This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 17 November 2021
Edinburgh has hundreds of attractions to visit, but if you’re on a budget then these 10 free activities are all you need to make the most out of the city.
Climb up to Edinburgh Castle
Price: free (unless you go inside)
One of the most breath-taking (literally) free activities to do in Edinburgh is climbing up the hill to where the iconic Edinburgh Castle is. It’s a bit of a trek and you’ll need some sturdy shoes, but once you get to the top it’s worth it. The castle itself is amazing but the views from the centre of the city are truly remarkable
Wander around Dean Village
Where: Water of Leith
As soon as you step into Dean Village, it feels like you’ve been transported back to the 19th century. The cobbled streets and historic buildings were constructed in the 1880s as model housing for local workers and have been around ever since. The most striking building in the village is Well Court, which sits next to a quaint little river, the Water of Leith.
Visit the Museum of Childhood
Where: High Street
The Museum of Childhood is the first ever museum to focus on the history of children. It contains a collection of children’s toys and playthings that range from the 18th to 21st centuries. It attracts over 250,000 visitors annually and is one of the most popular museums in the city. Note: the museum has been closed due to the pandemic, so it’s worth checking that it’s back up and running before making your trip there!
Climb Calton Hill
Looking for a panoramic view of Edinburgh? Look no further than Calton Hill. Situated in the heart of the city, it looks over the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh Playhouse and the city’s snaking train system. Once you’re at the top of the hill, walk around and look at the various moments, including the Nelson Monument, the National Monument of Scotland, the Monument to Scottish Parliament and the Playfair Monument.
Check out Edinburgh’s coolest neighbourhood
Time Out magazine can’t get enough of this ‘hood, naming it as one of the coolest in Europe in 2018 and 2020. Head there and stroll along cobbled waterfront path The Shore, which is lined with cool shops and cafes. It’s here you’ll also find creative hubs Custom House and Custom Lane, which often have free events and exhibitions on the go.
Explore Greyfriars Kirkyard
Where: Old Town
Greyfriars Kirkyard is considered one of the most haunted graveyards in the world. It’s located at the southern edge of the Old Town and features burials that date back to the late 16th century. Visit the statues of Greyfriars Bobby – a terrier who sat by his master’s grave for 14 years. Harry Potter fans will delight in knowing you can find the graves of Tom Riddle, Professor Minerva McGonagall and Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody here, too. It’s also thought to be the inspiration behind Godric’s Hollow – the resting place of Harry Potter’s parents.
Take a walking tour
Where: All over Edinburgh
Price: free (with an optional fee)
One of the best ways to see this handsome city is on foot. Luckily, there are a load of free walking tours available – so dig out your comfiest shoes and get ready to pound the pavements. Local experts can take you to places like the iconic Royal Mile and the charming Grassmarket. There are also specialised Harry Potter walking tours, as well as ghost tours for people who are feeling a little bit more adventurous. At the end of the tour, just pay what you think it was worth.
Listen to live music at Whistle Binkies
Where: South Bridge
Whistle Binkies offers free live music every evening, featuring at least four bands a night. This iconic Edinburgh venue is nestled in the vaults under South Bridge and features some of the best live music Edinburgh has to offer. Feeling adventurous? There’s an open mic night every Monday. Note: the venue has been closed because of the pandemic, so check that it’s open before heading over.
Take in the Royal Botanic Gardens
Where: Arboretum Place
If you’re a fan of nature, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is the place for you. Founded in 1670, it’s the second-oldest botanic garden in the UK. It has a collection of more than 13,000 plant species housed in multiple conservatories and gardens across the property. Leave a few hours to explore this because you’re going to want to see all of it.
Hike up to Arthur’s Seat
Where: Holyrood Park
One of the best natural phenomenons in Edinburgh is the ancient volcano known as Arthur’s Seat. It’s very close to the city centre and boasts a height of over 250 meters. You better get your hiking boots on for this one, as climbing it could take a couple of hours, but the views of the city are totally worth it in the end.