10 Cheap Things To Do In Edinburgh

Wednesday, 17 August 2016
After growing up 20 miles from Edinburgh and having lived in the city for the past few years, I consider myself to be a local. I feel more at home on Edinburgh's cobbled streets than I do on the suburban pavements on my home town. Every August Edinburgh fills itself with guests for the Fringe Festival and it's amazing to see so many different people come together. But Edinburgh attracts tourists all year round and for good reasons: the city has such a rich and exciting history but most attractions in Edinburgh are actually free or very cheap. So after your travel costs a visit to Edinburgh isn't likely to break the bank.

I'm sure that I can convince you that there's so much to do and eat in Edinburgh and that it doesn't have to cost the world. In fact, most of Edinburgh's museum's are free so even if the weather is a bit miserable you can still keep occupied! But what about accommodation? During the Fringe it can be hard to find hotels/hostels with space - and the ones that do will be charging a fortune. Why not try out Homestay? This website allows you to book a room with an Edinburgh local. So you really get to experience what life in the city is like. And as I'll mention - Edinburgh's bus system is really cheap so you could also save money by staying a little further out as it would only cost you £3.20 to get in and out of the city. I've always found that locals are the best people to ask for recommendations about their city - especially for food - so who else better to stay with.

Here are my recommendations, as an Edinburgh local, on 10 cheap things to do in Edinburgh:

1. Climb up Calton Hill for an iconic view of the city.
Cost: FREE.
People will argue whether Calton Hill or Athur's Seat has the best view of Edinburgh. I'm including both in this post but Calton Hill is my personal favourite. Why? You still feel like you're in the city and you can pick out loads of landmarks. Last summer my friends and I climbed up and had a little cider at the top of the hill as the sun set. It was honestly one of my favourite days and it just made me feel so lucky to be watching the sunset over a beautiful city with amazing friends. The climb is really easily and probably takes about 15 minutes as it's only a little hill. Definitely the one to go for if you have less time in Edinburgh as Arthur's Seat is quite a time commitment.

2. Learn lots about Scottish History at the National Museum of Scotland.
Cost: FREE (although there is a donation box).
The National Museum of Scotland is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. There's so much to see and you can easily spend the whole day here. Most people head straight to the dinosaurs but there's so much more to see. If you go downstairs they even have a lot of really old historical artefacts which are so interesting to see. The museum recently launched some new exhibits so even if you've been before it's worth going back to see them! The museum entry is free but there are donation boxes as you enter/exit and I think it's only fair to put in a few pounds considering how much there is to see in the museum.

3. Try out some local food at the Stockbridge Market.
Cost: Lunch is easily under £5.
If you're in Edinburgh at the weekend then you should really try and swing by Stockbridge Market on a Sunday afternoon. I've written a whole blog post about it here which you can read to learn more about it. The food stalls are mostly local restaurants so it's a good way to see what Edinburg's got to offer. My favourites are the pork dumplings from Harajuku Kitchen. Delicious! There are also little Scottish craft stalls so you could pick up some gifts to take back for family/friends if you're visiting the city from afar.

4. Grab an ice cream at Mary's Milk Bar.
Cost: £2.00 for a one scoop ice cream.
If you want ice cream then you have to head down to the Grassmarket for gelato from Mary's Milk Bar. The gelato here is truely unique with the flavours changing daily. Some that I've sampled include salted caramel, hot cross bun, croissant with apricot jam and rhubarb and ginger sorbet. The view of the castle is pretty spectacular as well. This place is pretty famous and sells out during the Fringe so make this one an early morning stop. 

The book store tent at the Edinburgh International Book festival is a reader's dream.
5. Catch some shows at whatever festival is on.
Cost: FREE or ticket cost.
It feels like Edinburgh always has some sort of festival on, even if it isn't August. Meaning that there's always something to see. Most of these festivals will offer shows that are free, pay what you can or a very low price. My favourites are the Fringe (of course), the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Science Festival. During the Fringe it's so easy to find free shows - all you have to do is walk around and someone will give you a flyer about one.

6. Get the bus to Portobello Beach.
Cost: £1.60 each way or £4.00 for an unlimited day ticket.
If you want to escape the bustle of the city then Portobello Beach is the perfect place to go. It's a short bus ride from the centre of town and you can get a little bit of that sea air. I even know a few people who have gone swimming there although don't take my word for it - the water will be freezing. You could save on cost by taking your own food but I'm partial to some fish and chips at the beach. Edinburgh's bus system is actually really great, very punctual and you pay per trip not the distance.

7. Have a boozy night at The Dog House with cheap cocktails.
Cost: £3.50 per cocktail.
I'm not sure if I've talked about The Dog House before but it is my favourite bar in Edinburgh. The decor is weird and eclectic (their lost and found is stapled to the ceiling) and it has such a fab atmosphere. Their cocktails are only £3.50 (RIP the days when they were only £3) and they're pretty great. I'm working my way through the list but so far my favourite is the bubblegum daiquiri. They also have an actual dog, Hero, who is just the cutest little guy.

8. Climb Arthurt's Seat for an even better view of Edinburgh.
Cost: FREE.
So if you've done Calton Hill and are still not satisfied with the view then Arthur's Seat is the real deal. You'll need a sturdier pair of shoes and the walk will take about an hour but the view is well worth it. You can see right over the Forth and to the Pentlands. You can even spot my home county of West Lothian if you look hard enough. 

9. Fill up on great curry at Mosque Kitchen.
Cost: Rice and curry approx £5.00 depending on the meat used.
Mosque Kitchen is one of Edinburgh's worst kept secrets. Try and find an Edinburgh University student that doesn't love this place. If you want some cheap, authentic food then Mosque Kitchen is the place for you. This isn't a 'classy' restaurant, you'll be eating with plastic cutlery from paper plates but it is amazing. For £5 you can easily fill yourself up with amazing curry. The portion sizes are really generous for the price so it's a great place to get a cheap meal in Edinburgh. 

Cost: FREE (requires pre-booking).
You can't deny that a lot of exciting stuff is going on in Scottish politics at the moment. You can tour the Scottish Parliament and learn a lot more about Scottish politics and it's history. The tour is free but you will have to book in advance via the parliaments building's website. Some Edinburgh locals joke that this is the ugliest building in Edinburgh but I think it looks rather lovely on a sunny day. 

I hope I've managed to convince you that Edinburgh is a truly wonderful city and maybe I've even pushed it a little further up your bucket list. If you have more recommendations for what to do in Edinburgh on a budget then leave a comment! And don't forget to head on over to the Homestay website to check out the amazing rooms available in the city.

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This post was produced in collaboration with Homestay. All opinions are my own. 

1 comment

  1. The Stockbridge market sounds so good! I love going to any kind of foodie market though. Love all of the things on this list, Edinburgh is somewhere I'd love to visit in the next few years if I can.



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