Travel the UK on a Budget: Affordable Cities & Attractions
Made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is an excellent destination for avid travelers to explore the influential country’s rich history and heritage. Whether you’re looking to travel by train and traverse the awe-inspiring mountainous regions or experience the hustle and bustle of city life, there are plenty of places to visit in this island nation without breaking the bank. Below you’ll find some travel tips you can use when planning a trip to Great Britain. Tally ho!
Advice on Public Transportation
According to a 2018 report by ValuePenguin, the average U.S. family spends almost half of their funds just getting to, from, and around their destinations when traveling. That’s a lot! So before we begin, the first thing you should do when traveling on a budget to the UK is utilize the abundant amount of public transportation. London has their Oyster Card, which works across buses, the London Underground (a rapid transit system), light rail, and river boats. Outside of London, trains and coach buses are the most popular form of public transportation found within the United Kingdom, many operated by the National Express Group.
Our advice is to plan out what you want to visit more than a week in advance. This way, you’ll be able to travel to the multiple destinations on this list, and still have funds left over to visit famous attractions like the Tower of London, Big Ben, Windsor Castle, museums in London, and so much more!
From its humble origins as a former industrial city in Scotland, Glasgow has turned itself into one of the most vibrant, cultural, and cosmopolitan cities in the UK over the years. As the first UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow has a lively music scene. There’s an excellent mix of world-class music venues, such as the Barrowland Ballroom, and exhilarating free gigs from up-and-coming musicians that you can regularly enjoy at the local pub. If you go, make sure to sample the local fish and chips. The dish is a culinary staple!
Glasgow isn’t just a must-see for music fans — it’s also a great destination for tourists with other interests thanks to the city’s rich history, friendly people, and a diverse choice of attractions that fit into any budget.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
As one of the most popular free museums in Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is famous for its extraordinary architecture and the variety of artwork it has on display. Designed by the same architect responsible for the National Gallery in London, the building houses two galleries: one for paintings and sculptures, and the other for decorative arts like furniture, textiles, and porcelain.
In addition to the museum’s free daily organ recitals at lunchtime, you can also request a free guided tour from Monday to Friday at 2:00 p.m. A winner of the Gold Award from Visit Scotland’s Green Tourism certification, you can travel assured of the museum’s commitment to environmentally friendly tourism practices, which will continue making it a sought-after destination long into the future.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Glasgow is only an hour away from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, with various affordable public transport links from the city such as train, coach, or ferry. Covering almost 2,000 square kilometers, the free park is home to majestic mountains and an abundance of wildlife. Loch Lomond offers a calm and serene respite from the city, making it the perfect place to enjoy a day of hiking or visit for an extended period with a campervan or tent.
Established in 2002 by the Scottish Parliament to protect wild land and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, the park maintains its sustainable origins and remains on course to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030.
The Necropolis — designed in homage to the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris — is directly across from the Glasgow Cathedral in the city center. During the summer, the Necropolis is bedecked by a meadow of wildflowers covering a vast 37 acres that are dotted with an abundance of flora and fauna. It’s completely free to visit, and there are over 3,500 monuments available to view and explore.
As one of the most popular cities in the UK, Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, is home to many of the country’s national, cultural, and sporting institutions. There’s also a considerable number of low-cost attractions ranging from British museums and parks to castles and entertainment. As such, the city is sure to be a joy for all ages and interests.
The National Museum Of Wales
Located in the city’s center, the National Museum of Wales is free to enter and houses an extensive collection of objects from the history of Wales. This includes paintings and sculptures alongside archaeological discoveries from the Prehistoric Era, the Middle Ages, and the Industrial Revolution.
The museum is suitable for all ages with exhibits to suit a range of interests. One of its most popular displays is the “Evolution of Wales” exhibit, which illustrates the country’s history from as far back as the Big Bang all the way through to the present day.
Built by Norman invaders in 1067 on a hilltop overlooking the River Taff, Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ principal heritage venues. Representing a site of national importance, the 11th century embattlements were built atop Roman fortifications, dating back over 2,000 years. As for architecture, it boasts magnificent towers that rise above an opulent and lavish interior. Its location in the city’s center also means you won’t need to spend money on additional travel to see the castle in all its glory.
Brecon Beacons National Park
An hour away from the vibrant city lies Brecon Beacons National Park, a haven of nature and outdoor activities for free. With an abundance of natural beauty, the area is home to some of the best walking trails you will find in Britain. It’s also a popular draw for cyclists and equestrians.
There’s so much to do within the National Park. One of the most popular activities is the hike up Pen y Fan Mountain — the highest peak in South Wales. It’s considered an easy hike that’s even suitable for young children. The expansive views at the top cover miles of wild open moorland that will undoubtedly take your breath away.
Not only is Newcastle the birthplace of the famous Geordie accent, but it also offers an abundance of budget-friendly attractions for visitors. As the unofficial capital of the northeast of England and home to a range of monuments, leisure activities, and landscapes, Newcastle is worth a visit during your UK adventure.
The Tyne Bridges
At present, seven bridges are free to visit, meandering across the River Tyne in Newcastle and its surrounding area. The oldest is the High-Level Bridge, which was constructed in 1849 by engineer Robert Stephenson and was first opened by Queen Victoria. Other must-sees are the Swing Bridge, which stands on the same site as an old Roman fort, and the magnificent Tyne Bridge. The latter was built in 1925 and officially opened by King George V in 1928. At the time of its construction, it had the largest arch of any bridge in the world.
Newcastle Cathedral — or the Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas, as it’s officially named — was built in the 1400s. It was initially a tiny parish church before being converted to a cathedral in 1882. The cathedral features a magnificent 197-foot tower with a lantern spire that was built in 1435 as its central structure.
Inside the cathedral, there are numerous exquisite statues and sculptures, as well as a café where you can enjoy a cup of coveted British tea amidst the grandeur. Entry to the cathedral is free, with the opportunity to purchase pre-bookable tickets at £10 per person for a climb up the lantern tower.
Laing Art Gallery
Built in 1901, the Laing Art Gallery contains a vast collection of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and statues among many other historical artifacts. Top pieces include watercolors by J. M. W. Turner, landscapes by John Martin, and the Lindisfarne Gospels — on loan from the British Library. Within the gallery’s grounds, there’s a café serving exceptional cream teas and cold beverages if you need refreshments, as well as a gift shop where you can purchase mementos or buy gifts for loved ones. Entry to the gallery is free but some exhibitions charge a fee.
Liverpool is a great city to visit on a budget. It has many affordable attractions and the cost of living is lower than in other UK cities. In the last 20 years, the city has become a center of art, culture, and music. As recently as 2008, Liverpool was named the “European Capital of Culture” by the European Commission. You’ll also find lots of free parks, museums, and attractions to visit in this Merseyside city, including two museums that celebrate the city’s distinction of being the home of the Beatles.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Liverpool is the Royal Albert Dock. Located smack dab in the vibrant heart of Liverpool’s historic waterfront, the Albert Docks feature a wide range of buildings and warehouses that contain a variety of museums, restaurants, and galleries. This includes the Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, amongst others. The Albert Docks are fully accessible, so you quickly get there on foot from the city center.
The Museum of the World
The Museum of the World is a free natural history museum, located in the alluring St. George’s Quarter in Liverpool. Spanning six floors, it’s home to a wide range of exhibits on various world cultures and studies. The building also houses a spectacular planetarium and a sizable Egyptian archaeology section, complete with real-life mummies excavated from the sands of Cairo.
Crosby is a small seaside town on the north bank of the River Mersey, located in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton. With a population of approximately 20,000 residents, the town is situated about seven miles to the northeast of Liverpool’s city center.
Home to one of Merseyside’s most popular beaches, featuring soft golden sands and clear water, Crosby is a popular destination for tourists who want to enjoy the beautiful coastline and spend some time on the pier. The pier is surrounded by an assortment of inviting cafes, restaurants, and shops alongside traditional seaside attractions such as an arcade and bowling alley. What’s more, the pier itself offers unparalleled views of the Irish Sea and North Wales coast.
Brighton is a seaside city and town on the south coast of England, and has been popular with tourists since Victorian times. Thanks to its vibrant nightlife, great attractions, and plenty to do during the day, tourists can take advantage of its many budget-friendly activities.
Whether you’re kicking back on the beach, visiting the famous pier, spending time at beachfront cafes, or going on a boat tour, it’s easy to see why Brighton is one the UK’s most popular seaside destinations — and you don’t need to spend a lot of money.
Brighton Palace Pier
Brighton Palace Pier is one of the most popular attractions in Brighton. The Victorian pier stretches out into the English Channel, and has been a landmark for over 100 years. Constructed in 1891 by local architect Eugenius Birch, the expansive pier is 1,834 feet long and covered by an arched glass roof. Entry to the pier is free and it is home to a wide range of restaurants and attractions that are suitable for all ages.
Royal Pavilion Brighton
Originally built as a seaside resort for the Prince Regent — who later became King George IV — the Royal Pavilion Brighton is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. In its rich 200-year history, the Royal Pavilion has served as a civic building and a hospital during the First World War.
The building has been open to the public since 1823 and attracts more than one million visitors yearly. From the Regency Wardrobe to the Music Room, the Royal Bedrooms, the Prince Regent Gallery, and the beautiful Garden and Estate, the Royal Pavilion symbolizes Brighton and is a must-see for anyone interested in British history.
South Downs National Park
South Downs National Park is a protected area in southern England. The park covers an area of nearly 300 square miles and is one of the most extensive areas of undeveloped chalk grasslands and pastoral hills in western Europe. The free park has been designated as a national park to protect its natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage. Located an hour away from Brighton, the National Park is well worth a visit for nature lovers and budding ecologists alike. You can explore everything South Downs has to offer by bus. A South Downs Discovery Ticket costs just £9 per person and is valid for all main bus operators in the region.
It’s Time to Start Planning Your UK Getaway
Interested in visiting the UK, but don’t want to break the bank? We get it! That’s why we’ve put together helpful guides like the above. Using these tips, you can save money and still get to visit London — or travel in the UK, including Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Find your home away from home and stop worrying about how you’ll afford your next vacation with our help.
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