10 Free things to do in Edinburgh

April 28, 2017


It was about time that I wrote about my wonderful city. I've been here nearly four years and I still love it. Edinburgh can be a costly city to visit as a tourist. However, I've compiled my list of things to do in the city that are free and still allow you an insight into Edinburgh.




1. Walking Tours

Yes, you read that right a free walking tour. In fact, there are various companies throughout Edinburgh and Europe that conduct these tours. Most of them begin on the Royal Mile. Some have different styles, from the secrets of Old Town Edinburgh to the Royal past of the city or the haunting history of the past. I'll put a few links below at the end of this post. Remember, although these tours are free of charge, they rely upon tips. 

 Old Town of Edinburgh, just off the Royal Mile.



2. Calton Hill 


Calton Hill is a good beginners climb of the great heights of Edinburgh. You can get up to the top of the hill in less than ten minutes and then you have panoramic views across the city. 

Getting to Calton hill is great too, it is situated right in the heart of the city and you can spot Edinburgh Castle from a far. Once you are at the top and have marvelled at the views, check out the remaining buildings. One being the Acropolis - a national monument to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, however in 1822 the monument could not be finished due to lack of funds and since then has been standing overlooking the city half finished. 

Also at the top of the hill is the cities Observatory,  which occasionally has exhibitions on. 



 View overlooking Edinburgh from Calton Hill




3. Greyfriars Kirkyard


This may seem a odd one, but outside the Graveyard entrance is the Iron statue of a Skye Terrier dog. The sweet story behind the statue is that the small dog guarded the grave of it's beloved owner for almost 15 years following his death. Once you've posed for a photograph next to the dog, wander around the graveyard. It is claimed to be the most haunted graveyard in all of Scotland.  Dating back to the 1560's, the yard has a rich history full of ghostly tales and most recently Harry Potter has drawn visitors to the site of Tom Riddle's Grave...apparently J.K. Rowling was inspired by him to create the character Voldermort.  



4. The Museums on the Royal Mile 


A visit to Edinburgh isn't complete without a walk down the Royal Mile. It's sprinkled with an array of free museums. Begin at the top and work your way down. The first stop is the Writer's Museum, which depicts the history of Edinburgh's great writers - Rabbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott.  Further down there is the Museum of Childhood, dedicated to toys, dolls and games through the era's. Remember to check out their cool gift shop. At the bottom end of the Royal mile there is the The People's Story of Edinburgh. The building itself was built in 1591, in essence the inside is about the past history of Edinburgh from the 18th century on wards until today. These museums are great if the weather is miserable outside. 

*Please note, that these museums are closed on Monday an Tuesday* 



5. Edinburgh Botanical Gardens


Yes, entrance into Edinburgh botanical gardens is free. Pack up a picnic and walk around the vast grounds. There is the Chinese inspired garden, a woodland themed garden with Giant Red Woods and an impressive arboretum. There is also a charming garden dedicated to the late Queen mother with a small room covered from floor to ceiling in shells and  pine cones.  

Whats more there is a great vantage point of the city from the gardens, the views of the Edinburgh skyline. 

There is an impressive Victorian glasshouse which hosts palms and tropical plants. Entrance to the glasshouse is £6.50. Although you can enter the first glass house area for free.  

 The Chinese hillside garden. 

 The Victorian Palm house. 


6. Arthur's Seat


The highest point in Edinburgh, Arthur's seat sits in a group of volcanic hills. It is the perfect opportunity  to do some hill walking in the centre of Edinburgh. The summit is 251 meters high and the terrain around is rugged and surprisingly you get the feeling that you are in the wild and not situated in the centre of a city. If you don't have time to tackle the summit there is still great views along the Salisbury Crag. However, if you make it to the very top, you can see panoramic views over the city and beyond to the stretch of water that is the Firth of Forth and keep your eyes peeled for the Forth Rail bridge peeking out.  Arthur's seat is surrounded by Hollyrood Park which is well kept grounds with Duddingston Loch in the middle. 


 Duddingston Loch in the Hollyrood park lands. 

 View from Arthur's seat. 


7. Grassmarket 

Tucked in below Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket area situated in the Old Town and filled with independent shops and restaurants. The appeal of this area is the charm of the historic, colourful buildings. Wander up Victoria Street a typical winding street, and pop into the independent art store - The Red Door Gallery, unusual gifts and Scottish themed postcards and pieces of art. The Grassmarket has seating to enjoy the views of the Castle and one of my favourite foodie places is Mary's Milk Bar. An independent ice cream and chocolate shop.

 Flavoured Ice Cream from Mary's Milk Bar on the Grassmarket. 


8. The National Museum of Scotland


Yet again, another wonderful museum with free admission. This vast places houses exhibitions on Scottish history, design and technology. The museum also hosts a variety of natural history and geological relics. Allow a good couple of hours to explore this place. One of my favourite areas of this place is the Grand Exhibition hall, a tall four storey room filled with light and exhibits all around. Look out for the Millennium clock on the ground floor of the hall, there will be a small show every hour which shows the clock movements. music  and it's mechanisms. 

There are two gift shops and a cafe within the museum if you need a coffee stop. 

The  great exhibition hall inside the National Museum of Scotland


9. Stockbridge 


The neighbourhood of Stockbridge has the charm and look of a small village. Yet it is actually situated in the northern part of the city. The water of Leith runs through the centre and you can walk along the side of the river all the way to the river mouth at Leith. This is a nice walk and the footpath is clearly marked along the way. You'll walk past the beautiful village of Dean and the old Mill. Great for a photo opportunity! Stockbridge also hosts a variety of independent shops and restaurants, and on most weekends will have a farmers market on. If  you're a Vinyl music fan be sure to check out the shop VoxBox on St. Stephens Street. 

The main reason I have mentioned Stockbridge is for the simple pleasure of a walk around.  If you're new to Edinburgh  you'll love the classical Georgian buildings of the Newtown and  cobbled streets. This neighbourhood is close to the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, so perhaps make a walk through Stockbridge and onward to the gardens. 





10. The Scottish Parliament 


Located at the foot of the Royal Mile and across from the Palaces of Hollyrood. The Parliament offers free admission and guided tours. Allow one hour for a full tour of the building, where you will see the debating chamber, the main hall and the exhibition of the people in Parliament. A  discussion of the Architecture and design is also included in the tour.  Excluding July and August the Parliament tend to debate Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

Visiting the parliament is open to anyone and even if you're not into Politics, you'll gain a better understanding of Scottish history and democracy. If  you don't want a guided tour, there is the option to opt out and have a self guided visit. 


So there we have it, a budget way around Edinburgh. I hope you've enjoyed it and would love hear your experiences of this wonderful city. 


Extra information 

 Free walking tours: http://edinburghfreetour.com/ 



Shops:  http://www.edinburghart.com/





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