Having lived in Edinburgh for quite a few years, it’s easily one of my favourite cities in the UK and with good reason too – it’s absolutely pretty, has such strong history, amazing traditions, really friendly people and is a traveller’s delight – which is also why it makes sense that it the most visited city in the UK outside of London.
What’s better than seeing an amazing city? Seeing an amazing city for free and to that end, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Edinburgh, absolutely free!!!
Let’s get started, shall we? 🏴
09:00 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
20a Inverleith Row, EH3 5LR
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is situated at Inverleith, one mile north of the city centre. The Botanics captures the imagination of everyone who visits and is world renowned for its horticultural excellence. Over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds provide a tranquil haven just outside the bustling city centre.
Enjoy a gentle stroll through Edinburgh’s stunning botanic gardens and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents throughout the changing seasons. Entrance to the Gardens is free but access to the Glasshouses and some exhibitions carry an entry fee.
11:00 National Galleries of Scotland
The Mound, EH2 2EL
After a relaxing morning in the Botanics stroll back into town via the beautiful village of Stockbridge, before making your way to The Mound where you’ll find the National Galleries of Scotland complex.
Comprised of the Royal Scottish Academy building and the National Gallery of Scotland, two magnificent neo-classical designs by William Henry Playfair, it houses works by many old masters, including Titian, Da Vinci, Raphael and Vermeer, as well as other pre-eminent artists such as Monet, Degas, Constable, Turner and Cezanne.
Best of all, entry is free (although there is sometimes a small charge for dedicated exhibitions)! There are three other buildings that make up the NGS – the Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in the West End, and the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.
14.30 National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, EH1 1JF
Located just a short stroll from the Galleries on The Mound, The National Museum of Scotland houses collections celebrate the nation’s culture, history and people. Journey into the heart of Ancient Egypt, build a plane and explore the mysteries of the Lewis Chessmen. And that’s just for starters!
It’s a great way to explore Scottish history from the primaeval age right up to the modern era, and the 360-degree views of Edinburgh from the roof garden are spectacular.
Entry is free but some featured exhibitions may carry a cover charge.
16:30 Explore a Hidden Garden on the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Escape the hive of activity and clamour of The Royal Mile and disappear down one of its many closes, hidden in plain sight, for your chance to discover a hidden retreat.
A prime example being Dunbar’s Close Garden located just beside The Canongate Kirk. Wander down Dunbar’s Close to reveal a garden laid out in the character of the seventeenth century, donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978 and named after Edinburgh writer David Dunbar who owned tenements on either side of this close in 1773.
17:30 Views from Edinburgh Castle
Castlehill, EH1 2NG
Scotland’s No1 visitor attraction is situated at the top of the Royal Mile on top of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano and has unparalleled views of the city. Although entrance to the Castle isn’t free the views that can be enjoyed from the Castle Esplanade are completely free and utterly stunning.
18:00 Visit Greyfriars Bobby
30-34 Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QE
After uncovering the many hidden closes of the Royal Mile make your way down George IV Bridge where you’ll find a little statue commemorating one of Edinburgh’s most well-loved residents – a little Skye terrier known as Greyfriars’ Bobby.
Made famous by numerous books and a Disney film, Bobby faithfully guarded over his owners grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard for fourteen years.
19:00 The Grassmarket
Grassmarket, EH1 2JR
After saying hello to Greyfriars Bobby, make your way down to the historic heart of the city –The Grassmarket. With an excellent selection of lively pubs and bars in the area, you can be assured of a warm Scottish welcome at all times. 🤗
Originally a marketplace for horse and cattle from the 14th century right up until the early 19th century, the Grassmarket was also renowned for its public executions and is undoubtedly a must-see for any trip to Edinburgh.