Discover 25 free events you can attend in the UK in September 2023, from festivals to exhibitions, guided tours to movie screenings
Summer may be drawing to a close, but there are still lots of great events to attend this month – and you won’t have to pay for any of them.
To help you fill your diary, we’ve rounded up some of the best free things to do in September, ranging from maritime festivals to motoring shows. You can also get great discounts on days out, short breaks and so much more when you join Boundless. To find out more, visit our membership page.
1. Celebrate a famous river
Totally Thames, throughout September
The River Thames has played a vital role in London’s history, so why not celebrate it from time to time? That’s the purpose of Totally Thames – a summer-long programme of events that take place on and along the banks of the river. Some events, such as the cruises, will require a paid ticket; but there’s plenty of free stuff to watch or take part in, from live performances and exhibitions to guided walks and workshops.
2. Experience a cultural kaleidoscope
Bartholomew Fair, until 16 September
Dating back to the 12th century, and last held in 1855, Bartholomew Fair in London is making a comeback this year – and it promises to be spectacular. Highlights include vertical dance performances at St Paul’s Cathedral, evening projections that will bring the capital’s story to life, and immersive circus shows that will take your breath away. To see the full list of events, visit the Bartholomew Fair website.
3. Listen to some live music
BunkFest, 1-3 September
Originally held in a pub car park in Wallingford, BunkFest is now a thriving music festival that takes place in various venues throughout the Oxfordshire town. This year’s programme features an eclectic mix of entertainers, ranging from singer-songwriter Jody Wyatt to world music collective Molotov Jukebox. Add in tribute bands, open-mic sessions and numerous other sets, and you have a weekend that’s sure to get your toe tapping.
4. Go to the movies
Peckham & Nunhead Free Film Festival, 1-10 September
If you love cinema, then South London is the place to be this month. Now in its 14th year, the Peckham & Nunhead Free Film Festival will see a programme of movies presented at various venues across the two suburbs. Highlights include An American Werewolf in London (Nunhead Cemetery, 2 September), Pixar favourite Soul (Copleston Centre, 3 September) and seminal ska movie Dance Craze (The Green Community Centre, Nunhead, 7 September).
5. Find out about Wales’s past
Cadw Open Doors, 1-30 September
The Welsh equivalent of Heritage Open Days (see below), Cadw Open Doors sees everything from churches to castles welcoming visitors for free. But not only will you get a chance to look around some of Wales’ most cherished places – in many cases there will be guided activities to help you gain a better understanding of their past. Thousands of years of Welsh history awaits…
6. Hear some traditional songs
Glasgow Shanty Festival, 2 September
Thanks to the Fisherman’s Friends movies, sea shanties are right back in fashion at the moment – and there will be plenty of them to enjoy at the Glasgow Shanty Festival, which takes place on board the city’s Tall Ship Glenlee. While the evening gigs cost money, there will be lots of free entertainment and activities between 12.30pm and 4pm, including music, stories and workshops. You’re all welcome, me hearties!
7. Have fun times with the family
Rotherham Show, 2 & 3 September
Described as the South Yorkshire town’s “biggest cultural festival”, the Rotherham Show never fails to entertain. Over the course of two days, the picturesque Clifton Park becomes a hub of activity, with a packed programme of music, dance, theatre and circus acts to keep you occupied. With plenty of fun and games for the kids to enjoy, too, this is one family fiesta you won’t want to miss.
8. Cheer on some athletes
Ironman Wales, 3 September
Some of the UK’s toughest souls will be gathering in Tenby for the annual Ironman Wales competition. The action begins with a swim in the sea at sunrise, before the contestants jump on their bicycles for an endurance ride through the Pembrokeshire countryside. The event then climaxes with a run through the town centre. While it’s now too late to take part, why not go along and give the athletes your support – they might need it.
9. Delve into England’s past
Heritage Open Days, 8-17 September
Each September, historic buildings and sites across England fling open their doors, giving culture fans the chance to look around and/or take part in themed activities. The Heritage Open Days website enables you to search via location, date and interest – and with thousands of things to do, from tours and talks to workshops and walkabouts, you won’t have difficulty filling up your calendar.
10. Take a drive down memory lane
Biddulph Classic Vehicle Show, 9 September
The people of Biddulph in Staffordshire love a vintage car or two – as demonstrated by their annual Classic Vehicle Show. This glorious gala sees an array of golden oldies lining up on the high street, from sports cars to superbikes, military machines to minibuses. Even if you don’t have a vehicle to show off, you’ll be more than welcome to check out the retro rides and chew the fat with likeminded enthusiasts. Who knows – they might even take you for a ride.
11. Sing some sea songs
Belfast Maritime Festival, 9 & 10 September
From RMS Titanic to Harland & Wolff, Northern Ireland’s capital has a long and colourful maritime history. Held annually on the city’s waterfront, the Belfast Maritime Festival celebrates that proud heritage with a vibrant programme of events and activities. With everything from street performers to stage acts – and of course a fabulous flotilla of boats – this weekend extravaganza offers oceans of fun for the whole family.
12. Admire some retro roadsters
Isle of Wight Classic Car Extravaganza, 9 & 10 September
The view from Ryde Esplanade is pretty spectacular anyway, but it becomes even more so during the Isle of Wight Classic Car Extravaganza. Each September, over 900 vintage cars and bikes from all over the UK and Europe descend on the town for two days of beachside nostalgia. Whether you enjoy showing off your pride and joy, or simply love browsing beautiful vehicles, you’ll be in your element.
13. Uncover the secrets of your property
Tracing the History of Your Home, 12 September
Ever wondered what secrets are concealed within your house or cottage? Tracing the History of Your Home will give you the chance to find out. An exclusive for Boundless members, this online event will see Sarah Williams – editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine – explain how to use online resources to uncover the story behind your property. A must for the amateur detectives out there!
Are you interested in this online event with Sarah Williams but not yet a Boundless member? Boundless membership includes free entry to top attractions, exclusive events, and savings. Find out more about Boundless membership.
14. Take to the streets
Neath Fair, 12-16 September
The town of Neath in West Wales has been putting on a fair for hundreds of years – and the event continues to be a big draw to this day. As well as a huge funfair (12-16 September), which will cost money, there’s a massive street fair with around 140 stalls selling everything from crafts to locally produced food and drink. There’s no obligation to open your wallet, so feel free to go along, have a browse and soak up the atmosphere.
15. Attend a biographical talk
The Adventures of Ernest Shackleton, 13 September
One of the world’s most famous explorers is celebrated in The Adventures of Ernest Shackleton, a talk hosted by Boundless’s Shropshire Group and held at Shifnal’s Haughton Hall. Join expert Rodney Paul as he takes a fascinating look back at Shackleton’s three Antarctic expeditions, one of which was aboard the ill-fated ship Endurance. Following the talk, there will be a chance to chat with other Boundless members over tea and coffee.
Are you interested in this expert talk with Rodney Paul but not yet a Boundless member? Boundless membership includes free entry to top attractions, exclusive events, and savings. Find out more about Boundless membership.
16. Find a rare book or two
York Book Fair, 15 & 16 September
Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter or historical tales, murder-mysteries or maps, you’ll love browsing the stalls at the York Book Fair. Held at the Knavesmire Suite at York Racecourse, this two-day event will feature three floors of sellers, meaning you should be able to find that rare tome you’ve been looking for. While entry is £2 on the door, you can get complimentary tickets by visiting the website.
17. Visit an art exhibition
The People’s Art Fair, 15-25 September
The Stokes Croft area of Bristol is a vibrant hub of creativity – and some of its fruits will be on display at The People’s Art Fair. Held over 11 days at Space at PRSC, this eclectic exhibition will feature the works of over 50 burgeoning and established artists. Featuring everything from political wall hangings to street photography, and everything in between, it promises to be quite a spectacle.
18. Take a walk back in time
Military March Guided Walk, 16 September
Holyrood Park in Edinburgh may be hugely popular with pleasure-seekers nowadays, but in the past it’s seen a lot of military activity. On the 2.5hr Military March Guided Walk, you’ll learn how this iconic park has been used by armies for over 4,000 years, from the Bronze Age right up to the Falklands Conflict. Please note that these guided walks are very popular, so booking is recommended.
19. Share your wares
Community Reuse Fair, 16 September
Growing out of our cherished clothes and toys can be quite sad – but there’s no reason why they can’t be passed on to another grateful owner. Held at the Children’s Scrapstore in Bristol, the Community Reuse Fair provides the opportunity to swap preloved items with other people. There will be lots of other activities happening, too, from craft workshops to creative play areas, so why not bring the kids along and make an afternoon of it.
20. Learn some pocket history
The Royal Mint, 21 September
We tend to take the coins in our pocket for granted, but there’s so much to learn about these little pieces of metal. An exclusive for Boundless members, this online talk will see Chris Barker of The Royal Mint Museum recounting the history of British coinage, from the reign of Alfred the Great to the present day. You’ll even find out how the Royal Mint played a role in promoting one of The Beatles’ most famous songs…
Are you interested in this online talk with Chris Barker but not yet a Boundless member? Boundless membership includes free entry to top attractions, exclusive events, and savings. Find out more about Boundless membership.
21. Take a trip to the opera
Live at Lunch, 22 September
It’s not very often you get to see musicians from the Royal Opera House playing for free, so take the chance while you can. The ROH’s Paul Hamlyn Hall will be the setting for today’s complimentary Live at Lunch performance, which will see talented artists giving their finest renditions of cherished songs and pieces. There’s no need to book in advance – just pop in, take a seat and enjoy the show.
22. Put on your blue suede shoes
Porthcawl Elvis Festival, 22-24 September
Elvis Presley may have passed away in 1977, but his memory very much lives on at the Porthcawl Elvis Festival. Touted as “the largest festival of its kind in the world,” this annual celebration sees hundreds of fans and impersonators descend on the Welsh seaside town for two days of lip-curling fun. Featuring live shows (many of them free), competitions and much more, this is an event fit for a King.
23. Observe artists at work
Norfolk Open Studios, 23 September – 8 October
Looking to take up art? Watching creative people at work is one of the best ways to learn the ropes – and Norfolk Open Studios gives you the chance to do exactly that. For a couple of weeks, artists and crafty types across the county will be opening the doors to their studios, homes and garden sheds, enabling the public to pop in and watch them in action. Prepare to be inspired!
24. Discover some classic cars
Behind the Scenes at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, 26 September
If you’re a fan of classic cars and you aren’t able to visit any shows or museums this summer, don’t worry as we have you covered. Exclusive to Boundless members, this online event will take you Behind the Scenes at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. Join Director of Collections Andrea Bishop as she takes us around some of its finest exhibits, including the 350hp Sunbeam that became the first car to travel at 150mph – way back in 1925!
25. Stream a thought-provoking debate
Is AI an Existential Threat to Humanity?, 28 September – 5 October
As artificial intelligence becomes ever more sophisticated, it’s hard not to imagine how this technology could be used for the greater good. But is there a chance that AI could develop into something far more sinister? A panel of experts will be discussing that very question in a debate hosted by London’s Southbank Centre on 28 September. While the in-person event costs money, it’s being streamed for free online – and you have a whole week to watch it.
Do more with Boundless
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