Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

Visiting Edinburgh on a budget

Edinburgh is one of the greatest cities in the world, and it is rich in history, culture and Scottish traditions. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a fantastic time in Edinburgh. Our centrally located hotel places you close to many free things to do in Edinburgh. 

Spectacular views

To help you make short work of free attractions in Edinburgh, take advantage of Edinburgh’s spectacular views. From the top of Calton Hill (a short 5-minute walk from Parliament House Hotel), you can enjoy panoramic views of Edinburgh’s breathtaking skyline. There are also a number of famous monuments you can explore while taking in the sights of this World Heritage Site.

From atop Calton Hill, you will see the most magnificent view of Arthur’s Seat – a beacon of Edinburgh’s legendary past. Believed to be one of the possible locations for Camelot, thousands of Edinburgh explorers ascend the hill every year in search of King Arthur’s official seat of power. And while there is much debate about the facts of the matter, one thing is for sure … the views from Arthur’s Seat are legendary.

View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
Make the short climb to the top of Calton Hill for stunning city views.

Free museums and galleries

Edinburgh has a number of fabulously free attractions across the city. Every year, museums such as the National Museum of Scotland, People’s Story Museum, Museum of Edinburgh, Museum of Childhood, Museum on the Mound and Writers’ Museum, welcome thousands of visitors through their doors free of charge. In addition to several art galleries, including the National Gallery of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and City Art Centre.

Entry to these museums and galleries is free, although there may be charge for some touring exhibitions. In addition, some of these attractions hold regular free guided tours. Meaning you can discover more of Edinburgh’s rich, cultural past for less!

The curved and angled exterior the National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland is free to enter. It explores history, world cultures, art and design, science and technology and more!

Historical monuments and landmarks

When visiting Edinburgh’s many monuments and landmarks, you’ll delve into the city’s history. And much of the city’s spectacular architecture, you can admire for free. While wandering around Edinburgh’s streets, you’ll see statues honouring the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Greyfriars’ Bobby. Plus, some of the most important and fascinating buildings in the city will welcome you to take a look around for free. From the medieval St Giles Cathedral to the modern Scottish Parliament Building.

St Giles' Cathedral Edinburgh in the daytime
St Giles’ Cathedral offers free entry and short daily walking tours of the building.

Central city gardens

Edinburgh is home to many free parks and gardens where you can enjoy a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. These stunning green spaces are perfect for cheap days out in Edinburgh. Take a short stroll from our central hotel to Princes Street Gardens, for a picnic with glorious castle views. Explore the tucked away Dunbar’s Close Garden with 17th-century style landscapes. You’ll find this secret treat just off the Royal Mile, where you can read a book and soak up the tranquillity. Or, visit the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with 70 acres of stunning landscapes to explore. You could also take a quiet walk along the Water of Leith Walkway, which runs along a peaceful riverside, and is home to much of the city’s wildlife.

Ross Fountain in front of Edinburgh Castle
Enjoy views of Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens, a large public space in the city centre.

Beautiful beaches

If you’re looking for free things to do in Edinburgh, the region’s beaches provide the perfect day out. Start your day by heading to Portobello Beach, just a few miles away from the city centre. Here, you’ll find two miles of flat, sandy stretch and a great spot for walks, swimming and sunbathing. Take an oceanfront walk along the long promenade, before stopping at one of its cafes, bars and restaurants. Then, browse independent shops and markets in Portobello’s high street. Or, visit Cramond, a seaside village on the outskirts of Edinburgh with a beach, harbour, and even its own island, which you can walk to when the tide is out. (However, you must allow enough time to get back before the tide comes in again, or you could get stuck! See tide times.)

Looking out towards the Firth of Forth
Portobello, just outside of Edinburgh, has a 2-mile stretch of sandy beach, perfect for beach walks and activities.

Festivals and Fairs

When it comes to choosing what to see in Edinburgh, the city’s annual festivals should be top of your list. Throughout the year, the city comes alive with music, arts, comedy, film, food, drink and entertainment. And many of these festivals offer a programme of free events, so you can enjoy Edinburgh on a budget. At Edinburgh Festival Fringe, you’ll find free street performances and entertainment in cafes, pubs and parks. Then, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, live music can be heard across the city, from bars to open-air concerts in gardens. And as the year draws to close, Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay Festival usually run some free events to bring a little sparkle to those winter days.

A jazz and blues band performing
Look out for free live performances as part of Edinburgh’s busy programme of annual festivals.

Bewitchingly Free Tours

And finally, one of our favourite free things to do in Edinburgh is tour the city. With its cobbled streets and haunted closes, Edinburgh is simply spellbinding. And some of the city’s walking tours are free to join, although tips are encouraged. For example, the Sandemans Free Tour of Edinburgh, which promises to show you all the top attractions of the city. Or grab a wand and join a robed guide on a tour designed specifically for Harry Potter fans. The Potter Trail will take you to all the magical locations behind our favourite boy wizard, as well as offer a closer look at the witches and wizards of medieval Edinburgh.

The Grassmarket in Edinburgh with its rows of shops
Discover more about Edinburgh’s ancient streets with a free walking tour of the city.

Enjoy Edinburgh on a budget

With our wide range of hotel rooms to suit all budgets, we have the perfect central accommodation for your visit. Book your affordable holiday in Scotland’s beautiful, historic capital today and enjoy these great free things to do in Edinburgh.