Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Free things to do in Edinburgh this winter

29 January 2016

Feeling the pinch after Christmas and New Year’s Eve? It's no surprise that cost of Christmas presents, parties, and nights out have all left us a little short of cash this winter. But no money doesn't necessarily mean no fun days - there are plenty of alternatives to spending all your cash in the shops or at the pub! We've found seven fantastic things you can do for free while you're waiting for payday to arrive. Fill your month with some fantastic free Edinburgh events this winter.

Be inspired by the William Gear exhibition 

William Gear Portraits Cr Towner Gallery Website

[Image Credit: Towner Art Gallery]

Head to the City Art Centre for a chance to catch a glimps of the William Gear exhibition. Featuring around 120 works spanning his colourful career and coinciding with the centenary of his birth, William Gear 1915-1997: The painter that Britain forgot seeks to re-position William Gear in his rightful place as one of the most advanced British abstract painters of his generation. 

City Arts Centre, 2 Market Street, EH1 1DE

Rekindle your childhood memories at the Picture Hooks exhibition

Picture Hook Woods Contrast Jon Bishop

[Image Credit: Woods Contrast by Jon Bishop]

Picture Hooks is a children's illustration exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery, featuring works of five illustrators and five professional children illustrators.The five chosen illustrators, Jon Bishop, Hannah Coulson, Catherine Lindow, Maisie Shearring and Tracey Smith, were paired up and worked with their professional mentors for a year. You can now see the beautiful end results in this enchanting exhibition, which includes book spreads, book plates, and sketchbooks.

Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, EH2 2EL

Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens

Botanics Palm Trees

The Royal Botanic Gardens is a treasure trove for plant lovers. On clear winter days you can lose yourself wandering round the frosted paths; through the summer months you can watch children playing in among the trees and shrubbery. And if you have a spare £5, pop inside to the tropical greenhouses where you can find all manner of exotic plants from around the globe. Our personal favorites are the numberous palm trees reaching up towards the glass ceilings and the giant Lilly pads floating in one of the many ponds throughout the greenhouses.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Arboretum Place, EH3 5NZ

Take a bracing walk up to Blackford Hill

NG Blackford Hill 6

For a more energetic day out, why not venuture up Blackford Hill and see Edinburgh from a different perspective? Situated on the south of the city between Morningside and Braid Hills, the scenery here is beautiful no matter the time of year. If you're visiting on a snowy day, why not take a sledge and join the families and children zooming down the hills? The perfect winter adventure in Edinburgh! 

Discover more outdoor activites in Edinburgh >

Blackford Hill View, EH9 3HJ

Wander around the National Museum of Scotland

National Museum Of Scotland Masks

The National Museum of Scotland is one of Edinburgh's most beautiful buildings to walk around and explore - and it doesn't cost you a penny to enter. You could easily lose a whole day wandering around its fascinating exhibits, including Scotland from the prehistoric ages and significal cultural artifacts from around the world. And with ten new galleries opening this year, the museum is only going to get better in 2016!

If you really want to get your bearings, be sure to join a guided walking tour of the museum, which run every day and are also free of charge. Check the National Museum of Scotland website for daily tour themes and times. 

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Challenge your perceptions at The Fruitmarket Gallery

Another Minimalism

Another Minimalism, the visually stunning exhibition currently in residence at The Fruitmarket Gallery, brings together contemporary artists from around the world to bend your perception of light and space. Keep an eye out for the work of Robert Irwin and Larry Bell, two of California’s best-known artists. Their signature objects are just a couple of examples of the radical and ground-breaking art made in California in the 60's and 70's.

This exhibition runs until the 21st February and is free to enter. To get an even deeper understanding of the work on display, you can hop on a guided tour every Saturday, 2-3pm, which is also free of charge. 

The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF

Dance with stick men in St Andrew Square 

KEYFRAMES Jerusalem June 2012

Illuminated stick men will take over St Andrew Square Garden in February for the free exhibition KEYFRAMES, as part of Scotland's 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

Pictured above in Jerusalem, this beautiful light installation has toured the world, but this exhibition in February will mark its first ever appearance in Scotland. Created by French artists collective Groupe LAPS, KEYFRAMES uses LED lights to create multiple static stick figures that flash on and off to imitate movement, and appear to "dance" to the music. Definitely not one to be missed! 

St Andrew Square Garden, Edinburgh EH2 2AA

Still looking for pocket-friendly inspiration? Take a look at our Edinburgh on a Budget section for more >