50 Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh Scotland Panorama
Edinburgh Scotland Panorama

Edinburgh is packed with things to do and places to visit for free. You will be surprised but some of the main sights in the city are available completely for free. We are giving you the list of top 50 things you can visit without paying a dime, or paying some small insignificant amount.

Museum of Edinburgh
Museum of Edinburgh – Photo by: simple / pd
  1. National Museum – this excellent Scottish museum is always free to visit. There are new and old building and number of collection for all around the world. They also have excellent cage and restaurant.
  2. Arthur’s Seat – if you are in the shape this place is excellent to climb and to have picnic on the top. You will have great view of the city of Edinburgh. It will take you an hour to climb.
  3. Edinburgh Castle – if you want to get in you have to pay but you can admire this big medieval castle from all around the city. There are number of spots for castle watching
  4. The national gallery of Scotland – the admission is free. You can see great collection of modern and medieval art. Monet and Titian are settled here too.
  5. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – is a proud owner of 20th and 21st-century mix of talent including Picasso and Mondrian. The entrance is free.
  6. Writers museum – is a place dedicated to famous Scottish authors like Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Anytime you want to enter, it is free of charge.
  7. The Botanical Garden – excellent place for an afternoon stroll. With great number of trees and plant species you will enjoy this beautiful place. Highlights include the largest collection of wild-origin Chinese plants outside China, the Scottish Heath Garden, the Rock Garden, and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden.
  8. Calton hill – if you are not fit enough to climb Arthur’s Seat this is another option which is much lighter and it will take you less time and the view from the top is also nice.
  9. Surgeons Museum – a bit scary museum and you shouldn’t go if your stomach is weak. It is full with old instrument and tells a story of operations before chloroform.
  10. Scottish Parliament – the entrance is free and you can even sit around in the parliament and listen to the debates.
  11. Lothian buses – are probably the biggest bargain in Edinburgh. The daily ticket is only 2.5£ and you can take a ride into any part of Edinburgh and have a bus tour.
  12. Museum of Scotland – after you finish visiting this stunning museum climb the north tower and you will have glorious view of the old town of Edinburgh.
  13. Inverleith Park – is a great place to take a rest but also on Sunday you can enjoy free football or rugby match.
  14. Museum of Childhood – this is another museum in the Royal mile. Full of toys and children things, you will go back in time and your children will love it.
  15. Royal Mile – a famous walking area of Edinburgh where you can stroll for hours. With number of excellent medieval houses and millions of small shops you will easily spend your day for 0£.
  16. Fishing the Water of Leith – you can get license for fishing in number of places in the city. The river is just 3 miles from the city and you will get there easily. It is a great place to catch brown trout but keep in mind that salmon and sea trout must be thrown back.
  17. Edinburgh Fringe – this is the biggest art festival in the world and prices are going up for the festival but still you can enjoy series of performances throughout the month, and though it started as a purely comedy festival, it now includes poetry and spoken word, and adds more performances every year.
  18. Portobello Beach – this is not the most beautiful beach in the world but still it is clean and close to the city and always great place to rest and enjoy.
  19. Free walking tours – all around the city you can find locals who will for free or a small tip take you to the tour of Edinburgh. These tours are usually about 2-3 hours long and cover the major sights around town and you can always interact with locals and hear some interesting stories about the city.
  20. Listen to the ghost stories – Edinburgh is full of mystery and ghost stories and after having a spooky night walk around the town settle in some pub and listen to the ghost stories from the locals.
  21. Palace of Holyroodhouse can be visited only when the royal family is not around since this is their official residence in Scotland. The entrance to the Queen’s Gallery you should pay but the tour around the Palace is free.
  22. Holyrood Park is a great place to spend afternoon hiding from the summer sun. you can have picnic or just a chat with the locals.
  23. Play golf on the Bruntsfield Links – this amazing golf course is public and free for you to play on. Renting equipment is not expensive and you can play all day long and learn from the old masters of the sport who are playing here almost every day.

    Edinburgh castle
    Edinburgh castle / Photo by: Malutorre
  24. The Meadows – south of Old Town you will find this amazing park and on weekends hordes of people are heading there and enjoying the nature. The park is beautiful and well taken care of.
  25. Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre – great views of the city as well as the sky from the platform and through the telescopes. If you want to observe the night sky booking is obligatory. The Observatory’s exhibitions include astronomy activities for everyone
  26. Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center – there is guided tour of the center and if you want you can taste whiskey later for reasonable price.
  27. Alien Rock is a free place to climb the rocks and there are more than 150 routes to choose. The equipment can be rented out and if you don’t have any experience with climbing you can take the smaller routes.
  28. Gorgie City Farm is a small farm in the middle of the city and you can easily spend few hours there playing with the animals. You can even volunteer there and help with the chores.
  29. St. John’s Church – located just a bit west of Princess Street. It is a stunning 19th century building. The stained glass neo-gothic windows are beautiful.
  30. John Knox House Museum – there’s a museum inside this 15th century house dedicated to all things Reformatory and to the life of John Knox, the famous 16th century Reformation leader.
  31. George Heriot’s School was established in 1628 by George Heriot who was a jeweler of King James IV. This school is one of the most respectable private schools in UK. The building is mixture of Gothic, English domestic and neo-classical styles.
  32. St. Cecilia’s Hall museum of instruments – is oldest concert hall and it is a home to the Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments. Staff will always show you how to play on instruments and you can come here and listen to the concerts of classical music.
  33. Hopetoun House – is one of Scotland’s finest stately homes and houses excellent examples of Robert Adam and Sir William Bruce interiors and architecture. Sample the aristocratic grandeur of the Red and Yellow Drawing Rooms.
  34. Cramond village – is located just 10 km away from Edinburgh and you can take city buses to get there. This is 18th century village and quite picturesque. Relax amidst the whitewashed houses, swans and handsome yachts.
  35. Gladstone’s Land – this is an estate of merchant Thomas Gladstone from the 17th century and you will be thrilled with open fireplaces, painted ceilings and period furnishings.
  36. Edinburgh college of Art – excellent old building with loads of paintings from the students and teachers. This is a great place to spot talents. You can even buy some paintings and bargain with students.
  37. Open Eye Gallery is a private gallery. It is well known that suits any pocket or you can just visit and admire contemporary works collection of this gallery.
  38. Edinburgh University collection of Instruments – collection charts the history of musical instruments in the evocative Victorian surroundings of the Reid Concert Hall. Their technical evolution is explained and demonstrated, which has over a thousand instruments from around the globe
  39. Royal Yacht Britannia – after 44 years of service to the Royal family this beautiful yacht is retired in the harbor of Edinburgh and can be visited as on of the Edinburgh museums.
  40. Dalmeny House – north of the city, by the Firth of Forth, sits this architectural gem, the ancestral home of the Earl of Rosebery. It houses some superb paintings, French furniture, Sèvres porcelain, intricate tapestries and a Napoleonic collection.
  41. Lauriston Castle was left to the nation by William Reid, a cabinet-maker and antiques enthusiast. The interior can be seen only on guided tours but those tours are free. There is fine collection of porcelain, glass, paintings and pieces of art.
  42. St. Cuthbert’s Church – has wonderful and warm interior and it is just a bit away from Princess Street, under the Edinburgh Castle. The byzantine art and architecture is mixed with Italian renaissance. You will fina a modified version of Leonard da Vinci’s Last Supper from Santa Maria Delle Grazie, in Milan.
  43. Lady Stairs House – this 16th century house is a place of museum which celebrates Scottish writers Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. The paintings in the house are really remarkable.
  44. Museum of Fire – this museum is settled in beautiful red stone building and it tells the story of the oldest fire brigade in Britain. You will find uniforms, equipment, steam appliances, memorabilia and fire engines dating from 1808.
  45. Kitchen fudge – is right next to the museum of Childhood and every 2 hours they are cooking something and you can get taste for free and you can cook together with them.
  46. Newhaven Heritage Museum – This small museum celebrates the local history and culture of the fishing port of Newhaven, situated to the west of Leith docks on the outskirts of the city.
  47. Lamb’s House – Lambs house is a fine 16th century building that was once used as combined dwelling and warehouse. Today, it is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and hosts a range of activities to over-50’s. Take your pick from bowling, bridge, cribbage, knitting and embroidery, line dancing, aerobics and bingo, amongst others.
  48. White Horse Close – A close is an alleyway or a stair leading to several dwellings and White Horse Close is one with strong Jacobean links, situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile . It has been beautifully restored, whitewashed and made pretty with colorful hanging baskets.
  49. Greyfriars Tolbooth and Highland Kirk – The kirkyard, dedicated on Christmas Day 1620, stands on the site of a 15th century Franciscan Friary. It has a fine collection of 17th century Scottish monuments and a rich musical tradition. You can also view the National Covenant, adopted and signed here in 1638. There are many fascinating tales and ghost stories connected with this historic church.
  50. Princes Street Garden – when you finish sightseeing heat to Gardens and enjoy people watching, relaxing in the grass on the sun or just having picnic in the city center.

Featured image by: Cwhiteharp / Public Domain

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