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Ten Free Things To Do in 10 of the World's Most Expensive Cities.
By Sam Baldwin
Thursday, 20th June 2013

How much? £16 for four ice creams? You must be joking!

You may remember us featuring the story of the four British tourists who were charged £54 for a round of gelati in Rome that was in the news last month. We've all been there - it's easy to pay over the odds in the captive market of tourist traps abroad, while some cities suffer from the reputation of being outrageously expensive across the board.

While you may not get your whole holiday for free like the Bannisters - who were treated to a return trip to Rome by the city's mayor - you can still get something for nothing in the priciest of places. They may some of the most wallet-unfriendly destinations, but don't let that put you off going to them. We've put together a list of wonderful, quirky and best of all FREE things to do in 10 of the world's most expensive cities.

1. Oslo, Norway
4Hoteliers Image LibraryThe Norwegian capital may be the priciest city in Scandinavia but one of the most unforgettable experiences of the region is yours to be had for free: the Northern Lights. Oslo is up there in the list of places to see the Aurora Borealis. In fact, it is possible to see the lights almost every night during the winter time in clear conditions.

You could take a special Northern Lights Safari out of town, but hiring a guide will cost. Alternatively, just gaze up at the night sky to see the spectacular bluey-green light-show absolutely free.

More: Tripping the northern lights fantastic: the best places to see the Aurora Borealis

2. Zurich, Switzerland
Swiss chocolate is as famous an export as Heidi and cuckoo clocks. Although Zurich may be punishing on the wallet, you can visit the Lindt Chocolate Factory for free! Chocoholics are in for an unforgettably sweet experience with a tour around the famous factory which has churned out chocolate since 1845. It includes a visit to the chocolate museum and, best of all, free chocolate samples at the end of the tour. Heaven.

3. Geneva, Switzerland
One of the loveliest places to visit in Geneva also happens to be free. Genevans themselves love to spend balmy summer and crisp winter days walking and swimming (well, probably not in winter) in and around beautiful Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman as it is known locally. There is even free wi-fi in the area, while free bike hire is available for those who want to cycle around the lake.

4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark's beautiful capital city, Copenhagen, with its picturesque streets, vibrant art and long, leafy canals with miles of cycle paths lends itself beautifully to exploring by bicycle. The City Bikes scheme in Copenhagen offers trendy, free urban bikes for all which are a popular and fun way to whizz around the city seeing the sights. You need to leave a coin deposit but you get this back when you return the bike.

5. Stockholm, Sweden
4Hoteliers Image LibraryIce skating is one of the most pleasant ways to spend a winter day in Stockholm. From mid-November until March, there is free skating at the Kungstradgarden ice rink in the heart of the city, with live music and stands serving hot drinks to keep you warm.

6. Tokyo, Japan
The neon lights of Tokyo are an urbanite's paradise. Frenetic streets and frenzied traffic create the electric atmosphere that this city is so famous for. However, if you need an escape from the hawkers, take a trip to the Imperial Palace. Free to visit, this one of the most venerable sights in Tokyo. Surrounded my ancient moats and thick stone walls, it boasts lovely gardens, as well as Emperor Hirohito's collection of kimono and magnificent Japanese paintings. People flock to the palace in early April to catch sight of the gorgeous pink cherry blossoms coming in to full bloom; a tranquil sight in a full-on city.

7. Sydney, Australia
Although Sydney can be expensive, thanks to the almost endless summer sunshine and outdoor lifestyle that Australia is famous for, there are plenty of free outdoor activities to enjoy. One of the most exciting is a FREE walk across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge that joins the north and south parts of the harbour.

8. Helsinki, Finland
4Hoteliers Image LibraryNot one, not two but three festive Christmas markets grace the glorious streets of Helsinki come winter time. Helsinki's buildings, boulevards, statues  and narrow cobbled streets are covered in lights. Wrap up warm, wander the Christmas markets and soak up the festive atmosphere.

9. Toronto, Canada
The funky city of Toronto is another of the world’s most expensive, famed for its fresh food, healthy living and outdoor lifestyle. Toronto does have some little gems up its sleeve that doesn't cost a thing: Riverdale Farm, slap bang in the city centre.This sanctuary houses farm animals like pigs, cows, chickens and shee, and provides a gorgeous green space for bringing your own picnic and relaxing admidst city life.

10. Singapore
With its cloud-piercing skyscrapers that reflect the urban landscape in their shimmering glass fronts, Singapore is a super-efficient, super-clean and super-expensive city. However, there is a bastion of elegance and colonial grandeur that must be seen: Raffles Hotel. This iconic hotel is one of the oldest in Singapore and still requires an elegance of dress just to enter the lobby, but its free to take a look.

The effort is well worth it though as you glimpse the bar where James Bond ordered his famous Martini, marvel at the interior of the toilets, drink a Singapore Sling (not free - but the nuts are!), sit in the courtyard surrounded by tropical plants, pretend you're staying in one of the luxuriously appointed rooms and watch Singapore’s colourful past come to life.

Sam Baldwin is an editor and writer for Skyscanner UK and oversees feature content in Skyscanner's European markets. He is also a host and writer for the Skyscanner Travel Podcast. Sam's work has appeared in national papers including The Scotsman, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph as well as dozens of regional titles.

Sam wrote For Fukui's Sake: two years in rural Japan, and has contributed to various other books including: Snow-search Japan, 1001 Escapes, The World Snowboard Guide and Skiing Europe.

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