As a principal capital city and major corporate and tourist destination, Edinburgh cannot be the lowest cost place to visit. However a visit to Edinburgh does not mean spending money everywhere, every day. Edinburgh has some wonderful free attractions and things to do. So if you are in Edinburgh on a budget, visiting with your family or just seeking out great value, here are my suggestions for things to do without bringing out your wallet or purse. Whether you have a spare few hours, a day or a few days, spend time exploring the city’s free attractions.
Edinburgh has more green space than most cities. Along with gardens and parklands there are inner-city paths along old train tracks and beside rivers which feel so peaceful it is hard to believe that you are in the middle of the city. Stroll through the city centre Princes Street Gardens, climb Arthurs Seat or picnic in Holyrood Park or walk the banks of the Water of Leith walkway.
Whether you want to experience 18th century Edinburgh, see a million pounds in cash or meet a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you can do it at Edinburgh’s museums, and it’s all free. Many museums also have excellent cafes and offer guided tours and events. The National Museum of Scotland is presenting an unmissable exhibition* of ancient treasures from ancient Egypt on a rare visit to the UK. Fascinating Mummies is a significant exhibition of world famous Egyptology collections of the National Museum in Leiden. It’s on between 11 February and 27 May 2012 (*ticketed event).
Get involved in the free action along the sweeping East Lothian coastline, whether you chose to ride the waves, watch the wildlife or walk some of the John Muir Way, a coastal path which takes in East Lothian’s great beaches. Running up the great sand dunes at Gullane beach will certainly test your fitness.
Art galleries in Edinburgh are airy and welcoming with space for you to relax and enjoy great art . The galleries have plenty of art to see for free, some with paid touring exhibitions too and also have great cafes, shops and events. So whether you prefer fine art and old masters in the Scottish National Gallery or modern art and installations in the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, there is something for everyone.
Edinburgh’s skyline is punctuated with churches and cathedral spires. Peaceful refuges from city hustle and bustle, these historic buildings are well worth a visit for their interesting architecture and many also have cafes, exhibitions and events. Take in the contrasts of the Scott Monument, St.Giles’ Catherdral, the old Greyfriars Kirk (and the memorial to Grey Friars Bobby) and the ancient Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile.
The award-winning Scottish Parliament building is situated at the bottom of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile and is one of Scotland’s most distinctive buildings. As well as being the centre of Scottish politics, the Scottish Parliament is also a visitor attraction, where you can learn about Scotland’s political history, watch live debates and well as marvel at it’s unique architecture. Entry to the Parliament is free and you can book a free tour to explore the impressive architecture which was created by Enric Miralles, who sadly died before the building was opened. His designs drew inspiration from a wide range of sources including the surrounding landscape, flower paintings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the upturned boats on the seashore to create a unique space for Scotland’s new government following devolution in 1999.
Established in the 1940s, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world. The Fringe showcases a diverse and exciting line-up of over 2,000 shows across the city throughout the month of August, many of which are completely free.
So a visit to Edinburgh need not be expensive. Spend the day exploring Edinburgh for free and then relax in the evening with a glass of malt whisky or a good bottle of wine with all the money you’ve saved.