Things to Do in Edinburgh With Kids

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Written by our web team

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9 min read | 03 May 2024

Planning a family trip to Edinburgh? Whether you’re a local or travelling from afar, the Scottish capital offers a wide array of activities suitable for children of all ages. From historical landmarks to interactive museums, this vibrant city has something for everyone.

In this guide, we’ll share some of our favourite things to do in Edinburgh with kids. And with many free activities in the mix, the experience won’t have to break the bank. 

Why take the family to Edinburgh?

Taking the family to Edinburgh guarantees a fantastic blend of history, culture, and fun. As a major tourism centre, Edinburgh welcomes over four million visitors annually. After all, it offers many unique experiences and attractions you can’t find elsewhere. 

Iconic sights like Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat attract visitors from far and wide. But it’s not just a top choice among those travelling from further afield. Regularly changing exhibitions and kids' activities in Edinburgh mean that local families can enjoy the city’s attractions time and time again. 

Whether you’re exploring J.K Rowling’s old haunts or tasting haggis chocolate at The Chocolatarium, a family day out in Edinburgh is guaranteed to be a memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Fun things to do in Edinburgh

A family exploring the colourful Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura.

With Edinburgh established as a great spot for a family trip, it’s time to dive a little deeper and explore fun things to do in Edinburgh with the kids. Here are three of our favourite fun ideas for what to do in Edinburgh with kids to kick off your itinerary. 

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of the first things you’ll see when you arrive in Edinburgh. You’ll probably also hear it. The One o’Clock Gun is fired every day except Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day. 

But the castle isn’t just a historical site. It’s also an excellent thing to do in Edinburgh with kids if you want somewhere exciting to explore.

Planning a visit here is made easy with their three-hour itinerary for families can follow. During their tour, kids can find out where kings and queens used to hold their parties, see the “Honours of Scotland”, learn about Mons Meg, and plenty more.

About Edinburgh Castle

  • Address: Edinburgh Castle, The Esplanade, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG

  • Opening times: The museum is open from 9:30 am to 6 pm April to September, 9:30 am to 5 pm October and March. 24th December 9:30 to 4 pm. It is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and 1st January 11 am to 5 pm. Last entry is an hour before closing.

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a 13 minute walk away)

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Not far from Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Royal Mile, you can find the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Kids can marvel at the exhibition’s interactive displays, optical illusions, and rooftop views here. They’ll also have a chance to see the oldest working camera obscura in the world, which first opened in the 1850s. 

The exhibition is spread across five floors and features over 100 hands-on exhibits. With so much to see and do, it’s one of Edinburgh’s top attractions for families. 

Visiting the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions 

  • Address: 549 Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2ND

  • Opening times: The attraction is open seven days a week: 9:00 am to 8:00pm Monday to Thursday, 9am to 9pm on Fridays and Sundays, and 9am to 10pm on Saturdays. Check the website for seasonal variations to opening hours.

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a 12-minute walk away)

The Chocolatarium Tour

For a different type of adventure in the Old Town, head to The Chocolatarium. This chocoholic’s paradise was voted the UK’s best food experience on TripAdvisor in 2022 and is sure to go down a treat with your little ones. 

The 90-minute “Tour of Chocolate” is a particular highlight. Kids can discover the history and science behind chocolate and watch the chocolate-making process. They’ll even get to create their dream chocolate bar to take away.

You’ll also be able to visit the Tasting Room, which boasts over 40 delicious varieties of chocolate, such as chilli and salted caramel. And if you’re feeling daring, or particularly Scottish, there’s even a haggis flavour!

Visiting The Chocolatarium Tour

  • Address: 3-5 Cranston St, Edinburgh, EH8 8BE

  • Opening times: The number of tours running varies throughout the year but can start as early as 9am or as late as 8:30pm so be sure to check the calendar for availability.

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a five-minute walk away)

Free things to do in Edinburgh

An interior view of the main hall of the National Museum of Scotland.

Despite being a capital city, a family day out to Edinburgh doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some fun but free things to do in Edinburgh for families. 

Climb Arthur’s Seat

For a budget-friendly and healthy activity, head out of the city centre and make the ascent to Arthur’s Seat. 

This ancient volcano, sitting 251m above sea level, offers fantastic views of the city. It takes around an hour from Holyrood Palace to reach the top, where you’ll find an ancient hill fort and the 15th-century St Anthony’s Chapel. 

Avoid the chorus of “Are we there yet?” by sharing local tales with your kids along the way, like the legend of a sleeping dragon beneath the rock.

Visiting Arthur’s Seat

  • Address: Queens Drive, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH8 8HG

  • Opening times: Holyrood Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a 16-minute walk away from Holyrood Palace)

Explore the National Museum of Scotland

Ideal for a rainy day, the National Museum of Scotland provides engaging exhibits for kids of all ages. 

The family-focused galleries use objects from the museum’s collections as a starting point for fun activities. These include the ‘Imagine’ gallery, designed for those under 5. Activities here include playful experiments and music-making music, making it an excellent thing to do with toddlers in Edinburgh. 

There’s also the ‘Adventure Planet’ gallery on the fifth level, which allows kids to explore the wonders of the natural world. On the first level, the ‘Explore’ gallery brings science and innovation to life.

Regular family-friendly events make this museum a destination you can visit over and over. And the best part is that there’s no entry fee for kids or adults.

Visting the National Museum of Scotland

  • Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF

  • Opening times: The museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm. It is closed on Christmas Day, and there are reduced opening hours on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day from 12pm to 5pm.

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a nine-minute walk away)

Join the Potter Trail

For families of Harry Potter fans, the Potter Trail is a must. J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh while writing the first books, drawing inspiration from the city for wizarding world locations. 

This free guided tour takes you to spots linked to characters and scenes in the series. This includes the café where it all began and one of the places that influenced Diagon Alley. 

The experience also features spell-practising and a ‘sorting’ outside the school that inspired Hogwarts. This is a free addition to the Potter Trail and doesn’t cost a thing, but donations are welcome. The tour is not suitable for children under the age of 7 years old. If your group is larger than 8 then you must book a private tour. You will also need to book in advance. For further information please go to their website. 

About The Potter Trail

  • Address: Tours start at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and end on Victoria Street

  • Opening times: Tours are available every day from April to October at 12 pm and 4 pm

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a 12-minute walk away from the starting point)

Family attractions in Edinburgh

A sleeping koala in Edinburgh Zoo.

Last but not least, here are two more of Edinburgh’s best attractions for families, where fun meets learning. These experiences cater to all ages, ensuring unforgettable family moments in Scotland's capital.

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo is a paradise for animal lovers. It is particularly famous for having the only giant pandas in the UK, although they returned to China on 4th December 2023.

But even if the pandas are going, there is still so much to see. The zoo is home to over 1,000 rare and endangered animals, including penguins, tigers, koalas, and giraffes.

Keeper talks run throughout the day, too, allowing children to learn more about the animals and their care. 

For an extra-special activity, try one of their Keeper Experiences. These allow children to get up close and personal with the zoo’s amazing animals for three hours. Availability is limited for these, so make sure you book in advance. 

Visting Edinburgh Zoo

  • Address: 134 Corstorphine Rd, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS

  • Opening times: The zoo is open from 10 am to 6 pm April to September, 10 am to 5 pm October and March, and 10 am to 4 pm November to February.

  • Getting there: There are two bus stops outside the front entrance. Lothian 12, 26, and 31 services all stop outside and can be picked up near Haymarket and Waverley Station or the city centre.

Dynamic Earth

At the base of Arthur’s Seat, Dynamic Earth is Edinburgh’s top-notch Science Centre and Planetarium. 

The 90-minute interactive walk-through and planetarium experience spans millions of years of evolution, from the Big Bang to the present.

Kids can engage in exciting activities like feeling a real volcano’s effects, admiring the Aurora Borealis, and exploring the ocean’s depths. 

A top choice for curious kids hungry to learn, Dynamic Earth provides an immersive journey through science and nature. It also has an ever-changing schedule of activities and events.

About Dynamic Earth

  • Address: Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AS

  • Opening times: Dynamic Earth is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (last entry at 2:00 pm) and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last entry at 4:00 pm).

  • Nearest train station: Edinburgh Waverley (a 15-minute walk away)

A view of Edinburgh’s city centre over the roof of Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station.

Take the family to Edinburgh by train

Ready to plan your family day out in Edinburgh? Avanti offers convenient train services from various locations around the UK:

Book your tickets in advance for the best rates, and travel Off-Peak for additional savings. 

Don’t forget that children under five travel free with a fare-paying adult. Older children aged five to 15 can also enjoy a 50% discount on the cost of a Standard ticket when you book a Child’s Ticket

It’s also worth considering a Family & Friends Railcard for further savings. You save 1/3 on adult fares and 60% on kids’ fares. The typical annual saving is £114 per year, which usually pays for itself within just three journeys.

Start planning your trip to Edinburgh today!

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