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Thrifty travel

The UK’s top 10 free-est cities

The best things in life are free! With many people wanting to travel but being spend conscious at the same time, we’re pleased to say you can still enjoy your getaways filled with attractions to see and activities to do that don’t break the bank.

Considering the largest and most popular destinations for a UK trip, we looked at the number of free attractions and activities like national landmarks, museums, art galleries and more, per capita. From all the data we were able to create our ranking. We hope our guide helps budget travellers and frugal families to plan their adventures.

The top 10 free-est cities, with the most cost-free attractions and activities per capita, are:

1. Edinburgh

Topping the chart is the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. The city offers a wide selection of cost-free attractions with a significantly smaller population than the largest cities of England.

Some of the activities include an array of galleries and museums, such as the Scottish National Gallery and The Writers’ Museum. The city also offers a lot for Harry Potter fans; J.K. Rowling owes the city, particularly Greyfriars Kirkyard, for inspiration for the names of the wizarding world and Diagon Alley.

Visitors might also like a trip to Cramond Island that’s only accessible for a limited time in the day because of the tides.

2. Cardiff

Cardiff came in second in the study despite having the smallest population of approximately 360,000 people. The smaller population versus the large number of free things to do makes it a great city for anyone looking for an eventful getaway without the crowds.

Visitors might indulge in some culture at The National Museum Cardiff, Wales’ largest artist-run gallery g39 or the 12th century Llandaff Cathedral.

Those who enjoy more outdoor activities might like to trek the Fforest Fawr Circular Walk that includes a sculpture trail or the Cardiff Bay Trail, where people can enjoy landmarks such as the Norwegian Church, the Wales Millennium Centre and the Senedd, the Welsh Assembly’s building.

3. Liverpool

Liverpool offers a number of free activities and attractions that will interest many different people such as the Beatles’ memorial statue in the city centre, the iconic St Luke’s ‘Bombed Out’ Church echoing the events of the 1941 May Blitz, or the city’s Chinatown.

Otherwise, visitors might like to enjoy The Museum of Liverpool, TATE Liverpool, or the Open Eye Gallery, just a handful of things that don’t cost a penny.

4. Bristol

Bristol is a colourful city filled with beautiful street art from Banksy and other graffiti artists, which tourists can enjoy finding along the way - perhaps you might see the city’s famous rainbow-coloured houses of Totterdown in the distance too!

Step back in time in the M Shed, an engineering museum that showcases the earliest planes and vehicles like cars and buses from the early 20th century.

If you're feeling adventurous you can make your way to the top of the iconic landmark Clifton Suspension Bridge to get a view of the city and even take a ride down the famous rock natural slide.

5. Manchester

Manchester is home to a lot of free museums such as the National Football Museum, the Science and Industry Museum, People’s History Museum and many more. It’s the ideal location if you’re passionate about learning more about the things Mancunians love.

Manchester has its own rich history of diversity with its Gay Village surrounding the Rochdale Canal and strong cultural background with the beautiful Chinatown.

6. Leeds

This Yorkshire city has a lot to offer. If museums are your thing, then the free to enter Leeds City Museum is definitely worth the visit. The museum has six galleries, one featuring the Life on Earth exhibition with 800,000 animals, vegetables and minerals including everything from tigers to fossils.

For the more adventurous, people might like to explore the ruins of the Kirkstall Abbey that was first constructed almost 900 years ago or discover Roundhay Park, one of Europe’s biggest city parks covering more than 700 acres of parkland, woodlands, gardens and lakes.

7. Sheffield

Sheffield has a lot to offer for those on a budget, like seeing the beautiful Botanical Gardens with its 5,000 species of plants or the Rivelin Valley Nature Trail, which showcases stunning therapeutic waterfalls.

A trip to Sheffield wouldn't be complete without seeing the iconic local piece of history, the last standing Police Box in the city out of the original 120 that were built back in the 1920s - just another great thing to see for free.

8. Belfast

The capital of Northern Ireland is a beautiful city to visit. It’s home to the Titanic Slipway where the world's most famous ship first touched the water and set sail for its infamous maiden voyage.

The city also showcases its rich musical heritage with The Oh Yeah Music Centre, an active recording location that also offers an opportunity to explore the musical history of Northern Ireland from old folk music to punk rock and modern music.

9. Birmingham

The second largest city in England comes in ninth. It has loads to offer from the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, which is free to walk around the story, with its displays and building stations, to The Lapworth Museum of Geology that's home to ancient dinosaur bones and prehistoric artefacts.

Tourists can also learn more about the city’s heritage from a trip to Birmingham Cathedral or the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery - just a handful of cost-free things on offer!

10. London

The capital of England and the UK’s largest city, London comes 10th on our list. Despite offering a huge amount of free attractions and activities, comparing this number to the overwhelming population of the city and huge crowds means it’s lumped in last.

That said, there are a huge amount of free attractions and activities on offer including the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Sky Garden, Imperial War Museum, Natural History Museum and many, many more.

Places to stay

If you’re looking to make your experience more than a day trip, here are some properties we recommend you check out if you want some more time to explore everything that’s on offer!

  1. Edinburgh - A place to stay nearby
  2. Cardiff - A place to stay nearby
  3. Liverpool - A place to stay nearby
  4. Bristol - A place to stay nearby
  5. Manchester - A place to stay nearby
  6. Leeds - A place to stay nearby
  7. Sheffield - A place to stay nearby
  8. Belfast - A place to stay
  9. Birmingham - A place to stay
  10. London - A place to stay

With many of us feeling the pinch this year, we hope this guide helps you to plan a trip filled with lots of interesting and exciting things to do and see, for free. Travel is all about experiences and this guide offers just that, without having to reach into your pocket!