More Great City Freebies

Here are a few more freebies to enjoy when visiting these cities …..

7. Reichstag, Berlin, Germany

If only these walls could talk ….. they’d probably talk of walls. Not to mention suspected arson, air raids, Nazi zeal and ignominious decay – the German Parliament building has seen it all since its completion in 1894.  But since the fall of Berlin’s infamous city-slicing concrete barrier, the Reichstag has risen as dramatically as the eagle on the German flag. Architect Norman Foster masterminded a glorious resurrection, icing the ‘new’ edifice with a gleaming glass-and-steel cupola, commanding brilliant Berlin views.  Best of all? A tour of all this history including access to the all-seeing dome itself – is free.

Reichstag tours must be booked in advance; send your preferred time and date to besucherdienst@bundestag.de.

8. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Japan

It can be tough to get your head around Tokyo; it’s the most populous city in the world, a seething megapolis of more than 30 million people. Get some perspective by looking down on it from 202 meters up – for free.  The observatory of the Metropolitan Government Building looms amid high-rise Shinjuku, the district for gadget-shopping and bar-hopping (Shinjuku’s “Golden Gai” is a tumble-down shantytown of more than 200 bars). Ascend the lift to the 45th floor of the North Observatory to see the urban chaos below and, on a clear day, distant Mt. Fuji making a stand for mother nature.

The North Observatory has a café and bar, and is open 9:30am to 11pm daily.  See www.metro.tokyo.jp

9. Royal Opera House lunchtime concerts, London, England

A Tube ticket might cost a small fortune in the British capital, but it’s amazing how much there is to do for nowt. Some of the world’s best museums – such as the Natural History, the Victoria & Albert and the British – show off their incredible collectins for nothing. But for an even grader spectacle (and a glimpse of a world traditionally reserved for those with bigger budgets) head to Covent Garden’s Royal Operat House on a Monday lunchtime. This classical theatre, completed in 1858, runs special recitals, allowing cheapskates to hear top pianists tinkle and baritones bellow without paying a penny.

Some tickets can be reserved online nine days before a concert; some are released from 10am on the day.

This is one of my favourites but you’ll need to check on how the Big Apple is reconstructing itself after Storm Sandy

10. Staten Island Ferry, New York 

Cruises usually cost a packet. OK, this only lasts 25 minutes, and there’s no quoits or cocktail lounge (though there is a bar selling bear).  But it doesn’t cost a cent.  Ferries have connected Staten Island and lower Manhattan since the 18th century.  Today’s tangerine-bright boats have become NYC icons.  One, the Spirit of America, is part-made of steel salvaged from the Twin Towers.  Although the World Trade Centre is now missing, the view of the New York skyline – shrinking as you pitch across the bay and looming large as you return – is still world class.

Ferries run 24 hours daily, from South Ferry at Battery Park. See www.siferry.com

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About Chris McBeath

Travel writer Chris McBeath has worked aboard cruise ships, opened hotels, managed convention centers, marketed spas and spa resorts, and written guide books and travel articles on nearly every aspect of travel.
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