25 Best Free Things to Do in the United Kingdom

Tourist with backpack walking on Regent Street in London, UK
Regent Street in London.

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Vacation fun in the UK doesn't have to cost a bundle—in fact, it doesn't even have to cost a cent. You can experience rich British history, countryside vistas, and city culture, and still stay on budget. All of Britain's national museums (not just the ones in London) are free to everyone, every day of the year. There's also free access to most of the nature reserves and state-run parks, as well, where you can hike, bike, search for animals, and walk on the beach. True—a trip over the pond in itself can do a number on your pocketbook, but once you're there, our list of free things to do in the United Kingdom will ensure an unforgettable experience.

01 of 25

Walk the Streets of Bath

The city of Bath, England

Bento Fotography / Getty Images

Address
Bath, UK

The city of Bath is rooted deep in Roman and Georgian history, and on a free Mayor of Bath Walking Tour, you'll get to experience it all. Check out landmarks like The Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a crescent shape—now a hotel and spa. The Circus, an equally impressive ring of large townhouses designed by architect John Wood, and built between 1754 and 1768, is a prime example of Georgian architecture. Pulteney Bridge, completed in 1774, also displays this period's design. And, of course, a tour of Bath would not be complete without learning about the natural hot springs (Roman baths) on which the city sits. It is said that soaking in the mineral-rich springs alleviates certain ailments.

02 of 25

Smell the Flowers in the Sky Garden

Entrance of the Sky Garden

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Address
1, Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF, UK
Phone +44 333 772 0020

The Sky Garden is London's highest public garden that offers 360-degree views of the city's skyline. Here, you can enjoy planted terraces full of drought-resistant Mediterranean and South African plant varieties that flourish year-round. Flowering plants include the African lily, the red hot poker, Bird of Paradise, and herbs like French lavender. Free access to the garden is available on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and, on weekends, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Of course, you can also book a dinner reservation in the garden cafe, but that comes with a price.

03 of 25

Experience the Magic of Harry Potter

Children viewing the city of Edinburgh

Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Address
Edinburgh, UK

In Edinburg, Harry Potter fans can pretend they stepped into a scene from the novel with a free walking tour on The Potter Trail. The 90-minute tour, given by a robed guide, will take you past the locations that inspired both the characters and scenes in the series. Meander by the burial site of Lord Voldemort, check out the café where Rowling wrote the first Potter book, and take a trip down the real-life Diagon Alley. Extended two-hour tours include magic from a trained magician to enhance the fairytale-like atmosphere of your journey through Edinburg

04 of 25

Learn About the Textile Industry

Vintage wool mill with bobbins

karenfoleyphotography / Getty Images

Address
235 Moorside Road, Eccleshill, Bradford BD2 3HP, UK
Phone +44 1274 435900

At the Brandford Industrial Museum, you'll discover the history of Moorside Mills, built-in 1875. This worsted spinning mill, which changed hands and grew several times, represents local industrial culture. Here, you can see displays of working textile and printing machinery, alongside old motor vehicles. Learn about historical fashion, and attend a workshop that gives you an up-close look at a working mill. The museum has multiple galleries and venues associated with it; admission is free to all, but donations are kindly accepted.

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05 of 25

Explore the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum

Arbeia Roman Fort

Roger Coulam / Getty Images

Address
Baring Street, South Shields NE33 2BB, UK
Phone +44 191 277 1409

The Arbeia Roman Fort once housed the garrison that guarded the entrance to the Tyne estuary. Although a large portion of the fort was destroyed, the site was reconstructed based on excavations and finds from the historic fort. This garrison was manned by Iraqi legionnaires and this fact is reflected in its name—Arbeia means "Arab" in Latin. While there, check out the reconstructions of original buildings, and the archeological finds, that provide perspective into life in Roman Britain. If you go during the winter, time your visit for a candlelight tour in December to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

06 of 25

Enjoy the View at Arthur's Seat

View of Arthur's Seat

TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald

Address
Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh EH16 5HX, UK

Arthur's Seat is an extinct volcano and one of Edinburgh's seven hills. It's a hefty hike to the top, but not beyond the reach of most reasonably fit adults and children. This rocky crag, located in Holyrood Park, offers remarkable views of the city of Edinburgh and the surrounding area, including the ocean, the Western Highlands, and Edinburgh Castle. If hiking's not for you, you can take a bus ride that puts you close to the summit (for a small fee).

07 of 25

Relax on the Beach

The West Pier Brighton at Sunset

Tim Grist Photography / Getty Images

Address
Kynance Cove, Mullion, UK

The United Kingdom, with nearly 7,800 miles of coastline. contains some of the world's most beautiful beaches that can be easily accessed within a two-hour drive, or less, from most of the country. That said, U.K. beaches are not tropical havens where you can bask in the sun or swim in warm waters. The water, even on beaches that receive currents from the Gulf Stream, is still pretty chilly. Fortunately, what these beaches lack in warmth, they make up for in sheer drama, with dramatic vistas and isolated stretches perfect for walking, surfing, exploring, and wildlife watching. Visit Kynance Cove in Cornwall, one of the locations that doubles as Nampara in the British series "Poldark."

08 of 25

Marvel at the Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit coal museum in wales

Martin Alvarez Espinar / Flickr

Address
Pontypool NP4 9XP, UK
Phone +44 300 111 2333

The Big Pit Coal Mine is a modern, operational coal mine that also houses the United Kingdom's Big Pit National Coal Museum. It's complete with galleries, exhibitions, and historic artifacts centered around the history of Britain's coal industry. Guests can meet a virtual miner in the Mining Galleries, explore exhibitions in the Pithead Baths, and wander through historic colliery buildings. The highlight, however, is a tour that takes visitors 300 feet underground with a real miner to see the coal face. Located in Blaenavon, Wales, the Big Pit is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape UNESCO World Heritage site

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09 of 25

Browse Paintings at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Bob Hall / Flickr

Address
Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH, UK
Phone +44 121 348 8000

The city of Birmingham was one of the manufacturing centers of 19th century Britain, and the 120-year-old Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, known locally as BMag, is a reminder of the wealthy Victorian industrialist's contribution to the area's art and culture. The museum's collections range from Renaissance paintings to 9,000-year-old Middle Eastern treasures.​ BMag is best known for its outstanding collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, as it houses one of the largest collections in the world of this once-radical school of art.

10 of 25

Pay Your Respects at Bury St. Edmunds

Abbeygate

T Sherratt / Getty Images

Address
Bury St Edmunds, Bury Saint Edmunds, UK

St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, was martyred by Danish Vikings and (before St. George) was a patron saint of England. His shrine, located at Bury St. Edmunds, was a place of pilgrimage. Today, there is very little left of the Abbey that housed the shrine, but you can still see remnants of this important medieval town. In addition to the Abbey ruins, other interesting medieval buildings and landmarks make a visit here well worthwhile. Stroll in the Abbey gardens to watch a typical English game of lawn bowls, and then window-browse the shops on the grounds for a top-notch experience.

11 of 25

Stand in the Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick, Lake Distict, UK

joe daniel price / Getty Images

Address
Castle Lane, Keswick CA12 4RN, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Don't miss a visit to ancient Castlerigg Stone Circle, located high up in the Lake District near Keswick. This site, which is made of 33 stones, was erected in approximately 3,000 BC, and offers an unforgettable view of snow-capped Helvellyn and High Seat. The actual function of this early circle is not exactly known, but it was thought to be an important meeting place for scattered Neolithic communities. In typical English fashion, English Heritage, the nonprofit organization that manages the site, says that it is open "at any reasonable time during daylight hours."

12 of 25

Uncover the Cerne Abbas Giant

Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorest, UK

Josie Elias / Getty Images

Address
The Giant Inn, 24 Long Street, Cerne Abbas, Dorchester DT2 7AL, UK
Phone +44 1297 489481

The best way to describe the sexiest of English national monuments, the Cerne Abbas Giant, is to let the uber-respectable National Trust, one of Britain's most established institutions, do it for you. The organization describes the giant as "a huge outline sculpted into the chalk hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas, representing a naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant."​ The rendition of the giant was once buried in the grass during World War II to prevent him from becoming a landmark for the Luftwaffe. After the war, he was uncovered by archeologists. Sometimes called "The Rude Man," the Cerne Abbas Giant has often been a location for pranks.

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13 of 25

Wander Through Chester Roman Garden

Chester Roman Garden

Alan Novelli / Getty Images

Address
Pepper Street, Chester CH1 1DQ, UK
Phone +44 1244 402260

Chester, or Deva, as it was known in Roman times, was an important Roman city, not far from Hadrian's Wall. The city's Roman Garden, between Pepper Street and the River Dee, was created during the 1950s to display fragmentary finds from the 19th century uncovered during construction in the region. Take a pleasant walk among the remains and you'll see carved fragments of military buildings, including the main baths and legionary headquarters. While you're at it, wander the historical streets of Chester, itself. The city is home to the most complete city walls in Britain, built to protect the city from Roman occupation 2,000 years ago.

14 of 25

Step Inside Old Parish Churches

St Botolph's Church

Barbara Eddowes / Getty Images

England is dotted with small, old parish churches. Unlike the early abbeys and cathedrals which were sacked, these "unimportant" hamlets escaped the ravages of the Reformation in England. Today, most remain intact, giving you a peek into the architecture of the 12th century or earlier. St. John the Evangelist Church, in Bury, West Sussex, for example, has a 12th-century spire and nave, and a 14th-century rood screen.​ Another worth visiting, St Botolph's in Hardham, dates back to 1050 A.D.—before William the Conqueror—and has some of England's earliest and most complete medieval wall paintings.

15 of 25

Look Out the WIndow at Duxford Chapel

Duxford Chapel

James Stringer / Flickr

Address
Station Road East, Whittlesford, Cambridge CB22 4NL, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Duxford Chapel, a 14th-century chapel in Cambridgeshire, may have originally served as a hospital. However, by the 19th century, it had fallen into disrepair and neglect. Miraculously, the medieval bones of the building survived, including its apparently ecclesiastic windows. Today, Duxford Chapel is cared for by English Heritage and welcomes guests to take a free tour of the grounds and the interior. Marvel over the exposed wooden beam ceiling and peer through the cusped windows, noting the slots for glazing, bars, and glass.

16 of 25

Attend an Coral Evensong

First Performance By The Newly Formed Canterbury Cathedral Girls Choir
WPA Pool / Getty Images
Address
Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH, UK
Phone +44 1227 762862

Most of the famous cathedrals in Britain charge entrance fees for upkeep and maintenance, however, you can attend a worship service for free. Go during Evensong, a short service usually performed in song by the Cathedral Choir around 5:30 or 6 p.m., Monday through Sunday. These short services offer a great chance to experience the inside of famous cathedrals for free. Times will be posted on a notice board outside the church or online.​ And, the only expense you'll have is what your conscience dictates you deposit into the collection box.

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17 of 25

Climb the Giant's Causeway

Giants' Causeway, Ireland

Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images

Address
Giant's Causeway, Bushmills BT57 8SU, UK

It's hard to believe that Giant's Causeway on the North coast of County Antrim is not manmade, as this roadway to the sea is made of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some more than 12 meters high. Instead, this natural wonder was produced by an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones, mostly hexagonal, leading from the foot of a cliff into the sea. Along the route, stop and see sights like the Grand Causeway, the Giant's Boot, and the Wishing Chair, and then marvel at the award-winning architecture of the visitor's center before going inside. The Giant's Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987.

18 of 25

Browse Collections at the Great North Museum of Hancock

Great North Museum: Hancock

Andrew Curtis / Wikimedia Commons

Address
Great North Museum-Hancock Barras Bridge, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PT, UK

The Great North Museum: Hancock, in Newcastle upon Tyne, combines the collections of several natural and ancient history museums across the world. Highlights include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, objects from the ancient Greeks, mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium, and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton. Exhibits also include live animal tanks and aquariums housing wolf fish, pythons, lizards, and ​leaf-cutting ants. Visiting the museum is completely free of charge, but donations are accepted and welcomed.

19 of 25

Walk Along Hadrian's Wall

A scenic view of a field with hadrian's wall cutting through it

TripSavvy / Chris VR

Address
Brampton CA8 7DD, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

Construction for Hadrian's Wall started during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D., and was built to stretch 73 miles across Northern Britain, from coast to coast. The wall marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire and was the most fortified border in the empire. Today, much of Hadrian's Wall still remains. Walk along miles of free paths and trails to see 14 major Roman sites and forts, as well as countless mile-castles and turrets. This UNESCO World Heritage Site can be explored by foot or bike, but there is also a regular bus service along the route, year-round.

20 of 25

Tour a Letocetum Roman Bath and Museum

Letocetum Roman Baths

Jennifer McLinden / Flickr

Address
Watling Street, Lichfield WS14 0AW, UK
Phone +44 121 625 6820

The Letocetum Roman Bath site is considered one of the finest excavated sites of its kind, including the foundations of an ancient inn and bathhouse. These bathhouses once served as a staging post, and a place for Roman soldiers to relax while traveling across England. Tour the grounds and museum, located on Watling Street in Wall, near Lichfield, Staffordshire. This ancient Roman road runs from southeast to northwest across England and is suspected to have followed the path of an ancient British railway, still in use today.

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21 of 25

Explore the National Maritime Museum

Spiral staircase, The Queen's House, Greenwich

Peter Adams / Getty Images

Address
Romney Road, London SE10 9NF, UK
Phone +44 20 8858 4422

The maritime history of Britain, navigational and astronomical discoveries, and the seafaring deeds that led to voyages of discovery can all be found at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich. This wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the museum, as well as the 400-year-old Queen's House, designed by Inigo Jones and restored in 2016.  Enter the museum for a free viewing of some exhibits. For others, like the Prime Meridian Courtyard, where you can stand on the Prime Meridian or straddle 0 degrees longitude, you'll have to pay an admission. Finish your visit with a free walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, one of only two pedestrian tunnels under the Thames. Then, check out the breathtaking view of the entire site from across the river.

22 of 25

Browse the City Markets

Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill

Maremagnum / Getty Images

Address
Portobello Road, London W11 2EB, UK

Britain's outdoor and covered markets are a feast for people watching, photo ops, and browsing stalls. In London, locals flock to the Portobello Road Market, best known for its impressive collection of antiques and vintage clothing, alongside jewelry, furniture, fresh produce, and delicious street food. The Birmingham Bullring Markets have hosted trading in the same open-air spot for hundreds of years and feature fresh fruit and vegetables, fabrics, household items, and seasonal goods. Leed's Kirkgate Market is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe where you can purchase fresh food and drink, fashion and jewelry items, flowers, and hardware. While buying wares at the shops or grabbing a bite to eat will cost money, you can usually score some tasty free samples and sit and enjoy the passersby for free.

23 of 25

Climb Aboard the National Railway Museum

The Mallard steam train

britainonview / Doug McKinlay

Address
Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ, UK
Phone +44 330 058 0058

Britain's National Railway Museum is the world's largest of its kind and features over 300 years of rail history, exciting exhibits, and iconic objects. This stop is perfect for families and railroad buffs of all ages, as kids can climb aboard some of the world's most iconic trains, including the U.K. steam engine record-setter, The Mallard, and a giant locomotive built in Britain for the Chinese railways. The museum offers daily demonstrations of ​awe-inspiring machinery, like the turntable for powering locomotives, theatre programs about railway history and railroad inventors, and visits from Thomas the Tank Engine during some school holidays.

24 of 25

Storm the Fortress at National Roman Legion Museum

Roman Amphitheatre Caerleon, Wales

Chris Mellor / Getty Images

Address
High Street, Caerleon, Newport NP18 1AE, UK
Phone +44 300 111 2333

In 75 A.D., the Romans built a fortress in Caerleon, Newport, Wales, where they held sway over the local population for 200 years. Today, thousands of years later, the National Roman Legion Museum sits within the remains of this fortress. Here, you can discover how soldiers lived on the edge of the Roman Empire in one of only three permanent fortresses. You can also take part in workshops, like the Firestarter Exhibition, and attend talks, like one on Welsh love tokens. The grounds are also home to a Roman garden, the remains of a barracks, and the most complete Roman amphitheater in the United Kingdom.

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25 of 25

See the Uffington White Horse

White horse Uffington, Berkshire

Gary Chalker / Getty Images

Address
Dragon Hill Road, Uffington, Faringdon SN7 7QJ, UK
Phone +44 1793 762209

The Uffington White Horse is possibly one of England's oldest chalk figures, dating at least 3,000 years old. It is partially visible from several vantage points, but only completely visible from the air. The horse sits in virtually the same position as when it was first built. No one knows exactly why the horse was built, but the White Horse of Uffington has inspired several other contemporary chalk horse constructions throughout Dorset and west England. Today, you can wander around White Horse Hill, and beyond, to discover ancient remains like burial mounds dating back to the Neolithic period.

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25 Best Free Things to Do in the United Kingdom