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The Great British Beer Garden

With summer around the corner, Aqua reveals which UK cities are best for beer gardens.
Group of young and adult men and women smiling in casual clothing, enjoying drinks around a table, sitting outdoors.
Published on May 22nd, 2023
Last reviewed on September 25th, 2023
8 mins read

Budgeting your money

Summer is just around the corner, and many of us will be looking forward to whiling away sunny afternoons and balmy evenings in beer gardens across the country. Whether we’re sipping our favourite pint, or quenching our thirst with an ice-cold soft drink, us Brits enjoy nothing more than soaking up some sun in our beer garden of choice.

The UK has a whole host of outdoor drinking spots to choose from, but which city is the best for beer garden lovers, and where exactly might you find the cheapest pint?

We conducted research looking into the best cities in the UK for a beer garden trip, taking into account factors such as the price of drinks, average temperatures, amount of sunshine, number of beer gardens, and of course, the amount of dreaded rainfall.

However, while summer plans can be exciting, they can also be challenging for our budgets and savings. With this in mind, we’ve also put together some top tips for how to budget for the summer season, so you can enjoy the sun without any extra financial stress.

The best cities for a beer garden trip

To get the very best out of a British beer garden you need a few things; warm temperatures, lots of sun, no rain, and affordable drinks. We’ve analysed some of the most populated cities in the UK with these factors in mind, in order to determine which city offers the ultimate beer garden experience.

Boasting the most sunshine of any city in the UK, with 238 hours per month in summer, plus the least amount of rainfall at just 45mm per month, Southend-on-Sea has been crowned the best city for a beer garden trip. An average pint here will set you back just £3.50, with cocktails (£8.00) and soft drinks (£1.18) also being relatively cheap compared with other cities.

Wolverhampton comes in as the second best destination for a beer garden trip, with average pint at just £2.75, soft drinks at £1.15, and 281 beer gardens throughout the city.

In third place, we have Southampton thanks to its slightly warmer summer temperatures (18°C) and over 200 beer gardens (213) to choose from.

1. Southend-on-Sea

On the other end of the spectrum, Leeds has been revealed as the worst destination for a beer garden trip. Despite the city being home to 286 different beer gardens, its high rainfall (80mm per month in summer) and cold summer temperatures (14°C) put a dampener on any outdoor drinking plans.

Belfast and Manchester round off the bottom three thanks to expensive pints (£5.20 and £4.83 respectively) and low temperatures of around 15°C in summer. Belfast also suffers from limited alfresco drinking options with a meagre nine beer gardens on offer in the city.

The cheapest cities for a pint

Whether you go for a crisp pale ale, a classic lager, or a fruity pilsner, there’s few things better than a cold pint on a hot summer’s day. Taking into account average prices, our research has also looked into which cities offer the cheapest pints, and where in the UK may set you back quite a bit for your favourite tipple.

The cheapest and most expensive cities for a pint

1. Wolverhampton £2.75
2.Blackpool £3.00
3.Bradford £3.00
4.Kingston £3.00
5.Derby £3.00

Most expensive:

1. London £6.00
2. Belfast £5.20
3. Swindon £5.00
4. Norwich £5.00
5. Edinburgh £5.00

Taking the crown as the city with the cheapest pint is Wolverhampton, with a pint costing just £2.75. In fact, all of the cheapest pints can be found north of Birmingham, with Bradford, Blackpool, Derby, and Kingston Upon Hull all in joint second place with pints averaging just £3.00.

Unsurprisingly, when looking at the average price of a pint, London is the most expensive city, with a beer setting you back £6.00. Belfast is in second place at £5.20 per pint, followed closely by Norwich, Edinburgh, and Swindon with pints costing £5.00 in all three cities.

For those of us who prefer something non-alcoholic, Bradford is the best city for soft drinks, with a 330ml bottle of Coke costing just £0.94. Blackpool follows in a close second with £0.95, while Swindon is in third with £1.10.

The cities with the most beer gardens

While some of us may have our favourite haunts that we never venture from, sometimes it’s nice to switch up the usual drinking spots. With this in mind, the research has also revealed which cities in the UK have the most pub gardens in comparison to their population.

Topping the list is Dudley, which boasts 199 beer gardens for every 100,000 people. Overall, the city has a staggering 397 beer gardens despite its relatively low population of 199,059.

In second place is Manchester, which is perhaps less surprising given its size, with the city offering 165 beer gardens per every 100,000 people. In third place is seaside city Portsmouth, which is home to 232 beer gardens and just 194,150 residents.

Rounding off the top five are Bradford and Wolverhampton, with 117 and 111 beer gardens per 100,000 people, respectively.

1. Dudley number of beer gardens per 100k population: 199
2. Manchester number of beer gardens per 100k population: 165
3. Portsmouth number of beer gardens per 100k population: 119
4. Bradford number of beer gardens per 100k population: 117
5. Wolverhampton number of beer gardens per 100k population: 111

Budgeting for your summer plans

Sharvan Selvam, Commercial Director for Aqua says, “When faced with lots of social plans, or even just the lure of long afternoons enjoying the sunshine with friends and family, it’s easy to spend more than you had planned. Putting a budget in place is the first step in helping you stay in control of your money. If you feel pressured to overspend, communicate your goals with friends and family and look for budget friendly alternatives. Make sure you don’t compare yourself to others either as everyone’s financial situation is different. It’s important to do what’s best for you and your future.”

Top tips for budgeting and saving during the summer season

1. Set realistic goals for yourself

Everyone’s financial situations are different, so you should determine what financial goals are important to you. Make them measurable and achievable, whether that’s focusing on a certain amount you want to save for summer activities or giving yourself an allowance to stick to each week.

2. Set yourself a leisure budget

Worrying about your finances shouldn’t be on your list of summer activities. Creating a leisure budget can help you minimise your chance of overspending and allow you to enjoy the sunny season guilt-free. Whether it’s for socialising in the sun, an impromptu weekend trip away, or a big trip abroad, make sure to factor in room for the unexpected to allow you some flexibility with your social plans.

3. Plan ahead

No matter what you plan to do with your time, do a bit of research beforehand to find the best budget-friendly spots. A quick Google might lead you to the cheapest pubs, restaurants, and cafes in your area, or if you’re looking for a bit more adventure, often booking ahead with activities, trips, and travel can save you a good amount of money.

4. Communicate your budget with friends and family

We are all on different budgets, and socialising can be tailored to everyone’s financial situation. If plans start to become more expensive than expected, don’t be afraid to suggest other ideas that are more budget-friendly to friends and family, they will understand.

Honesty is key here, so let them know that you’re trying to be a little more conscious of your spending, and it can sometimes help to explain your financial goals and what you’re working towards. Often it’s more about spending quality time together than the actual activity, so your loved ones will likely be open to any other suggestions as long as they get to see you.

5. Have solutions in place if you do end up overspending

We all have the tendency to overspend from time to time. Just remember, you’re not alone and this doesn’t need to set you completely off track.

Identify why you’ve overspent in the first place, take another look at your budget, and be more conscious of your spending for the rest of the month. It might be a case of saying no to a few social plans, but having these honest conversations with yourself will help you to continue to work toward your goals.

If you are concerned about your finances, there are free, trustworthy sources you can turn to for advice:

  • Citizens Advice offer confidential advice over the phone and in person on range of areas including housing, debt and money, work, and benefits
  • Charity Mind provide and support for anyone experiencing mental health problems that could be related to financial issues
  • StepChange are a designated debt charity who can help support you in your goal of becoming debt free

Sources and methodology:

Based on a seedlist of the 40 most populated cities in the UK, the research analysed a variety of different metrics, including the number of pubs with gardens per city, the average cost of a pint, soft drink and cocktail and the average amount of sunshine, rainfall and temperatures in the months of June, July and August, to determine where in the UK is the best for beer gardens. Metrics and sources include:

  • Average price of a domestic beer - Numbeo
  • Average price of a soft drink - Numbeo
  • Average price of a cocktail - Expatistan
  • Average summer temperature (taking the average of June, July and August) - Met Office
  • Average sunshine hours (taking the average of June, July and August) - Met Office
  • Average rainfall over summer (taking the average of June, July and August) - Met Office
  • Number of beer gardens - What Pub

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