20 Free Edinburgh Scotland Attractions for those of us who do not possess a trust fund (if you have one feel free to hit me up)

July 22, 2017

This post is a massive shout out to 20 Fabulous and Free Edinburgh Scotland Attractions

Peek a boo Edinburgh! I see you!

Free is a funny thing. I mean of course everyone likes something for nothing, unless that nothing really sucks. I mean in New York, I was always taught to distrust free things as something that would inevitably disappoint me.  How could something good be free? To me, it just always felt like high prices ensured quality (totally not true but where I grew up, money was power so this was the sad message I was indoctrinated with).

That’s why I am naturally wary of free things. I always want to say, “Yeah, but what’s the catch? What’s the gimmick? Is it free because you also need my social security number and credit card information and not so secretly want to steal my identity? (I’m a total New York weirdo and I was trained to be a skeptic)”

But I can assure you that this is not the case in Edinburgh, at least from my limited experience anyway. I found a lot of the free Edinburgh Scotland attractions to be fun, interesting, and totally worthwhile. That and I was absolutely shocked by the number of free things to do in Edinburgh. I mean sure, we have some free things in New York, but not many. And if it’s free, they always try to tack on some hidden fee so that it’s not really free at all. That’s why I was delightfully astounded to find so many sites in Edinburgh that were available at no cost to the visitor.

So I’ve created this list to show the skeptics out there (like me) that you don’t need to be a lottery winner to have an amazing time on vacation. If you just take a moment to stop and do some research, you can find some amazing places to visit, at little or no cost to you. But to make this endeavor easier, since no one wants to scroll through 10,000 websites just to find one free thing, I have created this list of 20 free Edinburgh Scotland attractions that you can pursue at your leisure and maybe even enjoy, just a little bit.

 

1. Arthur’s Seat

So before you ask, I hiked to the top but no, I didn’t find a seat with the name Arthur on it. All I found at the top of this extinct volcano in Holyrood Park were incredible views of Edinburgh and a whole lot of wind that made me feel like I was gonna fall off the side of the mountain.

My victory stance after hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Not the easiest hike but totally worth it (Obviously it was or this wouldn’t be on my list of free Edinburgh Scotland attractions).

At  251 meters high, the hike should take you between 2 and 3 hours. Just bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and the right footwear because portions of trail are a bit steep, narrow, and rocky (I am not a hiker and got winded on parts of the ascent so the hike may be a little more challenging than you think. But of course the guys in front of me were hopping around like billy goats so I felt toally out of shape but I did it).

A great place to start this hike is from the entrance that is right across the street from the Palace of Holyroodhouse car park. Follow the Radical Road path along the Salisbury Crags because along the way, you can stop and marvel at the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel before you commence the vertical ascent of doom and exhaustion towards the summit (Okay, it’s not that bad but I did feel like I needed an Iron Lung and Oxygen Machine once at the top. Kidding but just prepare for a hike that isn’t a leisurely strioll through the woods).

The park can get a bit crowded so I would go as early as possible. Also try to hike on a clear day when looming rain clouds don’t obstruct your view of the city. Also make sure to follow marked routes and walk only where instructed because the path can be a bit treacherous (Trust me, I heard more than one story about someone plummeting to their death on Arthur’s Seat. You do not want to be that someone).

Address: Arthur’s Seat, EH8
Getting there: bus to Holyrood (35, 6)

2. Scottish National Gallery

Okay so I’m not gonna lie, the National Gallery is not huge. But it does have some interesting pieces on display that are worth exploring (I also heard the cafe has really good bacon rolls). When I visited, many of the free art exhibits had a modern twist that really made me stop and consider the intent of the artist. Plus, this museum is situated right on the Mound in Edinburgh so you really can’t beat the view.

The view of Edinburgh just outside the Scottish National Gallery which another of the many free Edinburgh Scotland attractions.

But my absolute favorite part was the Beyond Caravaggio exhibit upstairs. Now thank God it was good because this special exhibit costs £12 to get into, but it was money well spent since this artist challenged conventional ideals about the art of his time. Rather than portray a series of ideals, Caravaggio sought realism in his work and portrayed the realities of life and its impact upon the human body. A truly enlightening exhibit that I was delighted to see (Only runs through September 2017 but I am sure something even more awesome will come after it. Also bare in mind that I am not an art history major and these are just my own opinions about what I saw).

Originally the two buildings that house the permanent and special exhibits were separate from one another. However, an ultra
modern addition was that created that connects the two buildings through the Gardens Entrance overlooking Princes Street Gardens.

While here, you can also shop till you drop or stuff your face with bacon rolls. Also don’t forget that there is an awesome free gallery bus that operates between the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. So if you’re not too “museumed out” then head on over to the National Gallery of Modern Art for a little modern art du jour (sometimes I really don’t “get” modern art at all. But at least it makes me think…that I’m an idiot who doesn’t get modern art. Kidding)

Address: The Mound, EH2 2EL

Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun, 10am-5pm (6pm in August); Thu, 10am-7pm

Getting there: bus to Princes Street (multiple services), tram to Princes Street stop or Gallery bus

3. Canongate Kirkyard (Kirkyard = church yard)

Such a beautiful church yard. Don’t forget to check out Adam Smith’s grave.

Okay so if you’re American like me, you are probably looking at these words and have no idea what this is. If you are not doing this then you are better than me because I had no idea that Canonfate Kirkyard was the name of a beautiful cemetery and church yard right off of the Royal Mile. Ancient gravestones, a historic church with red doors, rolling hills, gnarled trees, and gray steepled buildings all come together to create a stunningly beautiful landscape that is basically, every Instagrammers dream.

But it’s not just about the photo ops here. This churchyard is steeped in rich history since this protestant graveyard was the site of many city burials between the 1680s – mid-20th century. Even the famed economist Adam Smith (I keep wanting to say Adam West but that is so wrong because he played Batman on TV. But in case you have no idea who he is, Adam Smith developed the invisible hand theory in economics) and the poet Robert Fergusson are buried here. So take a stroll through this scenic kirkyard and gain a better appreciation for the rich history that this city has to offer.

Address: 153 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN, UK

4. Free Walking Tours

Oh my God, Edinburgh is like a buffet of free walking tours, and I mean that in the best possible way. Just walk down the Royal Mile and you will see street advertisements for free walking tours and ghost tours all over the place. These signs also explain when and where to meet, which is usually right in front of the sign so that even some like me can find the meeting location (I get lost all the time so this is a chronic problem for me).

Now normally, I steer clear of free walking tours because I was raised under the age old adage of, “you get what you pay for”. So surely if you pay nothing then the tour is gonna suck right? Wrong! My tour was awesome. The tour guide was super friendly and super fun. Not only did he show us all around the Royal Mile but he also put a lot of energy and humor into his delivery and really enhanced the experience (It was really a performance because people in the buildings above us were opening their windows to look at him).

Was all of what he said factual? No idea, but some of the stories he told were awesomely creepy, making this tour a fun and creative way to explore the underbelly of Edinburgh’s history (I mean we learned about people being buried alive and being killed so that their corpses could be used for dissection at the medical college. Cool right?). Just be warned that the tour starts at 7pm and lasts till around 9:30pm (It can be longer or shorter depending on how chatty your tour guide is. You can also feel free to leave at any time). Also know that while the tour itself is free, the guides (who are awesome) work on tips and don’t get paid, so it would be nice if you tip them (and they let you know about how much is appropriate).

Address: 90/3 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JR (Half Way Up the Royal Mile)

Hours: Operates Daily from 7:00pm – 9:30pm

*** There is also a free, two hour, City Explorers Walking Tour that meets in front of the Royal Mile Coffee House at 144 High Street. They offer tours at 11am and 1pm everyday. To book a tour, register online here.

5. Scottish Parliament

An architecturally innovative building that offers a glimpse into the historic evolution of a parliament.

Even if you have no interest in politics whatsoever, a visit to the Scottish Parliament is a must. Not only is the architecturial design of this building, by Catalonian architect Enric Miralles’ , truly thought provoking (You’ll think it’s either innovative or the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. I loved it and thought the design was truly inspired), but it is amazing to learn about the evolution and eventual establishment of one of the youngest parliaments in the world.

Be sure to explore the exhibit on the history of the parliament and its creation. I was truly moved when watching the joy and exuberance felt by the entire nation when the Parliament was founded in 1997.

I contented myself with exploring just the permanent exhibit and gift shop (I’m not really that into politics), but if you are a political aficionado then free guided tours are available (booking recommended). You can even witness the  political process for yourself  by booking tickets to attend a committee meeting or a debate.

Address: Canongate, EH99 1SP (at the foot of the Royal Mile)

Hours: Monday, Friday, and Saturday: 10am-5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 9am-6.30pm. Check website for opening times when Parliament is in recess.

Getting there: bus to Holyrood (6, 35)

6. Street Performers (I know, super touristy but can’t help it. I’m a tourist!)

I was seriously impressed by the make up and elaborate dress of street performers in Edinburgh.

Okay, so normally I hate street performers. Typically in New York, they just want me to buy their Rap CD or do something completely lame that makes you want to scream out, “Don’t quit your day job.” Besides, does anyone really like mimes?

Well, the street performers in Edinburgh take their craft to the next level. Not only do they have interesting performances (okay only some of them do), but some of the makeup and costumes used are quit elaborate and exceptionally impressive (I live in NY and am lucky if our “street performers” wear a shirt so I may be easily impressed).

So take some time to stroll through the streets of Edinburgh and witness some of these performances for yourself. I was seriously impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication to their craft.

I’m gonna digress for a moment because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. So my favorite street performer was this guy who just sang and played his guitar (the fact that he was hot in that brooding, angsty kind of way didn’t hurt either). But there was such emotion and feeling in his voice when he sang, that you couldn’t help but watch him. That and it was almost like he was so involved in his music that he forget you were there (This is high praise from a New Yorker who has the attention span of a fly). It also didn’t hurt that he asked for requests and a seven year old screamed, without missing a beat, “500 miles”. Great taste and one of my favorite Edinburgh moments.

7. Marvel at Golden Hour on Calton Hill

Like most things in Edinburgh, the city’s sunsets have a unique beauty and charm that should be savored in the great outdoors, if the weather cooperates and doesn’t throw a thunderstorm level tantrum.

So on a clear evening, grab a blanket, a thermis of your favorite warm beverage of choice (mine is always coffee), a warm sweater or jacket, and head to the  top of Calton Hill. From there, just sit, relax, and enjoy the show that mother nature has to offer; a cascade of colors that  explode onto the sky right before your eyes.

Address: At the east end of Princes Street; access from Regent Road on the south side, or Royal Terrace from the north.
Getting there: Talks the bus to Princes Street (multiple services) or the tram to York Place stop.

This is the view from Calton Hill during the day so you can imagine how amazing it is at sunset.

***While you’re here, be sure to check out the National Monument which stands as a tribute to the Scottish soldiers who were lost in the Napoleonic Wars.

***FUN FACT: The National Monument was nicknamed ‘the Scottish Disgrace’ because the project ran out of money and it was left unfinished in 1829. But the structure’s similarity to the Parthenon reinforces Edinburgh’s claim as the Athens of the North.

8. Greyfriars

When I came to Edinburgh, I knew Greyfriars sounded familiar, but I had no idea why. But then someone reminded me about the legend of Bobby, the little dog who, after his master died, remained by his  grave for over 14 years (Geez, talk about man’s best friend. Doubt anyone in my family would do that for me. LoL).

Well, in honor of such a loyal companion, a statue of Bobby sits  at the top of Candlemaker’s Row, just across from the gates of Greyfriars, the first reformed church in Scotland (A must see for any Edinburgh first timer, but DO NOT rub the nose). After seeing the statue of Bobby, take a moment to sit, relax, and enjoy the Greyfriars’ churchyard, which is home to the remins of the medieval Flodden Wall.

Address: 1 Greyfriars, EH1 2QQ

Hours: church and museum: During April-June and September and October: Monday-Friday: 10.30am-4.30pm, Saturday: 11am-2pm. In July and August: Monday-Friday: 10.30am-4.30pm and Saturday: 11am-4pm (The Churchyard never closes).

Getting there: bus to Grassmarket (2) or George IV Bridge (23, 27, 41, 42, 67) or Chambers Steet (35, 45)

***Volunteer guides are available to lead tours (check their website because there are sometimes special events).

9. Palace of Holyroodhouse (Obviously the Palace itself is not free but admiring the exterior architecture is)

So in case you have no idea what I’m talking about and think I’m speaking in strange tongues (totally joking), the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the royal British monarch in Scotland.

A stunning view of the Palace of Holyroodhouse from Arthur’s Seat.

I wanted to explore the inside of the palace while I visited since I love to witness the stunning history and artistry of such dynamic icons of history, but sadly, the Queen was in residence while I was in Edinburgh (apparently she spends one week there at the beginning of each summer and of course I pick the same week has her. LoL).

However, when I go back I would love to check out the 16th century, historic apartments of Mary Queen of Scots and the State apartments that are used for official and state entertaining.

Now clearly the palace itself is not free (Tickets cost £12.50 for adults, £11.40 for people over 60 or students, £7.50 for anyone under 17 or disabled, free for children under 5, and £32.50 for a family with 2 adults and 3 children under 17) but the Palace is a wonder to behold and worth seeing, even if it’s only from the outside.

***There are several combination tickets that include the Queen’s Gallery and a Garden History Tour, so choose the best ticket option for you.

Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, UK

Hours: Open daily from 9:30am-6pm

Getting There: Take the 6 or the 35 which both have stops near the Palace.

10. Water of Leith Walkway

I didn’t get to this one so the Water of Leith Walkway is one of the many reasons why I need to return to Edinburgh and explore the water’s edge. This 12 mile walkway starts in Balerno and goes all the way to the Leith Docks. Now while walking paths are all fine and dandy, this one is particularly special because it is designated as an urban wildlife site that actually runs right through the city. Here you can find wildflowers, herons, kingfishers (no idea what this is but I’m thinking a bird. Yes, I was right! It’s a fun looking bird that doesn’t live by me! Woo who!) and roe deer (Another insanely exotic species we don’t have in the States. We only have white tailed deer).

An itinerary that was suggested to me was to start at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre in Slateford and then head towards Leith. On this route, you’ll actually pass through the picturesque Dean Village with its converted mills and a Thomas Telford bridge. From here, continue on past St Bernard’s Well to Stockbridge or Canonmills where you can take the bus back to Princes Street.

Fun Fact: There are always six naked men standing in the Water of Leith. That’s because they are actually cast-iron sculptures created by artist Antony Gormley.

Address: 24 Lanark Road, EH14 1TQ

Hours: The visitor center is open daily from 10am-4pm

Getting there: bus to Slateford (33, 44)

11. The Royal Mile (Again super touristy but that’s okay with me)

So before you roll your eyes and totally discredit me as a travel blogger, hear me out. Sure, the Royal Mile is completely touristy, but who cares? I mean, if you are visiting Edinburgh for the first time then a stroll along the Royal Mile is essential. Plus, these are so many interesting historical sites along the way that make this a total legit area of interest.

Just start at the bottom and check out the Palace at Holyroodhouse. Then head over to the Scottish Parlimant and slowly work your way up the Royal Mile. Sure, on your way you’ll see a ton of touristy restaurants and souvenir shops selling anything and everything that you  could ever think of in Tartan, but you can skip these places and check out Canongate Kirkyard instead (on your right, at the church with the red doors), followed by Dunbar Close, St. Giles Cathedral, the Real Mary King’s Close, and eventually Edinburgh Castle itself, all the way at the top. A fascinating area that is rich in history if you overlook that shop in the corner hawking fudge to tourists (I gave in and bought some and it was really good).

12. National Museum of Scotland

If you are a museum enthusiast of even the smallest measure then check out this refurbished but  appealingly eclectic showcase of nothing major (sarcasm at its finest), just basically the history of the entire world (both natural and man-made). From outer space to the deep sea, the Natural World galleries explain the development of our planet, while the World Cultures galleries connect people, all across the globe, to their possessions.

Also be sure to explore the Scottish galleries and witness the development of Scotland from prehistory, all the way until  the present day. Plus, you can’t forget the Window on the World exhibit with an assortment over 800 objects and the Discoveries gallery which helps educate visitors about all the Scots whose innovative ideas took them all across the world (Also don’t miss the famed Lewis Chessmen).

Once you’ve become totally museumed out, take the elevator from the 5th to the 7th floor to see a quaint, roof top garden that will provide you with some epic, panoramic views of the city.

Address: Chambers Street, EH1 1JF

Hours: Open daily from 10am – 5pm
Getting there: bus to George IV Bridge (23, 27, 41, 42, 67) or Chambers Street (35, 45)

13. Leith

A view from the shores of Leith.

So I am really bummed that I didn’t get to explore more of what Leith has to offer. I mean, I was only in Edinburgh for three days and basically passed through on my way to the Ocean Terminal, to see the Royal Yacht Britannia (A must see because the Queen sure knows how to travel in style. I pretended I was a total big shot while I was there).

But Leith has this charm about it; this independence of spirit that I relate to as a solo traveler. Maybe that’s because it only officially merged with Edinburgh in 1920 and still operates as a working port, a way of life that is in total contrast to the Michelin-starred restaurants, boutique hotels, galleries and modern bars that are just down the road.

And sure, I have seen the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, but I want to experience more of what Leith has to offer. I want to explore the exhibits of the Trinity House Maritime Museum (at the foot of Leith Walk) and stroll along Constitution Street on my way to the Shore for the ultimate cafe experience.

Address: north of the city centre on the shores of the Firth of Forth
Getting there: bus to the Foot of the Walk, Constitution Street or Ocean Terminal

14. Stockbridge

Who knew that this cosy, quiet gem of a neighbor was just a 10 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street? Well away from the informlity and hordes of tourists that nvade the streets of New Town is a part of town where clicking cameras and selfie sticks are replaced by pretty streets and enchanting squares that make strolling through Stockbridge a true joy and wonder to behold.

But it’s not just the scenery that males this neighborhood great. There is also an assortment of fun and unusual shops, galleries, cafés, bars and restaurants that are waiting to be explored. Also take some time to walk through Inverleith Park (you’ll kow you’re in thr right place when you see the west gate of the Royal Botanic Gardens across the street). You can also stroll along the Water of Leith to walk by or eat/shop your way through the area’s awesome Sunday market.

Address: 10 minutes’ walk to the west of the New Town
Getting there: bus to Stockbridge (24, 29, 36, 42)

The view from one of the many charming closes along the Royal Mile.

15. Dunbars Close (close = alleyway)

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile, it is easy to overlook the entrance to this peaceful little garden. But hidden just past the Canongate Kirk. this haven of greenery was created by  Sir Patrick Geddes as part of the Old Town network of grandens.

However, over time, the garden was forgotten and fell into disrepair as the result of neglect. Citizens began to understand the importance of this green space and completely restored it to its 17th century glory in the 1970s. The garden now sits as a series of small, delightfully private rooms that are great for a picnic on a lovely day. Just grab some food from Mimi’s Bakehouse and wile away the afternoon on the  tiny lawns at the  end of the garden.

Address: Canongate, High Street, EH8 8BW

Getting there: bus to Holyrood (6, 35)
Hours: dawn to dusk

16. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Oh look, how surprising, another botanic garden is on a free attractions list, how novel. I get it. Gardens are typically free so hence the reason why they are found on many, “free things to do” lists. And while I concur that this may not be the most original idea, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is still worth a visit.

On the first sunny day you find, head over to this relaxing and peaceful, 70 acre park. Sure, you feel like you are a world away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh, but the park itself is only a 15 minute walk from the city center itself. Embrace the tranquility of this place and get lost among the trees, shrubs, and rare plants that give this garden its botanical charm.

So many charming gardens in Edinburgh, so little time.

If you do get caught in a passing shower, never fear because you can always seek refuge in the Victorian Palm House or in the pinecone and seashell ensconced, stone pavilion in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden; both of which are worth a sneak peak even on a sunny day.

Not contented with just watching the grass grow? Well, if you are looking for something a little more exciting then head over to the John Hope Gateway and exhibitions in 18th-century Inverleith House for a guided tour of the gardens. But no matter what you decide, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy in this haven of greenery.

Address: There are garden entrances on Inverleith Row (East Gate) and Arboretum Place (West Gate and John Hope Gateway)

Getting there: Bus to Inverleith – East Gate (8, 23, 27)

Hours: Open daily from November-January from 10am-4pm. Open daily in February and October from 10am-5pm. Open from March through September from 10am-6pm

Price: The garden is free but the glasshouse is £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concession, while children 15 and under/essential carers are free.

17. St. Giles Cathedral

I am so angry. Grr. I really and truly wanted to see the inside of this church because well, you can’t miss it. It is huge and right on the Royal Mile. Plus, the church has this unique spire that pretty much dominates the center of the Royal Mile. Now I tried to get in, I swear I did. But every time I went the church was closed. Blarg (insert more disgruntled noises here) so I didn’t get to see the inside.

But apparently the vast interior of this Cathedral is flooded with light, through a series of stained glass that only came to the church in the late 19th century. There is also a carved angel playing the bagpipes in the Thistle Chapel that is supposed to be exquisite (geez, I miss out on all the good stuff).  Plus, if you can handle heights, there is a guided roof top tour that must be booked in advance, for £6 per person (I know what I’m doing next time I’m in Scotland).

One of my favorite views of St. Giles Cathedral.

Address: St Giles’ Cathedral, EH1 1RE
Getting there: bus to George IV Bridge (23, 27, 41, 42, 67), tram to Princes Street stop
Hours: From May to September: Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm, Saturday: 9am-5pm, and Sunday: 1pm-5pm. From October through April: Monday-Saturday: 9am-5pm and Sunday: 1pm-5pm.

18. St. Mary’s Cathedral

With so much to see, do, and explore in Edinburgh. some attractions can get totally overlooked, and this Cathedral is one of them. This place of worship has not one, not two, but THREE spires and dominates the landscape of the West End. The architecture of this building is also distinctly Victorian Gothic Revival (Have no idea what this means? Good, me neither. That’s why I looked it up. See below).

St. Mary’s is a tremendous site to behold because not only is it Scotland’s LARGEST Cathedral, but it features some rather modern looking stained glass that was created by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. While you’re here don’t miss the Phoebe Anna Traquair murals in the Song School which are down right heavenly (I won’t say anymore because you have to see it to appreciate it. But they are awesome. Very expressive and life like religious representations. Way better than the stick figures I can draw. LoL). Also on offer here are free guided tours of the Song School and the murals in August (tours at other times are by appointment only).

Address: Palmerston Place, EH12 5AW
Getting there: bus to Haymarket Terrace (12, 26, 31, 48) or the tram to West End – Princes Street stop

Hours: Open throughout the day, every day but no photography or other disruptions during services.

***Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the late 1740s in England. Its popularity grew in the early 19th century, when admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to reestablish the popularity of medieval Gothic architecture through the recreation of decorative patterns, scalloping, lancet windows, hood moldings, etc.

19. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

This is another item on my future Scotland bucket list. And while I have never found myself to be a huge fan of modern art, I do love it’s innovative spirit which forces me to try and interpret the artist’ intent for the piece (hence the reason why i would love to check this place out).

This national gallery is spread throughout two buildings that have been rather un-inspiredly named Modern One and Modern Two. However, if the name doesn’t intrigue you, the grounds of the gallery sure will. These two buildings are set against a stunning landscape that was designed by Charles Jencks and is home to a fantastic sculpture park that contains a series of pieces by Henry Moore.

However, there are also a wealth of artistic treasures inside the buildings that represent the Cubist, Expressionist, post-war and contemporary art movements (Some highlights include Tourists by Duane Hanson (Such an awesome piece. Cracks me up in the best possible way), Master of the Universe by Eduardo Paolozzi, Joan Eardley portrait (hauntingly beautiful), etc).

Another spectacular view of Edinburgh.

Before you leave though, be sure to check out the Café at Modern Ones because it has a lovely garden terrace you can enjoy. You can also head over to the more formal Café Modern Two which serves a nice afternoon tea.

Address: 75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR

Hours: Open daily from 10am-5pm (Open until 6pm in August)

Getting there: bus to Ravelston Dykes (13), or Gallery Bus

***Free but not surprisingly there can be a charge for special exhibitions.

20. Duddingston Village

This quaint village is on the far side of Holyrood Park and has origins that date back to the 12th century (Holy hannah, we don’t have anything that old in America. We consider something from the 1600s old there), with the Sheep Heid Inn claiming to be Scotland’s oldest pub. Apparently, the Inn based its name around the ram’s head that was bestowed upon the pub’s landlord by King James VI (Historians have no clue why).

In addition to the pub, there is Prince Charlie’s Cottage, where a council of war was held before the battle of Prestonpans. and the Duddingston Kirk with a raised platform that was once used to permit farmer’s wives to mount their horse without exposing more than the hem of their petticoats. Other places of interest include Dr Neil’s Garden (open all year round) and Thomson’s Tower which was designed by architect Willam Henry Playfair in 1825 (I’ve heard this is a great place for a lovely winter walk). A great way to immerse yourself in some Scottish history and get away from the crowds of Edinburgh (Never feels crowded to me. LoL. But I’m also from New York).

Getting there: bus to Duddingston (42)

***An honorable mention goes to Portobello Beach for its free price tag and its historic beach charm. I wanted to mention it but save all the juicy details for a future post.

*** Want to learn more about Edinburgh? Then check out my guide to Edinburgh Castle here or take a look at all the mistakes to avoid when traveling to Edinburgh in this post here.

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You did it! You made it to the very end! How does it feel to have survived this mammoth post? Sorry this guide to free Edinburgh Scotland attractions is so long, but there is just so much to see and do in this beautiful city, that I couldn’t help but write an epically long post about it. Hopefully you found this post to be mildly helpful and if not, well then you never have to read it again. LoL. Much love and happy travels.

girlwiththepassport

Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.

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19 Comments

  • Karlie @ Miss Wanderlust 4 months ago

    This is such an awesome guide!! You did so much in three days, I love it. I never really thought about Edinburgh one way or another but you’ve got me very interested now! The architecture is just gorgeous, and I love me some modern art!

  • Ania |Snow to Seas 4 months ago

    Really awesome and detailed overview covering what to see and do in Edinburgh. It’s amazing to see that there are so many things to do for free (even cathedrals and galleries)! I always travel on a budget, so I am obsessed with free sites and attractions! Will be saving this post for the future!

  • Paroma 4 months ago

    I am a survivor cause I read your post to the very end, hahaha:-) Great writing as usual Kelly, made me chuckle quite a bit. I loved the queen traveling in style, perhaps this is the secret to her longevity, hehe.

  • Rachel 4 months ago

    I love visiting Edinburgh and I still can’t believe I’ve not made it up to Arthur’s Seat or to Leith yet! Next time! xo

  • Sally 4 months ago

    Am always on the look out for the frugal side of places, thanks for sharing this information, and it’s not corny, I like street performers too 🙂

  • Anisa 4 months ago

    I need to go back to Edinburgh because there is a lot on your list that I haven’t seen. I did see the Parliament building and I fall into the group that thinks its the ugliest building ever, but it is unique and definitely worth a visit.

  • Caitlin 4 months ago

    This is the perfect timing because I just spent the whole day planning for my trip to Edinburgh!! I love all the free things when I travel, especially the free walking tours. My absolute favorite is sandemans. Thanks for all the tips!

  • Penny 4 months ago

    Loved your post as usual. I really love the way you put humor in everything you writes. It always makes my weekend so much brighter! That being said I totally get not trusting free stuff. Living in India makes you distrust anything and everything. My folks call it being street smart. I think its more survival of the fittest!

  • Kathi 4 months ago

    So happy to see the Royal Botanic Garden in here – it’s my favourite place in Edinburgh! I’ve been to Edinburgh many times (I love in Glasgow), but still not made it up Arthur Seat or to the Museum of Modern Art – need to change that the next time I’m through!

  • Daniela 4 months ago

    I live in Edinburgh and had no idea that the Botanic Gardens were free! Edinburgh may be an expensive city, but there are so many free things that visitors can do and you have mentioned most of them – in fact, I can’t think of anything else to add to the list!

    Leith is such a hip place! I lived there for three months and I simply enjoyed going for walks along the river and having lunch at the cafes on the Shore. I highly recommend walking along the Water of Leith to get there.

  • Anekha 4 months ago

    I can’t believe I still haven’t been to Scotland! Great post 🙂

  • penny sadler 4 months ago

    Wow! The view of that church wins. Spectacular. Though all of these things look like fine ways to pass many days.

  • Kathleen 4 months ago

    What a great list. I wish I would have had it before we went to Edinburgh. We had 2 days there, so it was super quick and there were a few things we really wanted to do. That castle. Wow! I’ve developed a love of old cemeteries. Did you see the one close to the Royal Mile? It was amazing. I will pin this in case we get to go back someday.

  • Pete 4 months ago

    I love Edinburgh. You’ve only scratched the surface. There are a million things to do, and all of them good. The Meadows is a pleasant stroll, with some interesting bits.

    Bookshops are free to browse, and there’s dozens of excellent ones, some with attached cafes.

    Union Canal is delightful to walk beside. Just beware of cyclists whizzing past on the tight bits.

    Top marks for making it up Calton Hill AND Arthurs Seat. Very impressed. And the views are totally worth it, if you score a fine day.

    Thanks for rekindling some very pleasant memories for me.

  • Cherene Saradar 4 months ago

    I was only here a day and half but did many of these things. I didn’realize until reading this…yes much of the awesome stuff I did was free! LOL. I loved that Bobby story (dog person here)!! One of my favorite cities. Must go back with your list:)

  • Steph The Pink Backpack 4 months ago

    This post is so great! I love the detail you put into it, I will seriously be doing all of these when I go in Oct. I am especially looking forward to Arthur’s seat and photographing some of the cathedrals. I have also pinned for later so I can remember to come back while I am there 😀 Thanks for sharing girl!

  • Ada 4 months ago

    wow Edinburgh looks amazing! And seems like there is so much to do for free! I would love to hike there to see this stunning view! So beautiful! I hope I can visit it soon as its not too far from London!

  • Hooda 4 months ago

    I have read at least 10 articles about Edinburgh the past couple of days and yours makes me want to visit Scotland even more!!! I definitely need to make plans to go there very soon 🙂

  • Lisa - The Wandering Lens 4 months ago

    How amazing is Edinburgh! It’s definitely a great city to wander around, the Water of Leith Walkway was one of my favourites and also exploring the closes along the Royal Mile.

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