out one of the 3 cafes and restaurants.

Museo del Prado, Madrid

When visiting Madrid, be sure to put the Prado Museum at the top of your list of attractions to visit. It is one of Madrid’s most popular tourist sites and for good reason. The building itself is a work of art, dating back to 1819; it was originally King Fernando VII  palace and he used it primarily to store his extensive collection of artwork. Nowadays, it is home to a vast collection of Spanish paintings and sculptures from artists such as Goya and Velázquez, as well as Rembrandt, Bosch and Rubens.

Tip – To avoid crowds, plan your visit between 2-5pm when the locals are usually having a siesta.

Shanghai Museum, China

The Shanghai Museum is one of the four largest and most famous museums in China. Located on the Peoples Square, in the very centre of Shanghai, the unusual building resembles an ancient Chinese cooking pot, but in fact, symbolises the age-old philosophy that the square earth sits under a round sky. With seven galleries spread out over four floors, the Museum displays a huge catalogue of ancient Chinese art going back as far as 20 centuries BC. There are also three exhibition spaces which showcase temporary collections from around the world.

Tip – Be sure to check out the Galley of Chinese Coins and the Ancient Sculpture Gallery which has a brilliant display of Buddhist artwork.

Swedish Museum of Natural History and Cosmonova, Stockholm

For something a little different, check out the Swedish Museum of National History. The grand building sits just on the outskirts of Stockholm city and is the largest museum in Sweden. Not only will you be able to immerse yourself in learning about Swedish history and culture, but the museum also has an amazing exhibition on nature, fossils, the planet, biology and evolution. The Cosmonova is an  planetarium which shows documentaries through a 3D IMAX cinema experience.

Tip – Go on a Saturday when the museum is open until 9pm.

Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, Mexico City

The bright orange building which is home to Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares is hard to miss and absolutely not to be missed when visiting this vibrant city. Another museum which does not have a permanent collection, instead it has rotating exhibitions which highlight Mexico City’s culture and national heritage. Interesting artwork, photography, films and crafts are on display for visitors to immerse themselves in the history of the city – and all of it is absolutely free.

Tip – Try to head to the museum on a day when it is hosting one of its many concerts, dance performances, workshops or interactive activities.

How many of these museums have you visited?