20 of the best free things to do in Edinburgh

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th January 2018, 1:55 pm
Updated Monday, 15th January 2018, 9:21 pm

For the cash-strapped, Edinburgh is a haven of free attractions - both indoor and outdoor.

And according to Tripadvisor, five of the ten most popular things to do in Scotland are free activities in the capital.

Take a look at twenty of the best things to do in Edinburgh that won't cost you a penny.

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Secret garden on the Royal Mile

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life by visiting a secret garden right in the middle of the Royal Mile.

Located just behind Dunbar’s Close, the garden is designed in the style of a 17th century garden with manicured hedges, rows of flower beds and fruit trees surrounding the paths.

It’s free to get in, so go for a wander round this historical haven to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Visit: Dunbar’s Close Garden, Canongate, High Street, EH8 8BW – edinburgh.gov.uk

The Scottish Parliament

Take a guided tour around the Scottish Parliament to find out about the history and architecture of the Parliament, as well as how it works and what goes on inside the building.

Tours are free and last one hour, although advanced booking is recommended to reserve your spot.

Visit: The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, EH99 1SP – visitscottishparliament.co.uk

There are free tours available at the Scottish Parliament (Photo: TSPL)

Greyfriars Kirkyard

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, a visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard is a must.

It is said that several of the graves in the kirkyard inspired the names of some of J.K. Rowling’s characters provided lots of inspiration for the setting of Hogwarts.

The kirkyard itself has a fascinating history worth exploring, with tales of Greyfriars Bobby, the Covenanters and Bloody MacKenzie’s Tomb.

Visit: Greyfriars Kirkyard, Greyfriars Place, EH1 2QQ

Edinburgh Park Run

Every Saturday morning hundreds of city runners gather at Cramond Village to partake in this community organised 5k.

There are are few healthier ways to start your weekend than with this free running event.

Visit: Cramond Village, EH4 - parkrun.org.uk

The Water of Leith

Edinburgh is full of green spaces and parks which can be accessed for free, and one of the best places for a leisurely stroll is the Water of Leith.

One of the most scenic parts of the route is through the Dean Village towards Stockbridge.

Visit: Water of Leith Visitor Centre, 24 Lanark Road, Slateford, EH14 1TQ – waterofleith.org.uk

Dean Village on the banks of the Water of Leith (Photo: Shutterstock)

Anatomical museum

The Anatomical Museum, which is part of the University of Edinburgh, is a hidden gem which is full of interesting specimens. It’s only open on the last Saturday of each month, so make sure to plan your visit in advance.

Inside you’ll find all sorts of macabre objects with fascinating tales behind them, including the skeleton of William Burke.

Visit: Anatomical Museum, University of Edinburgh, Doorway 3, Medical School, Teviot Place, EH8 9AG – ed.ac.uk

St Giles' Cathedral

There are volunteer guides on hand to answer questions and tell you more about the city's cathedral which dates back to the 12th century, or you can go off and explore at your own pace.

Be sure to check out the stunning collection of stained glass windows, the chivalric Thistle Chapel and the iconic Crown Spire.

Visit: St Giles Cathedral, High Street, EH1 1RE – stgilescathedral.org.uk

Volunteers at St Giles' Cathedral are more than happy to answer your questions about the place of worship (Photo: Shutterstock)

Live music at Whistlebinkies

Head along to Whistlebinkies where you can catch up to six different bands per night, all for free. Entry is even free on Friday and Saturday nights, as long as you’re there before midnight.

Visit: Whistlebinkies, 4-6 South Bridge, EH1 1LL – whistlebinkies.com

Cramond Island

Just outside of the city you’ll find Cramond Island, a tidal island approximately one mile out to sea.

It can be accessed on foot for free, just make sure you time your visit carefully between low and high tide.

Visit: Cramond Island, Cramond Foreshore, EH4 6NS

Golf at Bruntsfield Links

As long as you can get your hands on a set of clubs, a round at the Bruntsfield Links short-hole golf course will cost you absolutely nothing.

Maintained by the Council, Bruntsfield Links is the world’s oldest course of its kind and has 36 holes for budding golfers to contend with.

Visit: Bruntsfield Links, Bruntsfield, EH10 – bruntsfieldlinks.co.uk

Portobello Beach

Although the weather isn’t usually up to much in Edinburgh, Portobello has a lovely old-fashioned promenade, sidelined with pleasant beach-side cafés.

On the off chance the city is bathed in sun, there are few better spots in the city to bathe than Portobello Beach.

Visit: Portobello Beach, Portobello, EH15 – visitscotland.com

The Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood transports visitor's back in time with its collection of toys, games, dolls and other playthings.

You can enjoy a trip down memory lane with toys from the 80s and 90s, as well as finding out all about historical toys from as far back as the 18th century.

Visit: Museum of Childhood, 42 High Street, Royal Mile, EH1 1TG – edinburghmuseums.org.uk

The Museum of Childhood is situated on the High Street (Photo: JP)

Modern Art Gallery

The fairytale-esque grounds of this neo-classical building seem to stretch for miles, and inside you can peruse the works of famously influential modern artists such as Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin.

Visit: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR – nationalgalleries.org

Royal Botanic Gardens

Home to over 13,000 species, Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the city's best beauty spots.

Make sure to check out the opulent magnificent Victorian Palm House.

Visit: Royal Botanic Garden, Arboretum Place, EH3 5NZ – rbge.co.uk

Free improv at the Stand Comedy Club

Edinburgh is full to bursting with complimentary comedy come August and Free Fringe time, but decent free laughs are thin on the ground during the other eleven months of the year.

However, every Sunday lunch time you can enjoy Stu & Garry’s Free Improv Show for absolutely nothing.

Visit: The Stand, 5 York Place, EH1 3EB – thestand.co.uk

Climb Calton Hill

It only takes 15 minutes to climb to the top of Calton Hill from Princes Street, and the panoramic views are definitely worth it.

There are plenty of monuments to check out on Calton Hill itself, from the iconic unfinished National Monument to the picturesque Dugald Stewart Monument overlooking the city centre.

Visit: Calton Hill, EH7 55AA

Free ghost tour

Every evening at 5pm and 7pm a free 90 minute ghost tour is run on the city's Royal Mile.

Enthusiastic local tour guides take great joy in regaling the city's darkest tales in gruesome and chilling detail.

Visit: 144 High St, EH1 1QS - freeghosttour.com

The Writers' Museum

The Writers’ Museum is a compact museum hidden down a close off the Royal Mile with lots of fascinating information and artifacts inside.

Their collections focus on three classic Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Visit: Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, EH1 2PA – edinburghmuseums.org.uk

The Writer's Museum focuses on the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns (Photo: JP)

Gorgie City Farm

For over 30 years Gorgie City Farm has been a much loved part of the local community for adults and children alike.

Entry is free (although donations are always welcome) and you can meet a variety of animals including; pygmy goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, rabbits and even tortoises and snakes.

Visit: Gorgie City Farm, 51 Gorgie Road, EH11 2LA – gorgiecityfarm.org.uk

Arthur's Seat

The highest rated attraction in Scotland according to TripAdvisor is Arthur's Seat.

The oasis of wilderness plonked in the centre of the capital is top of the list for most visitor's to the city. Staggering views of the city await those who can drag themselves to the hill's peak.

Visit: Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park, EH8 – visitscotland.com