21 issues to do in Edinburgh with youngsters

As soon as upon a time, I spent a big chunk of my life visiting Edinburgh, due to my then boyfriend who grew up there – and whereas I wasn’t contemplating issues to do in Edinburgh with youngsters again then (!), it rapidly turned one in all my favorite cities.

View from Calton Hill down onto the skyline of Edinburgh and ideas of 16 of the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids
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A lot so, that I’m decided to introduce my daughter to all its highlights, particularly given how a lot there may be for youths in Edinburgh – and after whetting her urge for food on an incredible metropolis break in Glasgow as a toddler.

I’ve bought fond recollections of visiting Edinburgh Zoo and the fortress, but in addition wandering the streets of the Royal Mile and absorbing among the Scottish capital’s historical past – so right here’s what’s on my family-friendly Edinburgh record.

Edinburgh Fort

Towering on its rock above the town, the fortress is among the first belongings you see – and there was a royal fortress right here because the eleventh century.

When you one way or the other don’t see it, you’ll hear it because the One O’Clock gun fires virtually daily of the 12 months: as a time sign somewhat than a present of army drive although, ships within the close by Firth of Forth as soon as used it to set their clocks.

View of Edinburgh Castle on the rock above the city - one of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh with kids or without

For a flavour of the fortress’s martial historical past, you need the Royal Edinburgh Navy Tattoo which takes place on the Esplanade in August, with the completely different Scottish regiments parading to the accompaniment of pipes and drums.

However everytime you go to, you may see the Honours of Scotland – because the Scottish Crown Jewels are recognized – alongside the Stone of Future. Exterior the Crown room, there’s the massive Mons Meg cannon, the large Nice Corridor and the Royal fortress to probe for starters.

You’ll be able to take a tour of stroll at your individual tempo, with highlights picked out on the fortress’s web site and itineraries relying how lengthy you’ve bought to discover. When you’re in search of a guided tour of Edinburgh Fort, this feature additionally enables you to skip the road.

Shopping for your tickets prematurely with this Royal Edinburgh move additionally enables you to skip the road

Edinburgh Zoo

Well-known for its large pandas, that’s solely the beginning of what there may be to see on the 82-acre zoo. Set simply outdoors the centre of Edinburgh in Corstorphine, the zoo is someplace I used to go to each time I used to be within the metropolis.

Open and ethereal, it’s a really inexperienced zoo with tigers, koalas and penguins as properly, which come out to parade from Europe’s largest outside penguin pool daily at 2.15pm, plus there was a brand new giraffe enclosure added in summer season 2021.

Giant panda walks through the grass - the two giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo are one of the biggest attractions for kids

In complete there are over 1,000 uncommon and endangered animals – keeper talks run through the day, and hold a watch out for the animals being fed, though official feeding occasions usually are not at present going down.

If it’s the pandas that are the highlights for you, there’s no must ebook additional tickets or timed entry, simply flip up everytime you wish to see in the event that they’re out having a scratch in opposition to a tree trunk or lounging by the pool – you would possibly must queue slightly although.

There are common family-friendly actions on the zoo, together with a short lived dinosaur exhibit. It’s free for youths underneath three and tickets should be prebooked until you’re a member – numbers are restricted so plan forward for college holidays.

Okayeep a watch out for discounted tickets on websites like Get Your Information, whereas you can even rise up to twenty% off with Children Move – a 30-day trial of Children Move prices simply £1

Digicam Obscura and World of Illusions

There’s nowhere fairly just like the World of Illusions and the vary of illusions you’ll discover over the 5 flooring right here – to not point out the incredible views of Edinburgh from the rooftop.

The 166-year-old Digicam Obscura remains to be the spotlight – I keep in mind being wowed after I visited.

View of the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh among the other buildings of the Old Town - one of my top things to do with kids in Edinburgh

There’s a 15-minute present with a information telling tales of Edinburgh historical past, whereas exhibiting off the entire metropolis from the rooftop tower utilizing the Victorian contraption, the place photos of what’s outdoors are displayed within the room.

There are greater than 100 interactive displays to boggle your mind, from the mirror Maze and Vortex tunnel to confuse your senses in Bewilderworld to holograms and a color shadow wall, sudden mirrors and extra sensory surprises.

The Potter Path

Potterheads received’t be the one ones who love The Potter Path tour, but it surely’s heaven in case your youngsters are followers – in spite of everything, Edinburgh is the town the place JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter novels, famously beginning in a café and ending within the Balmoral Lodge.

The colourful buildings of Victoria Street in Edinburgh which may have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books, plus a tour for Harry Potter fans in Edinburgh

The tour takes you to among the areas which impressed characters and scenes, together with the café the place all of it started, the place which impressed Diagon Alley (or one in all them, not less than) and the possibility to be sorted outdoors the varsity which impressed Hogwarts.

You’ll be able to even see the place Lord Voldemort is buried, practise a number of spells and discover out which horrible poet gave his title to a Hogwarts instructor.

Better of all, it doesn’t value a penny (even for Muggles) when you’re in search of free issues to do in Edinburgh with youngsters – though they do move the sorting hat round on the finish for donations, so it’s price bringing a number of galleons in case you had been spellbound.

For extra concepts of days out within the UK for Harry Potter followers, take a look at my high picks

Potion making and a Wizard Afternoon tea on the Cauldron

If the tour has whetted your urge for food for all issues magical, you may strive your hand at creating your individual potions or refuel with a Wizard Afternoon tea at The Cauldron in Edinburgh.

On the Wizard bar in Edinburgh’s Outdated City, there are potions appropriate for youths aged 5+ in addition to adults, with a welcome drink poured by magic wand, plus the possibility to brew two of your individual (in addition to the usage of any important magical tools when you’re there) throughout a 1h 45-minute potion making expertise.

Or tuck into the Wizard afternoon tea, with ‘sand-witches’ alongside the scone and desserts, plus tea brewed by magic wand – additionally lasts for 1h 45 minutes.

Nationwide Museum of Scotland

This nice museum has some incredible methods to get palms on, so it’s price a go to at any time of 12 months – though it’s a very good possibility when you’re in search of issues to do in Edinburgh within the rain with youngsters.

The completely different galleries have completely different themes – creativity in Think about for instance, plus science and know-how, in addition to Journey.

View of the buildings housing the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh with lots of interactive displays and exhibits for kids

You might climb right into a human hamster wheel, or dig for dinosaur bones within the Journey Planet gallery in case your youngsters fancy themselves as mini archaeologists.

Animal lovers can attempt to outrace a cheetah or discover out in the event that they’re heavier than a polar bear (most likely not!) in addition to trying to find bugs, dressing up in historic garments or designing their very own vogue masterpieces.

Or observe one of many themed trails, impressed by Area, coffins, wildlife or good previous I Spy, in addition to marvelling at a T Rex skeleton forged.

There’s no cost for entry to this household pleasant attraction, so it’s one other nice possibility totally free issues to do with youngsters in Edinburgh.

Dynamic Earth

Uncover the story of Planet Earth, from the Large Bang by means of the chilliness of Ice Ages to the devastating energy of volcanic eruptions, watch the Northern Lights dance and listen to the sounds and sights of the rainforest at Dynamic Earth.

The Dynamic Earth attraction in Edinburgh - perfect for Edinburgh in the rain with kids

Or plunge to the depths of the ocean to find life beneath the ocean (from the consolation of a yellow submarine), in addition to trying to find whales and watching a 30 foot wall of waves.

If solely geography had been fairly as thrilling after I was at college – the 360 diploma ShowDome cinema brings the entire dramatic story to life when you’ll additionally discover Mission Earth augmented actuality expertise.

There are additionally additional themed occasions going down throughout faculty holidays – a journey to area, for instance, if Earth isn’t fairly sufficient. Simply one of the enjoyable issues to do in Edinburgh with youngsters.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Nonetheless the monarch’s official residence in Edinburgh, Holyroodhouse won’t have the lengthy historical past of Edinburgh fortress however a few of Scotland’s greatest recognized royal figures have really lived throughout the partitions.

Mary Queen of Scots is probably the most well-known, as she lived within the oldest a part of the palace through the sixteenth century – the place her secretary was murdered in entrance of the pregnant Queen’s eyes.

Supposedly you may nonetheless see the bloodstains…

Exterior of Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh - visiting Holyroodhouse is one of my top things to do with kids in Edinburgh

There are additionally hyperlinks to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who lived right here for an excellent six weeks, the possibility to view the throne room, and wander previous the treasures of the Nice Gallery, together with a portrait of Macbeth and sword marks within the partitions.

In addition to short-term displays, it’s fascinating to see how royal life continues throughout the partitions: the late Queen held dinners and different occasions right here.

Children can observe the household trails and costume up, whereas there’s additionally an interactive multimedia information – which beats the usual audioguide commentary as they’re inspired to reply questions comparable to the place the Queen sat at official dinners, in addition to visualising double-decker buses contained in the Nice Gallery.

Purchase your tickets prematurely right here

The Actual Mary King’s Shut

Lately, Edinburgh’s picturesque Outdated City is among the greatest attracts for guests – however again within the day, the image was quite a bit darker (and smellier).

So for youths who love historical past, or just the extra ugly components of it, head to The Actual Mary King’s Shut, a medieval avenue that’s preserved underneath the Royal Mile.

Virtually your complete slim avenue stays, with houses that had been initially as excessive as 10 storeys, hugging the steep hill right down to the present-day Princes Avenue Gardens, then the Nor Loch, a defensive moat which regularly stank to excessive heaven.

Over the centuries, extra buildings had been constructed over the previous houses: ultimately rediscovered and reopened as a museum the place you may take a tour.

In accordance with the tales, you would possibly discover ghosts – and it’s not stunning when one home’s inhabitants virtually all died of plague, whereas one other features a cell the place the doomed Mary Queen of Scots as soon as spent an evening. Even seeing one small dwelling which might have been full of a big household is haunting.

The Actual Mary King Shut is healthier for older youngsters than simply scared or upset little ones, but it surely’s an introduction to Edinburgh’s previous actuality that’s arduous to beat.

E-book your ticket prematurely right here – personal excursions and flexi tickets are additionally out there, whereas you can even discover discounted tickets on the Tiqets web site – click on right here

One of the alleyways of the Old Town in Edinburgh on a dark winter night - a taste of what the medieval city was like, along with attractions such as the Real Mary King's Close

Edinburgh’s Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour

In case your kids love all issues ugly, gory and ghoulish, there’s one other thrilling possibility on your record of issues to do in Edinburgh with youngsters, with a ghost tour that takes you underground to the Edinburgh Vaults.

Appropriate for ages 5+ solely, a cloaked information shares tales of the town’s darkish previous as you journey alongside the Royal Mile earlier than venturing into the Blair Avenue Underground Vaults (also called the South Bridge Vaults).

These previous storage areas had been was houses, rapidly changing into slums and a haven for crime. Count on tales of witches and bodysnatchers alongside the best way, and loads of actual life spine-chilling tales.

Discover reserve now pay later choices (as properly as free cancellation) when you ebook the Underground Vaults tour on Get Your Information

The Edinburgh Dungeon

Like the opposite Dungeons across the UK, comparable to London and York, this one is just for older youngsters – you may’t go to with underneath fives and the Edinburgh Dungeon is advisable for over eights solely.

Having had actors bounce out at me from darkened passageways with unexpectedly sensible make-up, I’d say that’s a very good bar – my very own daughter wouldn’t have loved this within the slightest aged seven.

However as soon as they’re previous the purpose of shrieking at sudden scares and are prepared to absorb extra bloodsoaked and ugly historical past, from torture to witchcraft, it’s excellent for bringing Edinburgh’s darker previous to life.

In spite of everything, the town’s most well-known queen was beheaded by her cousin, plague stalked the slim streets and two notorious inhabitants went about killing folks for the dissection charge they’d accumulate – only for starters!

Throw in a few rides, together with one for these over 1.4m solely, and also you’re assured to depart together with your coronary heart racing.

Click on right here to purchase tickets and test the most recent particular occasions

Discover Greyfriars Bobby

You’ll be able to’t go to Edinburgh with out wandering alongside the Royal Mile – from Holyroodhouse at one finish to Edinburgh Fort on the different, previous a thousand shortbread and memento retailers.

However as you stroll, speak a small detour in direction of the Greyfriars Kirkyard to listen to the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the canine so well-known for his loyalty that there’s a statue to commemorate him.

Sculpture of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who in the 19th century guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years

As the story goes, he would stroll the streets of the town along with his proprietor, evening watchman John – or Auld Jock – till John died and was buried within the churchyard.

Bobby refused to depart the graveside besides as soon as a day, when the One O’Clock gun fired from the fortress when he’d eat, till his personal dying 14 years later when he was buried close to his grasp.

True? Who can say… but it surely makes a candy story to entertain (and somewhat extra child-friendly than tales of Burke and Hare… until you’re visiting with teenagers, that’s!).

The Scottish Storytelling Centre

Take a break between exploring with a relaxation and a story on the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The humanities centre has a string of occasions year-round, however there’s additionally an interactive Storywall within the Storytelling Court docket.

Yow will discover out extra about Greyfriars Bobby, but in addition another well-known Scottish characters, from Nessie to Wee Willie Winkie, in addition to listening to snatches of Robert Louis Stevenson’s well-known tales.

When you’re impressed to select up a ebook and take it dwelling, there’s a store within the medieval John Knox Home – be careful for the dragon’s nest tucked away.

Lower than 10 minutes away, take a look at the residing monument at Makars’ Court docket, the place well-known phrases of nice Scottish writers are inscribed within the flagstones.

Take the hop on hop off bus

If it’s a wet day in Edinburgh otherwise you’re trying to see the sights with out sporting out small legs, the hop-on hop-off bus tour is all the time on my record of issues to do with youngsters.

You get the standard commentary and it’s all the time a great way to get your bearings, however this explicit metropolis sightseeing tour appears particularly properly designed for getting you between among the metropolis’s greatest sights too, together with the fortress, Holyrood Palace and Dynamic Earth.

You can too discover tickets for 3 completely different Edinburgh bus excursions, together with the Metropolis Sightseeing route.

Courageous the ghost bus tour

When you’re in search of a bus tour of Edinburgh with a distinction, older youngsters will love the Comedy Horror Present ghost tour of Edinburgh, a 75-minute journey on a classic double-decker telling darker tales of the town.

From executions and homicide to hauntings, the eerie bus conductor tells takes of the notorious Burke and Hare as you journey the streets of Europe’s most haunted metropolis within the black double-decker.

There’s a big serving to of comedy, in addition to the possibility to see a few of Edinburgh’s key sights within the Outdated City and New City, between terrifying tales of dreadful deeds throughout the centuries.

The bus itself has its personal chilling historical past too. As soon as belonging to the Necropolis Bus Firm, it’s the one survivor of a fireplace which destroyed your complete fleet in 1967…

Glasshouse at the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, perfect if you want to get outdoors in Edinburgh with kids

Edinburgh Botanical Gardens

When the solar is shining in Edinburgh, there are many locations to get open air with youngsters, together with the 70 acres of the town’s Botanical gardens.

Set on a hill above the town, there’s 350 years of historical past within the gardens but it surely’s additionally a beautiful inexperienced spot to amble with youngsters – and when you simply desire a stroll, it’s free to enter as properly.

The royal botanic gardens are additionally dwelling to 10 glasshouses, together with a temperate and tropical palmhouse, which home over 3,000 unique vegetation between them – there an extra charge for tickets for adults, though kids aged 15 and underneath go free.

Princes Avenue Gardens

When you don’t wish to enterprise too far out of the town, youngsters can even play in Prince’s Avenue Gardens within the shadow of the Scott Monument – which you’ll be able to pay to climb climb, though with its 287 usually slim and twisty steps, you would possibly wish to keep on with the views from the Digicam Obscura as an alternative.

In December, the gardens flip right into a Winter Wonderland together with Christmas market, ice rink and ferris wheel, dubbed the Edinburgh Eye – excellent when you’re spending Christmas in Edinburgh with youngsters.

View of Princes Street Gardens with some of the buildings of Edinburgh and the ferris wheel in the background

The Chocolatarium Tour

Fancy some haggis-inspired chocolate? It’s only one spotlight of this enjoyable tasting and chocolate-making expertise at Edinburgh’s Chocolatarium Tour.

The interactive tour enables you to be taught all of the steps of the method remodeling the cacao from its pod to eventual chocolate bar, plus a historical past of chocolate proper by means of to the latest innovations.

Alongside the best way you may style numerous flavours, together with camel milk chocolate, in addition to making your individual, personalised together with your favorite flavours.

The entire expertise lasts for 90 minutes, appropriate for youths aged six and above.

Arthur's Seat looking down onto Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat

Enterprise out of Edinburgh metropolis centre to climb this historical volcano, a incredible Edinburgh viewpoint – Arthur’s Seat itself, 251m above sea stage, is a part of Holyrood Park.

House to an historical hill fort, in addition to the fifteenth century St Anthony’s Chapel, you may climb up in underneath an hour from Holyrood Palace, though decide good climate.

Legend tells that underneath the rock is a dragon which terrorised the realm, consuming a lot that it fell right into a deep sleep and by no means woke.

Typically fact is stranger than fable although, as miniature wood coffins had been found right here, containing wood figures, all sporting completely different garments…

One thing to ponder as you drink in Salisbury Crags and the views again down.

Calton Hill near Edinburgh including some of the historic buildings on its summit

Calton Hill

Begin on the finish of Princes Avenue and climb the staircase up the hill for among the greatest views over the town – from right here you may see out to the fortress and over to Arthur’s Seat.

House to the Nationwide Monument, supposed to be a reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens however by no means completed, it’s additionally the place you’ll discover the massive Nelson monument.

At 1pm, the time ball right here drops – designed to be seen by ships far our at sea, the fortress’s One O’Clock gun was added as unhealthy climate meant the ball couldn’t all the time be seen.

Cruise the Firth of Forth

Spot seals and scoff scones, in addition to looking for the three bridges throughout the Forth, on a ship journey aboard the Maid of the Forth or Forth Boat Excursions

The 90-minute three bridges sightseeing tour is among the hottest, however there are additionally excursions stopping at Inchcolm Island (operating from April by means of the summer season months) amongst different choices.

Departing from South Queensferry, it’s round a half hour drive (or practice journey and brief stroll) to Hawes Pier. Save a while to discover the gorgeous city (technically a part of the town of Edinburgh). Seize an ice cream and wander alongside the waterfront, go to the free Queensferry Museum or go to the stately Hopetoun Home.

Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World, included in an earlier model of this submit, has since closed

*First printed 2020, final up to date 2022*


My top things to do in Edinburgh with kids, from ideas for rainy days, free things to do with kids and some of the unmissable family attractions in Edinburgh. I've also got ideas for animal lovers, plenty of history, a Harry Potter walking tour and where to get outside with kids in Edinburgh

Disclosure: Comprises some affiliate hyperlinks – any purchases you make are unaffected however I’ll obtain a small fee.

Photos courtesy Depositphotos


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