It’s an old adage – the best things in life are free, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to some of the world’s most intriguing travel sights.
While most of the obvious tourist landmarks – the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal – charge entry fees, many of the lesser-known hidden gems around the corner don’t.
Did you know, for example, that you can visit an uninhabited island in the Bahamas where you can swim with wild pigs, and not be charged a penny?
Or take free yoga classes in Dubai, and sample the best tea in China at a cost of… zero?
Lonely Planet has released a veritable travel bible of spots around the world where you can have great experiences on a shoestring, titled The Best Things in Life are Free. MailOnline Travel rounds up 15 of the most intriguing suggestions…
The Bahamas: Pig Island
This is the only place in the Caribbean where you can splash around with celebrities and not have to pay a dime, because these stars have no idea they’re famous. An overnight Instagram sensation, the pigs of this island in Exuma live in the wild and love a spot of swimming.
According to legend they were left there by sailors who had plans to return for a pork roast, but never did, leaving the pigs to turn feral.
Thailand: The Bangkokian Museum
The tiny Bangkokian is a hidden jewel in a city where most of its treasures are proudly on display.
This quaint folk museum consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century.
It looks as if the owners stepped through the front door to pick up some noodles in 1935 and never came back.
China: The Măliándào Tea Market
If you’re someone who knows your pu-erh from your oolong, then you’ll get a kick from a trip to Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled.
It’s mainly aimed at wholesalers, but most vendors will give you a complimentary taste, and then you can sip plenty more brews in teashops.
You can get your hands on tea sets here as well, at potentially bargain prices.
Berlin: Badeschiff Swimming Barge
Summers in Berlin wouldn’t be the same without the Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a river barge-turned-swimming pool and moored in the Spree River.
Splash around in the daytime and stay to sip sunset cocktails with a great view of the fairy-tale-like bridge, Oberbaumbrücke. In winter, Badeschiff is all covered up and turned into a toasty sauna-cum-bar.
Singapore: Gardens by the Bay
This eco-fantasy land of space age bio-domes, hi-tech trees and whimsical sculptures really has to be seen to be believed.
Although the indoor conservatories and Supertree-top skyway are chargeable, arguably the coolest thing to see here is free: time your visit for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.
Dubai: Free yoga
The augmented reality of life in Dubai’s air-conditioned cityscape may just leave you in need of some mental readjustment.
If so, consider stretching out to the voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation, which runs free yoga classes every day at 5.30am and 7.30pm at 13 locations around the UAE, including Deira Creek, Bur Dubai Creek, Zabeel Park, JLT Park and Internet City.
Dublin: The National Museum of Ireland
This mighty museum explores Ireland’s heritage via four million objects spread across four sites, three of which are in Dublin.
Archaeology is where you’ll explore prehistoric and Viking-era Ireland, Decorative Arts & History houses ancient weaponry, furniture, and silver, and Natural History has an Irish elk skeleton.
London: The More London Free Festival
This annual series of free events hijacks the South Bank of the River Thames for four months of summer action.
It comprises everything from live music and fringe theatre performances to children’s entertainment and screenings of flicks in the Scoop – a 1000-seat concrete amphitheatre near Tower Bridge.
The big screen on site broadcasts major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Tour de France.
Marrakesh: Djemaa el-Fna square
Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna – Marrakesh’s main square and open-air theatre – you’ll discover drama already in progress.
Think street theatre, snake charming, and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.
Sydney: The Sydney Harbour National Park
This 392-hectare park protects sections of Sydney’s foreshore and several islands within the harbour.
Most attractions are free, including the Bradleys Head amphitheatre, a popular lookout and a great picnic spot, and the Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site, where you can see old rock art.
New York: The Brooklyn Flea Market
When the weekend arrives, head to Brooklyn to experience one of the best markets in the whole city. More than 100 vendors ply their wares here, with plenty of treasures to ogle from the past and the present.
You’ll find everything from records to 1930s posters, vintage clothing, jewellery, homewares, artwork, antique collectables and craft items. Wandering round is free.
Check the website for locations, which change seasonally. Visit brooklynflea.com.
Paris: Château de Versailles’ Gardens
While the château at Versailles is truly extraordinary, the crush of people inside can be hard to bear.
But the landscaped gardens – meticulously manicured, dotted with elegant statuary and exuberant fountains, and criss-crossed with paths (bikes can be rented) – are divine and free for half the year between November and March. Pack a picnic and distance those madding crowds.
Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach
One of the best places to spend a sun-drenched day in Rio is out on Ipanema Beach. You can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching.
You also needn’t leave the sands when hunger strikes, but you will need to open your wallet.
Barracas (beach stalls) sell everything from super cheap sandwiches to caipirinhas, and wandering vendors bring by cold drinks and snacks.
Tokyo: Yoyogi Park
Of all Tokyo’s parks, this is arguably the most lively. The landscaping is haphazard, wild along the fringes, and there are no ‘keep off the grass’ signs here.
On sunny weekends, all sorts gather for picnics, Frisbee, drumming and dancing.
The plaza across the street hosts free festivals on weekends during summer, including many hosted by the city’s ethnic communities.