Exploring Edinburgh on a budget? The Scottish capital is one of those cities that you can enjoy without spending your whole bank balance. The beautiful architecture, lush green spaces and countless free sights makes wandering around the city super easy to do without spending heaps of money. You can easily explore Edinburgh on £30 per day, you just need to be smart about it - here’s how…
Note: everything is pretty much within walking distance in Edinburgh so you don’t need to save pounds for travel costs.
STAY IN A HOSTEL THAT OFFERS FREE BREAKFAST
The easiest place to start is choosing your accommodation wisely. Make sure that your hostel offers a free breakfast - then you’re already saving money before you step outside of the hostel door. St Christopher’s Inns right in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town offers a free breakfast if you book direct. Fill yourself up for the day and save money for a delicious meal later.
MAKE THE MOST OF FREE ACTIVITIES AND MUSEUMS
There are plenty of free things to do in Edinburgh. From exploring the medieval Old Town, losing an afternoon in the Scottish National Galleries to viewing the Edinburgh Castle 1 O’clock gun shot your choices are endless. Note: Benefit from free admission to the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
EAT WELL AT LUNCH FOR JUST £5
Edinburgh is bursting with cheap-eats. Eat smart and stop at one of these affordable places for a snack or lunch for £5 or less.
Oink, for a £4.20 lunch
Feast your eyes on what is famous for serving up the best pulled pork roll you’ll find in Edinburgh. This gloriously cheap pork-based cafe can be found in 3 locations in the city and is the best place to pop into for a quick, delicious lunch. You can order a good portion size bap for £4.20 stuffed with melt in the mouth pork.
Mary’s Milk Bar, a scoop of Edinburgh’s best ice cream £2.50
This is the best ice cream parlour in Edinburgh. Serving up Italian-style gelato, expect creamy delicious more-ish ice cream. We recommend salted caramel or pistachio.
Farmer's Markets around Edinburgh £5 or less
Edinburgh’s farmers markets are the perfect pitstop for a quick lunch or dinner. The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is the biggest in the city with over 40 local producers regularly selling their fresh goods every Saturday with Edinburgh Castle as an idyllic backdrop. If you plan on visiting this one and not spending any money, you’d better make sure you have a full tummy or the scotch eggs and roast tatties will make you drool!
Stockbridge Market is just a 20 minute walk from the hostel and here you can buy some 6 Japanese dumplings or big bowl of paella for £5 or less. Then there’s also Edinburgh’s Grassmarket that
STICK TO THE OLD TOWN
Did you know that Edinburgh Old Town is significantly cheaper than the New Town? One good tip to saving money in the city is buying food and drink around the Old Town area, home to some of the city’s best bars and traditional Scottish pubs.
STUDENT DRINK DEALS AND AFFORDABLE CLUBS
Belushi’s always has the best drink deals in town so head to this lively bar for a fun night. Sometimes a cocktail there will only set you back £3.50. Belushi’s holds epic parties, live DJ’s, cheap local beer and student deals so this is the place to drink on the cheap in Edinburgh.
Other places we recommend for cheap drinks is the Secret Arcade bar, an underground vodka bar in Edinburgh Old Town where you can get shots for £2.50. Then there’s the Banshee Labyrinth, a haunted club that’s free entry every night.
CLIMB TO THE TOP OF ARTHUR’S SEAT
One thing you HAVE to do in Edinburgh is climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat. This is an awesome free things to do in the city and you won’t regret. Experience the best views of Edinburgh from the top and get some epic photos. A climb up Arthur’s Seat is definitely worth every sweaty step for the very best views of Edinburgh. The dormant volcano is the highest of the peaks that edge the city and has not erupted for more than 300 million years.
Make sure you have your camera as you’ll be rewarded with views that you won’t find anywhere else in Edinburgh once you reach the top. This hike is an absolute must do (even for the unadventurous - it’s not THAT strenuous) and the best part is that it’s totally free. Just remember to pack appropriate footwear for the climb.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE CITY’S PARKS AND GREEN SPACES
Edinburgh is a very green city, so make the most of the beautiful green spaces while you’re there. This won’t cost you a penny. Here are the best parks and gardens to visit - the lungs the breath life into Edinburgh…
One of the best ways to make the most of a sunny day in the Scottish capital is a trip up to Calton Hill. Take a picnic, grab a seat and relax with a fantastic panoramic view of Edinburgh Castle, the New Town and Arthur’s Seat. The central hill is only a 12 minute walk away from the hostel, and is topped with Nelson’s Monument so head here for a chilled out afternoon all while saving your pennies. Calton Hill is also the best place in Edinburgh to watch the sun go down.
Water of Leith Walkway
Spend an afternoon strolling down this idyllic path which winds its way right through the heart of Edinburgh. You can join it or leave it at various points around the city such as where it passes by attractions like Saughton Winter Gardens, the Union Canal, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art or the Royal Botanical Gardens. This walkway would make for a great, relaxing afternoon of easy exploring.
Take a stroll through Princes Street Garden
While you're in Edinburgh, be sure to take a walk through the pretty Princes Street Gardens in the centre of town. That tall, black building? It's called Scotts Monument, a Victorian Gothic building dedicated to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world. It also had a major presence in Edinburgh's skyline.
DINNER AS A SCOT WOULD EAT
An authentic Scottish dinner for £7.50
Scottish dinner at The Halfway House
This small friendly pub in Edinburgh is the place to come for a true Scottish experience and amazing prices. You can order haggis, neeps and tatties for £7.50. This pub is a local favourite but tourists rave about it too. If the thought of eating haggis doesn’t appeal to you, order a pie and mash.
FREE TOURS OF THE CITY
Harry Potter Trail
If any of you Harry Potter fans miss this one when in Edinburgh, shame on you. As the hard core fans will know already, a lot of JK Rowling’s inspiration came from this Scottish city. The FREE walking tour called The Potter Trail will take you to all the main sites where Rowling gathered her inspo for the books. Visit the cafe where she wrote about Harry’s encounter with the Philosopher’s Stone, pass the ‘original Hogwarts’ and see exactly where Lord Voldemort is buried!
Sandemans Free Walking Tour
See all of the city’s main sights on a Sandeman’s Free walking tour. Delve deeper into the history of Edinburgh Castle and listen to spooky stories of past goings on down the narrow, cobbled Scottish streets. The Sandemans tour guides know the city inside and out, making it well worth tagging onto on a spare morning. Book onto one of the daily tours at the hostel reception, just be sure to give your guide a wee tip at the end.
ST GILES CATHEDRAL
This grand cathedral is not only one of Scotland’s most important religious structures, but also an absolute architectural highlight in Edinburgh. It’s free to enter the cathedral but a donation of £1 is polite. The St Giles’ Cathedral was built all the way back in 1120 but 19th century restorations brought about its stunning Thistle Chapel, also free to see inside. Its crown steeple and intricate stained glass windows make St Giles’ so easy to distinguish in Edinburgh's city skyline.
Factoring in lunch and dinner, £9 on drinks and a scoop of ice cream you’ve spent £25 in one day so far. Which leaves you with an extra £5 to spend on whatever you like.
THINGS YOU CAN GET FOR £5 OR LESS:
A ticket for entry to the Royal Botanical Gardens
More drinks :)
Join Belushi’s every Thursday for our FREE pub crawl, taking you around the local haunts in Edinburgh's famous Old Town. You can spent that fiver here.
A coffee stop. Why not stop for a caffeine fix at the Elephant House, the same coffee shop where JK Rowling used to spend her days writing the Harry Potter books
Irn Bru (soft drink) from grocery store: £1