The Top 9 Things to do in Edinburgh with Kids

By Neha Kulshrestha

From the majestic Edinburgh Castle, cobbled Royal Mile, illusional Camera Obscura to magical Harry Potter – here are the very best things to do in Edinburgh with Kids!

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A city you will fall in love with at first sight. If I try and pinpoint that one thing that sets this historic city apart from others, would be difficult.

It just struck a chord at my heart. And the best part is that Edinburgh is a perfect place for a family vacation with stuff for all ages. There are so many things to do in Edinburgh with kids.

Edinburgh is an experience. A city of enormous gifts, whose streets sing of history, whose cobbles tell tales” ~ Alan Bold

There are a plethora of attractions in Edinburgh that can be enjoyed, but we would like to focus on the things that especially the children would enjoy.

Most of them are close by along the Royal Mile and can be walked from one to another.

Things to do in Edinburgh with Kids

Camera Obscura Edinburgh

A fascinating must-visit place for kids and elders which uses science optical principles into play is Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.

Located on the Royal Mile next to the Edinburgh Castle, is a perfect stop for fun. Camera Obscura originates from a Latin word meaning ‘dark room’.

camera obscura mirrors

This not-so-fancy 5-story tall building stands head high since 1853 treating the visitors with the treasure of innumerable illusions and tricks.

Some of the most enjoyable attractions are the spy cameras that treat you to different sights of the city (Shhhh..someone’s watching you!!).

The zoom and clarity of the cameras are amazing. Get lost in the Mirror maze, Light Fantastic where you can see yourself shrinking at one point and growing giant size at the other.

camera obscura edinburgh
Ha ha..getting into the skin of the character ;-)

My kids loved the Light Fantastic and were not ready to leave that room. It was their perfect time to become taller than their parents even though for a short duration.

Another favorite is the Bewilderworld where you spin along the Vortex tunnel or try to stay still.

Read the reviews to help plan to spend a minimum of 3-4 hours to enjoy all the exhibits. Great way to start from the top floor while making your way down.

Tickets: Adult – £ 16, Children (5-15) – £ 12. Skip the lines and book your ticket here.

Timings: You can use the maximum advantage of the extended timings. Since most of the other attractions close by 5 p.m., Camera Obscura can be visited late to make the most of your day. Refer to the seasonal timings.

Pro Tip: You can use your Camera Obscura tickets at many restaurants to avail discounts on food and drinks.

Walk the Royal Mile

It won’t be an exaggeration to call the Royal mile as the lifeline of the city with Edinburgh Castle on one end and the Holyroodhouse Palace on the other.

Walking the cobblestones roads, gazing at the vintage buildings and engrossing in the street performances will be a relaxing experience. Feeling tired, sit and relax at one of the cute cafes.

edinburgh royal mile cafe

Read More: Best Places to Visit in the UK with Kids

Scottish Parliament Tour

The best way to learn is practice, so to understand how the decisions for the country are taken, head over to the Scottish parliament for a tour.

Not only the history but the architecture of the building will impress you. This modern building, recipient of major architectural awards, with ample natural light through the glass panels, will surely awe you.

Open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the parliament tour is free of cost.

Scottish parliament in Edinburgh
The debating chamber

There are guided tours at fixed times that can be booked in advance to explore the debating chambers, committee meetings and working of the parliament.

Check the website for the activities planned for a day and prior booking if required.

Harry Potter Tours

Edinburgh is the mecca for all Harry Potter fans. With imaginations running wild through the lanes of Hogwarts, there is so much to delve into.

From The Elephant Café, a self-proclaimed birth house of Harry Potter novel, to George Heriot School that draws inspiration for the Hogwarts school of wizardry to the Daigon Alley, you are transformed to the Harry Potter era.

There are multiple Harry potter tours available that you can opt for to indulge in the tales from every nook and corner.

My kids were very young and not into Harry Potter as yet, so we did not indulge in these tours.

Some recommended tours are the Free Potter Trail and 2-hour Harry Potter Walking Tour.

There are two sides to the same coin.

Some even claim that ‘Harry Potter tourism is ruining Edinburgh’.

I guess the excess of everything is bad and we have to behave like sensible tourists.

Read Later: Best National Parks in the UK for Families

Edinburgh Castle

A historic fortress that forms the skyline of the city is witness to the innumerable historic tales. Walking past huge gates you will see the sentries standing tall in their crisp uniform.

Watching the changing of the guard is an experience.

edinburgh castle view
Breathtaking views from the castle

There are guided tours included in the ticket that begin every 30 minutes in summer while every hour in winter. The meeting point is past the audio booth by the big clock.

There are audio guides also available in multiple languages at an additional charge.

Pro-Tip: Kids don’t forget to take the trivia sheet at the entrance to learn some interesting facts about the castle.

The chapel in the castle is famous for wedding ceremonies and while we were lucky to see one, this means that we couldn’t visit the chapel.

We happened to be visiting the castle on the Queen’s birthday and feel privileged to witness an exclusive ceremony with official bands playing magical tunes and a 21 gun salute in the honor of the majesty.

What a sight to see everyone celebrating their Queen’s birthday with zeal and wishing for her health and long life.

Gun salute at Edinburgh Castle

The castle is huge and would take about 2-3 hours to tour it. Depending upon your interest and time you can choose to skip or see the attractions being-

  • The Great Hall – displays the weapons and armor that depict the might of the military which plays an important part.
  • The Royal Palace – The exquisite use of wood and the paintings of former rulers and queens adorn the walls.
  • Honors of Scotland – displays the sparkling crowns and jewels made of gold, precious stones.
  • Mons Meg and One o clock gun – It is said that the One o clock gun was used by the maritime sailors to set their clocks since 1861. This is still fired every day at 1 o’clock except on Sunday and Christmas. Apart from this, there are many cannons along the fortress walls.
  • Prisons of war – There are vaults and places underground that used to hold prisoners of war. You will get goosebumps hearing and seeing all the conditions that they lived in.            

Tickets – When booked in advance online there is a discount Adult – £17.50, Child – £10.50.

Book your tickets online.

Refer to the website for details.

Timings – 9:30 am to 5 or 6 pm depending upon the season.

Arthur’s Seat

For some panoramic views of the city, hike this extinct volcano. It is about an hour- 3 hr hike depending upon the route chosen and the fitness level.

edinburgh arthurs seat view

If you have toddlers along, we would not recommend it as there are dirt and stone trails at places.

But all you enthusiasts ready for some adventure, this is worth the effort.

Holyroodhouse Palace

The official residence of the Queen when in Scotland stands at the end of the Royal Mile. It is open to visitors year-round except when the Queen is residing.

Note: Photography is not allowed inside the palace except the grounds. Cell phones to be switched off.

There is a special Royal Visit ticket that comes with an additional price tag that gets access to the Queen’s Gallery, Royal garden.

Watch a Street Performance

Edinburgh is a rich cultural city. You won’t miss the mesmerizing tunes of a bagpiper from a traditional kilt-clad man or an artist showing off their unique skills.

We were lucky to witness quite a few. We saw a gentleman playing the violin. So what’s special about it?? The only difference was that he was using swords, knives, saw to play the tunes.

You Might Like to Read: Best Family Day Trips from London

Nuclear Power Plant Tour

Not exactly in Edinburgh, but we definitely feel that it is well worth to add this tour to your itinerary.

Torness Nuclear Power Station is located about 30 miles east of Edinburgh. This is a great way to impart first-hand information to the kids and get them interested in Science. And the views en route are breathtaking.

edinburgh torness nuclear plant

There are free tours available but must be booked 3 weeks in advance for clearing the background checks.

We missed visiting the tour as were not aware of this condition, but nonetheless, the visitor center was a knowledge house in itself.

Please note that the minimum age is 7 years and the tour duration is 1.5 hours.

Address: Torness power station, Dunbar, East Lothian. EH42 1QS

Refer to the Torness Visitor Center website for the list of activities and requirements for the tour.

Read the reviews.

Have you visited Edinburgh? Do you think we missed something on the list for your kids? Do share your favorites and fun experiences. We are all ears.

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