Take advantage of the many free things to do in Edinburgh if you’re on a budget! You don’t have to stay inside and do nothing. There’s loads to do in town if you’re strapped for cash and you don’t have to spend a penny!
Free things to do in Edinburgh
You can find free activities to do pretty much anywhere, but when it comes to stay in a city for a while without a big budget, free resources might come in handy. If you’re looking for a job or your new flat, it can become expensive to spend your time in coffee shops to do your research. That’s why libraries are great free things Edinburgh offers.
The numerous libraries across the city offer:
- Free rental
- Books (English and International)
- Piano & sheet music
- Soundproof rooms
- Activities & exhibitions
Looking to work or read in a place without having to pay for a coffee every few hours? You can always go to the library! They have free WiFi and the perfect atmosphere to work in a quiet environment.
A personal favourite is the Central Library on George IV Bridge where you have a brightly lit ceiling and beautiful architecture to look forward to.
Once again, if you’re new to the city and you need some help getting started as a professional, you can find free workshops all over town. You can have a look at Eventbrite to see events in your area. If you’re interested in being freelance or self-employed, some of the best free workshops are the ones offered by Business Gateway.
As an international traveller, you might want to improve your English. We offer monthly free workshops at Venture English (n.b. these restart in the New Year) and you should also look up free Meetup events where you can meet new people and improve your speaking skills.
If you’re looking into new activities in town and your budget is tight, the good news is that many places offer a free trial for fitness classes. Scout the city in search of the best activity you want to join by trying them for free.
The perfect way to cultivate the brain at the lowest price possible…museums! Scotland and the UK in general offer museum entry for free to most sections! The National Museum of Scotland offers:
- Hidden rooftop terrace with a view of the castle
- Great gift shop
- Activities & Events
One of the greatest things about this museum is that it’s for every passion. Cars, fashion, history, animals, technology, etc. You can find everything there and the architecture of this newly renovated building is simply stunning. Not a big fan of these things? You can still enjoy the beautiful view of the castle on their rooftop terrace! (Note that in winter, they sometimes close the access to the terrace. Enquire beforehand.)
Free Art Museums
Art fan or not, you can’t argue that it’s still one of the best free things Edinburgh provides!
- Fruitmarket Gallery
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Free admission, but charges may apply for special exhibitions)
- Scottish National Gallery (Free permanent exhibitions, priced temporary exhibitions)
- National Portrait Gallery (Free permanent exhibitions, priced temporary exhibitions)
- City Art Centre (Free permanent exhibitions, priced temporary exhibitions)
**Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Visiting the parliament can be very interesting. They host temporary and permanent fascinating exhibits and it’s worth popping in to have a look at them.
**Closed to the public in February**
- Walk in to see informational exhibitions
- Book ahead for tours
- Enjoy extra activities & events
Scotland can be a bit temperamental when it comes to sunshine and heat, but on sunny days you can visit the Botanic Gardens in town to replenish your Vitamin D for Free! Even on not-so-sunny days, you’re sure to enjoy the lovely grounds and especially the Japanese-inspired features.
- Wander around and take a picnic
- Enjoy extra events & exhibitions
** Doors Open Days is one the best free things Edinburgh has to offer. You can visit special buildings every September that are normally shut to the public! **
Free stuff (or bargains)
Once again, a personal favourite. You can always find some treasures in these shops. The sort of items you find will vary with the area you’re in. If you want branded second-hand clothes, go to the charity shops in Morningside or Stockbridge.
You can find the best deals on books, clothes, accessories and even furniture in these shops. Plus, feel good in the knowledge that you’ve helped a charity raise money!!
Looking for furniture? Some of the charity shops are specialised in second-hand furniture. The Bethany shops in Morningside, Leith and Newington are great. Also try the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative (aka Four Square) in Bonnington for a vast warehouse of secondhand bargains. Opposite Bethany on Causewayside is a furniture shop that gives free desks to students at the beginning of the semester!
Facebook Groups & Gumtree
With Edinburgh being an international city, a lot of people living here want to get rid of things when it’s time to leave, so you can find a lot of things for free on Facebook groups and Gumtree.
Written by Judith Bellemare, Venture English