Hey there, Edinburgh adventurers and freebie enthusiasts! Guess what? Summer is finally here, and you know what that means—it’s time to soak up some Scottish sun and explore this incredible city without breaking the bank. We’ve got a juicy list of fantastic, fabulous, and absolutely free things to do in Edinburgh this summer; so grab your sense of adventure, slap on some sunscreen (because let’s be honest, Scottish sun can be a little shy), and let’s dive into the world of cost-free fun in the land of kilts and bagpipes!
18 Free Things to Do In Edinburgh This Summer
Get ready for a summer of thrills, spills, and hopefully no chills (unless you’re indulging in some delicious ice cream, that is). Let’s go!
- Explore the Royal Mile: Take a leisurely stroll along the historic Royal Mile, which stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can admire the architecture, visit the various shops, and enjoy street performances.
- Visit the National Museum of Scotland: The National Museum of Scotland offers free admission and has a wide range of exhibits covering art, culture, history, and science. It’s a great place to learn about Scotland’s rich heritage.
- Enjoy the Gardens: Edinburgh is known for its beautiful green spaces. Visit Princes Street Gardens, located in the heart of the city, or venture further to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Both are perfect for picnics, walks, and relaxation.
- Explore Calton Hill: Climb up Calton Hill for panoramic views of the city. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset or sunrise. You can also see iconic landmarks like the Nelson Monument and the unfinished National Monument.
- Attend the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: If you’re visiting in August, don’t miss the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world. While some shows require tickets, there are numerous free performances and street events to enjoy.
- Wander through the Old Town: Get lost in the atmospheric streets of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the narrow closes, admire the medieval architecture, and soak up the historic ambiance.
- Visit the Scottish Parliament: Take a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament building to learn about Scotland’s political system and history. The tours are free, and you can even observe debates from the public gallery when the Parliament is in session.
- Discover the Museums and Galleries: Apart from the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh has several other museums and galleries with free entry. Check out the Museum of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery, or the Museum of Childhood. The Writer’s Museum, meanwhile, celebrates the lives and works of Scotland’s literary legends, such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Admission is free.
- Hike up Arthur’s Seat: Embark on a hike up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano located in Holyrood Park. The climb rewards you with breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
- Enjoy the Festivals: Edinburgh hosts a variety of festivals throughout the summer, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Many of these events have free entry or offer discounted tickets for certain shows.
- Take a walk along the Water of Leith: Follow the scenic Water of Leith Walkway, a picturesque riverside path that stretches for about 12 miles. It offers a peaceful escape from the city and takes you through charming neighborhoods and green spaces.
- Explore the Dean Village: Visit the enchanting Dean Village, a hidden gem located just a short walk from the city center. Admire the well-preserved 19th-century buildings, the picturesque Water of Leith, and the peaceful atmosphere.
- Attend free concerts and events: Keep an eye out for free concerts and events happening throughout the summer. Many venues, parks, and public spaces host live music performances, cultural events, and festivals, providing a vibrant and entertaining atmosphere.
- Wander through the Grassmarket: Discover the lively Grassmarket area, known for its vibrant pubs, restaurants, and shops. Explore the historic square, soak up the lively atmosphere, and catch street performers showcasing their talents.
- Take a self-guided Harry Potter tour: Edinburgh has strong ties to the world of Harry Potter, as J.K. Rowling wrote the famous series while living in the city. Visit places like The Elephant House café, Greyfriars Kirkyard, and Victoria Street for some magical inspiration.
- Attend the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo rehearsal: If you’re in Edinburgh during August, head to the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle to catch a glimpse of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo rehearsal. Entry is free, and you can witness the impressive performances and music rehearsals.
- Join a free walking tour: Several tour companies offer free walking tours of Edinburgh, led by knowledgeable local guides. These tours provide insight into the city’s history, legends, and landmarks while allowing you to explore different neighborhoods. Try this one or this one, for starters.
- Relax at Portobello Beach: Take a short bus ride to Portobello Beach and enjoy a day by the seaside. Stroll along the promenade, soak up the sun, and if you’re feeling adventurous, dip your toes in the chilly waters of the North Sea.
Related: 43 Interesting Facts About Scotland
Free things to do in Edinburgh: Frequently Asked Questions
What are some free activities to do in Edinburgh with kids?
Edinburgh has plenty of free activities to do with kids, such as visiting the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, exploring the National Museum of Scotland, and taking a stroll through Princes Street Gardens. Other options include hiking up Arthur’s Seat, visiting the Scottish Parliament, and exploring the Edinburgh Old Town.
Are there any free museums or galleries to visit in Edinburgh?
Yes, there are several free museums and galleries in Edinburgh. The National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery are all free to enter. Other options include the Museum on the Mound, the Writers’ Museum, and the Museum of Childhood.
What are some of the most popular free attractions in Edinburgh?
Some of the most popular free attractions in Edinburgh include the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Calton Hill, the Scottish Parliament, and the Edinburgh Old Town. Other options include the Greyfriars Kirkyard, the Royal Mile, and the Grassmarket.
Can you walk around Edinburgh Castle for free?
No, you cannot walk around Edinburgh Castle for free. However, you can visit the castle for free on certain days, such as St. Andrew’s Day (30th November), and during the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
What is the most famous landmark in Edinburgh?
The most famous landmark in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. This iconic castle sits atop a hill and offers stunning views of the city. Other famous landmarks in Edinburgh include the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, and the Scott Monument.
What are some cheap or free things to do in Edinburgh at night?
Some cheap or free things to do in Edinburgh at night include taking a ghost tour of the city, exploring the Edinburgh Old Town, and visiting the Grassmarket. Other options include attending a free concert or performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, or simply taking a stroll through the city’s beautiful streets and alleyways.