Top 10 Free Things To Do in Edinburgh

05 September 2022

A great day out in Edinburgh doesn't have to break the bank.

Visiting Edinburgh on a budget? It can be done! Experiencing the best of what Scotland's capital has to offer without costing a single penny.

Discover more in our guide to the Top 10 Free Things To Do in Edinburgh…..

(Please note: some attractions may charge entry to special exhibitions).

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

 Botanic Gardens Sunset With Views To Castle

Dating back nearly 350 years, The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a jewel in the heart of Edinburgh and one of the world’s leading botanic gardens.

Spend the day wandering around the 70 acres of beautiful grounds and relaxing in nature, learn about the garden's rich and diverse Living Collection and enjoy an abundance of plants from around the world.

Known locally as The Botanics, be sure to take time to visit the Rock Garden, Woodland Garden, the Chinese Hillside, Rhododendron collection and the Scottish Native Plants Collection and unwind in the garden’s calming tranquillity.

National Museum of Scotland

National Museum Of Scotland New Section Wide Shot

With four levels of exhibits featuring everything from the natural world, world cultures, science & technology to art, design & fashion and Scottish history, a trip to The National Museum of Scotland offers a whole world of discovery for all the family.

Start your visit in the beautiful Grand Gallery and marvel at the Millennium Clock as it strikes on the hour, travel back in time and explore the Scottish galleries; or why not explore centuries of creativity and innovation in the Art, Design & Fashion galleries – whatever your interests, you’re bound to find something in this awe-inspiring museum to capture your imagination.

LOVE Gorgie Farm

Love Gorgie Farm Calves Bread

This free-to-enter attraction, LOVE Gorgie Farm brings a slice of countryside to the heart of the city.

This unique outdoor resource is the best place in Edinburgh to learn about farming hands-on. Head along and meet all the animals including chickens, ducks, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, and take in all the sights and smells of the herb and sensory garden. A perfect day out for all the family.

Holyrood Park & Arthur’s Seat

Arthurs Seat Holyrood Park

Enjoy a 650 acre slice of the Highlands, right in the city centre of Edinburgh. For a real panoramic view of the city, scale the 823ft of Arthur's Seat, where you can see for hundreds of miles around on a good day.

While Holyrood Park is undoubtedly dominated by its one main summit, there are plenty of other features to explore too. Take a wander around Queen's Drive and take in the three lochs or visit the charming ruins of St Anthony's Chapel.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

A spectacular building both inside and out, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a lovely attraction to lose a couple of hours in. Even before you reach any of the artworks on display, we challenge you not to be mesmerised by the grandeur of the Great Hall, featuring a mural of prominent figures in Scottish history such as James Hutton, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots and many more.

Head into the gallery and you'll get lost in hundreds of famous portraits including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and even more recent figures like Alan Cumming and Billy Connolly.

The People's Story

The Peoples Story Credit Visitscotland(Image Credit Visitscotland)

The People's Story - as the name suggests - tells the story of the regular people of Edinburgh, not just the great and the good. Pay a visit to this museum to get a real flavour of day-to-day life in in the city throughout the 18th to 20th centuries.

Learn about crime and punishment, crafts, trade and the culture of Edinburgh. If you really want to get under the skin of the city, this is the place to visit.

(The People's Story is currently closed due to ongoing maintenance. Check the website for opening updates). 

The Water of Leith Walkway

Dean Village Coloured Housing

Weaving its way through the city, the 13-mile The Water of Leith Walkway is the perfect place to rediscover the tranquillity of nature.

The route takes in many scenic areas, including Colinton Village and Dell, the Union Canal, Saughton Gardens, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Village, Stockbridge and Leith. Ideal for a family stroll, the route is also suitable for cycling and is accessible, in part, by wheelchairs and even by horseback. Make a stop at the Visitor Centre on Lanark Road to learn more about the local wildlife, then when you continue your journey keep a look out for roe deer, badgers and foxes.

The Museum on the Mound

Museum On The Mound Credit Douglas Robertson(Image Credit: Museum on the Mound & David Robertson)

Located in the beautiful iconic building of the Lloyds Banking Group headquarters on The Mound, The Museum on the Mound gives a fascinating insight into the world of economics and money.

Have a go at cracking open a safe, see Scotland's oldest banknote and get an idea of what one million pounds actually looks like.

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral

A working cathedral with roots dating back to the 12th century, St Giles' Cathedral has been at the centre of Edinburgh life for centuries.

One of the best ways to learn more about this beautiful building is by joining one of the free daily guided walking tours - you’ll hear stories from the building’s early foundations and be shown the famous Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle. (Tours should be pre-booked online).

Calton Hill

Rainbow National Monument Sunset Tourists

With breathtaking 360˚ views across the city, nothing beats Calton Hill for capturing the changing colours of the season.

The hill is also famous for its collection of historic monuments, including the National Monument, which was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens and the Nelson Monument, which commemorates the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.


For more places to visit that don’t cost the earth, check out our Guide to Free Attractions in Edinburgh >