If your budget can’t stretch to numerous paid attractions, there are plenty of free options around the city.

The various national museums and galleries are free (except special exhibitions) and there are many delightful walks around the city to try out, such as Arthur’s Seat, the Botanic Gardens, or along the Water of Leith.

 

Filmhouse

Home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Filmhouse is Scotland’s leading independent cinema that operates year-round. Every year the Filmhouse Café Bar will be transformed into EIFF HQ and will be open every day during the Festival until 3am. You never know which famous faces you’ll see relaxing around this venue!

Abbotsford

Stunningly located on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford is one of the most famous houses in the world and Scotland’s most intriguing day out. Designed by Walter Scott himself, this ‘romance of stone and mortar’ is the quirky home of the famous author and possibly the most influential Scotsman ever. It is one hour from Edinburgh and can be reached by rail on the brand new Waverley Line as well as by road on the beautiful Borders scenic route.

Arthur’s Seat

Right in the heart of Edinburgh lies the imposing 250m summit of Arthur’s Seat. With many scenic routes to the top, some more challenging that others, the views of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas are unbeatable.

Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat. ©VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved.
Auld Reekie Tours

Auld Reekie Tours is a 4 star attraction with Visit Scotland and offers unrivalled historical tours of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. For the brave, tours to the Old Town’s 1700 paranormally active and haunted underground Niddry Street Vaults as featured on many television programmes.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Enjoy the fascinating Camera Obscura Show with fantastic views of Edinburgh and five floors packed full of an amazing range of optical experiences, which have been amusing visitors of all ages and nationalities since 1853!

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle dominates Scotland’s capital city from its great rock. Its story has helped shape the nation’s story. Battles and sieges were fought over it, royals lived and died within its wall, and countless generations have been inspired by it.

Grassmarket and Castle
View of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket. ©VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.
Glenkinchie Distillery

Steeped in history, Glenkinchie Distillery is the home of ‘The Edinburgh Malt’. Nestled among the rolling farmlands of East Lothian, just 30 minutes from Edinburgh, Glenkinchie is one of the few remaining Lowland Distilleries in production and perfectly located for a visit.

Jupiter Artland

Founded in 2009, Jupiter Artland is a unique world class sculpture collection 12 miles outside Edinburgh, housing the contemporary art collection of Robert & Nicky Wilson. A fantastical destination set across 100 acres of woodland and meadows filled with artworks by internationally renowned artists, innovative exhibitions of contemporary art and a pioneering centre of learning.

Jupitar Artland
Jupiter Artland - a contemporary sculpture garden in the private grounds of Bonnington House, Kirknewton, Edinburgh. Pictured here Life Mounds by Charles Jencks. ©VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.
Mercat Tours

Mercat Tours is an award-winning walking tour company operating scheduled history and ghost tours of Edinburgh, including, exclusively, the Blair Street Underground Vaults. With Mercat, we’ll take you deeper into the past than a bus tour or guidebook ever could. In the hands of our guides, we bring the city’s stories alive in rich, engaging detail.

The National Museum of Scotland

Their diverse collections will take you on a journey of discovery through the history of Scotland, the wonders of nature and world cultures – all under one roof. The special exhibition during the Festival is Celts, unravelling the complex story of the different groups who have used or been given the name ‘Celts’ through the extraordinary art objects they made and used.

St Giles on the Royal Mile
St Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile. ©VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved.
The Real Mary King’s Close

Buried deep beneath the streets lies the city’s deepest secret, Mary King’s Close, a warren of hidden streets that has remained frozen in time since the 17th Century. The Real Mary King’s Close is situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and is a unique, historical, 5 star attraction.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Experience Scotland's best visitor attraction (VisitScotland). The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Leith, Edinburgh, you can follow in the footsteps of royalty and discover the heart and soul of this most special of royal residences. See where the young princes, William and Harry, spent their holidays, and discover where celebrities Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor were wined and dined. The fascinating audio tour is available in 27 languages and you can access all five decks from the Bridge to the Engine Room!

Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel is a Category A listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument, located in the village of Roslin, approximately 7 miles south of Edinburgh. Built between 1446 and 1484, it has been described as an “Architectural Wonder” and a “Library in Stone”. It inspired writers and artists during Scotland’s Romantic Period when it was visited by Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, and Robert Burns. More recently, its appearance in the movie The Da Vinci Code brought it back into the public eye, but there is so much more to this tiny but breathtakingly beautiful building.

Scott Monument and Nelson Monument 

Take Edinburgh’s vertical challenge and climb two cultural landmarks in the heart of the capital. The Scott Monument commemorates Sir Walter Scott and with 287 steps to the top, it is not for the faint hearted! The Nelson Monument has 143 steps, resembles a tall stone telescope and was built in memory of Admiral Lord Nelson.

 
Festivals

Many people visit Edinburgh because it is the destination for festivals, with the city playing host to world-class events and festivals all year round.

The festivals listed below are just some of the exciting events which take place throughout the year. For a thorough walk through all of the Edinburgh Festivals, go to the Official Festivals Edinburgh site for up to the minute news, videos and the chance to win terrific prizes.

Edinburgh Festival City logo

Imaginate presents Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (27 May - 4 June 2017)

Edinburgh’s international festival for children and features some of the world’s best theatre and dance for young people.

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (14 - 23 July 2017)

Britain's biggest and most vibrant Jazz Festival embracing early ragtime to cutting edge rhythm and blues.

Edinburgh Art Festival (27 July - 27 August 2017)

Celebrating the exciting mix of visual arts across Edinburgh every summer.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe (4 - 28 August 2017)

The mother of all fringes around the globe, open to any artist or performing company who wishes to participate, and in itself the largest arts festival on the planet.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the Royal Mile. ©VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (4 - 26 August 2017)

The military’s contribution to Edinburgh’s international festivals, featuring a unique blend of music, ceremony and theatre, set against the magnificent backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh International Festival (4 – 28 August 2017)

Widely regarded as the most innovative and exciting festival of the performing arts in the world.

Edinburgh International Book Festival (12 - 28 August 2017)

The biggest annual celebration of the written word in the world.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival (20 - 31 October 2017)

Brings together artists and audiences from Scotland and beyond in entertaining and inspiring live storytelling performances, talks, workshops and discussions.

Edinburgh International Science Festival (1 – 16 April 2017)

The world’s first and Europe’s largest public celebration of science and technology. Scientists share their passion and knowledge.