Britain's cheapest city break is...

Oh, we do love Britain in the springtime! There’s a fine bevy of attractions packed into these little isles, and nowhere’s more packed than the UK’s cities.

If you’re planning a UK city break now the warmer weather has finally appeared, we’ve crunched the numbers to provide you with an easy guide to spending.

What we haven’t done is just line up the cheapest UK metropolises. Let’s face it, some urban hot spots are hotter than others: not all cities are equal when it comes to things to do.

So we’ve also included some of the priciest UK cities – for comparison purposes and because they happen to offer some of the world’s best free activities, meaning you can save big-time there, too.

Begin our cost countdown for 12 brilliant Bri­tish city breaks.

12. London

Average daily spend for two: £234



Expensive? Er, yes. But gobsmacking prices for accommodation, dining and transport in the capital can be deceptive. Find a decent budget hotel, eat your main meal at lunch and take the bus, ride a Boris bike or walk, and you realise what a great city-break deal London can be. Why? Because the free stuff is  world class, from the endlessly fascinating British Museum, to the eye-candy feast that is the National Gallery, to the enthralling history lesson that just walking these ancient streets provides. Cash in!

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £75 (based on central London)
Dinner for two: £80
Pint of beer*: £3.79
Coffee: £2.40
Taxi (two-mile return journey): £18
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Tower of London, £24.50
Top free attraction†: National Gallery

Book city breaks in London

11. Edinburgh

Average daily spend for two: £215



Edinburgh: hoity-toity? Perhaps just a little bit. No one’s going to call the Scottish capital cheap (Cheap? How dare yea!) but the city makes an undeniably classy date. This is the metropolis that TripAdvisor ranked as more expensive even than London for a short break. Yet you’ve got one of the world’s most atmospheric castles here, a former royal yacht to poke around in and, lowering the tone a bit, more delicious wee drams of single malt than you can poke a haggis at.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £80 (Edinburgh city centre)
Dinner for two: £85
Pint of beer*: £3.35
Coffee: £2.20
Taxi: £11
Ticket to most popular paid-for attraction†: Royal Yacht Britannia, £14
Top free attraction†: View from Arthur’s Seat

Book city breaks in Edinburgh

10. Manchester

Average daily spend for two: £212



You could call Manchester Britain’s second city. You could, if you thought sophisticated bars and restaurants, and cutting-edge museums and galleries, all at non-capital prices, weren’t actually a superior virtue. It’s a nice mix: hedonism, plus a quiet (very quiet – my head!) tour of an absorbing cultural collection of a late afternoon.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotel from £70 (Manchester city centre)
Dinner for two: £85
Pint of beer*: £3.19
Coffee: £2.17
Taxi: £10
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Old Trafford, £18 for tour and museum
Top free attraction†: The John Rylands Library

Book city breaks in Manchester

9. Bristol



Bristol’s a city for non-conformists, from the works of the engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel to the still faceless graffiti millionaire Banksy. The alternative arts scene is second to none, Bristol’s foodie rep is ever-ascending and, all-round, it’s a supremely laid-back but stimulating place to hang out.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £55
Dinner for two: £80
Pint of beer*: £3.24
Coffee: £2.16
Taxi: £10
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Brunel’s SS Great Britain, £14
Top free attraction†: St Mary Redcliffe Church

Book Bristol hotels

8. Brighton

Average daily spend for two: £180



Brighton’s a ch—. Well, it’s still cheerful, but whether you could call the seaside city cheap these days is more open to question. Brighton’s become a bo-ho (bourgeois bohemian – do keep up!) mecca and you’ve got some of the country’s hippest and highest-class drinking dens and restaurants here to be decadent in. But who needs ‘em when you’ve got a stick of rock, a slot machine and dog-sized seagulls to nick your fish and chips.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £62
Dinner for two: £72
Pint of beer*: £3.53
Coffee: £2.47
Taxi: £11
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Royal Pavilion, £11.50
Top free attraction†: North Laine

Book Brighton hotels

7. Cambridge

Average daily spend for two: £178



Cambridge has history in spades and, luckily, most of it – in the form of tours of the atmospheric university colleges – is free or very cheap. Merely poking your nose down a cobbled alley or two is a gratis form of time travel, too. Then there’s perhaps the city’s quintessential activity: punting – floating down the River Cam on a sort of canoe powered by a dapper, fit type pushing a very long pole. Expect to pay no more than around £12 per adult for an hour’s gentle cruising.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £60
Dinner for two: £84
Pint of beer*: £3.32
Coffee: £2.40
Taxi: £9
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Centre for Computing History, £7
Top free attraction†: King’s College Chapel

Book Cambridge hotels

6. Belfast

Average daily spend for two: £174



Its troubled history now largely behind it, Belfast has become a decidedly happening sort of place. Top-drawer recent attractions such as the Titanic Belfast and Crumlin Road Gaol (neither exactly celebrating good times, it has to be said) are complemented by rollicking pubs and the artsy waterfront district.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £63 (Belfast city centre)
Dinner for two: £72
Pint of beer*: £3
Coffee: £2.40
Taxi: £11
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Crumlin Road Gaol, £8.50
Top free attraction†: Ulster Museum

Book city breaks in Belfast

5. Leeds

Average daily spend for two: £174



Northern soul? It could be Leeds. Shopping, anyone? This rejuvenated metropolis is the place to head for ultra-fashionable frocks and the coolest streetwear. Not that it’s forgotten it used to be a mill town: the Leeds Industrial Museum tells an engrossing tale of toil and the Royal Armouries are bloody interesting (literally: it’s a museum of combat), too.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £49 (Leeds city centre)
Dinner for two: £84
Pint of beer*: £3.16
Coffee: £2.15
Taxi: £8
Most popular paid-for attraction†: City Varieties Music Hall, performances from around £11
Top free attraction†: Roundhay Park

Book Leeds hotels

4. Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Average daily spend for two: £170



Nightlife – boisterous and affordable, fuelled by the city’s ample student population – is one of Newcastle’s top attractions but the renowned concert hall points to a valuable cultural seam, too. For many visitors, especially if used to the more restrained style of England’s southerners, the almost Mediterranean warmth and all-round jollity of your average Geordie are worth the ticket themselves.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £75
Dinner for two: £63
Pint of beer*: £3.15
Coffee: £2.20
Taxi: £9
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Victoria Tunnel, tours £6
Top free attraction†: The Discovery Museum

Book Newcastle hotels  

3. Birmingham

Average daily spend for two: £168



Birmingham’s bubble-wrapped Selfridge’s building and vast Bullring shopping centre are among its flashy calling cards, but the older Jewellery Quarter has at least as interesting a consumer allure. Speaking of sweet things, the city’s Cadbury World is a fun celebration of Birmingham’s choccie heritage. A bar of the smooth stuff each day is surely justified in this confectionary capital.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £44 (Birmingham city centre)
Dinner for two: £67
Pint of beer*: £3.35
Coffee: £2.25
Taxi: £7.50
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Symphony Hall, from around £19 for paid-for performances
Top free attraction†: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Book Birmingham hotels

2. Cardiff

Average daily spend for two: £160



Any city would be happy to have Cardiff Castle at its heart, and thankfully Wales has never been tempted to sell it off. With a medieval keep where you can virtually hear the historic clanking of chains, and the unrestrained Gothic extras the Victorians stuck on, it’s no wonder this is Cardiff’s top attraction overall. But history aside, the Welsh capital has ploughed into the 21st century with pride, and ample shopping and nightlife beckon when you’ve had your fill of forts.

pend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £50 (Cardiff city centre)
Dinner for two: £67
Pint of beer*: £3.18
Coffee: £2.02
Taxi: £9
Most popular paid-for attraction†: Cardiff Castle, £12
Top free attraction†: St Fagans National History Museum

Book Cardiff hotels

1. Liverpool

Average daily spend for two: £137



The Beatles? Yep, Liverpool has – or rather had – them, and it’s still standing room only many nights at the Cavern Club, one of the band’s earliest hangouts. But did you know only London beats the city for its roll-call of listed museums? The art scene is buzzing, too, and then there’s the football: lovers of the beautiful game may never want to leave.

Spend breakdown

Four-star hotels from £53 (Liverpool city centre)
Dinner for two: £61
Pint of beer*: £3.19
Coffee: £2
Taxi: £8
Most popular paid-for attraction†: The Cavern Club, from £2.50 (earlier entry free)
Top free attraction†: Liverpool Cathedral

Book city breaks in Liverpool

 

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