I don’t know about you, but it feels like autumn is most definitely upon us. I’ll soon be planning my Halloween costume ideas and feeling grumpy waking up in the dark (the fact that I get an extra hour under my duvet is never enough compensation for banging my toe on the end of the bed in the stumble to find the light switch). If like me, you’re slightly dreading the colder weather and darker days, being able to look forward to a weekend away that won’t break the bank is just what the doctor ordered. Cities for Less Breaks are a great way to squeeze in a few days with friends or a loved one before the inevitable tightening of the purse strings in the run up to Christmas.
Cities for Less breaks let you enjoy 2 nights in some of the top UK cities and include a free gift of your choice from a selection of attraction tickets, city tours and dining options. From spine-tingling tours of the Haunted Vaults on an Edinburgh for Less break, to stuffing your face at Planet Hollywood on a London break or discover the history of chocolate at the Sweet Story in York. Not only are these great value breaks an ideal way of spending a weekend knowing that you’re entertainment is taken care of, but these three cities are also perfect for spending a day without spending at all. I’ve picked out my top ideas for making the most of these great cities without having to blow the budget!
London for Less
Camden Markets, Victoria and Albert Museums, Piccadilly Circus
Visiting London can be seen as an expensive treat, but after visiting numerous times to see the latest art exhibitions during my student days I can assure you that a great time can still be had with little or no budget. One of my favourite ways to start an indulgence-free day is to head over to Camden Lock Market first thing in the morning so I’m free to browse the endless stalls full of unique, colourful clothes, quirky gifts and vintage gems un-interrupted by bustling crowds. Even if you don’t plan on making any purchases, the markets have a great atmosphere and enjoying a stroll around all the different seller’s displays is the perfect way to start your day. If you can spare a few pounds, grab yourself a hot cup of coffee and go and sit down by the canal to watch the other shoppers passing by. This is a great spot for people watching and nosing at the strange and wonderful things other people splash their cash on.
In the afternoon, head over to the V&A Museum in Knightsbridge. This free museum is crammed with over 4 million objects and is the largest museum of decorative arts and design in the world. My favourite parts of this museum are the Ceramics collection on Level 6 and the Jewellery collection on 3. I can’t think of a better way to brighten up a cold autumn afternoon than to lose yourself in the wonderfully garish pinks and golds of Sèvres porcelain or in the seriously sparkly diamonds display.
As the sun sets and London lights up for the evening, head to the iconic Piccadilly Circus. This bustling part of the city is always busy with tourists taking photos and numerous other passers-by stopping to take it all in, but the lively atmosphere is not to be missed – especially if you’re visiting London for the first time. In the early evening, take a stroll from here to Covent Garden via Shaftesbury Avenue through the heart of the West End and you’ll easily get caught up the in the pre-show buzz surrounding the theatres as crowds gather outside in their dressed-to-impress finery. Even if you’re not stretching your budget to include tickets to a musical, great fun can still be had if you can catch one of the street performers that are renowned in the Covent Garden area.
Edinburgh for Less
North Berwick, Scottish National Gallery, Princes Street Gardens
The last time I visited Edinburgh was back in my cash-strapped student days on a weekend away with fellow residents of my university Halls. Trying to make the most of our student loan (with an obvious preference for spending most of our budget on sampling the local brews) we wanted to make the most of the city without having to waste valuable cash. One rather bleary-eyed and sore-headed morning our hostel owner suggested we’d all feel better after some fresh East Lothian air so we took his advice and jumped on the train from Edinburgh Waverly to North Berwick and arrived on the glorious coast in just over half an hour. After a rather blustery walk along the beautiful Milsey Bay buffeted by the sea breeze we did indeed feel a lot more human!
Back in the city in the afternoon with a much clearer head I managed to drag my friends into the Scottish National Gallery, where I enjoyed catching a glimpse of Gaugin’s iconic Vision of the Sermon, as well as other works by Monet and Degas. I’d happily recommend a visit to this stunning collection during a visit to the Scottish Capital as not only does it boast an impressive line-up of artist’s works it’s also free to enter. As the end of the day approached we headed over to Princes Street Gardens to take in the stunning views of the iconic Edinburgh Castle lit up against the evening sky, and looked forward to another night of getting acquainted with the city’s many pubs and bars.
York for Less
City Walls, National Railway Museum, York Minster
One of the great things about living and working in York is that the popular attractions that draw in the crowds are always on my doorstep. When I first moved here I spent the morning walking around the historic City Walls as I hadn’t really taken in the sights of the city other than those that I’d glimpsed on my way to and from Superbreak Towers. Walking the walls during a visit to York is an easy way to familiarise yourself with the city as well as to take in some stunning views of the iconic York Minster and Clifford’s Tower.
The National Railway Museum is another iconic York institution that can be enjoyed free of charge. I’m yet to visit this legendary museum but a friend of mine who’s a bit of a train-geek assures me that you don’t need to be a transport-history buff to enjoy a day out here. The museum hosts regular events that will keep younger visitors (and the young at heart) entertained, including a Paddington Bear themed week of events during the October Half Term.
My favourite way to end a guilt-free day of saving the pennies in York is to stroll through the cobbled streets of the city towards the York Minster. Breathtaking by day, the magnificent cathedral is even more magical at night as the stunning stained glass windows are lit from within. Taking a moment to perch on a bench wrapped up in my big warm coat and just admire the view makes me feel like a very lucky Yorkie indeed.
Have you visited any of these top UK cities before? What are your tips for saving some money while you’re there? Let me know by leaving a comment in the box below!