Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, has often been referred to as ‘The Athens of the North’, largely due to the predominance of its classical architecture. With its annual arts and music festival, and a wide variety of other concerts, plays and events during the rest of the year, it’s a popular destination for the tourist, but it can also be a costly one. Fortunately, there are many museums, galleries and other attractions throughout the city and in the counties around it which can be enjoyed for free.
For a panoramic view of the city from its highest point, and for a bracing, energetic walk, make your way to Holyrood Park, and follow the footpath up Arthur’s Seat to the summit. This can be reached in around 45 minutes by those in good health, and you’ll be rewarded with, on a good day, views over the whole of the city and beyond.
For other open-air attractions, you could head north from the city centre, to The Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in the 17th century, and now extending over four diverse gardens. The ‘Botanics’, as it’s known locally is a renowned centre for education in plant science and related topics, but is also an oasis in the city, a place for reflection and admiration away from the crowds of the city centre.
The Port of Leith is now a suburb of the city, but was once a separate settlement in its own right, and the Water of Leith meanders through the city from its source in the Pentland Hills to the docklands on the Southern shore of the River Forth. Footpaths and cycle tracks run adjacent to the Water of Leith for much of its length, and these can be a good way of exploring the city, away from the bustle of the streets.
Galleries & Museums
Many of Edinburgh’s galleries and museums are open to the public for free, and these include The National Museum on Chambers Street, The National Gallery of Modern Art near the Dean Village, and The National Gallery, in the heart of the city at the junction of Princes Street and The Mound.
As mentioned, the International Festival, and its counterpart, the Fringe, are an annual event, and many of the performers can be found, weather permitting, on the streets of the city, performing extracts from their shows and providing street entertainment. The hotspots for this activity are usually at the foot of The Mound and on The Royal Mile.
Where to Stay
Of course, you’ll need somewhere to stay, and it may be possible to find discounted hotels or guest houses, along with other discounted Edinburgh deals at Deal Zippy. The Government’s promotional website, detailing many of the attractions above, along with many more, can be found at edinburgh.org.
Lastly, with a well-timed visit, you can see a number of Edinburgh’s attractions and civic buildings during Doors Open Day, an annual autumn event in which the public are often given access to areas of these establishments which are normally closed off, making for a unique visitor experience. Past participants have included Edinburgh Castle, The Zoo, and many others which would normally charge for admission.
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Amy is a freelance travel writer from the UK