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6 Things to Do on a Budget in Edinburgh

February 16, 2016

ISEP student Leigh B. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a third year kinesiology student from Louisiana State University, and studying sociology while abroad at University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom.

View from up high of Edinburgh, Scotland with student sitting down
View from up high of Edinburgh, Scotland with student sitting down

Scotland is a wonderful place to visit. The scenery is beautiful, the buildings are wondrous, and the people are super friendly. If you’re looking for some things to do in the capital city Edinburgh but you have a strict budget, you might want to look into stopping by at the following spots!

1. The Cowgate Hostel

Staying overnight? There are many hostels around, but I certainly recommend this one. It’s right in the center of the city, about a minute walk from the Royal Mile. For my stay there, location was key. We were able to walk to see everything we wanted to see. The staff are nice, and depending on the day and room type it costs about 11 pounds per person. This may seem a little pricey for a hostel, but you get your money’s worth. The rooms are clean and warm, and you have access to a toilet and shower, kitchen, free internet and luggage storage. They ask for a 20 pound note at check-in to exchange for the key, but at they end of your stay they will give it back to you. You also can’t beat the location. Click here for their website and more information!

2. The National Gallery

Do you enjoy art? Visiting the National Gallery is a delight, and it is free! There is no entry charge, but if you wish to donate, there are collection bins scattered throughout the museum. You will find work dating back to the 1300s and also more modern pieces. You can find pieces from Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Nicolas Poussin and many more. If you’re a backpacker, be prepared for reception to ask you to hold your backpack in hand or put it in a locker for a small fee.

Olive Trees painting by Vincent van Gogh
Olive Trees painting by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees

3. The Elephant House

Calling all Harry Potter fans! The Elephant House is a little cafe located not too far from the Royal Mile. This place is an excellent venue to sit down and have a snack or eat a full meal. The atmosphere is cozy and the food is inexpensive. On their website, there is a list of reasons why you should visit the cafe. One of them rang very true for the group I went with. “It will bring back warm memories.” We sat down in the back room, the same room where J.K. Rowling sat down to write her Harry Potter novels. We got to talking about favorite childhood memories, and things I had forgotten came flooding back to me. In the cafe you can forget your worries, and just have a nice time whether you’re by yourself or with friends. It is worth a visit!

"Visit the birthplace of Harry Potter" The Elephant House coffee shop brochure
“Visit the birthplace of Harry Potter” The Elephant House coffee shop brochure

4. Finnegan’s Wake

After a stop at the Elephant House, you might want to enjoy the local nightlife! Finnegan’s Wake is an Irish Pub, and was personally one of my favorite spots to visit in the city. With a valid university ID, there are student discounts every day. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. Everyone there is there to have a chat and a good time with friends. They also have Irish bands playing frequently, and the fun energy and laughter of everyone around is contagious. Even if you aren’t there to buy a pint, I recommend visiting this pub to experience the music and great atmosphere it has to offer. You can even catch a football game! Get there early, because the queue can get pretty long when the band begins to play. Check out the event information here.

5. Greggs

Before stopping at the sixth item on this list, get a quick bite to eat at Greggs. Greggs is a deli that serves all sorts of things from sandwiches to soups or pasta. You can also get a hot drink like coffee. Like Finnegan’s Wake, with a valid university ID, you can get a full lunch for just 3 pounds! That includes a drink, an entree and a free pasty or sweet. There are numerous locations throughout the city; you don’t have to walk far to spot one. But this is a good place to fuel up before trekking on to the next and final stop on this list.

6. Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano rising up more than 800 feet. There are many trails from which you can hike to the top. If you are in Edinburgh, you should definitely come here. Plan to take some time out of your trip though, as it takes awhile to get to the top. And once you’re there, you’ll want to spend time taking in the view and snapping some pictures. You can see the magnificent city from the top and point out things like Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument. You can see past the city to the snow-covered hills and to the water beyond. It isn’t the easiest thing to do climbing up to the top; take a few breaks and see the different points of view from different faces of the hill. Even if you’re afraid of heights, it is worth going to the top. The sense of accomplishment and the view are worth the journey up, and there is no fee for the climb.

Landscape of Scotland and an extinct volcano called Arthur's Seat
Landscape of Scotland and an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat
View of Scottish landscape from extinct volcano
View of Scottish landscape from extinct volcano
student posing on top of Arthur's Seat extinct volcano
student posing on top of Arthur’s Seat extinct volcano

Now go on and enjoy exploring the great city that is Edinburgh, Scotland!

*Liked what Leigh had to say about Edinburgh? You can study in Edinburgh with ISEP at Edinburgh Napier University. Find out more on the ISEP website.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.*

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