Before I touched down in Scotland, I had laid out a strict budget for myself. Life as an au pair is great but the money is tight, so my goal was to do as many free things as I could. After a little research I found a few attractions that looked interesting, but I also wanted to keep an open mind and feel out the city once I got there. My hostel was located in the heart of the Royal Mill aka the budget exterminator, so I quickly discovered free attractions were an absolute must if I wanted to work within my budget. Luckily, Edinburgh offers some amazing free attractions.
If you’ve heard anything about Edinburgh, it has probably been about Edinburgh Castle. Located on top of an ancient volcano, the castle sits high above the city. Despite it’s undeniable beauty, admission will set you back around 15 pounds. If you make your way up to the castle and look back down the Royal Mill, you will see Arthur’s Seat.
Located on the far end of the Royal Mill is a second volcano that provides the most spectacular views of the city. There are several paths you can take up to the top, ranging from fairly easy to more challenging hikes. On your way up you can easily find a good spot in the grass to eat a snack and take in the view. Not only is it free, it’s also a nice way to stay active while traveling.
This one is a staple in basically every city around the world. Walking tours are a great way to learn about the places you travel to. If nothing else, you will usually be able to discover things you want to explore more in depth. While on the tour, it’s always a good idea to chat up the guide, usually a local. They’re more then happy to recommend some of their favorite places to go/ things to do in the city.
Find Tom Riddle In Greyfriars Kirkyard
This is especially for my fellow Harry Potter fans. It’s no secret that Edinburgh inspired many aspects of J.k Rowling’s books. The first two books were written in a cafe that looked onto the Castle and George Heriot’s school and the rumor is, Rowling would walk through Greyfriars to find inspiration for the names of her characters on the tombstones. Although there are several notable names the cemetery, the most notorious of all is Thomas Riddle, thought to be the inspiration behind the Dark Lord himself.
The Royal Botanical Gardens
I’m one of those people who loves big cities, but I also crave some time alone with nature, which is why I loved The Botanical Gardens so much. Entry into the grounds is free and you’re able to wander around gorgeous flower beds and water installations. The garden is about a 30 minutes walk from Royal Mill, so you can also get a good look at the city while making your way over.
Prince Street Gardens
Another green space to escape to. Prince Street Gardens is the perfect place to start your morning with a quick walk and coffee break on one of the many benches. From the Gardens you will have a breathtaking view of both Edinburgh Castle above and the Scott Monument.
National Museum of Scotland
Coming from a place in Canada where museum entry costs a fortune, I like to take advantage of free museums. This is one of those attractions that you save for a rainy day, which come quickly and frequently in Edinburgh. Be sure to visit Dolly, the first cloned animal.
Another great view of the city. Calton Hill gives you a different perspective of Edinburgh. Here you can see well over the city, seeing both The Castle and Arthur’s Seat. The hill is also home to a number of different monuments, including one with some unexpected greek flair.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Located in the thick of the Royal Mill, St. Giles’ Cathedral stands ready to be explored, for free. Oddly enough, St. Giles is not a Catholic church, therefore is not an actual Cathedral. Although it’s not a Cathedral by definition, it’s a beautiful church to visit. Bonus points if you can find an angel playing bagpipes, it is Scotland after all.
Scottish National Gallery
What can I say, it’s another free museum. This one is focused on art, specifically from the Renaissance period. It’s a great gallery for anyone who loves art and painting.
Although you won’t see me jumping in the water on a typical day in Scotland, Portobello Beach is a great place to walk along the water and relax. Once you’re done your walk, you can check out many of the coffee shops and places to eat.
Hope you guys enjoyed this post and found it helpful. What are some of your favourite things to do in Edinburgh? Are there any more free activities in Edinburgh that I should know about?