What to do in Edinburgh for Free

It is that time of year when Christmas is right around the corner and most people are trying to save for gift giving or want to prep for what can be a rather expensive few months, especially with what has been a very trying year for everyone. Edinburgh is full of things to do but sometimes its hard to know where to start, especially if you want to make the most of a visit to the Capital or you purely don’t want to have to spend an extortionate amount every time the weekend rolls around.

In that case, I’ve outlined some of my favourite free options below. Do let me know if you do any of them!

Walk the City

I know it may be a bit cliche to say this but the best way to explore Edinburgh is on foot. It’s free and gives you the opportunity to get lost within the fantastic architecture and hidden gems the city has to offer.

Especially with the nights getting darker and the festive decorations popping up, a late ish walk is one of my favourite things to do. Edinburgh comes alive at night and is often quieter so its the perfect opportunity to get the city to yourself.

I recommend walking Grassmarket, up Victoria Street and to the castle at night. You must also go to Princes Street Gardens, Dean Village, Leith Walk and Stockbridge.

Of course if you’re feeling adventurous, the many hills of Edinburgh are always ones to include in your itinerary because of the stunning views you get. You can hike up Arthurs Seat, Blackford Hill, Calton Hill and Craighlockhar hill to name a few, for some fantastic viewpoints.

It’s cheap, good exercise and gives you plenty to see – a win win right?

Colinton and Craiglockhart Dells

Another place to walk to Sophie? Well yes but hear me out. The Colinton and Craiglockhart Dells are one of my favourite places to escape to, mostly because it’s in a rather unsuspecting place and feels like miles away from the city.

It also reminds me of home, with the water of Leith flowing through the middle of the forrest and it leads to Colinton tunnel which is covered in an array of artwork.

It’s also the perfect place to walk your dog or (if you’re like me) find dogs as you miss yours! In Autumn it looks particularly beautiful but make sure you wear some appropriate footwear (not white shoes like mine) and wrap up warm.

Its a *semi* hidden gem but one I am willing to share.

Museums and Art Galleries

I feel like this might be a semi obvious one to anyone visiting Edinburgh because largely most people know that visiting the museum is free. However, the National Museum of Scotland also have a variety of free events which are worth checking out and if you can catch the museum when they’ve updated an exhibition then that’s even better!

There is also the City Art Centre which has several floors of art through the ages. Most of which is free to go and visit. When I visited semi recently, I found it fascinating how the collection came together and would encourage you to go and check it out.

There is also the writers museum which I am yet to visit (I am really surprised I haven’t been yet) which is also free but donations are welcome. It celebrates the three literary greats – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Finally, there is also the ‘People’s Story Museumwhich showcases the lives of working class people during the 18th century to the late 20th century. Combining contemporary issues with real stories of people from Edinburgh over the years, it’s a museum directly for the people, by the people.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh

The Royal Botanic Gardens are the perfect place to spend a day out, largely because it does in fact take nearly a whole day to get around. Filled with an array of different plants and trees, even if you’re not a gardener or massive enthusiast for specific types of plants, I can ensure you you’ll be intrigued by the displays.

A huge amount of thought and upkeep goes into the gardens and how they are presented, and it truly is beautiful. Just like the Dells, its a bit of escapism from the city centre and is a treat for the senses. You may even spot the odd squirrel.

The glasshouses are currently closed as part of a conservation and reconstruction project however, it is worth noting that they do usually cost. But even without them, I’d still say its well worth a visit.

Free Events

It is also always worth checking out event sites for local, free events. Eventbrite is a great place to look for upcoming projects as they list in date order what is happening around the city and for free.

This weekend for example there is a Christmas fair, a Cinema and Literature event, as well as a fashion show hosted by Grazia in the St James Centre. Check out the full list of events on their website.

Other places to check out:

What’s on Edinburgh.

The Skinny

Forever Edinburgh

I often subscribe to newsletters, like the Forever Edinburgh monthly email, to get a general feel of what’s happening, which is always useful especially if you don’t want to actively do a lot of research.

Edinburgh is full of artists so take every opportunity to support them!

That’s my top tips for finding free things to do in Edinburgh and when you’re in such a beautiful place, that’s not always a hard job. I often fill my weekends just going a stroll and discovering new areas. Taking a book, listening to some music, doing some art or taking some photos are also great ways of making more of an activity out of the simplest of things.

Let me know if you do any of the above or if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

Let me know in the comments.



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