June 14, 2024

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Travel expert’s University Challenge shows how to ditch pricey hotels near the UK’s Top 20 Free Attractions

The latest Visit Britain list of the UK’s Top 20 Free Attractions contains many inspiring, must-see places. However, for anyone planning to work through the list with a ‘staycation’ or a series of long weekends, there is a big catch. While the attractions themselves may be free, they are often located in some of the most expensive areas to visit in the country.

The UK’s Top 20 most-visited free attractions are:

1 Natural History Museum 2 Brighton Pier 3 British Museum 4 Tate Modern 5 National Gallery 6 The V&A 7 Somerset House 8 Science Museum 9 Abbey Gardens (Bury St Edmunds) 10 British Library 11 Tate Britain 12 Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham) 13 The Horniman Public Museum (London) 14 Ashmolean Museum (Oxford) 15 Bodleian Library (Oxford) 16 Imperial War Museum 17 Oxford University Museum of Natural History 18 World Museum, Liverpool 19 Lincoln Castle (Grounds) 20 Wollaton Hall and Park (Nottingham).

While the good news is that these are all absolutely free (though many will appreciate a donation!), nearby hotels, B&Bs and holiday lets are often some of the most expensive in the country.

Lily Smith, a travel expert from the specialist accommodation finder UniversityRooms says: ‘Visit Britain’s list of free attractions really makes you realise what wonderful places there are on our doorstep. The great thing about this list is that none have a set admission fee. However, for anyone holidaying on a budget, that’s only half the battle.

‘Each year, it is getting more expensive to “staycation” in the UK. Brits spent over £175.4bn on hotels and restaurants in 2023, a rise of almost 6% on 2022’s spend of £165.7bn. How can we all save money on accommodation?

‘Well, an increasing number of people are staying in vacant university rooms. That’s a clever call, as many universities offer rooms that are great value, centrally located and still readily available to book for the peak summer season. Best of all, you can stay in them even if you are not a student. Brits on a budget should take the “University Challenge” and see how much they can save over local hotels and holiday lets.

‘For example, over half the UK’s Top 20 Free Attractions are located in London, which can be an extremely expensive place to stay. UniversityRooms offers accommodation at University College, the University of Westminster, Imperial College and a number of other centrally located campuses across the Capital. These offer an ideal budget alternative to hotels and B&Bs. University rooms are available from as little as £50 a night.

‘Outside the Capital, many of the remaining Top 20 attractions are also located in areas that can be prohibitively expensive but are actually affordable because of nearby university accommodation that’s vacant during the holidays.

‘Britain’s No. 2 free attraction is Brighton Pier. Just along the coast, the University of Chichester offers inexpensive rooms and the Roman cathedral city is, of course, a great destination in its own right. One word of warning: this summer, Brighton Pier will charge admission for the first time ever. It will cost £1 each, though kids under 2 enter free.

‘Beautiful Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds certainly justifies its place on the list. Again, there are many historic university colleges for a stay in nearby Cambridge, which is a wonderful venue in its own right.

‘Visitors to Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, ranked at No. 12 on the list, can stay at Roomzzz, Nottingham City. It’s just an hour’s drive and Nottingham is a great base for other attractions on the list.

‘Three Oxford attractions feature on the list: the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can stay in rooms in historic locations such as Oriel and Magdalen colleges. A night’s stay in Magdalen college can cost as little as £55, depending on the date.

‘Next up is the World Museum, Liverpool. Currently, Liverpool university rooms are looking booked up for this summer but more may become available shortly. Check the UniversityRooms website for current information. Alternatively, less than 30 miles away, Roomzzz Chester City currently offers accommodation in one of England’s most beautiful historic cities.

‘The final two destinations on Visit Britain’s list fit neatly together. By staying at Roomzzz, Nottingham City, visitors can explore both Lincoln Castle (less than 40 miles away) and the Tudor delights of Wollaton Hall and Park.

‘Using the innovative service UniversityRooms, visitors can choose from single, twin or double ensuite rooms, on a bed & breakfast or self-catering basis. One thing to consider is that a few universities have a no under-18s rule, so double-check the campus’ details page. For more information on how to enjoy a UK holiday while keeping costs down, and how to book your university stay, see: https://www.universityrooms.com/en-GB/travelinspiration/how-to-have-a-family-holiday-in-the-uk-on-a-shoestring-budget


Caption: Goldsmid House student accommodation in Victoria, central London, is ideally placed for visiting many of the UK’s Top 20 Free Attractions.