With characteristic hospitality, Europe throws open its doors to offer free food, music and art.
1. Free Chocolate in Brussels

Dark chocolate rules in Brussels, with palaces at Godiva, Galler and Leonidas, to name a few. Many shops will offer a free taste and cafes often serve a piece of chocolate with your coffee.

Photo: kaitlyn means.

For those who prefer milk chocolate, the Cailler Nestle factory in Broc, Switzerland offers free tours and samples. Incidentally, Broc flanks Gruyeres, the cheese-making town.

2. Free Alcohol

Belgium produces over 600 beers, including Haacht’s new fruit beer. Haacht offers a free one-hour guided tour of their sprawling facility and a taste of one low and one high-fermentation beer.

Many members of the Vignerons Independants d’Aquitaine offer free cellar visits and wine tastings, some of them in Saint Emilion, a world heritage site in Bordeaux.

Cognac also flows freely in France. Visit Le Cognac for information about free tours and tastings.

3. Free Cheese

Feeling the need for some food groups other than sugar and alcohol? Roquefort Papillon, is where the famous blue cheese matures in the rock crevices of Mont Combalou.

Tours of the caves are free and include a nibble at the end.

Henri Willig’s cheese farms in the Netherlands offers free tours and tastings of Gouda cheese.

4. Free Museums

Entry to permanent collections at British museums was made free in 2001. Take advantage by visiting the mummies at the British Museum, the Botticellis at The National Gallery and the dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum.

Instead of waiting in line at the Louvre, try the Musee du Petit Palais. The name is misleading since the museum houses 1300 pieces spanning many centuries. Several of the masters, including Monet and Cezanne, are represented here.

Paris is synonymous with fashion, and the Musee Galliera’s permanent collection features trends from the 17th to the 21th century.

5. Free Concerts

Vienna’s elegant architecture is an appropriate setting for waltzes and balls. The cheapest seats, however, are in front of the Rathaus (city hall), which broadcasts free films of famous concerts during the summer months.

Salzburg, setting for The Sound of Music, offers similar shows on a giant screen at the Salzburg Residenz Square.

Photo: Luz A. Villa

Although Mozart was born in Salzburg, he often stayed in Prague, the fairy-tale city of a hundred spires. The Villa Bertramka now houses a Mozart museum and concert hall.

Tickets are not cheap, but there’s nothing stopping you from sitting in the surrounding gardens. I once sat outside on an autumn day drinking my coffee and listening to the live music floating out of the concert hall.