Over 65? How to grab a travel bargain
Nick Trend tracks down the best savings for senior travellers on European attractions
The age of wisdom brings many rewards and a few disadvantages for travellers. I was reminded of one of the key rewards by reader John Bowring, who wrote to us about his cost-saving tips on a trip to Naples. John is 79 and in his list of expenditure he pointed out that, since he was over 65, he was entitled to free entry to many key sights -- including Pompeii and Herculaneum.
This was no mean saving. The standard cost of an entry ticket, which includes both sites (and the nearby Roman villas), is €20 a head. You could multiply that figure by four or five over the course of a holiday in many European countries.
The problem is that the age limits and discounts offered on the Continent vary and it can be hard to get reliable information about what is on offer. But -- given the huge choice of sights and museums to visit -- it is information worth knowing.
I've compiled an indicative guide to age-related admissions policy in key destinations. It's not intended to be comprehensive, and, while I have done my best to verify the information, policies change and websites are not always up to date.
For major sights where long queues can be a problem, it is worth booking online before you travel, even though it might cost a couple of euros extra. Details on how to do this are on the websites listed.
All references to free or reduced admissions listed below are for Irish (or EU) citizens aged 65 or over. You will need your passport to prove your age.
Museums and galleries belonging to the state (Musei Statali) -- which include many of the most famous ones -- are free for European citizens over 65 upon presentation of their passport. Musei Comunali (those run by local authorities or cities) sometimes follow state policies, but often offer a reduced-price entrance fee for over-65s; likewise for private museums and attractions.
The many churches which have an entrance charge do not usually offer concessions for older travellers. Here are some examples of charges in key cities:
Rome: Many of the key sites in and around Rome are state controlled, so admission is free for over-65s (normal entry to the Colosseum, for example, is €12). They include the Colosseum, the different branches of the National Roman Museum -- Crypta Balbi, Altemps Palace, Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian, Ostia Antica, the Borghese Gallery and the Palazzo Barberini and tickets to the Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Sometimes guided tours, tickets to particular areas and entrance to exhibitions do incur a charge. The Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) are run by the Vatican and there are no specific reductions for older travellers on the full entrance price of €15 (though genuine pilgrims can get free entrance -- see mv.vatican.va).
Florence: There is no charge at the key museums of the Uffizi (normally €6), Accademia (€6) and Bargello (€4). More details can be found at uffizi.firenze.it.
Venice: There's free admission to the Accademia and associated museums (including the Ca' d'Oro and the Palazzo Grimani -- details on gallerieaccademia.org), and entry to the museums of St Mark's Square (museiciviciveneziani.it, including the Correr and the Doge's Palace) costs €8 instead of €14. The Guggenheim offers a €2 discount on the normal admission price of €12 (guggenheim-venice.it).
There are no national guidelines, but it doesn't seem to be part of the national culture to reduce prices for older visitors. I checked a dozen or so major sights and found no discounts. For example, in Paris there are no reductions at the Louvre (louvre.fr; €10), Musée d'Orsay (musee-orsay.fr; €8) or Eiffel Tower (tour-eiffel.com; €13.40 for the lift), nor are there on the official Paris Museum Passes (en.parismuseumpass.com), which offer entrance to around 60 museums for two (€35), four (€50) or six (€65) days.
Outside Paris the story continues, with no reductions at the Chateau de Chambord (chambord.org; €9.50) or the Versailles Palace (en.chateauversailles.fr; €15).
There is no standard concession for older travellers. Regions set their own ticket prices, and almost all have a reduced entry price for over-60s or 65s.
Here are some key examples: the Prado Museum in Madrid is €4 reduced from €8 for those over 60; EU citizens over 65 qualify for free admission. The Thyssen Bornemisza (museothyssen.org) drops admission to €5.50 from €8. In Barcelona, the Picasso Museum (bcn.cat/museupicasso/en) is €6 instead of €10.
Outside the main cities, the Alhambra in Granada charges €9 (instead of €12) for admission to the Alhambra and Generalife (alhambra-patronato.es/index.php) for EU citizens over 65.
Normally, over-65s get a 50pc reduction on the admission price, or free entry. Some sites are less generous -- the new Acropolis Museum (theacropolismuseum.gr) offers those aged 65 and above from EU countries a reduced fee of €3. The National Archaeological Museum (namuseum.gr) charges €3 instead of €7 and entrance to the Acropolis/ Parthenon (odysseus.culture.gr) is €6 instead of €12.