Edinburgh can be very expensive, so read this post to find our about amazing & cheap things to do in Edinburgh for your weekend in Edinburgh on a budget! I wrote this post back in 2016, however, I updated and republished it in May 2020.
Scotland is a special place
Hi there, if you’re new to this blog, my name is Liza. I studied and then lived in Edinburgh for over 1.5 years. It was, is and will always be a special place for me. A place, where I met my husband – a fellow wanderluster Pepe. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this blog, when I studied in Edinburgh back in 2014-2015. However, when I moved to Edinburgh again in November 2016 & February 2017, I closely worked with Visit Scotland to produce a lot of useful content about Edinburgh and Scotland in general. So if you’re interested, you can find a lot of posts about Scotland on Tripsget. Make sure to check them out! I particularly recommend this 7-day road trip itinerary for Scotland and 15+ bucket list destinations in Scotland.
In this post, I will focus on the cheap things to do in Edinburgh, so you can spend your weekend in Edinburgh on a budget (or, perhaps, you’re studying in Edinburgh and just looking for affordable things to do in Edinburgh for students). If you’re looking for absolutely free things, head to this post about 15 free things to do in Edinburgh!
Cheap things to do in Edinburgh | Edinburgh on a budget
Edinburgh is a must-visit place in the United Kingdom. It has its own atmosphere and it doesn’t look like any other capital in the entire world. In case you don’t know, Edinburgh is a Capital of Scotland. It’s not a big city – its population doesn’t exceed 500,000 people and it’s not even the biggest city in Scotland (that place is taken by Glasgow). Edinburgh has 4 Universities, the most famous one being the University of Edinburgh and it’s needless to say that it’s always full of students.
Despite the enormous number of students in the city, Edinburgh is pretty expensive. The rent can be pricy (you can barely find a one-bedroom flat for £700 per month); restaurants are expensive and, of course, the main landmarks and the top sightseeing spots are also pretty pricey. Restaurants can easily be the same price as in London, especially if you want to visit the most stunning restaurants like the Witchery by the Castle, for example.
However, without some useful tips and lifehacks, you might end up spending a lot of money in Edinburgh. Let’s start with some useful tips first, then continue with accommodation – I will tell you where to find cheap accommodation in Edinburgh and finally, we’ll go ahead with the cheap things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland!
How to visit Edinburgh on a budget: things you need to know before planning your trip to Edinburgh
Alright, if you don’t have unlimited budget (who does though?), here are some things you need to know before even starting to plan your trip to Edinburgh.
Avoid visiting Edinburgh end of June – beginning of July (summer graduations), August (Edinburgh Festivals) and November (winter graduations) as well mid-December – 2nd of January (Christmas Market & Christmas Holidays). The city gets insanely busy, prices for accommodation and even food skyrocket and visiting Edinburgh is just not such a nice experience anymore, as the city will be very crowded. So crowded, that you can barely walk in some narrow streets in the city centre.
If you’re planning to visit Edinburgh in winter, you need to know that the weather can be pretty rough. In my personal opinion, the best time to visit Edinburgh is April, May, beginning of June, September and October. However, if you want to see the city being very empty, go in January, February or beginning of November.
Where to find cheap accommodation in Edinburgh, Scotland
If you’re only visiting Edinburgh for a weekend or for 3-4 days, I recommend booking a guesthouse or a hostel. I’ve got a separate post about the best hostels in Edinburgh and the best affordable guesthouses in Edinburgh. The rule in Edinburgh like in many other places is that the further is accommodation from the city centre, the cheaper it is. Don’t be afraid to stay far away, as Edinburgh is a small city, so it wouldn’t take you longer than 30-40 minutes to get to the city centre even from the Ocean Terminal (and the buses are cheap). Two good cheap B&Bs in Edinburgh I can recommend are Bohemian B&B and Minto House.
Avoid coming in August at all costs (unless you want to specifically visit Edinburgh Fringe), as you’ll pay 2-3 times more for the same accommodation.
If you’re coming to Edinburgh for a longer period of time, it makes sense to check Gumtree or student groups on Facebook like Edinroom, as many students sublet their rooms and apartments, when they are leaving home for holidays, mid-term breaks and for other reasons.
Alright, we already discussed some things you need to know before coming to Edinburgh and some really cheap places to stay in Edinburgh. Let’s go ahead with the best affordable things to do in Edinburgh!
The best cheap things to do in Edinburgh: Weekend in Edinburgh on a budget
1. Visit one of the free museums in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has many amazing free museums. My favourite is the National Museum of Scotland. Moreover, it has a stunning rooftop terrace, from where you can see the entire city! For more free things to do in Edinburgh, you can check my post about 15 absolutely free things to do in Edinburgh.
2. Instead of the hop-on-hop-off tour, buy a day bus ticket
Many people opt-in for the hop-on-hop-off tour of Edinburgh, as it’s a good way to see the entire city within a short period of time. However, pretty much all the buses in Edinburgh are double-deckers and the weather is almost always rainy, so spare your money and buy a daily bus ticket instead – for £4.5 you can take unlimited bus rides. If you want to see the city without paying £4.5 for the bus ticket, well, you can. The city centre isn’t that big, so you can walk everywhere. The only problem could be getting from/ to your accommodation. Unless it’s in the city centre, you will need to take public transport at some point.
3. Take a “cheap” bus from/to the airport
Another hack that most tourists don’t know is that in Edinburgh, you don’t need to take the Airlink or the tram to get to the city centre. You can take a regular bus 35 for £1.8 one way. AirLink costs £4.5 one way and the tram costs even more, so if you’re on a very tight budget, you can consider taking the bus 35. The only problem is that this bus can take a lot of time, longer than 1 hour. However, it passes through the entire city, so sometimes, it could be easier for you to just take bus 35 and descend 5 minutes away from your accommodation.
I’ve taken bus 35 a countless number of times and it never failed.
4. Go on a affordable city tour
Another great way to discover Edinburgh on a budget is by going on an affordable city tour. So first of all, there is a free walking tour that you can take. At the end of the tour, you can just tip your guide an appropriate amount (e.g. £3-7 per person). You can find all the information on this website. Also, there is a very affordable Witch tour of the city – the prices start from £5 per person, which is a real bargain! You can book it online here.
5. Buy meal deals in a supermarket
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-operative supermarkets are literally on every corner in Edinburgh. If you’re on a budget in Edinburgh, meal deals from these chains could be a lifesaver. If you haven’t heard of a meal deal concept before, basically, it lets you choose a sandwich or a wrap, a drink and a snack for just £3 or £3.5. If you don’t want to get a meal deal, you can always buy a salad or sushi set from one of these supermarkets.
6. Eat in budget-friendly student spots
If your budget allows and you’re willing to pay slightly more for food, hurray, there are plenty of affordable food spots in the city. You don’t need to be a student to enjoy these places, as they are available to everyone.
Naturally, most of cheap restaurants and bars in Edinburgh are located close to the Universities. The majority are located close to the University of Edinburgh Old College & Bristo Square. When you get hungry, just head there and pick one of these affordable food spots in Edinburgh:
The Union of Genius for a hearty soup (£5)
Ting Thai Caravan for a selection of affordable Thai food (£6-8)
Kebab Majal (They do a really good Shish kebab there for £5-7)
Mosque Kitchen (Very cheap Indian curries)
Olly Bongo’s – Turkish / Greek food – huge portions for £7-8
BBurger – you can get a great burger for £5-8
Wings – a super popular wings place (you need to book in advance or queue), where you can get 3 chicken wings with a sauce of your choice for £6 (don’t remember the exact price and couldn’t find it online, but in 2017, it was £5).
Enough cheap restaurants in Edinburgh? Let’s talk about cheap pubs and bars!
7. Visit cheap bars
The pubs and bars in the city centre are quite expensive, so again, move towards the University of Edinburgh, in the Teviot Row House there is the University of Edinburgh Library bar where you can find pretty cheap beers and simple drinks like gin tonic. Also, if you go down the Causewayside, you can find plenty of affordable pubs as well! The Three Sisters is one of the best pubs to visit in Edinburgh and they also have a fabulous pub quiz, where they will feed you free Mac & Cheese.
Another fabulous spot for going out in Edinburgh is the Standing Order Wetherspoon Pub located in the former bank. They kept the stunning interior, so it’s one of the most impressive Wetherspoons in the entire United Kingdom. And well, with the Wetherspoon you know the drill – it’s very cheap (both drinks and food are very cheap).
And if you’re looking for a night out and thinking of visiting a nightclub, Hive Edinburgh does nights, where drinks only cost £1!
8. Play golf in Brunsfield Links
The last of the cheap things to do in Edinburgh is actually playing gold in Brunsfield Links – one of the oldest golf courses in the world. You probably won’t have golf gear with you, but you can hire it there for less than £5 and see if playing golf is up to your liking or not!
I hope you enjoyed this post about the best cheap things to do in Edinburgh and tips on how to spend a weekend in Edinburgh on a budget. We talked about affordable hotels in Edinburgh, best time to visit Edinburgh for budget travellers and some amazing cheap restaurants and bars in Edinburgh.
Check some of my other posts in Edinburgh if you’re interested:
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