The top 10 free activities for students on a budget in Edinburgh

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Lauren from Canada reveals her top 10 best free activities for students on a budget in Edinburgh

Being a student can be expensive, especially if you’re studying abroad. Rent and international student fees add up quickly so it’s always nice to find inexpensive things to do for fun (especially when the school stress hits). Here is my list of the top 10 free things to do in Edinburgh.

1.   The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum is one of my favourite places in the city. Not only is it in a beautiful building, but it also has a great variety of exhibits for all sorts of interests. From animals to engineering, fashion to history, there is something for everyone, and it is so easy to spend hours wandering around taking it all in.

National Museum Entrance hall
What an amazing main hallway the National Museum has

2.  The National Gallery of Scotland

Maybe you’re more of an art person, and the National Museum wasn’t your thing? No worries! The National Gallery has a wonderful collection of art ranging from 15th Century portraits to the impressionists, and more. Van Gogh and Monet are just two of the famous artists housed within the walls, and there are many more beautiful pieces of art to see.

3.  Princes Street Gardens

While you’re at the National Gallery step outside and take a walk through Princes Street Gardens. The park has a path with beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle, and wonderful surprises hidden within the trees. Why not look around and see what you can find?

Princes Street Gardens
The fountain and castle view from Princes street gardens

4.   Arthur’s Seat

If you are a keen walker and not afraid of a little heights then I would advise taking a hike up Arthur’s Seat. One of the most well-known hikes (and also an ancient volcano) surrounding Edinburgh providing beautiful views of the city from all angles. Walk on up and see if you can find all three Edinburgh Napier University campuses from the top. Hint: None of them are in the picture shown below.

Arthurs Seat

5.  The Royal Mile

One of the most famous parts of Edinburgh and a must see while you are studying here. However, why not spend an afternoon exploring the many hidden closes along the street and off the main road itself? They all lead somewhere and can take you on a new adventure! While you’re at it, see if you can find the paths to Victoria Street and Grassmarket , they’re both beautiful and a source of history.

Advocates close
Anchor close Royal mile
Royal Mile

6.  Ghost tours

While you’re at the Royal Mile, why not take part in one of the free tours that take place through Edinburgh World Heritage.Their graveyard tour is sure to be spooky. You’ll learn about the city’s history, and get your fill of scary stories while you’re at it.

7.  Calton Hill

Another day, another hill to climb. Calton Hill is the site of many historic buildings, and the National Monument. Wander up, explore, and take in the beautiful view of both the New Town and Old Town that the elevation provides. Learn some history, see some beautiful sites, and enjoy the fresh air.

Calton Hill
Museum of Childhood

8.  The Museum of Childhood

Back again with another museum recommendation. The Museum of Childhood is along the Royal Mile, and will bring back all the nostalgia and longing for simpler times. Watch out for the doll exhibit, it is more the stuff of adult nightmares than a child’s dream.

9. Blackford Hill

If you’re not sick of hiking yet go check out Blackford Hill, another one of Edinburgh’s beautiful hikes. It provides a different view of the city and of Arthur’s Seat. Although it may be slightly less central than Arthur’s Seat, the view is definitely worth the walk.

10.  Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Do you love flowers and trees and all things outdoors? Check out the Royal Botanic Garden. The garden itself has free entry, and is a calming place to spend an afternoon in the heart of Edinburgh. See some beautiful trees, smell some beautiful flowers, and find some peace before heading home to finish those assignments!

Botanic Gardens
Greenhouse at Botanic Garden

Take a break from work and explore

While you have some downtime between class, or if you need some stress relief, go check out some of these free attractions. Get some fresh air, learn some history, and learn something new, all without breaking the bank. Enjoy, and let us know which of these is your favourite free thing to do in Edinburgh!

Lauren is from Canada and is studying MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University.

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