Official Guide to Edinburgh
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Budget

It is often said that the best things in life are free. If you're coming into town on a budget our useful guide will show you all the top free attractions to visit.

Galleries

Art lovers can enjoy the works of many great artists at the National Galleries of Scotland at the foot of the Mound, Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern art in the North West of the City and the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.

Museums

Edinburgh is fortunate to have a variety of museums with exciting exhibits offering free entry to visitors.  

The National Museum of Scotland in Chamber Street boasts no less than 36 galleries.   Marvel at the stunning Victorian Grand Gallery and explore the Natural World with its resident Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Interactive exhibits and children's galleries will entertain both adults and kids.  

A peaceful courtyard with carved paving stones celebrating writers from the 14th century to the present day can be found in Makars Court near the top of the Royal Mile.  Home to the Writers Museum, it contains portraits and the works of some of Scotland’s great writers including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

A million pounds in cash can be found at The Museum on the Mound.  Featuring some of Scotland’s oldest bank notes, learn about the role that our currency plays in art, technology, trade, security and crime!

Museum Of Childhood Interior

Wander down the Royal Mile and pay a visit to the Museum of Childhood. Soak up the nostalgia as you look around the heart warming collections of toys and games from generations gone by.  

Further down the Royal Mile at Canongate step back in time and learn about the lives of ordinary Edinburgh residents at the People’s Story.  Dating back to the 18th century, find out how life has evolved to the present day. 

The Museum of Edinburgh is a treasure trove bursting with hundred year old artefacts right up to the present day. Make sure you take a look at the recently reopened courtyard, which is full of interesting statues and exhibits. 

Outdoors

Princes Street Gardens On A Sunny Day

If you are entertaining yourself in Edinburgh on a budget there is plenty to see and do in the great outdoors. Step outside and take advantage of some of the city’s parks, gardens and riverside walks. 

Top of the list should be a stroll around the famous Princes Street Gardens nestling at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.  Enjoy the floral displays which change each season, discover historical statues and view the beautiful monuments.  In Summer the garden bursts with a renewed energy as residents and visitors take advantage of the warm weather to picnic outdoors, sunbathe, or sip coffee or enjoy an ice-cream from one of the outdoor cafes. It’s hard to imagine that this area was once a loch, the Nor Loch, originally used for defence purposes but then as an area for waste disposal in the Middle Ages.

For the more energetic, a climb up Arthur’s Seat, a prominent landmark on the Edinburgh horizon, will be rewarded with spectacular views over the city.  Holyrood Park has some superb walks.  Enjoy the craggy cliffs, discover small lochs and absorb the views and natural fauna. 

South of the city, The Meadows is a great spot for children to let off steam with a ball game or a visit to the popular children’s playground.

Corstorphine Hill is a local nature reserve to the North West of the city.  An ideal spot for dog walkers and ramblers, see if you can spot a woodpecker or kestrel.  If you visit at night you might even see a badger or tawny owl. 

Botanics Palm House

Across from the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, you will find Inverleith Park, a beautiful area to stroll and admire the cityscape. The Garden's stunning Glasshouse is well worth the small entrance to see the incredible varieties of plants that are contained inside.

Also to the North of the capital, you will find the Water of Leith.   Flowing into the city from the Pentland Hills, it winds through the picturesque Deans Village before reaching the docks and entering the sea at the Firth of Forth in Leith.  Visitors will enjoy a walk along the riverside and can pay a visit to the Water of Leith Visitor Centre and have fun with its interactive exhibits. 

A visit to the shores of Leith is also not to be missed.  Sprinkled, with restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops and galleries, it’s a perfect way to pass the time.  At the nearby Ocean Terminal you can take the opportunity for some shopping at some of its High Street stores or enjoy a light bite in its principal cafeteria with stunning views over Leith Harbour and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Churches and Cathedrals

St Giles Cathedral God Rays

As you wander through the city streets, the spires of churches and cathedrals extend into the skyline.  Steeped in history, you can enjoy a moment of tranquility and soak up the stunning architecture.  Some of the larger cathedrals even boast cafes and host exhibitions and events. 

St. Giles' Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows is situated on the Royal Mile and dates back to the 12th Century.  Greyfriar’s Kirk has stood since 1620 and is most famously known for its graveyard robbers but also a faithful dog, Greyfriar’s Bobby, who watched over his master's grave.  You can visit a commemorative statue to Greyfriar’s Bobby outside the kirk. 

Built in 1690, the Parish of Canongate Kirk includes Holyrood Palace, the summer home of the Royal Family and the kirk itself was the wedding venue in 2011 for HM The Queen’s Granddaughter, Zara Philips.  Other city centre cathedrals include St Andrew’s and St George’s West with its Georgian architecture on George Street and the majestic neo-gothic St Mary’s Cathedral in the West End.

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament

Visitors are welcome to take a tour around the Scottish Parliament.  If Parliament is in session you can view proceedings from the public gallery or pay a visit to a debating chamber.  Its modern architecture has been a talking point for many.

For more ideas of things to see and do in Edinburgh take a look at our Itineraries>