You’ll never struggle to find something to do in Edinburgh on a budget. The Scottish capital has everything our adventurous hearts desire, from vibrant nightlife to the perfect spots for that Insta-worthy snap. As you’ll see in this blog post, many of our most loved things to do in Edinburgh are easily accessible and affordable for students and travellers who don’t have big bucks to spend.
We’re Dylan and Olivia, Hostelworld Student Explorers from Edinburgh. We want to tell you why our city is the perfect place to explore for students and travellers alike. Without further ado, let’s introduce you to Edinburgh!
Alternative things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is full of incredible things to do, so many of which are absolutely free! But if you already know about the must-visit attractions and are looking for some lesser-known and budget-friendly insider tips, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our picks of alternative things to do in Edinburgh on a budget.
A cheap bus ticket of £1.70 (or a longer walk for free) can get you to fish and chips beside the beach in Edinburgh. There’s an arcade nearby which is fun to play at and if the weather is good you can’t beat a day of sunbathing – yes, in Edinburgh, we’re not joking! For a nice break from busy city life, look no further.
A slightly more expensive find, but completely worth a mini-splurge, is the World of Illusions at Camera Obscura. It’s the oldest visitor attraction in Edinburgh filled with optical illusions, special effects, lights, mirrors and rooftop views of the city – and it may leave you feeling a little wonky afterwards! The price for students is £14 or £16 for adults. It’s open from 9-9 all week, staying open an hour later on Saturdays.
If you’re feeling historical and in the mood for a scare, a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeons should be on your list. You’ll find yourself laughing, screaming and learning more about the city as you travel through Edinburgh from below. There’s a student discount available on tickets, and if you’re feeling particularly brave a local ghost tour is recommended too.
If you’re travelling to Edinburgh in the summer, expect to see heaps of people chilling out in the Meadows with barbeques, music and drinks. This buzzing park is a place that can bring the whole city together and is the ideal spot to just relax with friends for a picnic (with a spot of day drinking), or alone with a good book. It’s totally free and very close to the city centre, so it couldn’t be easier to visit.
Edinburgh is the heart of rugby and home to Murrayfield, the biggest stadium in Britain. If you’re a rugby fanatic or just enjoy a day out with some competition, grabbing a ticket to a game here would be a treat. Don’t worry though if this is out of your price range, or you just can’t get hold of a precious Six Nations ticket – there are plenty of cheap games going on throughout the year. The local universities even play an ancient rivalry match there once a year in September, which is the stuff of Edinburgh legend and only costs a fiver.
Best bars in Edinburgh
For all you party lovers out there, the nightlife in Edinburgh does not disappoint! Regardless of the vibe you’re into, you’ll find the perfect club for you here.
Get ready for our local insights into the best bars and clubs Edinburgh has to offer, as well as insider tips on where the tastiest student discounts can be found!
Situated on the doorstep of Edinburgh University’s central campus, The Pear Tree is one of the most iconic student bars in the city. This is the perfect place to hang out on sunny days (we do get them, we promise) in their famous beer garden. Hours can be spent watching your favourite sports team on the big screen or listening to an array of live music from local talent. Student discounts are available on selected drinks, the most important of course being Tennents – an absolute must in Scotland!
One of the most popular bars in the Cowgate (the heart of Edinburgh’s nightlife), The Three Sisters is the best place to socialise and meet new people if you’re travelling solo. Hosting numerous sports teams from all the universities across the city always makes for a lively atmosphere. For the cheapest deals, visit the Union Bar upstairs: a two-pint stein for £4 with a student card is an offer too good to resist!
Gari’s is not the biggest club, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in consistently providing the wildest nights! Whether you’re drinking Gari’s specials or swinging around on the pole in the middle of the dancefloor, a great night is guaranteed in this student favourite. What’s even better is that it’s free entry every night apart from Saturday – but we all know students and travellers can go hard mid-week.
Best cheap eats in Edinburgh
After one too many shots the night before in Garibaldi’s, you’re bound to need a proper feasting the next morning. But if like us you don’t want to spend a fortune, these are our favourite places to eat in Edinburgh on a budget.
Famous for its towering Nachos – which it claims to be the largest in the city – this pub/bistro has an awesome rocky vibe and is found in the south of Edinburgh. Not only does it have you covered for veggie/vegan finds, but its quirky character and charm is like no other. For £21 you and your mates can tackle a heaving plate of their iconic nachos, which you likely won’t finish, but it’s worth taking on the challenge!
This family-run spot is a newbie on the Edinburgh foodie scene. A small, Insta-friendly restaurant which is a Persian street food wonderland – they started off as a food truck touring festivals and events across the country. They offer some seriously good vegan options, plus a range of gluten free goodies and an amazing steak board. This place is made special by the actual black oven in the centre of the restaurant.
Just off the grass market, this place has the best maca bowls (we’re not 100% sure what they are but they’re delicious and healthy), plus some seriously cool drinks and smoothies. If you’re in need of a plant-based refreshing lunch or snack, Hula can help you wash away last night’s sins. Our favourite has to be their special green latte, waking you up with a burst of health.
A relatively new café, Considerit has brought world class donuts right to the fingertips of Edinburgh students. They’ve created the most mouth-watering vegan donuts we’ve ever tried, with flavours including Lotus biscuit, Oreo, glazed, salted caramel… the list goes on, but let’s stop before we all start drooling! They also do vegan Creme Eggs which is seriously cool. If you’re crafty and arrive near closing time all their freshly baked donuts are buy one get one free!
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities not just in the UK, but in the whole world – and we’re not just saying that because we’re biased. This means there are loads of picturesque areas to stay – all within close distance of the city centre!
For all the best bits of Edinburgh rolled into one, the Grassmarket is the place to be. Bars aplenty surround the main square, with the always busy Cowgate clubs just around the corner. All the traveller’s must-see attractions are within walking distance, including Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum. A varied mixture of local restaurants allows for exploring the local cuisine, not forgetting the market itself on a Saturday.
As for where to stay in Edinburgh on a budget, we’ve got you covered. Kick Ass Greyfriars is the one for you! The chance to socialise with fellow backpackers is one of the best bits about this Grassmarket located hostel. Party lovers will enjoy the large social space and fun events that are put on to explore the local area – the bar crawl being a highlight! The quirky design features neon signs and a VW campervan café/bar, so it’s an Instagrammer’s dream too.
Find more hostels in Edinburgh here.
Whether you’re here for a few days or a week, we want you to witness the best hidden gems that our city has to offer. It truly is a beautiful city with a lot of character, so try and experience as much of Edinburgh on a budget as you can. Let us know if you’re adding Edinburgh to your travel bucket list, and if you have any of your own local tips to share, post them in the comments!