10 Free Things to do in Edinburgh

1. City Art Centre

Offering an array of exhibitions from local and international artists, focusing on photography, contemporary art and design, architecture and the built environment, The City Art Centre is one of the first places you should visit.

There is even an ArtSpace where you can have a go at creating landscapes, collages and portraits. Between 2pm and 3pm on Saturdays, you can also attend a facilitated art session, but the fun doesn’t stop there! After your visit, you can test what you have learned by taking part in their online quizzes and games for adults and children. A whole day of arty fun, even after you go home!

Child friendly: definitely
Address: City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE
Opening hours: Wed to Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm
View Quizzes & Games page here.
More information here.

2. Dovecot Gallery & Tapestry Studio

Inside a renovated Victorian swimming pool building, the Dovecot Gallery and Tapestry Studio is an art and exhibition centre focusing on contemporary art and fine tapestry.

Their Tapestry Studio is not only internationally known for its work, but the pieces on display are alo stunning. Check their calendar of events as they also offer guided tours and workshops.

Child friendly: yes, but no particular activities are available for them on a regular basis
Address: Dovecot Studios, 10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LT
Opening hours: Mon to Sat 10.30am – 5.30pm
More information here.

3. St Cuthbert’s Parish Church

Located at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, St Cuthbert’s Parish Church is the spire you can see poking through the Edinburgh skyline whenever you see panoramic pictures of Edinburgh Castle itself. Expect to hear the Church’s ten bells on Sunday mornings and see beautiful wall paintings, stained glass windows and an organ built in 1899.

Child friendly: yes, but no particular activities are available for them on a regular basis
Address: St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, 5 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH1 2EP
Opening hours for visitors: Tue to Thu 10am – 3pm
More information here.

4. St Gile’s Cathedral

Be transported into medieval times when you enter this imposing building.

Expect to see amazing stained glass windows, intricate stone masonry, high vaulted ceilings, an organ and a crown spire. The Mother Church of Presbyterianism, St Gile’s Cathedral is also home to the Chapel of the Order of Thistle, The Queen’s Scottish knights.

Child friendly: definitely, check their calendar for family events.
Address: St Gile’s Cathedral, High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1RE
Opening hours for visitors: Mon to Sat 9am – 5pm (May to September until 7pm), Sun 1pm – 5pm
More information here.

5. Edinburgh Central Library

Opened in 1890, Edinburgh Central Library was the first public library built in the Scottish capital.

For families, a trip to the Children’s Library could be a welcome break from the busyness of sightseeing. While you are there, take a look at the wallpaper which features wall graphics by award-winning children’s book illustrator Catherine Rayner. They host storytelling events for toddlers every Thursday morning and crafts for primary school children every Friday afternoon.

Child friendly: definitely
Address: Edinburgh Central Library, 7-9 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EG
Opening hours: Mon to Wed 10am – 8pm, Thu to Sat 10am – 5pm
Facebook page with latest updates.
More information here.

6. The Scottish Parliament

Even if you are not a fan of politics, The Scottish Parliament would be a good sightseeing spot. Not only is the building itself really interesting, you can watch a parliamentary session, it hosts art exhibitions and has a lovely modern garden that you can explore.

If you want to know more, The Scottish Parliament also offers a selection of free guided tours focusing on the different aspects and functions of the building. Please note that even though the tickets are free, you might need to book in advance to attend guided tours, particular events or parliamentary sessions.

Child friendly: definitely, they even offer a free crèche facility.
Address: The Scottish Parliament, Horse Wynd, Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Opening hours: Mon, Fri and Sat 10am – 5pm, Tue, Wed and Thu 9am – 6.30pm (please note the building closes during parliamentary recesses)
Guided tour information.
More information on visiting the Parliament .

7. Live Music at the Whistle Binkies

One of Edinburgh’s most vibrant live music venues, Whistle Binkies is open seven nights a week and aims to showcase the best of Scottish talent and beer. Free from Sundays to Thursdays, you will enjoy a line-up of up to four bands per night. It’s a good excuse to party like the Scots!

Child friendly: no, adults only
Address: Whistle Binkies, 4-6 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL
Opening hours: Mon to Thu 5pm – 3am, Fri to Sat 1pm – 3am, Sun 5pm – 12am
Calendar of events.
More information about the venue.

8. Edinburgh Festival

From the end of July until the end of August, Edinburgh becomes home to all sorts of annual festivals, the most famous of which is Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

During the whole of August this world-famous festival fills the city with free street performers, live music, film and theatre events. Basically, you won’t be able to take a step without coming across something you can enjoy for free. And if you want to make the most of it, buy tickets and watch world-class performers. Edinburgh quite literally overflows with art in the summer.

Child friendly: yes, just bear in mind that the city is extremely busy during this time
Address: all over the city, across hundreds of venues
Opening hours: depends on the event
More information on Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

9. The Stand Comedy Club

Every Sunday lunchtime The Stand Comedy Club puts on an improvised comedy show free of charge. Resident comedians Stu & Garry weave a comedy performance using audience interactions as inspiration. The event is not only a weekly regular, but also long-running. A must for any comedy lover.

Child friendly: no, over 18s only
Address: The Stand Comedy Club, 5 York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EB
Opening hours: Sundays, doors 12:30pm, event starts 1:30pm
More information.

FREE MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

10. Scottish National Gallery

Home to one of the best collections of fine art in the world, The Scottish National Gallery is a must for any art lover. Part of a group of three national attractions, there is also a National Galleries bus that runs regular trips in between all three Scottish Galleries (National, Portrait and Modern Art) for a voluntary donation of £1. During the holiday period, they also host events for children. Please note that admission charges might apply to special exhibitions.


Child friendly: definitely
Address: Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
Opening hours: daily 10am – 5pm, Thu until 7pm
Bus timetable
More information on this attraction

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