Here in Britain we can’t resist a freebie and whether you’re looking for music, museums or markets, we’ll prove you really can get something for nothing. So stash your cash and read on to discover 10 activities that won’t cost you a penny.
Fancy journeying back to the time of the dinosaurs, meeting an Egyptian mummy or experiencing wartime Britain? Then seek out Britain’s free museums and galleries. Try Glasgow’s sparkly new Riverside Museum with historic vehicles funkily displayed in a triumphant Zaha Hadid building, Tate Britain in London with its unmatchable collection of work by JMW Turner or the Merseyside Maritime Museum for a dose of British seafaring history. There are loads more all over the UK to suit every taste.
For a good old bit of pomp and pageantry book ahead to see the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London or take yourself down to Buckingham Palace to see Changing the Guard every day. If you want a glimpse of the Queen, line the Mall to see Trooping the Colour (in June) or attend the State Opening of Parliament.
Parks and gardens
The UK’s stuffed with enticing green spaces with lush grass, perfumed flowers and acres of room to wander in. In London, Greenwich Park has terrific views across the river to Canary Wharf, Regent’s Park boasts fragrant rose gardens and Richmond Park guards ancient trees and roaming deer. Or head to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for a huge range of native and exotic plants, mature trees and outdoor sculptures.
Want to see a gig or concert for free? Then get down to the Wales Millennium Centre for free lunchtime and early evening concerts or the Southbank Centre in London for regular gigs covering everything form jazz to classical, dance and rock. You’ll also find that pubs and clubs up and down the country often have free gigs for all to enjoy – so keep your eyes and ears open and check local listings. In Scotland you can’t beat an impromptu folk session in a pub, with whisky flowing to get you in the mood.
Head to Edinburgh in August as the Festival kick-starts a manic programme of entertainment that often spills onto the Scottish capital’s streets. Larger shows in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are also often free and you might just catch the next big thing. In London you can enjoy street entertainment year round at Covent Garden or on the South Bank near the London Eye.
Shopping and markets
Even without cash to splash, there’s a special pleasure in checking out some of the most famous shops in the world. Harrods in London is a landmark in its own right and the tile-decked, caviar-stuffed foodhall has to be seen to be believed. If markets are more your thing, seek out Borough Market in London selling alluring food of every description and offering free samples or Columbia Road flower market that transforms London’s East End with a riot of colourful blooms. In Scotland, the Barras market in Glasgow is the place to sample Glaswegian banter at its best.
Art needn’t be confined to galleries and round Britain there are a number of inspiring, large-scale sculptures for all to see. Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North near Newcastle has become an iconic figure with his stirring Another Place at Crosby Beach not far behind. Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches, a series of stone sculptures in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, are an impressive sight, as is Thomas Heatherwick’s enormous shimmering sculpture Bleigiessen, the centrepiece of the Wellcome Trust’s Gibbs Building in London.
To find out more about public art in the UK visit Public Art Online
Carnivals, festivals & parades
Britain has a packed calendar of free events throughout the year celebrating everything from food to flowers. Cardiff Big Weekend hosts the biggest names from pop, the Notting Hill Carnival in London is a weekend of non-stop partying Caribbean style and Bonfire Night in November sees firework displays up and down the country.
In Britain you can’t go far without bumping into something really ancient. The Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire is thought to be over 4,000 years old and wandering freely among the stones is a magical experience. The Cerne Abbas giant, a huge, naked figure etched in chalk on a hillside near Dorchester is also shrouded in mystery and the Uffington White chalk Horse is equally awesome in scale.
For more details on Britain’s free ancient monuments visit the National Trust.
Take a walk
With the long summer days and warm weather there’s no better or cheaper way to explore Britain’s beautiful countryside than on foot. Fifteen National Trails pass through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in England and Wales and offer dearly marked long-distance walking routes. Check out the equivalent long distance routes in Scotland if you want to walk north of the border.