Best cheap city breaks in the UK

written by Zara Sekhavati

updated 12.12.2023

With a huge rise in local travel, UK breaks are ever popular right now. There are plenty of thriving city breaks to be had, from exploring the fascinating museums in Liverpool to heading to the sea in Portsmouth. Read our guide to the best cheap city breaks in the UK, and get inspired to escape the everyday. Start planning your affordable UK city break.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. Liverpool: Best for free museums

Liverpool is a firm favourite with regard to UK city breaks and a fitting place to begin our roundup of the best cheap city breaks in the UK. There are plenty of sightseeing options here, and most are free. If you’re a dedicated Beatles fan, head to Strawberry Field, the inspiration for the iconic song, and enjoy a tipple at the Cavern Club, the legendary music venue where the Fab Four played.

If you are looking for your museum fix head to Tate Liverpool or the Liverpool World Museum – all without paying a penny. There is some incredible architecture in the city. Think Princes Road Synagogue for its Moorish Revival structures and the 18th-century touches of the Georgian Quarter for a wander. Discover the best affordable places to stay in Liverpool.

Liverpool’s Cavern Club © VisitBritain

Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club © VisitBritain

2. Manchester: Best for free art galleries

One of the best cheap city breaks in the UK is Manchester. One of the finest cities up north, Manchester is a vibrant place to be for a holiday. Head to the Northern Quarter for some drinks and music and head for a picnic in one of the city’s lush parks such as Haigh Woodland Park.

After that visit the local galleries. Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery are two of the most prominent art institutions in Manchester, both showcasing a diverse range of contemporary and historical art from around the world.

John Rylands Library built in 1988 by Enriqueta Rylands, it opened to the public in 1900  © Debu55y/Shutterstock

John Rylands Library in Manchester © Debu55y/Shutterstock

3. Hull: Best for cheap accommodation

Hull was named the 2017 UK City of Culture and reminded visitors of the city’s impressive attractions. An unmissable sight, due to its sheer size, is the 2,300 metre-long Humber Bridge, standing proud as an engineering masterpiece in the city. For history and culture, head to the Ferens Art Gallery and the Streetlife Museum of Transport.

The latter is a favourite for little ones. The Deep Aquarium is a top choice for families. Accommodation is highly affordable. You can bet on an average stay in a hotel coming in as low as around the £25 mark a night. Start planning your stay in Hull.

Humber Bridge, Hull © Peteris Dancs/Shutterstock

Hull is one of the best cheap city breaks in the UK © Peteris Dancs/Shutterstock

4. Glasgow: Best for architecture

For a bigger city to explore, head to Glasgow. An edgier version of Edinburgh, Glasgow has lots of appeal. Head to Royal Exchange Square to people watch, Kelvingrove Art Gallery to soak up some culture and Glasgow University to find the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world. It's also a fantastic place to travel alone.

Make sure to see the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis, which are Glasgow’s Gothic architecture masterpieces. The Necropolis is a cemetery which inspired the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. For a more in-depth look, take a look at our insider’s guide to Glasgow and don't miss Glasgow's top hotels for your budget break.

Glasgow Cathedral © James McDowall/Shutterstock

Glasgow Cathedral at dusk © James McDowall/Shutterstock

5. Newcastle: Best for a mix of old and new

Newcastle is a highly affordable UK city break with its good quality but low-cost hotels. Think as cheap as around £26 a night. There are plenty of different attractions in Newcastle. Gateshead, placed on the south side of the river, is home to some alluring independent shops, a microbrewery and a plethora of street food markets, so makes a great stop for lunch. Newcastle is a cultural city, too.

There is The Great North Museum: Hancock to explore (for free!) while art fans will enjoy the Baltic Art Gallery. Here you will find contemporary art and performances in a former old flour mill, so the building is an attraction in itself.

For older architecture, head to Newcastle Castle with the cheap entry price of £8.50. The Victoria Tunnel is a must-see, too. Built between 1839 and 1842, it was used to transport coal. It runs from the Town Moor all the way down to the River Tyne. Find out where to stay in Newcastle and book your getaway.

Newcastle © Ashliegh Wick/VisitBritain

Newcastle - where history and modernity mingle © Ashliegh Wick/VisitBritain

6. Bristol: The coolest city break in the UK

Bristol is always a firm favourite as a cheap city breaks in the UK and what's more, Bristol is one of the coolest cities in the UK. With plenty of independent shops to peruse, street art to find and lots of free attractions, you will find plenty to keep you occupied here.

Head to the Clifton Suspension Bridge for fantastic views and have a stroll around Queen Square. The M Shed is an interesting free attraction with plenty of vibrant exhibits about the city’s history.

If you like nature head out to Ashton Court and see if you can spot the friendly deer who reside here. Creative travellers will delight in taking a walk through Stokes Croft where you can spy some of the best street art in the city. Wells is close by too, which is a lovely town to soak up plenty of history such as the medieval streets in Vicar’s Close and the Wells Cathedral. Find out where to stay in Bristol without breaking the bank,

Bristol © Madrugada Verde/Shutterstock

Bristol's buzzing nightlife — cheap city breaks in the UK © Madrugada Verde/Shutterstock

7. Portsmouth: Best portside city

Breathe in the fresh, crisp sea air in Portsmouth, tuck into an ice cream, sit on the beach and soak up the summer sun. Make your way up Portsdown Hill for incredible panoramic views of the city.

If that’s not enough for you, there are plenty of other attractions in this portside city. Mooch around the shops at Southsea, enter Southsea Castle and head to Fort Nelson to discover some national artillery pieces. Just being by the sea is perfect enough we think! Find out more about booking a Portsmouth break.

Portsmouth Dockyard/HMS Warrior © Laurin/Shutterstock

HMS Warrior at Portsmouth Dockyard © Laurin/Shutterstock

8. London: Best for free attractions

London isn’t the cheapest for hotels, but it does deliver on free attractions. There are endless sightseeing opportunities, all without spending a penny. Head to Caledonian Market and browse the endless array of plants and flowers.

Or, head to Hyde Park for a picnic or enjoy a free view of the city sprawling beneath you at the Sky Garden. You can also make the most of some of the world’s best museums: the V&A, the National History Museum and the British Museum – all for free. Read our London guide for more travel inspiration. Discover London's top places to stay for an affordable break.

Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park © I Wei Huang/Shutterstock

Sunshine on the Serpentine Lake in London's Hyde Park © I Wei Huang/Shutterstock

9. Cardiff: The best affordable capital city

For an alternative affordable and cool city break, why not head to Cardiff? There are plenty of things to do in Cardiff for free. Think the St Fagans National Museum of History and the National Museum Cardiff. Creative folk will enjoy spotting all the street art in the city, while green-fingered travellers will enjoy a stroll in Brute Park.

Alternatively, you can cycle the Cardiff Bay Trail for a fantastic day out or enjoy the Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail which features some fascinating intricate wood carvings. Find out why Cardiff is one of the coolest cities in the UK and book your stay in the city.

Cardiff Bay © Bily Stock/Shutterstock

Beautiful Cardiff Bay © Bily Stock/Shutterstock

10. Belfast: Best Irish city

Belfast is one of the most exciting cities in the UK. There is plenty to enjoy for free here. Peruse the interesting collections of art, history and natural sciences at the Ulster Museum, enjoy the outdoors at the Botanic Gardens and make the most of 360 degree views of the city in the Dome in Victoria Square.

Enjoy the plethora of shopping opportunities here, too. In addition, you can take a free, self-guided walk of the Titanic Trail and learn all about the history of the infamous ship. Don't miss Belfast's top hotels. For more city break inspiration, don't miss our guide to the best weekend breaks in the UK.

Belfast City Hall ©  Susanne Pommer/Shutterstock

Belfast City Hall © Susanne Pommer/Shutterstock

11. Edinburgh: Best for a charming vibe

Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is a fantastic destination for a cheap city breaks in the UK. With a wide range of affordable accommodation options, including hostels and budget hotels, it's easy to find a place to stay that won't break the bank.

There are also plenty of free or low-cost things to do in the city, such as exploring the historic Old Town and its many museums and galleries, taking a stroll through the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, or climbing Arthur's Seat for stunning views over the city. Additionally, Edinburgh has a thriving food and drink scene, with plenty of affordable options to sample traditional Scottish cuisine or international fare.

Cityscape of Edinburgh Arthur's Seat © S-F/Shutterstock

Cityscape of Edinburgh Arthur's Seat © S-F/Shutterstock

Planning your perfect UK city break

Our local experts can plan wonderful trips for you to the United Kingdom or anywhere you have been dreaming of travelling. Simply get in touch when you would like to travel. We will then create a personalized itinerary, which you can amend until you are totally happy with every detail of the booking. All of our planned itineraries can be tailored to meet your specific needs.

Feel inspired? Check out the snapshot of The Rough Guide to Wales or The Rough Guide to England and start planning your perfect trip.

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