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5 Budget-Friendly Things To Do in Edinburgh

Posters for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Posters for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (photo: Archibald Ballantine)

[H]ome to several thousand students, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, numerous cultural events and seven beautiful beaches, Edinburgh is one city worth visiting no matter what the time of year.

Its busiest months are during the summer months when the city comes alive with festivals, but even visiting during this time doesn’t have to make for an expensive trip.

With world renowned events, large open spaces and more history than you can shake a stick at, here are five things to do in Edinburgh on a budget.

1. Watch a Show at the Fringe Festival

The world’s largest arts festival has been held in Edinburgh for 50 years, and runs from the 3rd-27th August in 2012.

Although accommodation is more expensive than at other times, it shouldn’t put you off visiting. Hotels4U has cheap hotels available during the Edinburgh festival, and getting around is easy, as the city’s compact size means most of the venues are in walking distance from each other and all day bus tickets are just £3.50.

Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to the big name acts, then fear not: the “Half-Price Hut” sells cheap tickets for a variety of performances, while there are no shortage of free shows and street performers for those seeking a freebie.

The Meadows in Edinburgh

The Meadows in Edinburgh (photo: Simon Pearson)

2. Wander Across the Meadows

Located on the city’s south side just ten minutes from the city centre, the Meadows is one of Edinburgh’s biggest open spaces, and is a true favourite with the locals and students who live nearby.

During the summer, the park plays host to some of the Fringe shows as well as the Edinburgh Taste Festival, and on sunny days the grassy expanse buzzes with groups of friends eating and drinking their way through picnics.

Sporty types can find respite here too, with tennis courts, paths to jog along and plenty of space to throw a Frisbee.

Arthurs Seat

Arthurs Seat (photo: Calum Summers)

3. Climb Arthur’s Seat

Impossible to miss, this extinct volcano looms above Edinburgh from its base in Holyrood Park, and offers a fantastic (and free) view of the city and surrounding areas.

For a knowledgeable commentary on the landscape, wildlife and history of Arthur’s Seat, Historic Scotland currently provides free guided walks to the peak, but those who would rather tackle the hill on their own can still find their own quiet route and take in the ruins and scenery along the way.

On a clear day, the vista stretches as far as Fife – but the climb can be hard work.

Take the Piper’s Hill path for a challenge, but hiking boots, waterproofs and a camera are recommended no matter which route you take.

National Museum of Scotland

Inside the National Museum of Scotland (photo: subberculture)

4. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

For days when the weather isn’t so good (hey, this is Scotland – it happens), the National Museum is the place to go.

Centrally located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, admission is free, and the collections include objects from the country’s wartime past, to items brought back by Scottish explorers over the years.

The focus isn’t just on Scotland though, there’s live music in the Grand Gallery at lunchtime most days throughout the Fringe Festival and summer activities for children focused around arts, craft and science.

There’s more than enough to fill a day here, and there’s a great view of Edinburgh city from the outdoor terrace.

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle (photo: Jenni Douglas)

5. Walk Along the Beach

For those who fancy a bit of wildlife spotting, taking a stroll or just lying about on the sand, there are seven beaches dotted along the East Lothian coastline within easy reaching distance from Edinburgh.

While Belhaven is the best spot for surfing, the quiet and more secluded Seacliffe is home to the smallest harbour in the UK, with the remains of Tantallon Castle forming part of the area’s beautiful scenery.

Portobello beach is just a short bus ride away from the city centre which makes it the most popular choice for city-dwellers on a sunny day, while the amusement arcades and cafes dotted along the Victorian promenade give the area a distinctly traditional feel.

This post was written by Jo Harris-Cooksley on behalf of

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Tuesday 30th of October 2012

Great post on Edingburgh. I just went to Scotland for a long weekend and I loved it. I have started writing my impressions about Scotland. Thanks for sharing!


Tuesday 31st of July 2012

Fringe festival is great, but you cant do much of anything without spening some decent coin.

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