Discovering Edinburgh on an Almost Free Budget

Jess Keller
4 min readAug 16, 2021


Three Free Things to Do in Edinburgh that Everyone Will Enjoy

Traveling internationally always looks incredible. Do you ever wonder how much people cash out for their adventures? If you’re on a pence-pinching budget and feel like you might be left out of the travel game, never fear! Most big cities have plenty to do for free. Edinburgh, Scotland is no exception!

Whether you’re a history buff or a whisky connoisseur, there is plenty to do in the great city of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a gem of a city, home to outdoor adventures and inner-city luxury. Roughly 2.3 million international visitors came to Edinburgh in 2019, and I was one of them! It was the first place I stopped on my first adventure abroad (without a tour guide). Despite meager funds, I discovered I could have as much fun in the city as those with cash to spare.

Hike Arthur’s Seat

The easiest thing to do on a shoestring budget is to visit Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. The views of the city are spectacular, and it’s a great way to spend part of your day. On the way to the top, you’ll find as many Instagrammable moments as you will in the city. From an abandoned church to groves of lush wildflowers along the way up, you will get that perfect shot. Be prepared for the challenge of making it to the top because those views come with somewhat steep costs. Still, I 100% recommend this even for those who do not think they are in the best shape. I hiked it on jet lag and in the worst shape of my life! It’ll all be worth it for that city view, and if you take it slow, you’ll be just fine!

Visit the Royal Mile & The Writer’s Museum

If you’re not up for an outdoorsy adventure, head to the Royal Mile for a peek inside the shops! Plus, three highlights of Edinburgh sit along the Royal Mile. The Camera Obscura, The Scotch Whisky Experience, and Edinburgh Castle take up the end of the mile. Grab a photo in the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle and then you can say you’ve “seen it” without walking through.

The real perk of wandering the Royal Mile is what lies along the street. Small pathways called closes lead to courtyards behind the main road. Among these, you will find hidden gems like the Writer’s Museum. Off Lady Stair’s Close, this tiny museum pays homage to three writers who lived in the city at one time in their lives. Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns are the gentlemen featured. Admission is free, and it is a great place to escape the crowds of the Mile.

Another free museum off the beaten path is St. Cecilia’s Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum. The museum is home to Edinburgh University’s vast global instrument collection. There are instruments from as far back as the 16th century and a few harpsichords (little pianos) are still playable! It is a quick stop that is wonderful for history and music buffs alike!

Relax at Prince’s Street Gardens

One last outing everyone will enjoy is a picnic in the Prince’s Street Gardens! Situated below Edinburgh Castle, the garden is home to the Scott Monument. It is a Gothic marvel to honor Sir Walter Scott, one of the people you will have learned about in the Writer’s Museum. If you are up for it, you can pay to take a tour and climb to the top! For those staying on their picnic blankets, people watching will keep you entertained.

Edinburgh is a city that will welcome you with open arms and charm you in an instant. Don’t forget to ask locals what their favorite hot spots are, too! Nothing beats the personal touch of local recommendations.

Need a place to stay? Check out this Airbnb I’ve stayed in! Other budget options are CoDE Pod — The CoURT or Castle Rock Hostel. Many major hotel chains are in or around the city as well.

  • No link in this post is related to affiliate marketing, and all opinions and photos are my own.

This post was originally published on the Jess Thinks blog.



Jess Keller

Writer, Podcaster, Blogger. Helping share the world, one story at a time.