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26 Free Things to Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

Looking for free things to do in Edinburgh? You’re in luck! Edinburgh has so many free things to do that could fill your entire itinerary.

There are a ton of interesting things to do for free in Edinburgh. From walking the Royal Mile to taking a tour of Scottish Parliament, you have plenty to choose from.

I love Edinburgh, and I love saving money, so I put together this list of the best things to do in Edinburgh for free based off my many trips to the city. So put away your wallet, and let’s get exploring Edinburgh on a budget!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Top Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

1. Walk the Royal Mile

The one-mile stretch of road running from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is known as the Royal Mile.

This is the main street of Old Town, the name given to the oldest part of Edinburgh. Here, the winding medieval-planned streets twist and turn through some of the city’s oldest buildings, in sharp contrast to the New Town that was laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Royal Mile is lined with shops, restaurants, and hotels, and it’s the hub of Edinburgh’s tourist activity. Branching off of the Mile are Edinburgh’s series of closes, or alleyways, which might bring you to a tucked-away restaurant or museum.

2. Visit the Writers’ Museum

The Writer's Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland

Off of the Royal Mile and through Lady Stair’s Close is The Writers’ Museum, celebrating three of Scotland’s most famous writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The museum houses personal objects like Burns’ writing desk, Scott’s childhood toys, Stevenson’s wardrobe, and Burns’ death mask.

3. See St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles' Cathedral, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh (“kirk” being a Scottish word for “church”), St Giles’ Cathedral and its distinctive steeple sit on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.

This 14th century church is considered to be the home of Presbyterianism.

The outside is incredible, but the church’s stained glass inside is absolutely awe-inspiring. While the church is free for all to visit, if you want to take pictures inside, that’s a small photography fee.

Want to learn how to be a budget travel pro? Check out my Travel For Cheap course here.

4. Visit Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, Scotland

Near Holyrood Palace is Scottish Parliament. As it’s a working Parliament, what you can see and do may change depending on what’s going on that day. But it is free to visit.

You’re welcome to walk right on in, after going through a metal detector and security line, and look in on the Debating Chamber, take a free tour, and see the artwork.

You might even find yourself in the middle of a science fair or other public event like I did when I visited. When I was there, they had an exhibit showcasing the Large Hadron Collider, which also involved smaller interactive exhibits that explored things like static electricity.

Not an experience I expected to have at Scottish Parliament, but that’s all the more reason for you to visit!

5. Hike Arthur’s Seat

View of Arthur's Seat from Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

On the Holyrood Palace end of the Royal Mile juts Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano that rises 822 feet above sea level. There is also speculation that the mound has a connection to King Arthur and may have been the location of the legendary Camelot.

A short but strenuous hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat gives off panoramic views of Edinburgh. This is one of the best views in the city!

6. Get an Incredible View from Edinburgh Castle Hill

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, England

While it will cost you to actually go inside Edinburgh Castle, a view from Castle Hill is completely free.

This is another short but tough hike up to the top. But you’ll be rewarded by some incredible views of the city of Edinburgh below. Many of Edinburgh’s best views come for free!

7. Take a Free Walking Tour of Edinburgh

You can take in the city’s history and see Edinburgh’s main sights all in one day with a self-guided walking tour of the city. A walking tour is one of the best free things to do in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, St Giles’ Cathedral, and more are all within walking distance of each other and can all be seen in a single day.

You can either do a self-guided walking tour, or you can join a free Edinburgh walking tour from Free Tours By Foot.

More Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

8. Enjoy the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

9. Visit the Scottish National Gallery

10. Experience child-like wonder at the Museum of Childhood

11. Admire the architecture of Dean Village

12. Take a walk in Pentland Hills Regional Park

13. Visit the People’s Story Museum

14. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

15. Stroll through the ancient churchyard of Greyfriars Kirkyard

16. Visit the Magdalen Chapel

17. Climb Calton Hill

18. Visit the Museum on the Mound

19. Visit the National Gallery of Modern Art

20. Enjoy the gardens at Lauriston Castle

21. Visit St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral

22. Enjoy the sea air in Leith

23. Escape to the sea at Portobello Beach

24. Enjoy Princes Street Gardens

25. Visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

26. See the contemporary art exhibitions at the Royal Scottish Academy

Yep, it’s all free!

Free Things to do in Edinburgh Map

Ready to explore all these free things to do in Edinburgh? Use the map below to plan out your budget vacation!

I hope you enjoy all these free Edinburgh things to do!

Best Budget Places to Stay in Edinburgh

A budget Edinburgh guide isn’t complete without some cheap accommodations. Take a look at these top budget hotels in Edinburgh:

And for more cheap places to stay, check out these websites:

More Edinburgh Tips

Find even more fun things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland with these itineraries:

Ready to visit Edinburgh, Scotland? Plan your trip with these tips.



5 Free Things to See and Do in Edinburgh, Scotland

What are you favorite free things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland? Let me know in the comments!

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