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Free Things To Do in Edinburgh

If you have extra time, Royal Botanic Garden is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Edinburgh
    View all Photos
    #1 in Edinburgh
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're like the writer Robert Louis Stevenson, you might enjoy the view from Calton Hill; this spot was a favorite of his. One of the most popular vantage points for photo ops (and included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage site distinction), Calton Hill affords a majestic panorama of the city below – so don't forget to bring your camera, or make sure your phone is charged. Located east of New Town, Calton Hill is one of the country's first public parks, founded in 1724. Today, the hill supports several iconic buildings and monuments, so much so that it has been nicknamed the Athens of the North. Some of these structures include the Burns Monument, erected in honor of Scottish writer Robert Burns, the Nelson Monument, designed by Robert Burns, and the National Monument, modeled after the Parthenon but given the name "Edinburgh's Disgrace" for never having been completed. 

    Recent travelers loved Calton Hill for its beautiful views, peaceful surroundings and relatively easy hike to the top. With Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle and the sea in sight, some visitors say the best time to go is during sunset or sunrise. Calton Hill is less than a mile from the Royal Mile and less than a half-mile from Edinburgh Waverly train station.

  • #2
    Arthur's Seat
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    #2 in Edinburgh
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Arthur's Seat, located in the verdant Holyrood Park, affords one of the best views of the city. Standing 800 feet above sea level, Arthur's Seat is the highest point in the park, providing panoramic views of the sea and nearby sites, including attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument. If you're wondering how Arthur's Seat got its name, chances are you may never get a clear answer. Legend has it that it was the site for Camelot while others claim William Maitland, a Scottish politician, believed the name was derived from Ard-na-Said, a Gallic phrase meaning "height of narrows." The attraction was also a former volcano. Trails are accessible off of Queen's Drive near Holyroodhouse Palace, which is located at the base of Arthur's Seat. 

    Some recent travelers mention the hike was a bit more strenuous than they thought it would be. Visitors not prone to regular walking might find it difficult. Keep in mind that the journey to Arthur's Seat is all uphill, so make sure to wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes and bring water. Once you reach the top, many travelers say you'll find the 360-degree views worth any sweat you might've worked up. Arthur's Seat is free to access.

  • #3
    Royal Botanic Garden
    View all Photos
    #3 in Edinburgh
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're looking for some peace and serenity after a long day on the Royal Mile, the Royal Botanic Garden is the perfect place to rest your feet. This garden, which covers 70 acres, brims with so much beautiful foliage you're likely to forget that you're in one of Scotland's biggest cities. The Royal Botanic Garden houses 3,000 exotic plants from around the world, spread out among its 10 glasshouses, each with a different climatic zone. The garden is also very famous for its rhododendron flowers. The Royal Botanic Garden's collection of the flower is considered the world's richest assemblage of species rhododendrons, and the Edinburgh location has been seen as a major center for study since the late 19th century. After you've visited these famous flowers, take a stroll through the giant redwood trees in the Woodland Garden, or view the contemporary art gallery in the adjacent Inverleith House. 

    Recent visitors strongly recommended this attraction simply for its beauty and the serenity it brings. Travelers say no matter what time of year you visit, there is always something in bloom, and that the extra fee for entry to the Glasshouse is worth every penny. And don't forget to take your camera; the garden is as photogenic as you can imagine.

  • #4
    National Museum of Scotland
    View all Photos
    #4 in Edinburgh
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyroodhouse Palace don't quench your thirst for some Scottish history, take a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. The museum houses a whopping 20,000 historical artifacts spread out through its numerous, diverse galleries. Here, visitors will find exhibits dedicated to art and design, the natural world (which features a giant T. rex skeleton), history, archaeology and world cultures. And don't leave without visiting the Dolly the sheep display (named after Dolly Parton), the first mammal to ever be cloned from an adult cell. 

    Recent visitors said this is a great place for a family outing, and can easily be enjoyed by all ages. Children especially enjoyed the taxidermied animals in the Natural World galleries and adults appreciated the free admittance. Keep in mind this museum is big, so if you're on a time crunch (visitors reported spending a few hours here), map out what you'd like to see before your visit. 

  • #8
    Royal Mile
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    #8 in Edinburgh
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stretching from the high-on-a-hill Edinburgh Castle to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the Royal Mile is both Old Town Edinburgh's main thoroughfare and one of the city's main streets. Here you'll find top attraction after top attraction, including the Scotch Whisky Experience and Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, as well as a big concentration of shops, restaurants and pubs housed in stunning architecture along this cobblestone street. Most travelers note the Royal Mile's propensity toward tourist traps; they also say it's a must-do considering all its amenities. The Royal Mile is seen by many as the center of the city, so be prepared for crowds at all hours. 

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