Top Free Attractions
Edinburgh is home to an array of amazing galleries, museums, parks and attractions – many of which offer free entry. Many attractions also hold daily tours free of charge, or some may ask for a voluntary donation. To find out everything about what Edinburgh has to offer visit https://edinburgh.org/
We’ve picked the very best FREE attractions and activities in the capital which give amazing experiences:
Explore Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
East Princes Street Gardens / The Mound
Free Entry to Market Areas / Paid Attractions
Visit www.edinburghwinterfestivals.com for full event listings and attractions.
The city’s festive season officially begins with the opening of Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets on East Princes St Gardens.
Edinburgh’s first Christmas market took place in 1999 as the German Market, selling German sausages, waffles and pretzels. Since then, it has grown to become one of the UK’s most popular Christmas markets. With a wide of delicious food stalls, craft and gift stalls, as well as rides, attractions and Santa Land, it’s offers something for all the family.
Climb Arthur Seat
Holyrood Park, Queen’s Drive EH8 8HG
Free Admission/ limited car parking available
Towering above Edinburgh is the majestic Arthur’s Seat, the remains of an ancient volcano that has laid dormant for more than 350 million years.
Arthur’s Seat is 251 metres (823 feet) high and, on a good day, you can expect breath-taking 360-degree views across Edinburgh from its summit.
Some of the best views of the city can be enjoyed from its summit, where you’ll also find the well-preserved remains of an ancient hillfort, dating back around 2,000 years. This history, together with the landscape’s diverse flora and unusual geological features qualify it as a site of special scientific interest – although most walkers on its busy paths climb Arthur’s Seat for the magnificent views over Edinburgh.
Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This makes it very easy to get to, wherever you are staying in the city.
Take in the views from Calton Hill
Access via Regent Road & Royal Terrace
Admission Free / Open Daily
Calton Hill and the National Monument are situated in Edinburgh city centre, east of Edinburgh’s New Town. Marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calton Hill has some of the city’s best views and if you get up early, the best sunrises.
Calton Hill is also resident to some iconic Scottish monuments and buildings. Monuments include the National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Old Royal High School, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs’ Monument and also the City Observatory.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
High Street, EH1 1RE
Open 30th December 10am – 6pm & 31st December 10am – 4pm (last entry 3.15pm) / Closed New Year’s Day
Admission Free / Donations Welcome
Located on the iconic Royal Mile, St. Giles’ Cathedral has stunning architecture and rich history, attracting visitors from all across the globe. It was founded in the 1120s and remains a working church. Explore the building at your own pace, taking in the intricate wooden interior and impressive gold-leaf ceiling. If you’re looking for something cultural to do in Edinburgh, this free attraction is a great place to visit.
The Royal Botanic Gardens
Arboretum Place, EH5 5NZ
Admission Free – Open 30th & 31st December 10am – 4pm (last entry 3.15pm) / closed New Year’s Day
Located just one mile from the city centre, Edinburgh’s 72 acres of impeccably pruned gardens are free to enter and enjoy. Spend the day wandering the beautiful grounds and relaxing in nature. The Royal Botanic Garden was first established in 1670 and has many stunning landscape features to explore, such as the Chinese Hillside Garden, Rock Garden and the Scottish Native Plants Collection. It’s one of the best free attractions that Edinburgh has to offer. https://www.rbge.org.uk/
Scottish National Gallery
The Mound, Princes Street, EH2 2EL
Admission Free – Open Daily 10.00 – 17.00
Full details on all of Scotland’s National Galleries and exhibitions visit https://www.nationalgalleries.org/
Located in the heart of the city, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the top free attractions in Edinburgh. Inside you’ll find Scotland’s national collection of fine art that dates back to early Renaissance through to the early 19th century. With eye-catching masterpieces by the greats such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Botticelli, it’s easy to spend hours gazing at the impressive collections. The gallery offers a shuttle bus service for visitors between its three gallery sites for a voluntary donation of just £1.
As far as iconic areas go, they don’t come more legendary than Leith. This historic port on the north shore of Edinburgh has served as the gateway to the city for centuries – the area’s original harbour dates back to the 14th century; in the 18th century it was Scotland’s main trading port and it has been visited by several monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots, King George IV and Queen Victoria. Today, Leith is a popular place to both live and visit. Delightful curio boutiques sit alongside everyday shops; a diverse range of cafés, restaurants and bars mean you’re never short of choice and the area places host to a variety of multicultural events throughout the year, all of which add up to make this one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Edinburgh.