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Edinburgh: The festival city on a budget

8th August 2019

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Summer is here and many will visit the world famous Edinburgh International Festival. We asked our writer Charlotte Lorimer, who knows the city well, to share insider savings tips that are good for festival time and the whole year around.


Travel

One of the best things about Edinburgh is that you can walk almost everywhere. When the distance is too far (or the rain is too heavy), a single bus ticket within the City Zone costs £1.70 or you can get unlimited journeys on buses and the tram for £4.00 per day.

There are also the very handy Just Eat Cycle docks dotted around the centre. For £1.50, you can hire a bike for an hour or it’s £3 for a day pass with unlimited journeys up to one hour each. One of many beautiful routes is the path alongside the Water of Leith, which takes you to Dean Village.

Dean Village in Edinburgh
Dean Village, Edinburgh

For those using public transport frequently, travel cards save lots of money over the year. A Ridacard for buses and the tram costs £57 for 4 weeks or £665 for the year. For Just Eat Cycles, annual membership is £90.

Free parking in Edinburgh can be hard to find. But there are a few restaurants that offer free parking, including Beetroot Sauvage. This family-friendly café also offers free yoga at 10am on Fridays and often has 2 for 1 deals on its vegan mac and cheese.

Eating out

If you want to find great food on a budget, it often pays to follow the students: try The Nile Valley café for wraps or the Mosque Kitchen for curry. If you bring your own tupperware to the Union of Genius, you’ll get your soup for free or you can pay for it anyway and choose to donate it to someone in need.

“Chez Jules is a rustic and inexpensive restaurant on Hanover St,” says Edinburgh-based teacher Zara Clark. “Its wonderful appeal is its candlelit charm and reasonable prices: classic dishes aren’t going to break the bank with gorgeous steak frites for under a tenner. Whilst browsing the ’pocket money prices’ cocktail list, a beautiful basket of fresh baguettes, crudites and a selection of cured meats appears - all on the house. Chez Jules is the place to go.”

Groceries

For household essentials, wander over to The Refillery, a plastic-free grocer where you can bring your own containers and fill up on everything from pasta to paprika. You can also bring along bottles for washing up liquid or detergent.

If you do your weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, remember your Nectar card - points can be redeemed against train tickets from Edinburgh to Newcastle, York or London on London North Eastern Railway (LNER).

Accommodation

For visitors to Edinburgh, you might want to consider The Baxter, a central hostel with a beautiful kitchen, friendly staff and a nice common room if you’re feeling sociable. There are also slightly cheaper hostels dotted along Cowgate, such as Safestay and Stay Central, both with very helpful staff and located near the lively pub, The Three Sisters. Of course there’s always the option to explore the thousands of properties listed on Airbnb.

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

If you do fall in love with Edinburgh and decide to move there, you could look into flat shares for great value accommodation. There is an abundance of centrally located Georgian and Victorian houses and tenements, with gorgeous high-ceilings and winding stairs, ideal to share with two or three flatmates. When I checked the website SpareRoom, there were flat shares within walking distance of Princes Street listed for just £350 per month.

Entertainment

Along with London and Oxford, Edinburgh is one of the most expensive places in the UK for a pint, according to SaveTheStudent. But at Shandwick’s near Princes Street Gardens, pints are just £1.80. At Greenmantle Bar & Kitchen, it’s 10% cheaper for students and 2 for 1 on desserts every Sunday. Brass Monkey and The Wally Dug are cosy pubs with board games and weekly pub quizzes. Brass Monkey also sometimes has daytime cinema screenings.

The majority of museums and galleries are free. Edinburgh Castle has a sizeable entry fee of almost £20, however it is free to visit the Scottish National War Memorial.

The Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh
The Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle

Built between 1923 and 1927, it took a team of more than two hundred Scottish craftsmen to create this memorial building. It was also designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who happens to be my great grandfather. The space is lit through beautiful stained glass windows by Douglas Strachan. Don’t miss the sculptures dedicated to horses and other animals that lost their lives through wars, sculpted by Phyllis Bone.

St Anthony’s Chapel in Edinburgh
St Anthony’s Chapel, King Arthur’s Seat

Beyond Holyrood Palace is King Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that gives wonderful views over the city. For other free and green spaces, head to the Royal Botanic Garden, where you’ll find everything from a real Scottish heather garden, to Edinburgh’s oldest palm tree, dating from 1822.

For those heading to the Fringe Festival this August, there are hundreds of free shows to enjoy. Try the Half Price Hut just off Princes Street for daily deals. You can also find discounts through the Fringe app.

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