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Free Things To Do in Edinburgh

If you have extra time, National Museum of Scotland is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Edinburgh

Free
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. 
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Arthur's Seat
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. 
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#2

#2 in Edinburgh

Free
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. 
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Calton Hill
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. 
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#3

#3 in Edinburgh

Free
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. 
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
National Museum of Scotland
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. 
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#4

#4 in Edinburgh

Free
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. 
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Royal Botanic Garden
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. 
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#8

#8 in Edinburgh

Free
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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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Royal Mile
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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