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

Visiting Edinburgh on a shoestring? It can be done! Experiencing the best of what Scotland's capital has to offer doesn't have to cost you a single penny. Read on and discover the best free things to do in Edinburgh...

Archivists' Garden

Archivists Garden 600X250

H M Register House, 2 Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 3YY, website  

Hidden behind the impressive General Register House at the edge of the east end of Princes Street is a beautiful botanical haven. The Archivists' Garden is filled with 57 different varieties of plants - all connected in some way to Scotland's collective memory, whether through myth and folklore, heraldry, or association with individual famous Scots.

Designed and created by David Mitchell, curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Ediburgh, it fills the open courtyard space between General Register House and New Register House. Although just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street, this is a lovely quiet spot to escape the stresses of your day.  

Calton Hill 

Calton Hill Autumn

Want to get the postcard-perfect shot of Edinburgh? Look no further than Calton Hill. Every day hundreds of locals and visitors scale this small mound at the East end of Princes Street. It's a short huff and puff to the top, but you are rewarded with some fantastic views of the city centre and Holyrood Park. You'll also find some iconic Edinburgh landmarks up here too, including the National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument and the City Observatory.

City Art Centre

City Art Centre

2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE (website)

This impressive nine-storey former warehouse is a stunning and recognisable feature in Edinburgh's Old Town - but have you ever ventured inside? If not, then you're in for even more visual treats. City Art Centre is home to a fantastic collection of Scottish Art featuring work by leading Scottish artists from 17th Century onward.

Holding over 4500 pieces of work the gallery's collections include paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture and installation art, it provides a comprehensive overview of Scottish art from over the last 500 years. It's also well worth looking out for the guest exhibitions which in the past have seen the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and costumes from the Star Wars films feature at the gallery.

Top Tip: Get creative in their ArtSpace and experiment with art materials to create your own landscapes, collages and portraits. 

Dovecot Studios

Dovecot Tapestry 600

10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT, Tel: 0131 550 3660, website

Dovecot Studios is a one hundred year old tapestry studio, now homed in a beautifully renovated Victorian swimming pool in the heart of Edinburgh. Throughout its long history, the studio’s talented weavers have produced several high profile commissions and worked with many renowned 20th century artists.

Today, visitors to this incredible building can see the fantastic workshop spaces where the in-house weavers create their stunning tapestries. There’s also a great gallery space which exhibits work by artist from all over the globe and an in house café which is an ideal little spot to catch up with friends. 

Top Tip: There's the chance to see some of the weavers at work from the Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony from Noon to 3pm on Thursday and Friday and from 10.30am to 5.30pm on Saturdays.

Dr Neil's Garden

Dr Neils Garden 600

[Image Credit: Dr Neil's Garden Trust]

Old Church Lane, Duddingston Village, Edinburgh, EH15 3PX, Tel: 07849 187 995, website

Often referred to as Edinburgh's secret garden, Dr Neil's Garden is nestled beside Duddingston Kirk close to the banks of Duddingston Loch. The Garden was a labour of love for the late Drs Andrew and Nancy Neil who transformed what was formerly waste ground into the beautiful, blooming haven it is today. Boasting a huge variety of plants and flowers, this is a perfectly peaceful spot with stunning views over the Loch and of Arthur's Seat. Take a book, find a bench and relax.

Top Tip: If you visit during July and August make sure you take a look inside Thomson's Tower, an intriguing octagonal building designed by William Henry Playfair in 1825 for the Duddingston Curling Society. 

Dunbar’s Close Garden

Dunbar Close

Canongate, High Street, EH8 8BW, website

Escape the hive of activity and clamour of The Royal Mile and disappear down one of its many closes which you may well walk past every day, for your chance to discover a hidden retreat.

A prime example being Dunbar’s Close Garden, located just beside The Canongate Kirk. Wander down Dunbar’s Close to reveal a garden laid out in the character of the seventeenth century, donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978 and named after Edinburgh writer David Dunbar owned tenements on either side of this close in 1773.

Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park St Anthonys Chapel

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 three lochs, or visit the charming ruins of St Anthony's Chapel. 

Museum of Childhood

Museum Of Childhood 600X250

42 High Street, Edinburgh,EH1 1TG, Tel: 0131 529 4142, website 

Who said that learning can’t be fun? The Museum of Childhood is an Edinburgh gem that’s not just for kids. Spend a few hours exploring the 21 rooms and over 2,000 items, toys and games from across the generations, from early Steiff Bears to Barbie dolls - we can pretty much guarantee it won’t be long before you say ‘I had one of those!’ 

The Museum of Childhood is set in two historic buildings straddling South Gray’s Close on the Royal Mile, both constructed in the 18th century. The eastern building was home to some well-known figures of Edinburgh society, while the western building housed a theatre, and later ironmongers.  Even if you don’t think you fancy a wander down toy memory lane, pop in and visit ‘the noisiest museum in the world’ and just try avoiding getting caught up in the magical nostalgia.

Did you know? The Museum of Childhood is the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood!

Museum of Edinburgh

Museum Of Edinburgh Courtyard V2

Huntly House, 142 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DD, website

Hidden in plain sight on the Canongate in the Royal Mile, this free museum lifts the lid on the fascinating history of the city - from its very beginnings right up to the present day. Get lost in the fascinating collection of artefacts, including greyfriar's collar and bowl, or dress up with replica costumes and get creative in the interactive space. 

Top Tip: Make sure you take the time to find the museum's 'secret' courtyard, a recent addition to the museum which is full of quirky undiscovered treasures. 

Museum on the Mound 


The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ Tel: 0131 243 5464, Website

Is that not just the Scottish headquarters for Lloyds Banking Group? Well it is yes, but it’s also home to the Museum on the Mound, a fascinating museum which takes a fresh look at money.  Sadly no free samples are issued but do you want to see a million pounds up close and personal (not that close)? See Scotland's oldest banknote? Explore the changing face of Edinburgh? Build a model home? Or try your hand at cracking open a safe? Then give the Museum on the Mound a go, if nothing else it’s got to be more exciting than your average trip to the bank…

National Museum of Scotland

National Museum Of Scotland Atrium

Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF (website)

The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh's most visited attraction, is also free to enter.  With vast galleries exploring themes from the natural world and world cultures to science, technology, art and design, you could quite easily spend an entire day getting lost in the museum's fascinating collections. Sounds overwhelming? Don't miss their free daily tours, which will take you straight to the object highlights with volunteer guides every day at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. 

On a good day, be sure to go up to the roof terrace and see some of the most impressive panoramic views of the Old Town. 

Gorgie City Farm 

Gorgie City Farm Lamb

[Image credit: Gorgie City Farm Facebook]

51 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh EH11 2LA (website)

This free-to-enter city 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 enimals 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. 

 Free improv at The Stand

The Stand Audience

The Stand, 5 York Place. Edinburgh EH1 3EB (website)

Who said you can only get free comedy during Edinburgh Festival Fringe? The Stand's long-running improvised comedy show, starring Stu Murphyand Garry Dobson, has audiences in stitches all year round. Head along every Sunday lunchtime (doors at 12.30pm) and inject a little bit of laughter to your weekend. 

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish Portrait Gallery Creative

1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD (website)

A spectacular building both inside and out, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is free to enter. 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 portaits including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and even more recent figures like Alan Cumming.

Entry is free of charge, but there may be a cover fee for some exhibitions. Check out the National Galleries of Scotland website to find out what's happening. 

The People's Story Museum

Peoples Story Sign (1)

163 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN (website)

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. 

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art No Miracles

75 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3DR (website)

Walk around 15 minutes from the city centre and you'll find the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art - two striking galleries set in an expansive sculpture park. On a good day, a walk around the grounds may be enough to scratch your cultural itch, with works such as Landform by Charles Jencks, Master of the Universe by Eduardo Paolozzi, and There will be no Miracles Here by Nathan Coley (pictured). 

Discover even more by stepping into galleries Modern One and Modern Two, which boast a fascinating schedule of exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing the best of modern and contemporary art. 

Scottish National Gallery and The Royal Scottish Academy

National Gallery

The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL (website)

Did you know that you can access one of the best collections of fine art in the world, without spending a single penny? 

It's hard to miss the Scottish National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) complex on Princes Street, which is completely free to enter. Step inside the RSA and explore delightful architecture and contemporary art exhibitions that change throughout the year (some may charge a cover fee).

Then, hop next door to the Scottish National Gallery and marvel at some of the greatest art in the world, including works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Monet. 

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