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What can you do in Sunderland for free?

Roker Lighthouse at sunset

This article has been amended to reflect the situation in 2021.

Sitting just 10 miles southeast of Newcastle, at the mouth or the River Wear, Sunderland is a city offering much more than you might think.

Once hailed as the largest ship-building town in the world, Sunderland was once a small fishing village, but has since expanded into a cosmopolitan city offering a vibrant nightlife scene as well as a wealth of areas of natural beauty and interesting places for families to visit together.

With trains to Sunderland running regularly on the Grand Central line, there has never been a better time to visit. To help you with your trip, here we have listed 4 great things that you can do and see in the city – for free!

Relax or stroll at Roker & Seaburn Beaches

Known as the twin beaches of Sunderland, Roker and Seaburn are perfect for a fun family day outdoors. Let the kids run on the beach with buckets and spades, while you take in the fresh sea air, marvel at the views and enjoy an ice cream.

The recently restored Roker Pier is great for a stroll with the dog or the pram and there are plenty of places to sit and eat your picnic or fish and chips!

Also, it doesn’t have to just be the summer months when you visit here – the seafront is illuminated with bright lights each winter, making it a great place to spend an early evening walk snuggled up with a scarf and gloves.

Expand your knowledge at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Full of interesting facts about Sunderland’s history, the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens offers something for every age group.

From an art gallery displaying some of the impressive works of LS Lowry to rich histories of the coal mining, glass making and pottery industries, you are sure to leave with a huge dollop of local culture and some fascinating facts to share after your visit.

There is also a calendar of temporary exhibitions and workshops for all the family to enjoy, and a special programme for the summer holidays.

Please note that the Museum opening hours may be affected by COVID-19 regulations, and you may require a free ticket to enter - we advise checking the Museum's website.

Paint glass at the National Glass Centre

Find out about Sunderland’s rich glass-making history as you pay a visit to the National Glass Centre.

Travel back 1300 years to learn about how glass originally arrived into Anglo-Saxon Britain and then fast forward to modern day times to see how glass is now made with daily demonstrations from the centre’s resident glass makers.

Marvel at some of the world’s most amazing exhibits of glass and ceramics in the exhibition spaces and even have a go at glass painting, sandcasting and fusing for yourself!

Please note that the National Glass Centre opening hours may be affected by COVID-19 regulations, and you may require a free ticket to enter - we advise checking the Centre's website.

Visit Hylton Castle

With a history steeping back to 1066, a visit to Hylton Castle is well worth a visit while you are in Sunderland.

Explore the castle’s awe-inspiring features including many heraldic devices such as coats of arms belonging to local gentry of the late 14th century, and a chapel which was once dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria in 1157.

Take in a huge chunk of culture and splendour as well as spending time in the peaceful grassland park that surrounds the castle – making this the perfect day out on a clear day.

Please note that the Hylton Castle's opening hours may be affected by COVID-19 regulations, and you may require a free ticket to enter - we advise checking the Castle's website.

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