UK’s best free days out named by Which? magazine
Which? magazine has revealed the UK’s best-rated museums, galleries, cathedrals, and historic sites that offer free admission.
St Fagans National Museum of History, The National Railway Museum, and Durham Cathedral are named among the UK’s best free days out by Which?
The consumer champion surveyed almost 7,000 people, asking them to rate their experiences at more than one hundred museums, galleries, and historic attractions.
In the museum's category, over 4,000 people offered their assessments of their favourite destinations, ranking each location on its engagement and entertainment factor, the quality of the information provided, queueing times and crowdedness, range, and quality of facilities, and value for money.
The top-rated, free attraction is Cardiff’s St Fagans National Museum of History, with a stellar customer score of 94 percent. This open-air museum offers a fascinating glimpse into history, with forty reconstructed buildings including a working forge, a school, a chapel, and Workmen’s Institute for visitors to explore. Many of the buildings also have practical exhibits for visitors to enjoy, including demonstrations of blacksmithing, pottery and weaving.
Close behind with tied customer scores of 91 percent is the National Railway Museum in York, and the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in Cosford.
The National Railway Museum is the largest of its kind in the world, featuring a collection of more than a hundred locomotives. These include the fastest-ever steam engine, the Mallard, a working replica of George Stephenson’s Rocket, and the only Shinkansen bullet train outside of Japan.
The Cosford RAF museum meanwhile boasts a renowned collection of military aircraft, including the world’s oldest Spitfire, as well as Britain’s V Bombers from the Cold War era including the Vulcan, Victor, and Valiant. Also on display is a Dornier Do 17, a German bomber recovered from the bottom of the English Channel a decade ago.
Among the other highly-rated free museums and galleries in the consumer champion’s survey is the National Museum of Scotland, with a customer score of 90 percent, the Cardiff National Museum (87%), Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow (87%), Royal Air Force Museum, London (87%), Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (87%), Oxford University Museum of Natural History (86%) and the Scottish National Galleries (86%).
The consumer champion also asked almost 3,000 people to rank their favourite historic attractions, rating them on nine criteria including accessibility, the quality of food and drink available, and lack of crowds.
The highest-scoring, free attraction in the consumer champion’s survey is Durham Cathedral, with a customer score of 86 percent. Perched high above the city, it has inspired visitors since the medieval period, and was once described by Bill Bryson as ‘the best cathedral on planet earth’.
St David’s Cathedral is also rated highly, with a customer score of 80 percent. Located in the UK’s smallest city, there have been services held on the site since the sixth century, and today over 300,000 people visit every year. Chichester meanwhile was the third highest-rated free destination, with a score of 77 percent.
Close behind with a score of 76 percent is the Houses of Parliament. While guided tours can often be costly, at around £25 a head, it is possible to gain entry for free, with just a little forward planning. Any UK resident can contact their MP, or a member of the House of Lords, to request a free-75 minute guided tour. UK residents also have the right to visit Prime Minister’s Questions or other debates, again by contacting their MP.
Other highly rated free historic attractions include Bury St Edmunds Abbey, which received a customer score of 73 percent, Somerset House (71%) and Bristol Cathedral (68%).
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“As the cost of living crisis continues to be a strain on household budgets, finding cheap or free days out has never been more important. Fortunately the UK has a number of fantastic museums, galleries and other attractions which offer free entry and hours of fun.
“From the world’s largest railway museum, to the Houses of Parliament, Which?’s rankings of the UK’s best free days out has plenty to inspire you as the summer holidays approach.”
– Which? surveyed 2,944 members of its online panel in May 2022 to review some of the UK’s historic attractions and 4,283 members in March 2020 to review some of the UK’s museums and galleries.
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation they are not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.