Visiting Edinburgh on a budget is possible, as the city offers plenty to do and see for free.
Edinburgh has been listed as one of the most expensive cities in the UK, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy its beauty and what has to offer, whilst keeping an eye on the budget.
Continue to read to see how we enjoyed a 4 day weekend in Edinburgh on a budget.
Booking travel and accommodation for our holiday in Edinburgh on a budget
I’ve always wanted to visit Edinburgh, but every time we looked at flights, the prices were constantly so high we decided to book somewhere else.
This time, we researched both flights and trains and managed to find a good deal!
Flights were at around £140 return per person, from London Stansted to Edinburgh airport. If we decided to purchase the tickets, we’d have to add £16 return bus ticket to the airport. For a total of £156 per person. A bit too high for a long weekend away.
Fortunately, we managed to find a better deal travelling by train.
Personally, I love travelling by train. It’s great to look out of the window and see the beautiful landscape the UK has to offer. I also find it somewhat romantic and nostalgic, even if we were travelling on the new and comfortable LNER train, instead of the Orient Express!
The cost of the train journey London to Edinburgh was £78 return per person. Luckily, we didn’t need to purchase the train from our town to London as we both have a season ticket as we commute to London for work every day. But we had to pay for the tube in London (£4.80 pp return).
Total is £82.80. Much better.
The train was so cheap thanks to the Two Together rail card.
What is the Two together Railcard?
It is a Railcard offered by national rail and for only £30 you get 1/3 off train tickets. The card is for you and the person you travel the most with. It is valid for a year across Great Britain. Basically you can use it anytime except morning peak (commuters) time. My partner and I have been using it for the past few years now, and we saved over £70 between us on this journey alone.
So accommodation in Edinburgh centre can be quite pricey as in any touristy town. We didn’t want airbnb or anything fancy, just somewhere to sleep and shower. The idea was, weather permitting, to be out all day exploring the city, given we only had 3 days (Spoiler alert: we did most of the days).
Having searched the main comparative sites for a good deal, we decided to pick the Hub by Premier Inn for an amazing £43.00 per night
What is a Hub hotel?
The hub by Premier Inn hotel offers the comforts of the well known Premier Inn in very compact and modern rooms.
The rooms have everything you need, including hi-tech lighting system and TV, and a bathroom as well. All in a reduced space.
In all honesty, that worked perfectly for us, because we travelled light with only a rucksack each, so we were happy to compromise on space but not on quality.
The location was also perfect, surrounded by pubs and restaurants, and a couple of minutes walk to princes Street. We could even see the Edinburgh Castle from our window!
Itinerary and Daily Expenses
Edinburgh holiday – day one
We arrived in Edinburgh around 3:00 pm and it was windy and rainy. Not the best welcome, however the weather was meant to clear soon so we decided to head straight to the hotel (less than 10 minutes walk) to leave our bags, warm up and get ready to go out and explore the town!
Firstly we decided to visit a museum to wait for the weather to improve, so we decided to head to the National Galleries of Scotland. I was extremely surprised when I found out there was an exhibition of my favourite painter, J.M.W. Turner – how lucky is that?
After a good hour in the museum, we went for some food in a local café. Next, given it was getting dark, we went for a walk in the Old Town and the Christmas market that was on in Princes Street Gardens.
In the evening the rain stopped but it was pretty chilly for a southerner like me, so we went for a cake and coffee before heading back to the hotel for a hot shower.
Provisions for the train: Two coffees at Caffe’ Nero for £5.40 and (ehm) four croissants at Waitrose at King’s Cross Station for £3.04
Late lunch/early dinner: Rose Street Café, where we had some lovely falafel salad (me) and wrap (my partner) for a total of £18.39
Evening cake and coffee: £5.80 at Caffe’ Nero.
Edinburgh holiday – day two
The first full day was packed with touristy stuff, and walking up and down the hills.
First stop after breakfast, a walking tour.
Wherever we go, we like to do walking tours. Every city offers walking tours on a variety of subjects linked to what’s popular in the area. Edinburgh is very rich in history so the tours were mainly around that, and Harry Potter of course!
We went for a history of the town, and for two hours we walked around the town centre following an expert guide telling us all sort of things around the history of Edinburgh and Scotland in general. We find it’s a great way to see the main attractions whilst learning something new.
There are a lot of walking tours available in town and some cost £15 per person, but given we wanted to visit Edinburgh on a budget, we picked a free tour, where at the end you pay what you feel the tour was worth. Between the two of us we tend to give £10.00 (unless the tour guide is amazing), so I personally think it’s a bargain for a great overview of the town and some fun facts about Edinburgh.
For example, did you know that the national animal of Scotland is the unicorn?
Afterwards, we went to the Edinburgh castle which was our biggest expense, even more than dinner!
But it was worth it to see the rooms of Mary, Queen of Scots and the amazing views from up the hill.
Breakfast: Veggie full English and two coffees for £12.90 at Filling station. The bill was meant to be higher but the waitress forgot to order our food to the kitchen so we got the coffees for free. Works for me – we were not in a rush!
Walking tour: £10.00 for a two hours walking tour.
Entry to the castle: £39.00 (ouch, that still hurts). There is a £2.00 discount if you book online, but we were not that organised this time around.
Snack: Cakes and coffee for £10.20
Dinner: vegan dinner at holy cow for £ 27.95
Special mention to Holy Cow because dinner was AMAZING, and I wish I took pictures but I was greedy and only wanted to eat. We had a quarter pounder burger and Carrot Lox sandwich which tasted like salmon I swear! Portions were very generous and we were so full, but we ordered cake anyway, because cake is life. We went for banana bread (for him) and chocolate and peanut butter cake (for me). Go and check out their instagram page here.
Edinburgh holiday – day three
After the expensive visit to the castle the day before, we wanted to keep it cheap for the day. Luckily there is plenty to see that doesn’t cost a thing!
First stop, Dean Village.
Dean Village is a bucolic village in the middle of Edinburgh, just a short walk from Princes Street. It’s a great place for a quiet walk and definitely one of my favourite places in Edinburgh – it just feels like going back in time!
After that we walked around the New Town, Carlton Hill and the Old Carlton Cemetery, then to the Museum of Scotland and Greyfriars kirkyard.
Greyfriars kirkyard is where J.K. Rowling used to go in her lunch break and you can find tombs that inspired some of the characters in Harry Potter!
None of these locations cost a penny, perfect if you want to visit Edinburgh on a budget.
Breakfast: leftover cake from the night before
Lunch: we stopped at Pep & Fodder for a sandwich and hot drink, for £14.20
Snack: No visit to Edinburgh would be complete without eating a Haggis, I’ve been told, so we got that for £5.70 in a local chip shop (I only had one tiny bit)
Dinner: Vegan again at one of the most popular vegan restaurants in Edinburgh, Hendersons £28.25
Edinburgh holiday – day four
Day 4 and it was time to go back home with a 11:00 train. We had time for a breakfast at the hotel and some more walking around the old town. It was great to see it so quiet and say our goodbyes!
Breakfast: the hotel offered a buffet breakfast so we literally stuffed ourselves for £10.00
Provisions for the train: meal deal from Sainsbury’s for £6.00
Total cost for the Holiday in Edinburgh: £491.43
We loved our city break in Edinburgh and tried to keep it on a budget whenever possible, even though we did treat ourselves to some nicer dinners that have brought the cost up a bit. Still thinking about the chocolate and peanut butter cake from Holy Cow, I don’t regret it one bit!
This holiday was totally cash funded, we didn’t use credit cards or loans. Thanks to our budgeting method – check it out here.