December 3, 2023

Nottingham on a budget – your cheap city guide

Buzzing nightlife, alternative vibes and low prices… visiting Nottingham on a budget is easy, even for the most penny-pinching backpackers! The city has two universities, meaning that more than 60,000 students call it home. And as we all know, where there are students, there are bargains!

We’re Seb and Liam, Hostelworld Student Explorers from the University of Nottingham. We’re going to explain exactly why Nottingham is an amazing place, not only for students but also for travellers. We’ve been studying here for over five years now, so there’s not much we don’t know about the best things to do, places to eat and nights out in Nottingham that won’t break the bank.

nottingham on a budget, nottingham town hall with people playing in the water

? @kirstiecoolin

Free things to do in Nottingham

There are so many amazing places to visit in Nottingham on a budget and loads of free things to do too…

  • Firstly, Nottingham is famous for Robin Hood – the folklore legend who stole from the rich to give to the poor. We’ve got a historic castle that’s home to a free Robin Hood Museum, plus you can take an award-winning cave tour underneath the castle. It’ll teach you about Nottingham’s fascinating history, taking you down through passageways and tunnels beneath the city.
  • If you’re visiting the city in October, one of the best free things to do is to visit Goose Fair. It only happens for one week every year, during which time thousands of visitors flock to this mad funfair to ride the rollercoasters, enjoy the buzzing atmosphere and sample a Nottingham tradition – mushy peas with mint sauce.
  • Nottingham is home to hundreds of acres of natural parkland. Firstly, there’s Wollaton Park, a place famous for appearing in one of the Batman movies. There’s loads of green space to escape the city, attracting dog walkers and picnic goers who want to enjoy the scenery and catch a glimpse of one of the hundreds of adorable deer that roam freely in the park. Wollaton Hall offers a free natural history museum which is a must-visit for any backpacker who’s saving those pennies.

nottingham on a budget, deer eating grass in Wollaton park

? @soberanes

  • Nottingham is also home to the Attenborough Nature Centre, which is home to hundreds of species of native wildlife so you’d better bring your camera. Hundreds of acres provide the perfect setting for a hike, as you scope out all sorts of native flora and fauna.
  • The University of Nottingham campus has a beautiful boating lake, where for the small cost of just £5 you can hire a rowing boat and explore with some friends. The views are amazing – this is one of our favourite things to do in Nottingham on a budget and isn’t to be missed! Afterwards, grab an ice-cream and play outdoor crazy golf at the new course overlooking the lake. It’s only £4 and is great fun! Especially when the weather is on point.

Best cheap restaurants in Nottingham

There are loads of places to eat in Nottingham on a budget, with plenty of cheap deals helping out us students, and are perfect for backpackers too!

  • A firm Nottingham favourite is Bunk, with five locations around the city. It’s famous for its mega range of chicken wings and cocktails. Happy hour is every day outside the hours of 7-10pm, during which time cocktails are £4.50 and all chicken wings are half price. You won’t find a much better deal than that!

nottingham on a budget, chips and fried chicken

? @annabelusher

  • Oz Bar is a perfect place to save some pennies (but not calories). Students are entitled to 50% off their food bill at any time – yes you did read that right – so if you don’t have a student card you better start making some friends pronto! The food is based around an Australian theme, with large burgers, fries, chicken wings etc. On Fridays everyone gets 50% off drinks. You can get a pint for under £2 – the cheapest in Nottingham!
  • Faradays in the Hockley neighbourhood is another great spot for a budget-friendly munch. For just £8 they offer a pizza and drink deal with home-made, stone baked, delicious pizzas. Hockley is home to many independent restaurants and places to eat, ranging from high price Michelin star restaurants through to low budget.
  • Mowgli is another banging place to eat in Hockley. It’s Indian street food that’s not only affordable, but delicious. The restaurant is just as Instagrammable as the food itself, as the seats are literally swings!

nottingham on a budget, plates of food with wraps and potatoes

? @hopewarrenx

Nottingham nightlife

Nottingham is famous for its nightlife. There’s a night out tailored for everyone – whether your jam is reggae, house or drum and bass.

  • The most popular night of the week is at Rock City on a Wednesday. The night plays chart music but is a sell out every week – definitely worth a visit when you’re in the city. The venue also hosts concerts and gigs, so it’s worth having a look on their website if you’re in Nottingham and fancy something a bit different.

nottingham on a budget, crowd of people at rock city nottingham with confetti

? @rockcitynottingham

  • Ocean is technically a student-only club, but as long as you’re friendly on the door they normally let non-students in. Its music is primarily cheese (we all love it from time to time) and it’s famous for Baywatch – at 1am every night that the club is open, the theme tune from Baywatch plays and everyone swings their tops above their heads. A mad tradition that all the students love!
  • Alongside the many clubs in Nottingham, there are hundreds of bars and pubs. Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem is the UK’s oldest pub dating back to 1189AD. It’s situated in the cliffs next to the castle and is a great place to go for a traditional pint. They offer cheap drinks and food which you can enjoy in a historic setting.
  • Bar crawls are typically started in Hockley, with so many bars in close proximity. Baa Bar is a classic destination – with its scientific cocktails and array of flavoured shots, it’s easy for things to get messy fast! Entry is free and there’s a large dancefloor for boogying on a budget.
  • Many bars in Nottingham have amazing happy hours where you can get 2 for 1 cocktails before 10pm, including Hockley Arts Club, Slug and Lettuce and Coco Tang. Coco Tang is a popular choice, an underground cocktail bar with a Hong Kong theme and neon lights galore.

Where to stay in Nottingham

With an incredibly efficient public transport system, the whole of Nottingham is so well connected that you’ll never be too far out wherever you stay. The majority of students live in Lenton, an area between the city centre and The University of Nottingham, so expect low prices and plenty of bargains to be found around here. The city centre is home to most students studying at Nottingham Trent University, plus lots of young professionals. If you want to be close to all the action, the city centre is where it’s at – it’s buzzing!

nottingham on a budget, nottingham town hall with water in front

The city centre is where you’ll find the best hostels in Nottingham too, one of which being Igloo Hybrid. With prices starting from just £17 a night, you can choose to sleep in a quirky beach hut, classic dorm or ultra-cosy private room. It’s got a shared kitchen and common area with board games and books, a leafy garden, plus it’s just seconds away from the buzz of the city!

We hope we’ve inspired you to visit Nottingham on a budget, and with our insider tips you should be able to find all the best spots to save a bit of dough. Let us know in the comments below if you’re headed here any time soon!

Keep reading: ?

? Books, boats and backpacker bargains – our favourite things to do in Oxford

? 22 places to visit in England that travel bloggers love

? The 15 best hostels in the UK

About the authors:

Liam and Seb are our Hostelworld Student Explorers from the University of Nottingham. Find out more about our students here, or follow them on Instagram at @liamthomasdonaldson and @sebmathewson.

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