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4 In Travels

Free Things to do in Edinburgh

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

royal mile 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 gile's cathedralSt 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).

Greyfriar’s

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 tours

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!)

national gallery edinburgh

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!

 

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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.

scottish parliament

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.

top museums in edinburgh writers' museum

Writers’ Museum

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.

water of leith at dean village

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.

farmers' market

 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.

view from up calton hill

 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!

portobello beach

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

Free things Edinburgh Pinterest

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  • I need to go back to Edinburgh! I loved it so much and I didn’t even have time to venture down to Leith. When we were originally leaving London my top choice had been Edinburgh 😉 x

  • Great list!! I need to go to the Writers Museum next time I go back! The National Museum of Scotland is soooo good! I was really surprised. 🙂