The second most visited city in the United Kingdom. With so much to offer the Scottish capital makes it easy to find some excellent free things to do in Edinburgh. Of course there are the must see attractions that cost money. Edinburgh Castle and the many festivals come at a price. But you can still see some of the best sights for free on a weekend break in Edinburgh.
Things to do in Edinburgh for free
Royal Botanic Garden
Only a mile outside the city centre are 72 acres of flawlessly kept gardens, some of the best in the world. Enjoy a walk through the grounds and the endless variety of rare plants and shrubs. Explore the garden features such as the Chinese Hillside Garden.
Scottish National Gallery
One of the top free attractions in Edinburgh. The art collection includes many masterpieces. With paintings from the likes of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and more dating back to the early Renaissance.
St Giles Cathedral
Found on the iconic royal mile, St Giles Cathedral. The main Christian church in the city. Worth a visit to admire the stained glass windows and its stunning architecture.
Museum of Childhood
Another of the great free things to do in Edinburgh. The first museum in the world dedicated to childhood. Filled with games, books and toys that will bring out the big kid in everyone. But also has some poignant pieces. Such as the Steiff teddy bear which came with the last Kindertransport from Vienna in 1939.
The story of Greyfriars Bobby is well known in Edinburgh. The faithful dog who waited for his master for 14 years after his death. But the kirkyard (kirk is Scottish for church) also has the reputation of being haunted. You could visit on a ghost tour (will cost you) or just enjoy the churchyard. Also thought to be the home of inspiration for a few of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter characters.
Explore the pretty quaint streets of Edinburgh. A short walk from Princes street and towards the bank of the Waters of Leith you will find Dean Village. Houses built for the mill workers of old provide one of the most photogenic parts of Edinburgh, as well it’s most exclusive addresses.
To the east of Edinburgh’s New Town, at the end of Princes Street is Calton Hill. Filled with monuments including the National Monument and the Nelson Monument. Get here early for a great sunrise view, but whatever time of day there will be amazing views of Edinburgh,
Museum on the Mound
Found in the Bank of Scotland head office. A Museum about money that’s costs nothing to enter! Try and crack a safe, Build a bank and see a million pounds in one place. Lloyds Bank tried to close the museum in 2017 but public outcry reversed the decision. Make sure you pay a visit when you are in Edinburgh so that wasn’t in vain.
Writers Museum & Makars Court
A museum dedicated to some of the great Scottish literary figures. Burns, Scott and Stevenson are all included. Temporary exhibitions include some contemporary authors. An amazing collection including the printing press that produced the first novels of Sir Walter Scott.
Architectural eyesore or delight? At the bottom of the Royal Mile you will find the Scottish Parliament building. You can get a free guided or self guided tour of the permanent display about the Scottish Parliament. If you want to see some live debates you can also book tickets for the public gallery. Remember to check if Parliament is in session though.
Royal Mile & Grassmarket
Starting from Holyrood Park and working its way up to Edinburgh Castle. One of the “must-see” attractions in Edinburgh. Along with the neighbouring area, Grassmarket, there are many shops, bars and restaurants. But step off the mile into one of the many hidden closes for even more. Pick up a free Edinburgh Greater Grassmarket Historic Trail map from one of the shops to learn more about the area.
Featured in many songs and films based in Edinburgh. Leith has moved from red light district to trendiest area in the city. The cobbled waterfront full of restaurants and cafes is the ideal place to people watch. Or walk down to the Ocean Terminal and see the Royal Yacht Britannia. Visit the Custom House and Custom Lane and check out the free events and exhibitions. Then stroll down the Water of Leith walkway, a perfect way to end a day in Edinburgh with the family.
Get a birds eye view of Edinburgh (featured image) with a hike up to the top of the extinct volcano in Holyrood Park. Another free attraction in Edinburgh you can take the 2 hour walk up to the 251m high Arthur’s Seat. An easy climb if you have the footwear and stick to the pathways. See all the iconic sites such as Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and across to Calton Hill.
There are a multitude of attractions in Edinburgh that you can do for free, if you find anymore let us know in the comments.
Featured image by Spencer Means from Flickr
Chris is a Number cruncher by work day, seeker of new experiences by weekend – always looking to spend 48 hours somewhere! Seen 4 continents, 26 countries and 100’s of city’s hoping to add a few more each year.