Edinburgh is a wonderful city, full of history, legend and culture. It has a very distinct identity shaped by its people and its past. Cobbled streets and dark closes make you feel like you have stepped onto a movie set
Whether you are a local wanting a are visiting as part of a much larger trip and are concerned about costs, then check out our guide to a cheap weekend in Edinburgh.
When to come
My number one rule for having a cheap weekend in Edinburgh – don’t come during the festival! If truth be told, I hate Edinburgh during the festival. It’s too busy, it’s too loud and it’s way too expensive and to me, it’s not the real Edinburgh!
Cost wise, the best time to come is Winter. Christmas and Hogmanay, New Year’s if you are not Scottish, are very expensive, but the rest of winter is relatively cheap. Whilst the weather may be cold and you will most likely experience some of the famous Scottish rain, the savings can be worth it.
Where to Stay
Edinburgh has lots of wonderful cheaper accommodation options. My absolute favourite is Motel One, located at the bottom of Cockburn Street. Right in the heart of the city, you are minutes away from Waverly Station, which is perfect for arriving by rail. To get the best rates, you can book Motel One via Booking.com.
If you can’t get Motel one, then I would suggest looking at Premier Inn. They have multiple locations all throughout the city and the rooms are always clean.
If you budget it being stretched by the options available within the centre of the city, then the transport infrastructure means you won’t lose anything by moving to the city outskirts.
We have stayed in the Holiday Inn Express by the Zoo a few times and would not have any issues staying here again.
How to get around
Edinburgh has an excellent public transport system but to visit most places, you won’t even have to use it. Almost all the top tourist attractions can easily be reached on foot. The only expectations I can think of are the Zoo and Arthurs Seat.
If you do choose to use public transport, your best options are the bus and the tram.
It is worth noting that buses and trams operate on a correct fare only system. When boarding, there is a red box that you put your fare into. The driver has no access to this cash and is therefore unable to give change. If you put too much in that box, you are not getting it back!
At the time of writing (Dec 2017) a single adult ticket costs £1.60 and an unlimited day ticket, that covers the buses and trams are £4. Up to date information can be checked on the Lothian Bus Webpage. https://lothianbuses.co.uk/tickets/ticket-options.
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- Maison De Moggy, Edinburgh Cat Café – Review
- The Wee Buddha, Asian Fusion Restaurant Edinburgh – Review
- Berlin Zoo – A must do on your Germany Trip
What to see
Edinburgh has so many things to see and do that are cheap or free. Here are my favourites:
Museums and Galleries – In both Glasgow and Edinburgh, you will find that almost all Museums and Galleries are free to enter. They do accept donations but they are not compulsory.
The National Museum of Scotland is an excellent way to spend a few cheap hours in Edinburgh. Located at the bottom of the mound, there is so much to see and do in here. Including a music box that gets sad when people don’t tweet it! The National Gallery of Scotland and Gallery of Modern Art are other great places with free entry.
Arthurs Seat and Holyrood Park – If the great outdoors are your thing, then Arthur’s Seat is for you. A beautiful hike just on the edge of the city.
Image Visit Scotland
Greyfriars Bobby and Greyfriars Kirkyard – The legend says that Greyfriars Bobby stayed to guard the grave of his master for 14 years. It is also thought that touching the nose of Greyfriars Bobby is said to bring you good luck – but please be gentle, they have had to replace his nose before!
If you are a Harry Potter fan, Grey Friars Bobby is just a few steps away from the Elephant house, where JK Rowling wrote her famous novel. Try the baked potato and chilli if you are looking for a cheap filling lunch.
Maison De Moggy – My absolute favourite thing to do in Edinburgh, is the cat café, Maison De Moggy. Although it is not free, it is very reasonably priced. £9 per person for an hour with the cats. Tea, coffee and cake cost extra but you are under no obligation to purchase and the staff don’t put any pressure on you to buy. We have a full review of the café here – Maison de Moggy Review.
Edinburgh Zoo – Not free but excellent value and you get to see Panda’s! Trust me, the Panda’s are worth the entry fee alone. Also, there are not many places you can see a penguin who is the ??? of the Norwegian Army.
Scottish Parliament – They do offer free tours but these are generally held Monday to Friday.
Princess Street Gardens and Botanic Gardens – both free and stunningly beautiful. If you want to see the Glasshouse exhibit there is a small charge.
Edinburgh has this reputation of being expensive and during the festival prices can be crazy, but find the right time to go and the right activities and it can be great. Let me know in the comments your suggestions for a cheap weekend in Edinburgh, I would love t hear them!