22 Free Edinburgh Activities You Can’t Miss

Cramond Beach

Updated in 2024

I live in Edinburgh so I’m pretty biased but the city is pretty special. The cost of visiting the city and seeing what it has to offer can be expensive though. There are a lot of amazing things to do so you can find your bank balance go down fairly quickly. There are freebies in Edinburgh too though! Here’s a selection of 22 free Edinburgh activities you can enjoy at no cost.

1. Calton Hill

There aren’t many better locations in Edinburgh to get the kind of views you can get from Calton Hill. It’s easily accessed from the city centre and you have great panoramic views of the city. You can get some even better pictures at sunset so venture up later on in the day for those

2. Scottish National Gallery

If you’re a fan of art then you should definitely make time to visit the Scottish National Gallery! The gallery is located right bang in the centre of Princes Street and it features some masterpieces from the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Botticelli and Van Gogh. All for free!

3. Arthur’s Seat

Sitting at 250m above sea level, Arthur’s Seat gives great views of the city coupled with a nice 30 minute walk up the hill. The scenery is fantastic and if you fancy a run rather than a walk then it’s 5km round Arthur’s Seat with a mix of up and downhill making it an enjoyable one.

4. Walk up the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile takes you from Edinburgh Castle right down to Holyrood Palace. You’ll pass many bars, shops and tourist spots like the Real Mary King’s Close and St Giles’ Cathedral. If you’re on the Royal Mile during the Festival Fringe in August then you’ll be able to enjoy some of the street performers (and collect 38,639 leaflets at the same time!).

5. LOVE Gorgie Farm

The City farm opened to the public in 1982 and it’s located just two miles away from the city centre. You can get tours of the farm, enjoy the workshops and learn more about farming and the animals. The farm has plenty of animals to see: pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, rabbits, goats and plenty more. There’s also a cafe on site that’s open at the weekends.

6. Royal Botanic Gardens

Founded in the 17th century and located just one mile from the city centre you can enjoy 72 acres of amazing scenery. It’s absolutely free to get in and stroll about with many free courses, tours and walks organised throughout the week. There are some fantastic glasshouses too but you will have to pay a small fee to enter those.

7. Scottish Parliament

At a cost of £400m, the Parliament building opened in 2004 and the modern looks have divided opinion. With that said, it’s great that it’s open to the public six days a week for free. You’re able to walk round at your own pace or join a tour as you learn more about the workings of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament

8. Stockbridge Market

Every Sunday from 10am to 5pm you can venture to Stockbridge for the farmer’s market not to miss! It has over 40 traders selling their wares from salmon and chocolate to beer and crafts. There are many small independent shops and bars in Stockbridge to have a look in afterwards too.

9. Cramond

Cramond (pictured at the top of this post) is in the north of Edinburgh and the beach is the perfect place for a stroll or a cycle. There’s also a couple of places nearby to either enjoy a beer or a coffee. When the tide is low you’re also able to walk over the causeway to the island. Be sure to check the tide timings so you don’t get stuck on the island though!

You could also do a 5km ParkRun here. It’s so flat you’ll be hard pushed not to get your PB!

10. Edinburgh Festival Fringe

What’s not to love about the world’s largest arts festival? The month of August brings the biggest acts to Edinburgh and shows feature in over 300 venues in the city. There is a complete mixture of shows with plenty of free shows on offer too. The Fringe definitely should be making every free Edinburgh activities list. If you’re looking to visit then here’s the best way to enjoy the Festival Fringe on the cheap.

11. St Giles Cathedral

The Cathedral is said to date back to around 1124 and it’s still active today with a few hundred amongst the congregation. The Cathedral is beautiful inside and out with guided tours available to explore and learn even more. It’s on the Royal Mile so it’s easily accessible too.

12. Portobello Beach

Another lovely beach to explore is Portobello Beach. Situated around four miles from the city centre, Portobello Beach is a great place to go to run, swim, have a few drinks, watch/partake in volleyball or get those Instagram worthy shots! The suburb itself is also worth checking out.

13. National Museum of Scotland

Do you want to see a life-size T-rex? Well there’s one place in Edinburgh you can go to to do just that! After a short walk from the city centre you can experience, not only a lovely building but a fantastic museum. There are many excellent exhibitions including Ancient Egypt, Scottish History, Animal World and a lot of interactive activities in the Explore section. A freebies in Edinburgh list must feature!

14. Pentlands

The range of hills running for 20 miles running to the south west of Edinburgh are named the Pentlands. The highest peak sits at roughly 580m or 1,900 ft. There are many activities you can enjoy here including hiking, walking, mountain biking, horse riding or even skiing.


15. Dr Neil’s Garden

The garden is located around three miles from the city centre in Duddingston Village. This beautiful garden is quite the hidden gem and it features many different species of plants. Open from 10am until Dusk every day, it’s a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh city centre.

16. Water of Leith Cycle Route

What’s not to love about keeping fit and seeing the beautiful Edinburgh scenery? The cycle routes throughout Edinburgh are excellent for a quiet cycle. The route follows the Union canal and you’ll get a chance to see a lot of wildlife and have plenty of opportunity to rest at the multiple parks on the route.

17. St Marys Cathedral

The cathedral was built in 1879 and funded by two sisters, with the two spires later named after them. It is still active with many classical concerts taking place there during the Festival Fringe too. The cathedral also features Sir Walter Scott’s pew that it inherited from a nearby church.

18. Comedy at the Stand

The Stand Comedy Club is a great place to spend an evening. There are many small intimate rooms with free comedy on each night. Many comedians try their material out here before launching on their tours so there’s always the opportunity of seeing the next big comedy star!

19. Archivists’ Garden

This unique garden has around 57 different species of plants and is situated on Princes Street making it really easy to get to. There are many interesting stories in relation to the plants and Scottish history that you’re able to enjoy as you walk round.

20. Greyfriars Bobby

There’s a famous local story surrounding the life-size statue of Bobby the dog. It’s said that when John Gray, Bobby’s owner, died the faithful dog sat on his grave for 14 years before Bobby passed away. A statue was erected and is now a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately the statue has had to be restored at a cost due to tourists rubbing it’s nose and eroding it. So don’t rub Bobby’s nose!

21. Parks

There are plenty of free Edinburgh activities and options to see some greenery, enjoy the scenery and walk. There’s Holyrood Park, Inverleith Park and Princes Street Gardens to name just a few. You’ll find ponds, football, sunbathing and play parks to enjoy in the parks around Edinburgh.

Free Edinburgh Activities - Castle

22. Edinburgh Castle

What free Edinburgh activities list would be complete without the most iconic tourist attraction in the Scottish capital? You can’t miss the castle as you wander through Edinburgh. Although it does cost to enter you can experience the castle from close up for nothing. You can’t leave Edinburgh without getting a photo of the biggest tourist attraction in the city!

Let me know in the comments below on what you thought of these Free Activities in Edinburgh. If there are any other freebies in Edinburgh you can think of then let me know below too.

22 Free Edinburgh Activities You Can't Miss


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  1. Andrew Koscielecky
    September 16, 2018 / 10:28 pm

    I fly to Endiburgh in November. Is it possible to do all above activities in 1 weekend?

    • David
      September 17, 2018 / 8:58 pm

      How exciting! You’ll love Edinburgh. I’d say it’s probably a bit of a struggle to do all 22 in one weekend, you may need around a week in total

  2. September 16, 2018 / 11:06 pm

    This is a great list of things to do in Edinburgh! Will definitely bookmark it for the next time I head up north! Heard loads about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and hope to go next year!

  3. Matija
    September 17, 2018 / 11:25 am

    Scotland is still on my to do list, and this really helps me plan out my trip on what to see, where to go, and how much time to spend in each location so that I can make the most of it, but now I see that I might need more than a week LOL 😀

  4. September 18, 2018 / 8:31 am

    Who doesn’t love free activities. I would love to do all of them! It’s amazing that there’s so many places to visit that do not have any entrance charges. In love with Edinburgh..

  5. Postcards from V
    September 19, 2018 / 8:45 am

    Scotland was always on my bucket list. I hope I can make it next year. Portobello Beach sounds nice and the Pentlands looks amazing! Will definitely save this for later 🙂

  6. September 26, 2018 / 5:07 am

    Wow a great list of free things to do in Edinburgh. I would love to go for Calton Hill to have the panoramic views of the city.

  7. October 4, 2018 / 8:45 pm

    I’ve never been there but I’ll definitely add Edingburgh to my list!

  8. October 5, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    I often come across posts on Edinburgh, and do want to visit it one day. Could you provide me the approximate budget to cover all these places???

    • David
      October 5, 2018 / 9:59 pm

      All of the activities are free but you’d be able to walk to quite a lot of them. Buses are relatively cheap around town for the others!

  9. Michelle Maraj
    October 5, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    I am all about free activities, and it looks like there is so much to do outside. This list is great!

  10. October 5, 2018 / 8:16 pm

    Never say know to free stuff. Nice guide will save it when I travel to Scotland

  11. October 5, 2018 / 8:47 pm

    Wow so much to do here. I would love to visit Edinburgh and explore it for some time. Would definitely save this for my trip some day.

  12. October 11, 2018 / 11:57 am

    Haven’t made it to Edinburgh yet but would love to go. I’ve always heard what a wonderful city it was and I love the diversity of free activities you can do there.

  13. December 19, 2018 / 3:46 pm

    I love free activities! This helps so much to have a list of things to do. Plus to know that I won’t have to pay for them! Thanks for the tips.

  14. December 19, 2018 / 6:32 pm

    Really love Edinburgh!!! St. Giles Cathedral is really great to see inside! Another favorite was the Grayfriars Abby! The Royal mile is definitely not to be missed by anyone!

  15. December 19, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    Awesome list. I always seek out free things to do first, so this will be very useful!

  16. December 21, 2018 / 6:02 am

    We LOVED our time in Edinburgh. Personally I loved walking around the Royal Mile, Hiking up to Arthur’s Seat, and exploring the Castle. While Darcee loved finding all the literary spots and Greyfriar’s Bobby. We both also loved loved loved playing around in Camera Obscura and then heading over to the Scotch Museum!

    • David
      December 22, 2018 / 11:49 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed Edinburgh. I love living here and there’s sooo much to see and do. Camera Obscura is a fun one to visit too!