You know how much I love Scotland, right? Recently I posted about the top attractions in Glasgow and someone commented that it’s great because most of it was free. I hadn’t even realised, but it’s true! Glasgow is highly advantageous because of that. Edinburgh of course is more touristy and its tourism is more based on an international audience, which means it makes you pay a lot more! But fear not, there are a lot of free things to do in Edinburgh and today I’m compiling a list just for you!
Free things to do in Edinburgh
Walk along the Royal Mile
The famous Royal Mile is quite the sight. It is literally a mile stretching from the Palace of Holyroodhouse up to the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The Mile is dotted by tourist, whisky and wool shops as well as pubs. There can definitely be a rounded experience achieved through walking the Mile.
St Giles Cathedral
On the Royal Mile, you’ll encounter the impressive St Giles Cathedral. It’s free to visit and it’s worth it, it’s beautiful. There are usually tours available (they are currently suspended due to restoration work), which also bring you on the roof and to the clock tower (those are usually about £6pp).
This one is in two parts. Part one is of course to take notice of the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby. Symbol of loyalty – he’s the Terrier that stayed at his master’s grave for 14 years until he himself passed away. Part two is the actual Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (where Bobby spent his time) where you can play at finding all the names that inspired Harry Potter characters.
Walking the city is the best way of discovering it. If you don’t know where to start, there are many free walking tours, though don’t forget to tip your guide! (P.S. yes there is a Potter tour and yes it’s free!)
Scottish National Gallery
This once sits overlooking the Princes Garden in one of the most beautiful buildings in Edinburgh. They have mostly historical art such as paintings and pay particular attention to the Scottish pieces of art!
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
There are two modern art galleries in Edinburgh and thankfully they are across the street from one another. Modern One is the best in my opinion as it hosts many iconic modern artists, such as Picasso. Modern Two hosts some cool sculptures, a library and other paid exhibitions.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
My personal favourite, the Portrait Gallery is an amazing museum full of modern and older exhibitions. It hosts both world photo exhibitions and historical portraits.
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum stands has both an art gallery, historical museums and science centre. It has a bit of everything. You could spend all day there and still only scratch the surface of everything they offer.
Visit the Scottish Parliament
You can walk in during the day and visit for free. Tours are also free, but you must book in advance. Over the summer they even host the World Press Photo exhibition for free.
The writer’s Museum focuses on three of Scotland’s most iconic writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a fun museum if you’re a book nerd. It is located just off the Royal Mile on Lady Stair’s Close.
People’s Story Museum
Housed on the Royal Mile, this museum will bring you back in time. If you want to learn more about how people from Edinburgh lived, from the olden days up until now, that’s the place to go to learn more.
Walking the Water of Leith
The Water of Leith crosses so much of the city and if you’re looking for a quiet and beautiful walk, this is the one. In the winter it may be flooded, but in the summer you can follow the water up to the coast.
Walking through Dean Village
By the Water of Leith, a few minutes from Haymarket, you’ll find Dean Village. It’s a wonderful little village that seems so out of place in the city. It’s beautiful and makes you go back in time.
Walk through the Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday you can walk through (and purchase items if you wish) the farmers’ market just below Edinburgh Castle.
Walk around the Christmas Market
Edinburgh is the host of a lovely Christmas Market from November to January. It is highly consumer centric, but if you don’t let yourself be swayed by the high priced food, drinks and items, it would be a nice free walk.
Witness the one o’clock gun from Edinburgh Castle
You don’t have to walk (and pay to get) into the castle to admire it of course. Another castle tradition is the 1pm gun fire. It dates back to 1861 to allow ships to set their clocks correctly. It doesn’t fire on Sundays!
Picnic in Princes Street Gardens
If you’re in Edinburgh during the summer and the weather is in your favour, why not buy a little something at the grocery store and head out to the gardens to enjoy the sun.
Go up Arthur’s Seat
If you want to see the city from atop, hike up Arthur’s Seat. It’s not as much a hike as it is a walk up a hill, but get some good shoes. On a good day it’ll be the best place to be.
Go up Calton Hill
If you’re not fancying a long walk up the hill, Calton Hill is for you! It’s very short, a few minutes from main train station and a few minutes walk up. It gives beautiful views over the coast and over the city centre.
Walk around Stockbridge
Stockbridge is my favourite part of Edinburgh and it’s probably because it resembles St Andrews so much. It’s almost like it’s own little town on the edge of the city centre. It hosts a market every Sunday if you love those!
Walk on Portobello Beach
If you’re looking to leave the centre, the coastal bit of Edinburgh may be for you. Portobello Beach is a lovely way to see the beach without leave the city. There is a nice boardwalk to wander around.
Walk to Cramond Island
Another one for if you feel like going outside the city. This is a small island off the northern coast of Edinburgh. You can walk to the island, but beware of the tide times.
Walk around the Botanic Gardens
Technically you need to pay to enter the Glasshouses, but you’re free to wander around the outside gardens. On a nice day, it’s a wonderful walk in nature, right in the city centre.
What’s your favourite thing about Edinburgh? Do you have any items to add to the list?xx