Edinburgh really is an iconic city with its Castle perched on top of a rock overlooking the city. It’s a city stuffed full of history as well as plenty of photo opportunities around every corner.
While Edinburgh Castle and Edinburgh Zoo are amongst the top sights in Edinburgh to visit with children, there are are lots of other fun places in Edinburgh to take the kids to.
Things to Do in Edinburgh with Kids
If you’re planning a visit to Edinburgh and are looking for family-friendly places to visit, here are some of our favourites. It’s a lovely city to wander about in and the hop on hop off bus tour is a bit pricey but worth it if you plan the day and use it wisely.
If you’re looking for specifically child-friendly things to do while you visit Scotland’s capital, then we’ve put together a list of 16 things to do in Edinburgh with kids including some for older kids/teens:
#1. Dynamic Earth
Dynamic Earth is a 5-star visitor attraction situated at the heart of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. It sits within an award-winning and iconic tented structure at the foot of Salisbury Crags in the Holyrood area of the city.
It tells the story of planet Earth and how our Earth works, how life has evolved on its differing environments and the future challenges faced by planet Earth. They also have family events running throughout the year so check before you visit.
#2. National Museum of Scotland
Situated on Chambers Street, The National Museum of Scotland has it all, from Geology to Vikings, Romans and the Industrial Revolution. It’s really great for kids with lots of family-friendly things to do, including interactive galleries to keep all ages busy, free tours and Family Footprint Trails!
Top tip: Pop round the corner onto George IV Bridge and you’ll find Nando’s, handy for a quick kid-friendly lunch.
#3. Camera Obscura
We loved visiting Camera Obscura! Situated on the Royal Mile, it’s a fun attraction with five floors and over 100 interactive, hands-on exhibits, where you can test your brain against mind-bending illusions.
If you have a head for heights to go up to the Rooftop Terrace for fantastic photo-worthy views of the city.
#4. The Georgian House
The Georgian House, part of the National Trust for Scotland collection of visitor attractions, is a restored Edinburgh New Town house with period furnishings and costumes giving a glimpse into life upstairs and downstairs. The house was designed by acclaimed architect Robert Adam and was a true statement of luxury in an era of enlightenment, for those who could afford it.
Children and adults can dress up in replica costumes in the Activity Room – and wear them as they explore the house if they like! Visitors may also enjoy handling replica objects, writing with quill pens and Georgian-themed colouring sheets.
Top tip: if you are member of the National Trust in England, you can use your card for entry.
#5. Greyfriars Bobby
No visit to Edinburgh is complete without going to see and touch the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died on 14 January 1872.
The kind folk of Edinburgh took good care of Bobby after his master’s death, but still he remained loyal to his master. Visit the famous dog’s statue located opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard (which has a Harry Potter connection!).
#6. Harry Potter Trail
Edinburgh has lots of Harry Potter places to visit, including Greyfriars Kirkyard where you can visit the graves of Thomas Riddell Esq and his son, also Thomas Riddell – inspiration for Tom Riddle?! You can also go to the café where J.K.Rowling wrote the first book that became the bestseller and a movie, as well as Victoria Street said to have inspired Diagon Alley.
For a guided tour experience, The Potter Trail is an award-winning Harry Potter tour and good news, it’s free. Grab a wand and join your robed guide to discover the magical locations that inspired characters and scenes in the series, visit the places where JK Rowling wrote the books, and even learn a spell or two along the way…
From the infamous to the insane and quirky to cool, fun is guaranteed with these unusual places to visit in the UK – perfect for a memorable family day out!
#7. Climb Arthur’s Seat
Visit Holyrood Park and climb up the park’s highest point, Arthur’s Seat, a grass-covered ancient volcano, which offers spectacular views over the city.
There are several routes somemore gentle, some a bit more strenous. The Earthtrekkers.com website has a good map showing the various ways to climb.
#8. Palace of Holyrood House
For a glimpse into Royal life current and past, be sure to visit The Palace of Holyrood House. Located at the end of the Royal Mile it is open throughout the year, and you can explore the Palace’s close associations with some of Scotland’s most well-known historic figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, and learn how today it is used by The Queen when carrying out official engagements in Scotland.
Learn more about the Palace and its most famous residents with the interactive multimedia tour designed for families and look out for unusual furniture, sparkling jewels and more. There are also themed family trails to follow as you explore the State Apartments, Gardens and Abbey.
Afterwards, enjoy refreshments at the Café at the Palace in the historic setting of the Mews Courtyard, offering simple home-made dishes made from fresh, locally sourced produce.
#9. Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House
The Scottish Storytelling Centre, located on the Royal Mile, is worth a visit, somewhere you can experience Scotland’s rich cultural heritage. In the Storytelling Court you will find an interactive Storywall which is always enjoyed by children (and adults too!). Meet Nessie, the Gruffalo and Wee Willie Winkie; and discover traditional Scottish tales. They hold regular events so check their website before you visit.
At the John Knox House step inside history and:
- Walk in the footsteps of its famous inhabitants
- Hear the drama unfold in every room
- Look out for the tricks and traps to fool intruders
- Hunt for the devil hiding in The Oak Room ceiling
#10. Georgie Farm
Yes that’s right, a farm right in the city! Tucked in between Edinburgh’s busy railway line and one of the city’s main roads, LOVE Gorgie Farm is a little piece of countryside right in the heart of Edinburgh’s west areas of Gorgie and Dalry. Home to many much-loved animals, from domestic pets such as guinea pigs to farm animals like chickens to more exotic animals like alpacs, the animals are all characters you’ll enjoy meeting.
The urban farm remains open seven days a week and is free for visitors. There is a café on site and they run regular events so check their calendar before you go.
#11. Royal Commonwealth Pool and AquaDash
The Royal Commonwealth Pool is an Olympic-sized pool with plenty of lanes for all swimming strengths, diving pools and more. You can book a Family Swim Session a 55 minute open-water session with floats, sinkers and toys.
Or book in for AquaDash, an inflatable assault course on water, suitable for ages 6+. It’s an attraction that the whole family will enjoy, you will slide, climb and bounce your way through the obstacles. Advance online booking is essential, bookings open 4 weeks in advance so book early to secure your space. AquaDash and AquaDash Extreme sessions last 45 minutes.
#12. Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Come face to face with the people who shaped Scotland past and present at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which is free to visit. Families can enjoy the Art Spot guide together, either pick up a paper version of this trail at the gallery, or you can download it before you go.
Families are also very welcome at the other Edinburgh National Galleries:
- the Scottish National Gallery is at The Mound half way along Princes Street and set within Princes Street Gardens, handy for a run about after the gallery
- the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art at Belford Road is a short bus ride from the city centre, its two modern art buildings are set in beautiful sculpture parks, perfect for a picnic, there’s also a nice café.
Things to do in Edinburgh with Older Kids
#13. The Edinburgh Dungeon
The Edinburgh Dungeon is an underground journey through Edinburgh’s darkest history, using live actors, theatrical sets and thrilling rides introducing you to the underworld of the city of Edinburgh.
Attractions at the Dungeon include
- The Courtroom
- Witches’ Judgement
- The Torture Chamber
- Cannibal’s Cave
- Burke & Hare: The Business of Murder
- Edinburgh’s Vaults
- Drop Dead: The Grassmarket Gallows
New attractions are added all the time.
#14. Surgeons’ Hall Museums
Surgeons’ Hall Museums are actually three museums, the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and The Dental Collection. Originally developed as a teaching museum for students of medicine, the fascinating collections have been open to the public since 1832, making it among Scotland’s oldest museums.
- The History of Surgery Museum explores Edinburgh’s unique contribution to surgical practice in modern times. It also highlights the College’s connection with Joseph Bell, the man credited as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. There is a dedicated Anatomy Theatre, with an interactive dissection table. Visitors to the Museum are able to learn about forensics in Edinburgh, view some of the museums oldest specimens and learn about murderers and bodysnatchers Burke and Hare and discover how dissection was used as a punishment.
- The Wohl Pathology Museum is home to one of the largest and most historic collections of surgical pathology in the world. Learn about the origins of medical collections, starting with cabinets of curiosity in the 1500’s, whilst learning about how specimens are prepared and preserved, through different methods of treatment. Find out about the role of Women in Surgery and the Edinburgh Seven, as well as how warfare changed the landscape of military surgery, from Waterloo up to the Second World War.
- The Dental Collection is one of the finest in the UK and demonstrates the development of dentistry from its earliest days to modern times. It includes many rare artefacts from world cultures and has especially important domestic instruments and items. Visitors are also able to see a 19th century dentist’s office, complete with 19th century instruments.
#15. Edinburgh Escape Rooms
There are actually a number of escape rooms in Edinburgh perfect for an afternoon spent puzzling your way to escape:
- Escape Edinburgh has 7 different games at 2 different locations to play
- Escape Reality has 6 different options
- Can You Escape? has 2 fun escape games
- “Locked In” is Edinburgh’s only escape game based in real rooms and not purpose built sets. It lets you explore the secrets of Summerhall, Edinburgh’s old Vet School.
- At Escape the Past The Anatomist is an immersive ‘Escape Room’ game set in a dark and intriguing period of Edinburgh’s medical history.
NB each group visiting Escape the Past must contain at least one adult (18+)
#16. Mary King’s Close Tour
The Real Mary King’s Close is hidden beneath the characteristic and lively streets of Edinburgh’s busy thoroughfare – the Royal Mile. Step down below the famous Edinburgh street and back in time. Shrouded in myths and mysteries, The Close and its warren of streets, homes, and passageways offer a truly unique visitor experience.
Unlock the secrets of Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th century street, wander through a labyrinth of Old Town alleyways, avoid the cry of gardyloo, and discover the stories of the people who lived, worked, and died here.