15+ Actually Free (not pretend) Things To Do In Edinburgh

Sure, being unemployed and broke in Edinburgh limits your adventures. Your daily dose of fun consists of you going to the discount supermarket Lidl for groceries. Should I get on-sale apples or on-sale bananas today? THRILLING. While this is a part of it, there are many more fun times to be had in the capital. All of the places listed are genuinely free, I walked to all of them from where I was staying and I brought a water bottle filled with tap water, so I literally spent no money.

The first thing I realised when I scoured the Edinburgh Museum website was that the words Free Entry popped up multiple times, which I appreciated. That’s right, for the most part, all museums in Edinburgh are freeeeeee (by donation), which to the frugal (me) means free. I say for the most part because there are some exhibitions or extra special parts within the museum that you sometimes have to pay for. But who really cares about being special or extraordinary anyways. Certainly, mediocrity is something I aspire to.


Now, my first-hand accounts are honest, so don’t get all well they are free, why are you being so rude about it tone with me. The staff were all super friendly and free stuff should always be appreciated, I get that. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that some of the museums aren’t great. There, I said it. I discovered WordPress has a star rating feature, so I’m going to overuse it. The base is 1.5/5 stars since they are free establishments.

Museum of Childhood

More like Museum of Childhood Nightmares. My goodness, those dolls on the second floor are creepy.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Museum of Edinburgh

Ummm yeah, so this museum has a bit of Edinburgh history with an entire floor devoted to chinaware. The building is nice.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Museum on the Mound

Every time I hear the name of this museum, I think that it is resting on a pile of shit. Don’t ask me why I associate mound with poop. I think if we could answer that, it would explain a lot of why I am the way I am. In reality, the museum is actually about money/ banking. At times, it gets a bit showy in terms of the Bank of Scotland who sponsored it. The staff are wonderfully nice.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

National Museum of Scotland

That’s a wizard’s chess. That’s what I said in my fake British accent, inside my head when I first saw them. Them being the chess pieces that inspired the Wizard Chess game in HP (if you don’t know what I am referring to then we are obviously not as good of friends as I thought we were). J (clearly first initial basis of friendship, although I’ve never met the wonder that is her) was inspired by many-a-thing in Edinburgh. The chess pieces in the National Museum of Scotland are one of them. Apparate to my review of the Harry Potter Tour that I did (spoiler: it was magical).

Dolly the cloned sheep is also rotating in a glass case on a pedestal in this museum. Fun fact: Dolly was named after Dolly Parton since the cells that were cloned were taken from sheep titties (in sciencey terms: mammary). I learned that during the free Discover the National Museum tour that I did.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

I should have started this museum section by saying, in general, I don’t actually enjoy going to museums. To add to that, my least favourite type of museum to date, is modern art. So this section was set up to fail. Don’t try to convince me that there are ways to enjoy it despite being uncultured or whatever because I don’t care. Fact: I did not enjoy this museum in the slightest, but it was raining and I got to use the toilet. Can’t say this enough, the front door security guards were super sweet.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

The People’s Story Museum

This museum is located inside the Canongate Tolbooth, which is by far the coolest thing about this museum.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Writers museum

The building from the outside is fantastic. Inside, not so much. It is located in a courtyard just off the Royal Mile. It pays tribute to three Scottish writers: Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and Walter Scott. The museum consists of a few of the authors’ artefacts such as slippers, their notebooks and a hat along with some quotes/ short bios written on the walls. My description is more thrilling than the actual museum and I am an avid reader.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Trick of the trade for Edinburgh Castle

The trade being I am a horrible human being. I heard you can get into the Castle for free but I never had time to test it out because COVID-19 is a little biotch. Inside the castle is a free museum so if you say you’re only visiting the museum at the entrance, they have to let you in. I don’t know how sketchy it is to sneak out of the museum and into the castle but if anyone has tried it, let me know so I won’t embarrass myself. I have never been inside the castle because it costs money but I did check out some other things while in Edinburgh last time.

Also, it seems like I took a massive mound on the museums with my low ratings, sorry.


This time, I will start by saying I don’t exactly know my Catholics to my Christians, despite going to a religious primary school. Sooo churches aren’t really my thing.

Magdalan’s church

It said that it was open from 10-2pm on the sign yet there was a massive chain with lock on the door. I haven’t been back since.

St. Giles church

It’s a church.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Out and About- Other (Free) Things

I put free in brackets because, on the free Harry Potter walking tour, I tipped 10 pounds since it was so delightful. You can be the dick who tips nothing. This time, that wasn’t me.

Botanical Gardens

Lovely stroll in the gardens, soothing and quiet. Even in the wintertime (I went in February) it was pleasant. The glass greenhouses cost money to enter so I obviously didn’t go into them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This is one of the best cemeteries I have been to and I have seen my fair share of famous ones. Don’t ask why I sometimes like to visit cemeteries, if we knew it would explain a lot about me. Not only did J. get some inspiration from this gem of a place but it also offers some stellar views of old town Edinburgh including the castle. Not to mention a cute little pup named Greyfriars Bobby whose statue is out front.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Harry Potter Walking Tour

The Potter Trail. The best. Great guide, fantastical tour. I tipped, that’s how good it was.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Walking on Sunshine

There are some glorious walks/ hikes in and around ole Eddy (as I typed it, I knew I wasn’t going to stick the landing).

Arthurs Seat

There she blows, when it’s windy you really feel it up there but what a view! It is that massive hill/ mountain/ extinct volcano that you can’t miss.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Calton Hill

Stunning views and a much easier walk-up compared to Arthur’s seat.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dean Village

Easy stroll around the body of water I am going to call a stream. I think it is called The Leith Walking Path? I put a question mark because I was about 20% confident with that remark. Steep stairs to get up and down to the water’s edge definitely confirmed how unfit I was/still am.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dunbar’s Close

Tucked away at 137 Canongate is a peaceful little courtyard with benches. The gate does become locked outside of hours so make sure you are there during the day when it is open. It says online the opening times are 7am- 4:30pm. I went on a weekend at 3pm and I was the only one there.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Meadows

Quiet, local spot to catch that one ray of sunshine per year.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Princes Street Gardens

Take a leisurely stroll just off Princes Street without the crazy masses of tourists annoying you. There was some construction in Feb. 2020 that altered one of the pathways.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

(Winter) Markets

Yes, museums aren’t my thing BUT eating is. That’s why I love a good market. I found this website that listed the local markets. Not the best resource it turns out. Maybe it was just an off day for the markets or maybe it’s normal. I never went back to check.

Edinburgh Farmers Market

This market is near the lower car park. In February, online it stated there would be 12+ stalls between 10-1400 but when I arrived at 12:45 there were maybe 4 stalls. Two veggy stands and a couple butchers. Not exactly what I expected.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Greater Grassmarket

This one didn’t exist when I went at 1130am on a Saturday (online it says it’s open Saturday from 10-5).

Wrap it Up

Edinburgh is an awesome city. But don’t spend your time checking out the museums, other than maybe the National Museum of Scotland, provided museums are your jam. Clearly, the walks/hikes around and seeing the old town buildings paired with a Harry Potter tour would make for a stellar time.

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