How to Do Edinburgh on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide
This Edinburgh on a budget guide is in partnership with A&O Hostels and Traverse Events.
Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK and after falling head over heels on a recent visit, I can see exactly why more than 2.2 million people visit each year. With its stunning architecture, fascinating (and often dark) history and lively nightlife, I was overwhelmed by just how much I loved the city.
Edinburgh, however, can be an expensive city to visit if you’re not careful.
In this blog post, I’m going to be sharing my top tips will on how to do a wee weekend in Edinburgh on a budget! From free things to do in Edinburgh, things that cost less than £15 and ways to get around the city without spending a lot of money, I’ll be sharing all my money-saving tips with you. So if you’re looking for a cheap way to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer, I’ve got you covered 😉
How To Get To Edinburgh
Edinburgh is well connected with airports, train stations and bus terminals. The main airport is Edinburgh Airport (EDI) which is located around eight miles west of the city centre. There are a number of ways to get into the city from the airport, including buses, taxis and trains. If you’re looking for cheap transport options, however, I’d recommend taking the bus or train.
Buses: There are a number of buses that run between the airport and the city centre, including the Airlink 100 (which goes to Waverley Bridge Bus Station) and the Skylink 200 (which goes to Edinburgh Gateway Train Station). The fare for either service is £11 for a single journey or £16 for a return.
Trains: The Edinburgh Airport Express train service runs between the airport and Edinburgh Waverley Train Station, with a journey time of around 15 minutes. Tickets cost £12 for a single journey or £21 for a return.
If you are arriving in Edinburgh via train, the main train station is Edinburgh Waverley Train Station. From here, you can catch buses and trains to other parts of the city.
Getting Around Edinburgh On A Budget
Once you’re in the city centre, there are a number of ways to get around without spending a lot of money.
Walking: Edinburgh is a very walkable city and most of the main sights are within easy walking distance from each other. One thing to note is that there are a lot of hills and steps in Edinburgh, so you may find walking from one spot to another difficult if you have mobility issues.
Buses: The bus network in Edinburgh is extensive and there are a number of different tickets available, including day tickets, week tickets and month tickets. Tickets start from £0.60 for a single journey and can be purchased on the bus or at local newsagents.
Taxis: Taxis are available in Edinburgh, but they can be expensive, with fares starting at around £3-4 for a short journey.
When Is The Cheapest Time To Visit Edinburgh?
The best time to visit Edinburgh depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to enjoy the festivals, then July and August are the busiest months and accommodation can be expensive and difficult to find.
If you’re looking for a quieter city break, I’d recommend visiting in the spring or autumn when the weather is still good and prices are lower.
Around Christmas time, when the Christmas Markets are open, prices typically rise again so you may want to bear that in mind.
Save Money By Staying In A Hostel: A&O Edinburgh
If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Edinburgh, I’d recommend staying in a hostel. We stayed at A&O Edinburgh which is located just a few minutes walk from Waverley Train Station and is right in the city centre. The dorm rooms start from £16 per night and if you’re not comfortable sharing, there are also private rooms available.
I have a full review of A&O Edinburgh here but overall I was really impressed! The rooms had been recently renovated, the staff were friendly and it was perfectly located for everything on our Edinburgh bucket list. It honestly felt like we didn’t have to compromise on comfort or amenities in order to save money on our trip!
Address: 50 Blackfriars St, Edinburgh EH1 1NE
How To Do Edinburgh on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide
Now that you know how to get to Edinburgh and where to stay, let’s take a look at some of the best budget-friendly things to do in the city.
Free Things To Do In Edinburgh
There are a number of free things to do in Edinburgh, including exploring the city’s many parks and gardens, visiting the National Museum of Scotland and taking a walk along the Royal Mile.
Edinburgh Castle: One of the most popular attractions in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. While it’s not free to enter, the castle grounds are open to the public and free to explore. We spent some time wandering around the outside of the castle and it’s definitely worth it for the views alone!
Arthur’s Seat: If you’re looking for a good workout and some amazing views, then head to Arthur’s Seat. The hike up to the top of the peak is challenging but definitely worth it! We didn’t get a chance to do the walk during our weekend visit, but when I head back, it’s the first thing I am crossing off my list!
The Scottish National Gallery: This art gallery is home to a number of paintings by famous Scottish artists, including Sir Henry Raeburn and Andrew Geddes.
The Royal Mile: The Royal Mile is a street that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and it’s home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including St Giles’ Cathedral and the Scottish Parliament. It’s a great place for a walk and it’s free to explore all of the charming pubs and shops.
Top tip: the Royal Mile is also the meeting place for a lot of walking tours and ghost tours, so if you’re planning on doing one of those, familiarising yourself with the area is a good idea!
National Museum of Scotland: The National Museum of Scotland is one of the largest museums in the country and it’s free to enter. It covers everything from history and art to science and technology, so there’s something for everyone.
Greyfriars Kirkland: Greyfriars Kirkland is a small cemetery in the Old Town that’s home to the Greyfriars Bobby statue.
Candlemakers Row: Candlemakers Row is a small street in New Town that’s home to a number of independent shops and cafes. It’s next to Greyfriars Kirkland, so it’s worth stopping by if you’re in the area.
Parks and Gardens: Edinburgh is home to a number of beautiful parks and gardens, including Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Botanic Garden and Holyrood Park. They’re all free to enter and make for a great place to relax in the sun. If you only have time for one, Princes Street Gardens has an AMAZING view of the castle. Just search for Ross Fountain and you’ll find it!
The Vennel Viewpoint: Another great spot for views of Edinburgh is the Vennel Viewpoint, which is located next to Greyfriars Bobby. It’s a steep walk up some steps but once you get to the top, you’ll be greeted by incredible views, just like this.
Head to Grassmarket: Grassmarket is a lively square in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and it’s home to a number of pubs, restaurants and shops. It’s a great place for people watching and it’s free to explore. If you fancy a quick drink (we had a very affordable soda and lime) popping into The Smallest Pub In Scotland is definitely one to cross off your list.
Go Window Shopping On Princes Street: Princes Street is the main shopping street in Edinburgh and it’s home to a number of high-end stores as well as budget-friendly chains like H&M and Primark. If you’re not interested in buying anything, it’s still worth a wander for the architecture and views alone! We passed by a number of times and honestly, it’s stunning.
Take A Free Walking Tour: If you want to learn more about Edinburgh’s history and architecture, then I’d recommend taking a walking tour. If you’re staying at A&O hostel, they offer a free walking tour every single day!
Calton Hill: Calton Hill is a hill in the centre of Edinburgh that offers great views over the city. It’s free to visit and there are a number of monuments and statues on the hill, including the National Monument of Scotland.
Walk Victoria Street: Victoria Street is a street in the Old Town that’s home to a number of quirky shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a great place for a wander and it’s free to do so.
Things To Do In Edinburgh Under £15
If you’re looking for something a bit more active to do in Edinburgh, there are a number of things that can be done for £15 or less.
Potions making at The Department Of Magic: If you’re a fan of all things magical, then this is definitely one for you! Potions making at the Department Of Magic costs £13 and includes all the ingredients you need to make one potion and a smoking shot. If you plan ahead, you can even get a Groupon deal for £9!
Have a pancake brunch at Stack and Still: Stack and Still is a pancake cafe in Edinburgh that offers ‘build your own pancakes’ starting at £6.50. There are over 2 MILLION combinations to choose from, so you can definitely go wild! I went for peanut butter, peanut butter cups, chantilly cream and chocolate sauce on buttermilk pancakes. It was INCREDIBLE.
Immerse Yourself In The Unique Interactive Experience At Frankenstein: Frankenstein is an ‘immersive bar’ that takes you on a journey through the life of Mary Shelley’s infamous monster. Entrance to the bar is free and cocktails start at around £9 each. If you stick around for a few hours, you may even get to see the free ‘monster show’. You don’t have to book a table, so you may have to queue up to get in.
Enjoy cocktail pitchers at Bar Fifty: Bar Fifty is a cocktail bar (located in A&O Edinburgh) that offers pitchers of cocktails for £12. There’s a great selection of cocktails to choose from, including the very delicious Purple Venom. If you love Southern Comfort like me, this is a must-try! They also do 50/50 shots for £3.50, if that’s your kinda thing 😉
Enjoy a coffee with new furry friends at Maison de Moggy: Maison de Moggy is a cat cafe in Edinburgh that costs £10 for an hour-long visit. It’s home to around 12 cats and it’s definitely the most relaxing hour I’ve spent in a while! If you’re planning on visiting, you have to book in advance.
Explore Edinburgh’s spooky past with a ghost tour: If you’re looking for a bit of excitement, then Edinburgh’s spooky past with a ghost tour is definitely the thing for you. Tours usually cost around £13 and can be booked online or in person. We booked our tour with Mercat and it was great! Our guide was super engaging and we got to explore the underground vaults of Briar street.
Tour Pickering’s Gin Distillery: Pickering’s Gin Distillery is a small distillery located in the heart of Edinburgh. Tours cost £12.50 (if you’re able to find a 50% off discount code) and include a glass of gin and tonic, 4 different gin tastings and a small bottle to take home. This was hands down one of the best experiences we did over the weekend and I’d 100% recommend it to anyone looking for a fun activity to do!
Head to the famous speakeasy, Panda and Son’s for a cocktail: Panda and Son’s is a hidden speakeasy located in the heart of Edinburgh. It’s not easy to find, but it’s definitely worth it when you do! The cocktails are delicious and start at just £9.50. I HIGHLY recommend ordering the ‘Dubai in The Sky’ cocktail, especially if you like yuzu.
Conclusion: How To Save Money In Edinburgh
So if you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh but you want to do it on a tight budget, here are my top tips:
- Stay in a hostel: Edinburgh has a number of hostels, many of which are located in the city centre. A&O is a great option, located just off of The Royal Mile.
- Eat out at budget restaurants: There are a lot of affordable restaurants in Edinburgh where you can get a main meal for under a tenner.
- Avoid tourist traps: There are a lot of expensive tourist traps in Edinburgh, so be sure to do your research before you visit to find out whether or not you’re getting good value for your money.
- Take advantage of free attractions: Edinburgh has a number of free attractions, including the Royal Mile, Princes Street Gardens and Victoria Street.
- Walk instead of taking taxis: As I mentioned earlier, Edinburgh is a very walkable city (if you’re okay with hills) and taxis can be expensive. If you know you’ll struggle to walk (I did) you can also get a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour for around £8 a day.
- Bring your own food: If you’re staying in a hostel, I’d recommend packing some snacks and drinks to save money on food. If you don’t want to carry them around with you, there are a number of supermarkets in the area where you can grab some snacks for the room, too! Room snacks are essential for me, especially when staying in a hostel. A&O also has a kitchen area where you can make your own meals, so it’s definitely something you can take advantage of.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy Edinburgh on a budget - so I hope this post helped! Have fun and happy travels! Please do let me know if you visit or if you have anything else to add to this list.