Aul Reekie is an absolute little gem of a city; and it possesses the ultimate and rare city-break trifecta of
Best of all, it’s got plenty of really, really cool things to do that cost under a tenner each (and lots that cost absolutely nothing), so if you want to go to Edinburgh on a budget you won’t be stuck for a good time. Here are ten of the best things to do, see and eat in Edinburgh for under a tenner…
The Edinburgh Larder prides itself on using seasonal, quality, fresh and locally sourced ingredients in everything it serves. And everything it serves is incredible. You can get breakfast in their Blackfriars Street and Whitmuir cafés… and what a breakfast it is. If you’re feeling ravenous, get the full breakfast for €9.50, but as far as we’re concerned you can’t go wrong with a breakfast roll (you can build your own, they start at £4) and a well-made flat white. So, say you pig out and have three fillings in your roll (bacon, egg and sausage obviously), that and your coffee still only comes to £8.50, in total, for a frankly stellar breakfast. Get in.
We hardly need to tell you to do this. But we will anyway. The Royal Mile is – shockingly – a mile long (although it’s a Scots mile), and is made up of four different streets that form the city’s main thoroughfare. It’s full of shops, pubs, cafés, beautiful buildings and bagpipe players… it’s one of the unavoidable things to do in Edinburgh during your visit. Walking it won’t cost a thing, obviously, but feel free to spend your tenner on some delightful tourist tat along the way. You won’t get a kilt for a tenner, but you might find a bonnie tartan hat or something equally delightful…
Just south of the Gilmerton crossroads in Edinburgh there are a series of underground passageways and chambers that you can enter through an old mining cottage. Nobody really knows why they were created or what they were used for but there are a few theories being bandied about. Some say it was a smuggler’s lair, some say it was a drinking den for local gentry, some think it may have been a refuge for Covenanters. But there’s no definitive answer, it’s still a mystery. What’s for sure is that it’s a really interesting tour full of great stories and history, and it’s well worth the mere £7.50 it costs to do.
Long live free tours. We often recommend the regular free city tours as a way to introduce yourself to a new city, but not this time. Nope. Not when you have the option of a free GHOST tour of the city instead. Edinburgh has a brilliant spooky feel to it anyway, all gothic and misty and slightly creepy (but in a good way), so this tour is a great way to immerse yourself in it all. You’ll visit a few cool little spots, hear a few grisly tales from the depths of Edinburgh’s murky past, and generally just have a really good time, for an hour and a half, with a funny and knowledgeable guide. Don’t forget to tip them! Tours leave from the Royal Mile at 7pm and 9pm, seven days a week.
IT’S A CAT CAFÉ! It's one of the great things to do in Edinburgh on a budget if you actually like cats. Maison de Moggy combines three of my very favourite things; coffee, cats and cake. It’s on West Port, just by the Grassmarket, and it’s a lovely place to chill out and be surrounded by a bunch of beautiful, calm, and very good-natured little feline friends. Some of them are even fairly posh – they have Bengals, a rag doll, a Maine Coon, a Norwegian Forest Cat and a beautiful, beautiful Sphynx called Elodie who is a recent addition to the crew among others. They’re all friendly and well looked after, and you are encouraged to interact with them. Also the coffee and cake is genuinely fantastic (not that it would matter if it wasn’t). A latte here is £2.60 and a slice of cake is £2.75. The cats are priceless.
Arthur’s seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park, a dormant volcano right in the middle of the city, and the place to go if you want a truly beautiful view of the city. Start the walk from the Royal Mile, then make your way along your chosen route to Arthur’s seat (it’s worth walking past the Salisbury crags along the way). This really is a proper hike, and will take you a few hours – but the payoff is more than worth it. Wear appropriate gear and sturdy hiking boots, and you should be in relatively good shape. Check the weather before you go, and take water and maybe some sandwiches with you. If you can get up there for sunset (or even better, sunrise), do it.
You don’t have to be a fan of gin to enjoy this one, but it definitely helps. Scotland is well known for its abundance of fine whiskeys, but the Edinburgh Gin Distillery has bucked the trend and gone for a different spirit. And boy, do they do it well. You can do a guided tour of their distillery in Rutland Place to see how they make their gin; it costs a tenner and includes a wee dram of the distillery’s fine gin at the end. The guides are funny and interesting, and the tour is a lovely way to spend an hour in Edinburgh. Also, you get to drink gin. The rhubarb and ginger flavour is a real treat.
Right outside the northwest part of Edinburgh is a quaint little suburb called Dean Village. It used to be a milling village, and there’s still loads of evidence of this dotted around the place. The Tudor houses and buildings are beautiful, there are waterfalls all over the place, and it’s just a completely charming spot – a hidden little time warp in the middle of the city. There are lovely walks around here, so if you get a nice, bright day this is a great place to enjoy it. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is another 5 minutes walk from Dean Village too, and it’s free to visit. One of the best things to do in Edinburgh on a budget, it's a perfect half day that costs absolutely nothing.
Ah come on – you’re in Scotland, you have to give haggis a go. And if you’re going to give it a go we highly recommend you give it a go in its proper form, served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes to the layman), at The Last Drop. The Last Drop is a lovely old traditional pub and a bone fide Edinburgh institution situated right in the heart of Edinburgh’s lively Grassmarket. They do haggis. Proper haggis, with the proper accompaniments for haggis, in the just the kind of to eat haggis. Go there and eat some haggis. It’ll cost you £8.95.
So, you’re in Edinburgh. You really should try to pay homage to one of the city’s literary greats. We thought of a few ways you could do that, and drinking a cocktail named after one of Edinburgh’s most famous poets seemed like the best possible way to honour Scottish high culture. Panda & Sons might be decorated to mimic a sneaky speakeasy from the 20s (a bar preteding to be a barbershop), but where it does differ from an actual speakeasy is that you won’t get served some backstreet moonshine that would strip the shine off gold. The booze here is good, and the cocktails are sublime. Have the ‘Robert Burns’ (£7.50), a tasty little number that’s made with Johnnie Walker Black Label, Vermouth, Benedictine liqueur, and Orange Bitters. Sip that Scottish produce and pat yourself on the back for your cultural exploration of the city…
You won't be stuck for activities during your next trip to the Scottish capital, and you won't have to worry about what's in your wallet. Just use our list of 10 great things to do in Edinburgh on a budget.
- Dee Murray