Free things to do in Edinburgh

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Despite its fine architecture and heavy demand for tourists, Edinburgh can be explored in a budget-friendly manner.

The city is such a masterpiece that you can simply roam around and enjoy the city in its simplest form.

The beautiful streets, people and carefully piled brick buildings are the treasures of Edinburgh.

So why not explore all the free things to do in Edinburgh along with the ticketed options? :

Here’s the complete guide to all the free stuff to do in the city:

Free museums in Edinburgh 

Most of the museums in Edinburgh are free but you can show your enthusiasm by purchasing museum books and visiting museum shops.

This list will help you surf through the best of museums for free in Edinburgh.

The Writer’s Museum

The Writer’s Museum
Image: EdinburghMuseums.org.uk

Most of the Edinburgh museums lean toward literature but The Writer’s Museum focuses exclusively on Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The museum is also known for local stories of the place keeping the first African servant in Edinburgh called Oronoce.

Opening hours: 

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

Museum on the Mound

Even a serious occupation like banking gets its own style in gothic architecture. This museum was the Bank of Scotland Head Office.

Your tour of the museum will begin with telling the history of how banks like the Lloyds Banking Group and Bank of Scotland merged.

The Museum on the Mound also offers you a stash of money (to view), art and technology with more than 50,000 visitors per year.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

National Museum of Scotland 

National Museum of Scotland
Image: Nms.ac.uk

The National Museum of Scotland was formed by merging the Museum of Scotland and Royal Scottish Museum opened in 1866.

These two buildings are connected by Chambers Street at an intersection with George IV Bridge located in central Edinburgh.

It’s one of the most diverse museums in the city with exhibitions of the natural world, world cultures, science and technology, art, fashion design and Scottish history.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

The Children’s Museum

The Museum of Childhood is one of the noisiest museums in the world due to the chatter of all the children playing here.

A children’s dreamland, this museum is filled with toys, dolls, games and recordings of school lessons from the 1930s

Marvel at the collection of these playthings as old as the 18th century spread all across four floors.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

Free art galleries in Edinburgh

Art galleries are mostly free in Edinburgh unless there is any event or exhibition being hosted at the space.

This is a list of art galleries in Edinburgh that offer free entries.

This Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art holds collections of modern and contemporary art from 1900.

With over 6,000 paintings, sculptures, installations, video work and drawings, this museum was designed by William Burn in 1825.

It has two neoclassical buildings, one of which is called ‘modern one’ and has the words ‘everything is going to be alright’ ingrained.  

Modern two has ‘there will be no miracles here’ engraved, which is ironic considering the miraculous and surreal artworks present here.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, as the name suggests, holds a national collection of portraits of most Scots.

This gallery was established in 1889 and its red sandstone Gothic building was designed by Robert Rowand Anderson.

The collection of the gallery begins through the Renaissance work of foreign artists of Scottish origins, followed by Scottish reformation and two portraits of Queen Mary.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

Royal Scottish Academy on Princes Street

The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture is based within the Royal Scottish Academy building on Princes Street.

The academy was founded by a group of eleven artists in 1826 to create an academy of fine arts and present annual exhibitions.

The gallery offers a selection of contemporary books and gifts inspired by the art pieces created by local designers and jewelers.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

The Scottish National Gallery is Scotland’s top free tourist attraction with a collection of fine art dating back to the early Renaissance of the nineteenth century.

It is located on The Mound close to Princes Street, an easy-to-spot neoclassical building designed by William Henry in 1859.

The gallery is run by the National Galleries of Scotland, an umbrella body that also includes the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

Free attractions in Edinburgh

Visit popular destinations of Edinburgh free of cost like the Old Town, Royal Mile, Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat and loads more!

Who says you need money to truly experience Edinburgh? This city is built for the people regardless of its royal connections and offers free places to visit.

Edinburgh Old Town

The Old Town of Edinburgh is known for being a host of all the major and free destinations like Royal Mile and One O’clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle.

This part of the city feels like going back in time due to its gothic architecture and medieval cobbled streets.

Old Town has been the hub of the most popular tourist destinations and amazing restaurants.

Even though the Old Town of Edinburgh is free to visit, the best way to explore it is through a guided walking tour.

With a tour, you gain knowledge about the hidden gems and popular attractions of the Old Town through an experienced guide.

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens are the two main green public spots of the town which are actually a drained loch.

Throughout the park, there are benches available for the locals to engage in socializing and share lunch together.

The Castle can be viewed clearly through Princes Street and hence became a spot for photographers.

Even the Scott Monument and all its 287 steps can be explored in the gardens and you can also enjoy the Edinburgh Christmas Market taking place in the garden.

Opening hours:

Daily: 8 am to 8 pm

Calton Hill 

Calton Hill is the most popular spot that you can visit for free in Edinburgh and witness the scenic view of the city and more.

There’s the National Monument or The National Disgrace at the top of Calton Hill and the name definitely will spark your curiosity and make you want to visit it.

The monument has 12 pillar stones which represent the Parthenon From Athens but since it never got completed, it has become a good climbing spot for kids.

Calton Hill is the home of the iconic Nelson Monument for which you will have to pay and Dugald Stewart Monument which is a memorial seen in Edinburgh.

You can visit this hill if not for the attraction then simply for its beauty and its amazing sunsets which bring a lot of photographers capturing the epic view.

Opening hours:

Daily: 24 hours

Stockbridge

Stockbridge Edinburgh
Image: TheTimes.co.uk

Stockbridge is where you can spend your relaxing Saturdays because of its amazing views and pleasant experiences.

This has always been a sought-after area in the city which only received confirmation upon the arrival of Waitrose.

The most attractive factor of Stockbridge is the main street which is heavily crowded with small shops, eateries and bars.

Spend your money on fresh food and snacks from the Stockbridge Market which is held weekly.

Get Sally the Fluffy Wolf to do a photoshoot with Shawna and visit places like Potted Garden on Circus Place and Dean Park Mews.

Walk from Stockbridge to Waters of Leith and search for Antony Gormley’s 6 Times Statues standing in the middle of the water.

You can visit this hill if not for the attraction then simply for its beauty and sunsets which bring a lot of photographers capturing the epic view.

Opening hours:

Daily: 10 am to 5 pm

Featured Image: SAKhanPhotography / Getty Images Pro

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