Are you looking for the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids? Fortunately, we are exploring this beautiful city with our four children for several months, so I am compiling a list of our favorite adventures! Whether your children are toddlers or teenagers, Edinburgh is a great place offering plenty of options to keep your whole family busy throughout the year.
The Royal Mile
You will definitely want to take your kids along the Royal Mile to get a general feel for the city. The Royal Mile runs through the center of Old Town of Edinburgh, running between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat. This is one of the best places to see and hear some street performers or tuck into a fun Scottish gift shop in the city centre.
This area can get quite crowded in the evenings and on weekends, particularly in the spring and summer. Be sure to keep a close eye on your children and talk to them about how to find you if you are separated. We keep our toddler in a stroller or baby carrier as we walk through to keep her close. With our older children, we make sure they know our cell phone number and tell them to walk into a nearby shop and look for help, if needed.
If your kids are not used to walking through cities, you may also want to have a conversation about staying safe crossing streets and how to read street signs. Our kids love pressing the pedestrian request buttons at red light intersections, so that is a fun novelty for them.
Also, if you are coming from the U.S., it takes a minute to adjust to looking left and then right due to the different flow of traffic in the UK. Also, be aware of bicycle lanes! It is not as intense as walking through Amsterdam, but you don’t want to be run over by cyclists and delivery people.
Camera Obscura is a fun, quirky museum located right on the Royal Mile, only a short distance from the base of Edinburgh Castle. Our eight year old son immediately spied this museum with the fun view mirrors near the sidewalk and knew we had to try it! The “museum” is made up on five floors with over 100 different illusions for kids and adults to explore.
Camera Obscura has plenty of interactive exhibits revolving around the world of illusions. Kids learn about electricity, optical illusions, sound, light and magic. Our older kids especially loved the mirror maze and the vortex tunnel. (If you have vertigo, make sure to avoid those exhibits!)
The top floor offers great views of the whole city skyline and Edinburgh Castle. It’s a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon! It is a popular attraction in the heart of Edinburgh, so be sure to book tickets in advance. Currently, you have to book both the date and an entry time. We did see some people being turned away without tickets because they were sold out, so be sure to make a booking before you go!
If your kids have souvenir money, Camera Obscura has a fun gift shop that you will walk through as you exit (always smart marketing!) Our kids love the magic trick sets, the candy, and the building models throughout the store. Just set a budget before you go and remember the conversion rate between dollars and the GBP.
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland is one of our favorite activities and a great attraction for both our toddler and our older children. The museum offers free entry and is located on Chambers Street in Edinburgh. The National Museum is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM.
The Grand Gallery as you enter features the Giant Deer skeleton, a skull of the huge Moby the Whale, and a massive machine used to smash atoms. Kids can also explore Scottish history with Celtic, Roman and Viking artifacts. You can also read up on Mary, Queen of Scots on Level 1.
The Animal World creatures and habitats also create lots of excitement in our household. Check out polar bears, giraffes, arctic foxes, and more! I learned a lot with my kids on our last trip, and since the museum is free, we can always drop in and learn a bit more.
If you and your family want to take in a fantastic view of Edinburgh, climbing Calton Hill is a great way to take it all in. You can see Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, Parliament, Princes Street and the Royal Mile from far above the city.
There are plenty of beautiful monuments to explore on Calton HIll, as well. They include the National Monument which is based upon the Parthenon in Athens. The Nelson Monument and the Time Ball are fun to take in as well. The City Observatory is worth a look too!
You can find the entrance to Calton Hill at the east end of Princes Street onto Regent Road. There is an entrance and stairs up to Calton HIll from there. There is also another entrance from Royal Terrace on the north side near Leith Walk. Be sure to take it all in while visiting Edinburgh!
Be sure to dress in layers if going up Calton Hill. It can get quite windy at the top, so you may want to include a hat and gloves, particularly during the winter and fall. Of course, remember to wear appropriate footwear and socks. Our kids are famous for wearing short socks that get eaten by their shoes…try to avoid our mistakes!
Arthur’s Seat is another fantastic place to take in great views of Edinburgh. It is located in Holyrood Park, at the end of the Royal Mile. This large hill is actually the remnants of an extinct volcano that is believed to have erupted 350 million years ago.
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point of the volcano. Multiple color coded paths go up to Arthur’s Seat and you can pick the one best suited for your family. Start your path near Holyrood Palace and take the green route to get up to Arthur’s Seat, if you want a smooth, steady path to the top. It will take 30-60 minutes to reach the top at a typical pace. Be sure to bring a toddler backpack or baby carrier to carry little ones!
It will be windy at the top, so be prepared with hats and jackets, if needed! Also, wear appropriate shoes to make it up and down the highest point in Edinburgh easily. It is also a great spot for a picnic or a snack when you are up on top of the beautiful Scottish capital!
You can easily pop into small grocery stores in Edinburgh like Tesco Express, Sainsbury’s or Lidl to grab food items. Just be sure to bring your own reusable bags, if you do not want to purchase them. Most stores do not provide bags for free in the city.
Princes Street Gardens
If your family is craving some outdoor play time, be sure to check out Princes Street Gardens. The gardens sit between Old Town and New Town with an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle above. Our children love exploring the playground on the far west side of the gardens.
The playground is set up like a play castle in the shadow of the real Edinburgh Castle above. It is the best way to run out some energy with images of Edinburgh and famous landmarks all around you. Full of slides, climbing ropes, swings, spinners, and a climbing wall, there is plenty for older and younger children to explore.
Remember that daylight hours are short in the late fall and early winter in Edinburgh. In December and January, it begins to get dark by 3 PM! If you are visiting during the chillier months, be sure to plan on short days during your time in Edinburgh.
If your kids want to go shopping, there are also plenty of options near Princes Street Gardens off of Princes Street in New Town. Our girls love the little shops in Waverly Station, the TK Maxx and H&M, and all of the restaurant options around this busy area.
Dynamic Earth is an interesting museum exploring Earth’s formations and the story of planet Earth. You start your visit by traveling through a “time machine” carrying you back to experience the Big Bang. Visitors experience the sensation of a rocking volcano and the spewing lava. You can also touch an “iceberg” representing the polar ice caps.
Our kids loved exploring the various animals and touching all of the interactive experiments. Visiting the museum sparked several interesting conversations about our theories about how the Earth began and the development of Earth’s plates and continents.
Dynamic Earth is a short walk or a few minute drive from the Palace of Holyroodhouse and could easily be combined to make a nice full day out. Be sure to also check out their planetarium shows and the gift shop during your visit!
Any trip to Edinburgh, with or without kids, isn’t complete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is open daily at 9:30 am and does require advance admission and pre-booking of entry time. Edinburgh Castle is located right in the city centre, and is easily accessible by train, bus, taxi and tram.
If you are planning a visit with little ones, just be forewarned that there is a steep climb to the castle (since it overlooks the entire city!). You may want to bring a baby carrier instead of fussing with a stroller. Your visit is made up of going in and out of multiple buildings and experiences, and you can’t leave your stroller parked so consider that before you go.
Our children loved exploring the castle, especially seeing the Scottish crown jewels and the prison. Learning the stories of royalty throughout Edinburgh’s history is an eye-opening experience for all of us!
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon in the city. The palace is located in the heart of Edinburgh near Old Town, at the end of the Royal Mile. Kids can learn more about Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, as they explore the palace.
Our kids love exploring the lavish state apartments and the Great Hall, imagining how royalty has lived throughout the years. The palace gardens and Holyrood Park are an ideal place for younger kids to run out some energy during your Edinburgh touring days, especially during a warmer time of year.
Harry Potter Tours
If you have Harry Potter fans in your household, one of the best things to be sure to check out are the Harry Potter tours throughout the city. There are several companies that offer tours, but the Potter Trail is one of the most well-known. This is a free tour that starts at the statue of the Greyfriars Bobby, near Greyfriars Kirkyard. Tours end on Victoria Terrace at Victoria Street.
You can see where Lord Voldemort is buried, check out the real Diagon Alley, see the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first book, and find out which house you might belong in during your tour!
Tours last between 75-90 minutes and start at 2:00 in the fall and winter. In spring and summer, other tours are offered at 12 noon and 4:00 pm. Be sure to pre-book to grab your spot! Tips are accepted, especially for great tour guides bringing your favorite Harry Potter books to life! Definitely put this one on your list of fun things to do in Edinburgh!
Our kids love the Edinburgh Zoo! The zoo is made up of 82 acres in the Corstorphine area. The zoo is easily accessible from the city by bus, taxi , train, bike or ride shares. A car park is also available. There are some amazing views of the city from the zoo as well!
The zoo is open seven days a week and does still require pre-booking. It’s a popular tourist attraction, so be sure to pre book early. The zoo is quite hilly, so be sure to be prepared with your little ones with either a carrier or a stroller to help get them around. Our kids love the lions, the chimpanzees, the penguins, the koalas, and the giant pandas.
You may consider a year membership if your family plans to visit multiple times. You can quickly pay for a membership in two or three visits. The zoo also offers reciprocity with many other zoos in the area. Check out the zoo’s website for any temporary exhibitions or special events that may be going on at the time of your visit.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Another fantastic visit includes a trip to Royal Botanic Gardens. Edinburgh. The gardens, made up of over 70 acres, lay just one mile north of the city. It is the perfect escape from the traffic and noise of Edinburgh when you need a quick escape to the natural world.
There are also fantastic views of the city centre from the gardens. Garden entry is free. You can grab a quick bite to eat at the Gardens in their beautiful Gateway cafe (with a fun kids picnic menu), The Terrace with delicious sweet bites to eat, and the East Gate Coffee Bar for a quick caffeine pick me up.
Scottish National Gallery
If you have art lovers in your family, be sure to stop by the Scottish National Gallery. The museum includes works from Botticelli, Raphael, El Greco and Rembrandt, amongst others. Admission is free to the museum, though pre booking is recommended to ensure entry. The National Gallery is open from 10 AM-5 PM daily.
The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant, located at the gardens level entrance, is fantastic and worth a visit. You have spectacular views of Princes Street Gardens while dining, and sample Scottish classics like cullen skink and fish and chips. (Or you can sample the all day brunch, if you are feeling breakfast instead!)
Be sure to also visit sister museums, Modern One and Modern Two and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery while you are visiting Edinburgh.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Our kids love visiting the Royal Yacht Brittania. This beautiful ship served as the Queen’s floating palace for over 40 years. Now, you can purchase tickets to climb aboard and see how royalty lived while at sea! Your admission includes a free audio guide to explore the five levels of the yacht.
There is even a kids’ audio version, which our elementary aged kids really enjoyed. Be sure to check the website for any special events that might be on during your visit!
If you are visiting Edinburgh with kids, be sure to plan a trip to the Meadows. It is a beautiful grassy area south of the city centre. Made up of about 60 acres, the Meadows park is the place to be during a sunny day in Edinburgh. Our kids love the playgrounds and the wide grassy areas.
We also do a lot of dog watching! If you are a tennis lover, tennis courts are available at the park as well. You can can even find some food trucks around with hot coffee, sausage rolls and hot sandwiches. It is definitely one of our favorite spots in Edinburgh with our kids!
Also, if you need a quick spot for lunch or dinner or even some shopping, be sure to explore the neighborhoods of Bruntsfield and Morningside near the Meadows. Lots of consignment or charity shops abound, along with bakeries and restaurants lining the street. These are easily walkable neighborhoods with a small town feel within Edinburgh.
I hope that you find this post helpful for your next trip to Edinburgh with kids. It is a beautiful, friendly city that is easily accessible to all. Be sure to sign up for my free packing list down below and skip to my other posts for great travel with kids info!
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