Free Things to Do in Edinburgh
Strapped for cash or saving for a big day but still want to get out of the house? Luckily Edinburgh has plenty of options for a fun few hours – all without having to spend a penny.
Get festive at Edinburgh festivals
Edinburgh is the festival capital of the British Isles. From Europe’s largest Science Festival to the annual Hogmanay celebrations to the planet’s largest ode to the arts, the Fringe festival; this Scottish city has a calendar stacked with parties and presentations for all manner of causes.
Plenty of them include lots of free events and exhibitions too, so check the schedule and see what you can attend in this wonderful city.
Stretch your legs in Edinburgh’s Parks
Edinburgh is the greenest city in the UK, with over 130 parks and National Heritage sites across the city. Over 50% of the capital is green space and there is actually more trees than residents – no wonder the place is so beautiful!
From Holyrood Park and its volcanic peaks to the Athens-inspired Calton Hill, there is plenty of parks in which to get out and about in Edinburgh.
Climb an extinct volcano
At 251m, the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak in the group of hills that Edinburgh is built upon.
The summit provides some of the best panoramas around and, with a little fitness and a good pair of boots, you can easily make the top.
Explore the history of Scottish art
The Scottish National Gallery is home to a vast collection of fine art from Scotland and beyond from the Renaissance period right up until the start of the 20th century.
Set in a neoclassical building that is something of an art in itself, it is part of the trio of National Galleries of Scotland, along with the Modern Art Gallery and the Portrait Gallery.
The collection is an interesting look at Scotland’s history as told through the means of brush and mold.
Follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter
The magic and mystery of Harry Potter had its origins in this city. J.K. Rowling penned much of the series in the city’s many cafes. Swing by The Elephant House Cafe to see the place where Harry’s first chapters began, or head to the Balmoral Hotel to see the room where the final words were typed.
Edinburgh is full of Rowling’s inspiration too, from the graves of one Tom Riddell and a William McGonagall in Greyfriars Kirkyard, to the Diagon Alley-like street of Candlemaker Row.
Wander down the Royal Mile
Running from Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile is the most famous street in the capital. There is plenty to do and see on this road, the busiest tourist street in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Most of the city’s most popular landmarks can be found here, as can the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Hogmanay celebrations.
Go have a wander and see what you can come across.
Check out Edinburgh’s monuments
Edinburgh is a city of statues. From the Scott Monument, the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world, to the lucky statue of a loyal pup, Greyfriars Bobby.
Why not head out into the city and see how many of these famous memorials and monuments you can spot?
See Scotland’s little slice of Greece
A monument known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” and a national grievance might not be the first place you’d go for something fun, but the National Monument of Scotland is exactly that.
Never finished, this memorial to Scottish soldiers killed during the Napoleonic Wars was built in the fashion of the famous Greek Parthenon. Only one side was ever built after funds for construction dried up.
It’s not really that ugly, it has inner beauty, right?
Get cultural at Edinburgh’s Museums
With a history as rich as Edinburgh’s, it’s no surprise that the place has a fair few museums. Discover the tales of Scotland’s great authors at the Writers’ Museum or journey back to your youth at the Museum of Childhood.
Many of Edinburgh’s museums and galleries are free to poke around, so there is no excuse not to get a bit cultural.
Jump on the bike and go for a ride
The city has many great bike-routes ideal for taking the two-wheeler out for a spin. None more so than the beautiful Water of Leith Walkway. This public path follows the pretty waterway straight through the heart of Edinburgh.
Cycle past the Union Canal, Royal Botanic Gardens, Dean Village and right out to where the river meets the sea at Leith.
For more ideas, check out our article on great walking routes near Edinburgh – all just as enjoyable when on a bike!
Follow the stairs to the top of the Scott
The largest monument to a literary hero in the world, the Scott Monument is an instantly recognisable part of Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.
61.11m high, this Victorian effigy to the great Sir Walter Scott can be climbed by a series of twisting spiral stairs: 288 in total.
The viewing platform offers a nice spot to view the greenery of the Gardens from and watch the hustle and bustle of the capital’s busiest road.
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