What to Do in Edinburgh For Free

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Discovering Edinburgh on a Budget: Top 10 Free Experiences in the Athens of the North

Ah, Edinburgh – a city steeped in history, steeped in tradition, and steeped in countless cups of tea! As the stunning capital of Scotland, Edinburgh offers a wealth of activities for visitors to enjoy. The best part? Many of these experiences won’t cost you a single penny! As your local guide, passionate about history, food, and Scottish culture, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 free attractions and activities to help you make the most of your time in this enchanting city. So, grab your tartan scarf, and let’s explore Auld Reekie.

1. Wander Around the Royal Mile

Start your adventure with a leisurely stroll along the historic Royal Mile. Stretching from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile is lined with charming shops, atmospheric pubs, and stunning architecture. Don’t forget to explore the many narrow alleyways, or “closes,” that branch off from the main thoroughfare.

2. Discover the National Museum of Scotland

Delve into Scotland’s rich history at the National Museum of Scotland. From ancient artifacts to cutting-edge technology, the museum offers something for everyone. Don’t miss the spectacular view of the city from the rooftop terrace.

3. Escape to the Royal Botanic Garden

Find tranquility amidst the bustling city at the Royal Botanic Garden. This sprawling oasis offers 72 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, glasshouses, and walking paths. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon stroll or a picturesque picnic.

4. Climb Arthur’s Seat

Get your heart pumping with a hike up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that offers unbeatable panoramic views of the city. The climb is a bit challenging but well worth the effort. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a camera to capture the stunning scenery.

Arthur's Seat
Breathtaking views at Arthur’s Seat

5. Marvel at St Giles’ Cathedral

Step into the awe-inspiring St Giles’ Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that has been at the heart of Edinburgh’s religious life for over 900 years. Admire the intricate stained glass windows and the magnificent Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle, Scotland’s highest chivalric order.

St Giles' Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh

6. Explore Leith and the Water of Leith Walkway

Venture off the beaten path to the vibrant district of Leith, known for its lively arts scene and picturesque waterfront. Follow the Water of Leith Walkway, a peaceful riverside trail that meanders through the city, passing historic mills, beautiful parks, and contemporary art installations.

7. Pay a Visit to Greyfriars Bobby

One of Edinburgh’s most heartwarming stories is that of Greyfriars Bobby, a loyal Skye Terrier who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years. The little dog’s unwavering devotion has been immortalized in a bronze statue located near the entrance of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Make sure to stop by and give Bobby’s nose a rub for good luck. While you’re there, take a leisurely stroll through Greyfriars Kirkyard itself, which is steeped in history and home to some of Edinburgh’s most famous residents, including poet Robert Fergusson and philosopher David Hume.

Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby

8. Dive into Scottish Literature at the Writers’ Museum

Celebrate Scotland’s literary heritage at the Writers’ Museum, dedicated to the lives and works of three of the country’s most beloved authors: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Explore the museum’s collections of personal items, manuscripts, and portraits that offer fascinating insights into the lives of these literary giants.

9. Window Shop on Princes Street

Get a taste of Edinburgh’s shopping scene with a stroll along Princes Street, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. While the stores themselves might not be free, window shopping is a great way to experience the city’s bustling atmosphere and admire the gorgeous views of the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle.

10. Experience the Free Tour of Edinburgh

Finally, round off your Edinburgh adventure with the Free Tour of Edinburgh. Led by knowledgeable local guides, this engaging walking tour offers a comprehensive introduction to the city’s most iconic landmarks and hidden gems. The tour operates on a pay-what-you-want basis, making it a budget-friendly way to gain a deeper understanding of Edinburgh’s fascinating history and culture.

There you have it – a treasure trove of free experiences to help you uncover the magic of Edinburgh without emptying your wallet. From historic streets to lush gardens and captivating museums, Scotland’s capital city truly offers something for everyone. So, don your kilt, embrace your inner Scot, and get ready to fall in love with the enchanting city of Edinburgh. Happy exploring!

What to do in Edinburgh