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The top things to do in Edinburgh

16 June 2021

Edinburgh is a city filled with stunning historical architecture, a vibrant restaurant scene and beautiful surrounding landscapes. Find out what to do in Edinburgh on a budget.

Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, one of the UK's most historic cities, is full of incredible architecture, fabulous museums and fun things to do, and you don't even need to spend that much money. Take a peek at our pick of things to do in Edinburgh that won't break the bank.

1. Explore The Royal Mile

Take a wander along this famous thoroughfare and explore Edinburgh's picturesque Old Town. This area is the historical heart of the city, a protected World Heritage site thanks to its listed buildings and medieval architecture.

Discover the eerie secrets of Mary King's Close; admire the Victorian stained glass at St. Giles' Cathedral; or simply get lost in the romantic, labyrinthine streets, lined with shops, restaurants and tucked away drinking holes.

2. Climb Arthur's Seat

One for the ramblers visiting Edinburgh, Arthur's Seat is a dormant volcano, its rocky summit perched in an oasis of parkland, right in the heart of the city. Start your ascent from Holyrood Palace and make the five-mile trek to the top where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city.

3. Visit Portobello Bay

Head the short distance to the coast for a breath of salty sea air at Portobello Bay. This award-winning beach boasts a two-mile streak of golden sand with a smattering of cafes and bars on the attractive promenade.

Portobello's high street is filled with independent shops and restaurants to explore and there is a craft and produce market held in Brighton Park on the first Saturday of every month.

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4. Admire Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline, presiding over the city from its vantage point atop Castle Rock. Climb the hill to admire its impressive stone walls and sweeping, postcard-worthy views of the city below. 

Admission isn't too steep either, particularly with the concessionary discounts for ages 60+.

The ticket includes access to all the highlights including the serene St. Margaret's Chapel, sombre Prisons of War, luxurious Royal Palace and awe-inspiring Great Hall.

If you get chance, try and arrange a visit during the annual Edinburgh Tattoo festival and witness one of the most spectacular shows on earth.

5. Get your fill of culture at Edinburgh's museums

Culture vultures can satisfy their souls with a visit to a number of free attractions.

The National Galleries of Scotland houses an exquisite and extensive collection of fine art, from the Renaissance up to the beginning of the 20th century. 

Wander around the neoclassical Scottish National Gallery building to discover some eye-openers ranging from Delacroix to van Gogh. The most comprehensive part of the collection covers the history of Scottish painting with major names such as Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart represented.

The National Museum of Scotland boasts collections covering a diversity of topics, from antiquities and history to science, technology and natural history and the National Library of Scotland offers literary treasures and exhibitions that will delight avid bookworms.

6. Stroll up Calton Hill

When the weather is good take a walk up Calton Hill to see the stunning monuments including the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, the Nelson Monument and the City Observatory. Calton Hill also provides breathtaking views of Edinburgh and the coastline, including Arthur's Seat, the Firth of Forth and the Royal Mile. To get up the hill you can take a winding slope or the much steeper steps from Waterloo Place.

7. Enjoy refreshments at the Secret Herb Garden

One of those rare attractions that'll keep both gardeners and gin fans happy, Edinburgh's Secret Herb Garden allows you to stroll through the beautifully scented herb gardens (with plenty available for sale) and enjoy tea and scones, or if you prefer something a bit stronger then take a tour of the gin garden and distillery to learn all about the process and sample their hand-harvested gins.

Even if you’ve lived your whole life in the UK, there’s always somewhere new to discover. Find out more here


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.