You've paid for the airfare for your dream holiday to Europe. Now it's time to consider what sights, sounds, museums, restaurants and tours you might want to squeeze into your itinerary.

In Europe it's easy to blow your budget in just a few days: there's the ride on the London Eye, those expensive espressos when sitting at a table at a cafe in a fabulous piazza, paying your entry to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and then buying a ticket to see Rome's Colosseum.

But with so much on offer in Europe for free there is no need to come home with a maxed-out credit card.

Here are some of the best free tours and activities on offer in Europe's major cities.


DUBLIN: Have a drink with a local

All first-time visitors to the Irish capital are invited to have a free drink and chat with a Dubliner as a welcome and introduction to the country.

The volunteers, known as 'Dublin Ambassadors', meet visitors and shout them a drink in one of three great Dublin institutions: the Merrion Hotel, Bewley's Cafe and the Porterhouse.

Among those who have signed up are several well-known faces, such as actress Victoria Smurfit, presidential candidate Senator David Norris and former Miss World Rosanna Davison. All ambassadors are subject to police vetting.

EDINBURGH: Take a journey through Scottish history

The National Museum of Scotland has just opened after a £46 million (NZ$89.7m) redevelopment. It features 16 new galleries, displaying 8000 objects, of which over 80 per cent are newly on display. Exhibits range from a life-size skeleton cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex to specimens collected by Charles Darwin and 3000-year-old mummies. Best of all it's free.

ROME: Hang out with the Pope

The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. On the last Sunday of the month you can visit the Vatican Museums for free between 9am and 12.30pm and see monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment.


BERLIN: Travel to the cool side

Every day at 11am and 1pm you can join a free alternative walking tour of Berlin and see some unusual places and people that you might not discover by yourself.

The three-hour tour takes you to see underground sights, world-famous street and graffiti culture, haunts and hangouts of the famous and infamous and the landmarks of rock, reggae, punk and electronic music.

LONDON: Lock up the Crown Jewels

There are plenty of free things to do in London, such as visiting the mummies at the British Museum, the Botticellis at The National Gallery and the dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum.

One unique and free activity to do in London is to join the Ceremony of the Keys - the traditional locking up of the Tower of London by the Towers' Chief. It has taken place every night, without fail, for at least 700 years.

Although the Monarch no longer resides at this royal palace, the Crown Jewels and many other valuables still do. The ceremony starts at 9.30pm and tickets are free but you need to apply in writing at least two months in advance.

PARIS: Head to the Louvre

The Musee du Louvre houses 35,000 works of art displayed over 60,000 square metres of exhibition space. On the first Sunday of each month entry to the Louvre is free and on Friday evenings admission is free for under-26s.

NICE: Swing by Nice's modern art museum

It may be hard to drag yourself away from the beach in Nice, but the MAMAC, or the Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, is free every day and worth a visit. It's situated 10 minutes from the city centre and is home to collections by Yves Klein and Andy Warhol.

AMSTERDAM: Catch a lunch-time concert

At 12.30pm on Tuesdays from October to June, you can listen to a free world-class concert at the Boekmanzaal room inside the Amsterdam Music Theatre complex. The concert is performed by permanent members of the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir of De Nederlandse Opera and the Dutch Opera Studio.

MADRID: See Spain's best-known museums

Two of Madrid's best-known museums are free at various times. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Spain's national museum of 20th century art, is free on weekdays after 7pm, and on Saturdays after 2.30pm and all day Sunday.

The Museo del Prado, which houses the definitive Spanish art of the past 500 years - Goya, El Greco and Velazquez in particular, is free from Tuesday to Saturday after 6pm and on Sundays from 5pm.

BRUSSELS: Take a comic strip walk

There are various tourist walks available for free in Brussels. The Comic Art Walk is especially interesting and takes in 30 walls that have been transformed into story book comics, most featuring Tintin and Snowy, whose creator, Herge, was born in Brussels in 1907.

Join the tour by simply going to the city's tourist office at Hotel de Ville in the Grand Palace and request either the Comic Art Walk or the Art Nouveau Walk.