Last updated on January 12, 2024
Edinburgh is an enchanting place to visit for all ages, overlooked by a Edinburgh castle and conjuring the magic that inspired Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling wrote the books while there!).
Harry Potter fans will be rapt, but Edinburgh is also great for younger kids too. From Edinburgh zoo to activity parks, there’s plenty of Edinburgh kids activities, and this is our pick of the best.
A complete guide to the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids.
Things to do in Edinburgh with kids
Galleries and museums for kids in Edinburgh
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland is a good rainy day kids activity in Edinburgh. It’s a world-class interactive museum with plenty of hands-on activities and an extraordinary breadth of exhibits. It covers everything from natural history (there’s a full size T-Rex skeleton!) to science to technology to transport.
Highlights include digging for dinosaur bones, a human-size hamster wheel and dressing-up costumes. There’s also a playroom for smaller kids.
And it’s all free.
Dynamic Earth is one of the most fun (and educational) things to do with family in Edinburgh. The interactive exhibits and 4D films explore the story of Earth, starting with the big bang and taking you through some of our planet’s most stunning natural wonders, from the ice caps to the northern lights.
There’s also an amazing planetarium (formerly the ShowDome).
Dovecot Studios is home to a world-renowned working tapestry studio where you can watch artists at their craft from the gallery. The wider building also hosts exhibitions – we saw a fantastic Grayson Perry exhibit when there.
Museum of Childhood
The Museum of Childhood is all about the history of childhood, with give galleries of toys, games, clothes, books and dolls, dating from the 1800s to the present day. There’s a fun interactive gallery that explores children’s lives at home, school and play. The museum has been closed during the pandemic, so check the website for its current plans.
Edinburgh animal attractions for kids
If your kids (or you!) are fans of koalas and pandas, don’t miss Edinburgh Zoo. It’s the only zoo in the UK to house them. Plus the zoo has plenty more to offer with 82 acres of parkland and over 1,000 animals, including tigers.
A highlight is the penguin parade, where a cute line of penguins leave their enclosure and go for a little walk around the zoo! It’s one of the most popular things to do with kids in Scotland.
Love Gorgie Farm
Love Gorgie Farm is a cute city farm, offering a slice of countryside in the heart of Edinburgh. See lots of animals, from guinea pigs to goats to alpacas. You can feed the animals and learn about how to take care of them. There’s also a café with a nice play area right next to it. This is one of the best options for things to do in Edinburgh with toddlers.
Walks, gardens and parks for kids in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Botanical Gardens
Steve and I are big fans of botanical gardens, and luckily they tend to be family friendly, providing space for the kids to run around while we enjoy the surroundings.
The 70-acre Edinburgh Botanical Gardens are free to wander, although some of the more interesting exhibits have a fee, including the 10 greenhouses, which house an amazing array of tropical plants. Tickets for children are free.
Prince’s Street Gardens
Prince’s Street Gardens are such a pretty part of the Edinburgh cityscape, providing some green space right in the heart of the city, dividing the old and new towns.
The views of the castle are fantastic, it’s a great place for a picnic and there’s a kids’ playground too (in the West garden).
The gardens host events throughout the year including a Christmas winter wonderland (including big wheel and ice rink) and a carousel during the Fringe.
Did you know Edinburgh has an extinct volcano in the city centre? Yep, that’s what the Arthur’s Seat is! One of the city’s seven hills, Arthur’s Seat is one of the most popular walks in Edinburgh. Part of Holyrood Park, it’s a good one to combine with a trip to Holyrood Palace.
You can do a long climb (around an hour) from the palace, or for a shorter walk, drive to Dunsapir Walk from where it only takes about 15-20 minutes to climb to the top.
Calton Hill is a great place to go for views of the city, including Arthur’s Seat, the Castle and out to sea. It’s walkable form the city centre and has a café, restaurant and small museum at the top. Plus it’s home to the National Monument (designed to replicate Athens’ Parthenon), which kids love to climb.
Historical activities for children in Edinburgh
High on a hill above the city centre is the magical Edinburgh Castle, there since the 11th Century. Every day at 1pm, the guns fire (and make tourists jump and wonder!).
It’s not cheap to visit, but kids love the majesty of the castle and there’s a handy suggested Edinburgh Castle family itinerary. It’s also a great place for views across the city.
Highlights of Edinburgh Castle for kids include a huge medieval cannon called Mons Meg, the dog cemetery, the mystical stone of destiny, and the Scottish crown jewels.
If you’re there in August and have older kids, don’t miss the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (you can see our video of it in this post on Edinburgh festivals), which is a spectacular Edinburgh family activity.
You can make your visit cheaper by buying a Historic Scotland Pass and visiting some of the other historical sights around the city too. Or you could do this guided Edinburgh Castle tour.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland and even housed Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th Century.
There’s an interactive media tour for kids as well as a selection of themed activity trails.
And, when not in a pandemic, there’s a family room where kids can dress-up, play games and explore fun stories about the palace.
The Edinburgh Dungeon
If your kids are into all things gruesome, the Ediburgh Dungeons is a great day out. Like its counterparts in London and York, the dungeons tour is chance to learn about the city’s dark and gory past, from witchcraft to torture to Scotland’s most famous beheaded queen. There are actors to bring things to life as well as a ride and interactive exhibits.
This is definitely one for older kids – only over 8’s are allowed and even then, they might be scared.
The Real Mary King’s Close
This secret underground street in Edinburgh is only accessible via a guided tour and has a reputation for being haunted. Learn gruesome stories from Edinburgh’s history on a one-hour guided tour by a character guide who makes things entertaining. Definitely one for older kids as it can be quite frightening!
There was once a small dog called Bobby whose tale was so heartwarming that the city of Edinburgh decided to create a statue in his memory. Bobby was so loyal that when his owner, a night watchman named Auld Jock died, he refused to leave his graveside until he died himself, 14 years later.
The only time he left was at 1pm each day when the Castle’s gunfire sounded and he went to eat his lunch. One of Edinburgh’s sweetest family activities is to spot the Greyfriars Bobby statue on George IV Bridge.
The Scott Monument, dedicated to writer Sir Walter Scott, is the huge tower on Princes Street at the eastern end of the gardens. You can climb 287 stairs to the viewing platform near the top, including a narrow spiral staircase at the end. It’s a bit tricky for little ones, so best for older children.
Fun and unusual things to do with kids in Edinburgh
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is one of the most quirky and unusual things to do in Edinburgh with kids. Set over five floors, there’s a huge range of illusions to entertain and enjoy, a giant kaleidoscope, holograms, mirror maze and more.
It’s difficult to explain without experiencing it, but the Camera Obscura is nearly 170 years old and involves a 15-minute projection show telling the story of Edinburgh’s history. It has definite wow-factor and incredible views across Edinburgh.
Scottish Storytelling Centre
The Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile hosts all sorts of fun storytelling events, including many suitable for children.
They also have storytelling exhibitions. If you’re into books, it’s a perfect thing to do with family in Edinburgh.
Coro the Chocolate Cafe
The idea of a chocolate café is something that gets our kids (and me) excited, so for a treat on your travails around Edinburgh, be sure to pop into Coro the Chocolate Café, just off Princes Street where you’ll find a menu of all things chocolate, from pancakes to waffles to milkshakes, and little platters of fruit to dip in, you guessed it, chocolate!
Activity centres for kids in Edinburgh
Fountain Park is a hub of Edinburgh kids activities, including everything from laser tag to a trampoline park to indoor climbing and ten-pin bowling. Everyone will be entertained, making it a great family thing to do in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh International Climbing Arena
If you’re into climbing, don’t miss the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Europe’s larges indoor climbing centre. There are climbing walls, bouldering and an aerial assault course.
Plus there’s also a big soft play centre, including everything from a bouncy castle to a mini climbing wall to dressing up. It’s is a fun option for things to do in Edinburgh with toddlers, while the older ones are entertained in the climbing arena.
Shows and festivals for kids in Edinburgh
Shows in Edinburgh
Even outside of Edinburgh festival time in August, the city has a rich cultural programme throughout the year, so definitely check out what’s on in Edinburgh for children.
August in Edinburgh is one of our favourite places to be in the world. The whole city comes alive with festivals, including the world famous Edinburgh Fringe.
It’s packed full of children’s shows, so is a wonderful things to do as a family in Edinburgh. See my full post and video on Edinburgh festivals.
Guided walks and tours for kids in Edinburgh
The Potter Trail
If you’re fans of Harry Potter like me and Steve, then doing a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh is a treat for the adults as much as the kids! It’s a chance to visit all the sites that inspired J.K Rowling when creating the world of Harry Potter, from Hogwarts to individual characters.
Visit the café where Rowling started the books to the street (Victoria Street) that inspired Diagon Alley and the school (George Heriots) that inspired Hogwarts (you even get to do a sorting ceremony there!).
You can also visit more of Harry Potter land throughout Scotland – we’ve included a good route in this guide to Scotland’s best road trips.
Hop-on hop-off bus
Our kids love a bus, so an Edinburgh hop-on hop-off bus tour is a handy way to see city sights while keeping them entertained and not wearing them out.
It stops at many of the main Edinburgh family attractions, so is also a handy way to get around the city if you don’t fancy walking.
A fun family way to explore Edinburgh is by doing a treasure trail. Follow the clues, and go on a sightseeing tour around the city. You can do it in your own time, so it’s no problem to add in lots of rest, play and snack stops.
It’s a great way to discover snippets of local history in a fun, interactive way. There are various different themes to try including Fantastic Beasts and pirates, and it’s fun for kids and adults – a great Edinburgh family day out.