Last Fall I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Bradford, England.

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While I was there, I was able to explore many places in the UK.  Although I loved Bradford, Edinburgh caught my eye and became my favorite destination.  Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is the seventh most populous city in the UK and it attracts over one million visitors a year. It is the birthplace of many attractions that tell the story of how Scotland began. JK Rowling, the famous author of the Harry Potter novels, actually wrote her first novel in a café located in Edinburgh. If you’re an avid reader like I am, you know how exciting it is to see a place where such great inspiration was born.

Although I was just there for a weekend, I was able to go to many destinations and explore the best of Scotland for only £60. Yes, with extensive research we only managed to spend £60, including the hostel!  The good thing about Edinburgh is that it has many free exhibits and the view is also free!  If you have the opportunity to go to Edinburgh, here are a few places I recommend you visit:

1. Grass market (Cost: Free)

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The Grass market is located below the famous Edinburgh Castle. It is one of main wonders of Edinburgh, running all the way through the city centure.  It is the home to many painters, photographers, jewelry sellers, and is the perfect place to take a walk, even in the cold weather. There are various performers along the street that take up volunteers to help them out, so watch out where you step! The area is surrounded by pubs, shops, clubs, and delicious restaurants that make it hard to pick a favorite. My favorite coffee shop was The Edinburgh Larder, a small shop with no more than six tables and a few shelves. There’s a wide selection of coffees, teas, and their brunch is phenomenal.

2. National Museum of Scotland: (Cost: Free)

What better way to learn about Scotland than visiting the place where it all started. You can find anything from Scottish antiques and archaeology, history, culture, arts, worldcultures, technology, science, and natural sciences occurrences. It also has the Royal Museum which shows you the life of the Royals and their famous jewelry commissioned by Mary Queen of Scots. It is definitely one of the best museums I have ever been to. It took us four hours in total to visit the whole museum, and even then we were missing a few exhibits.  The best part of all was this is was absolutely free!

3. Edinburgh Dungeon (Cost: £12-16)

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Although the name sounds terrifying, don’t worry, the Edinburgh Dungeon is one of the most exciting exhibits in Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh Dungeon is a visitor attraction filled with a talented actors, stages, scenes and special effects showing the history of Scotland.

Old historic figures, villains, rouges, rascals, and ‘victims’ tell people their story and their personal experiences.  Every actor portrays their persona throughout the event that occurred, teaching you the history of Edinburgh.  The best part is that the Dungeons are not only in Edinburgh, but in various parts of the UK as well (I visited the one in London and York), each with a different theme. It is by far one of the best experiences of my time in England. Tickets usually sell for £16. A friendly tip would be buying the tickets online, since they usually run 20% cheaper. Check out their website for more information on the prices!

4. Edinburgh Castle (Cost:  £16.50)

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Edinburgh Castle is the perfect spot to look over the entire city. Located in the heart of Edinburgh and built on volcanic rocks, it is home of the famous Scottish Crown jewels. It also houses the Stone of Destiny, the National l War Museum of Scotland, and the 15th century gun Mons Meg.  It was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards.

The oldest part of the castle is the St. Margaret’s Chapel from the twelfth century.  There is an audio tour that explains the history of the castle. If you aren’t scared easily, go visit the jail cells. They show how prisoners were held and how their life was during their time imprisoned. It took us about 3 hours to round the whole castle, and we even got to experience how real cannon were used. Prices for adults can range from £16.50.

5. Arthur’s Seat (Cost: Free)

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Get ready to climb, get dirty, and explore the highest green side of Scotland. It is the main peak of the group of hills in Scotland right in the center of Edinburgh. The hill rises about the city showing a great panoramic view of it. It is located on a dormant volcano sitting 251m above sea level, dated from around 2000 years ago!  It is called Arthurs seat due to the legend of King Arthur and is sometime mentioned as one of the possible location for Camelot. My number one tip for Arthur’s Seat would be to bring water bottles!

Interested in traveling to Edinburgh? Search for a cheap student flight, pick out your hostel or hotel (hostels are a great place to stay if you are looking to meet other travelers, often from every corner of the world) and go! It is one of the most beautiful places I have visited and the scenery surprised me with every step I took.

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    About Silke Jasso