Thanks to its location near the North Sea, Edinburgh is sometimes called Athens of the North alongside its other nicknames like Britain's Other Eye. Aside from being one of Europe's most beautiful cities with its rolling hills, blue waters and mountains, Edinburgh has an abundance of parks, museums, shops and charming city streets that make it a great family vacation spot. A visit to this town has something for everyone to enjoy, and if you are planning a family vacation here, you've got the right idea!
This city's Old Town was named as an official UNESCO Heritage Site in 1995 and Edinburgh itself was the first place to be called a UNESCO city of Literature. This town and all of its fun activities are best explored by foot, meaning that you and the kids will be walking around a lot. Instead of carrying your bags around all day, keep them safe and secure with one of our partners for luggage storage in Edinburgh.
See the animals at Edinburgh Zoo
Visiting the zoo is one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh with kids. You can see lots of animals including the giant pandas, which can't be seen anywhere else in the UK. Edinburgh Zoo has been open to the public for 100 years and has ecosystems holding hundreds of animal species like the koalas, tigers, penguins and several kinds of monkeys.
In the chimp enclosure, you will find an interactive exhibit where the kids can have up-close encounters with them. The zoo has other hands-on activities that have fun things to do for children and parents, too.
Enter the World of Illusions at Camera Obscura
This activity is found in the city's Old Town near Edinburgh Castle. Its location by Castle Hill offers amazing views of the city, but the real fun begins inside. At this attraction, you will see huge moving pictures and panoramic images of the city.
The Camera Obscura show first opened its doors in 1892 and is now Edinburgh's oldest tourist attraction. Its most recent exhibit is the World of Illusions which offers a whole new experience. Your kids will be intrigued by the optical illusions and tricks of the light.
Learn at the National Museum of Scotland
There are lots of Edinburgh museums to explore and this one is the best place to learn about Scottish history in a fun way. This museum has a huge selection of artifacts dating from the medieval ages to the industrial revolution and contemporary times. If your kids are visual learners they will love the interactive exhibits offered here like science experiments, photography and playing with musical instruments.
You can learn about other cultures from around the world here, including a display on Japanese samurais and Egyptian pharaohs. There are demonstrations about the natural world, science and technology. If you get hungry or want to buy a souvenir, visit one of the nearby restaurants or gift shops.
Be amazed at Wonder World
Previously known as Leith Waterworld, the new Wonder World is a top activity for kids in Edinburgh. The soft play arena has a climbing and playing area suitable for children who are both adventurous or not. Younger kids can play safely with the toys and equipment in the baby and toddler zone and adults can watch from the on-site café.
In Wonder World, you will find ball pools, an Astroturf football pitch, go-karting and an intense drop-slide. The entire family can enjoy their time here with so many fun activities to choose from.
Visit the grand Edinburgh Castle
Read our guide on how to get around Edinburgh and then head out to one of the top places to see. Edinburgh Castle was built in the 12th century and this iconic site is the most visited place in Scotland. It has some amazing exhibits like the Crown Jewels, Great Hall and the Mons Meg; an impressive siege cannon. You can explore the castle at your own pace or follow a guided tour.
There are signs that people lived here almost 3,000 years ago and it is one of the Edinburgh landmarks that are a must-see for the whole family. Since the Bronze Age, whoever owned Edinburgh castle was known as the ruler of Scotland, which is why it was constantly under siege and why it is such an important part of the city.
Explore the Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
One of the fun things to do when you visit Edinburgh is to take a trip to this Edinburgh insectarium. Found just outside the city, this visitor attraction is great for anyone that loves bugs, both the creepy crawlies and elegant butterflies. There is a lot to do here, making it a fun activity for small kids and older audiences.
This establishment has the longest running butterfly house on the globe and an impressive tropical garden center for plant enthusiasts. If you are feeling up to it you can hold a tarantula, snake or scorpion.
Play around in Time Twisters
This fun Edinburgh playhouse is a huge four-storey area with ropes bridges, ladders, nets and slides for children to explore. It follows an Egyptian theme that can be fun for kids and adults to explore and is a soft play center that is safe and secure.
If you have toddlers or younger children they won't be left out since there is a specific small play area for babies and infants. If you or the kids like sports, they can play games in the ball area. When the family gets hungry you won't have to go far since there is a soft play café located on site.
Get dirty at the LOVE Gorgie Farm
Found in the east end of Edinburgh, the LOVE Gorgie Farm is where you can go to learn about farm life. Aside from being an active farm, this attraction serves to teach Edinburgh residents about agriculture, handicrafts and gardening through educative courses.
You can find most of the usual farm livestock here like pigs, sheep, cows, goats, chickens and horses, to name a few. If you like smaller animals you can visit the petting zoo which has rabbits, snakes, hamsters and tortoises. The farm is free to visit but if you get hungry you can buy some delicious home-cooked meals and baking at the restaurant.
Stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens
The gardens were built to be a student learning conservatory but have since grown to become much more. The whole establishment is huge with 70 acres dedicated to shrubs alone, a rock garden and an additional arboretum with countless trees and plants.
The Chinese Garden and duck pond will be a favorite thing to do for kids in Edinburgh. Some of the exhibits have plants that were around since the time of the dinosaurs and it is a great place to go for some city sightseeing.
Test your skills at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena
This Edinburgh climbing arena is a huge facility with activities for younger and older children, as well as adults. In the same area, you can find a fitness center, spa, climbing arena, playroom and soft play center. The youngsters can burn off some energy in the soft play center and playroom while those aged four and over can try out the mobile climbing wall.
More experienced climbers can try the dramatic climbing arena which was made inside a quarry, or work out using the 70 fitness and cardio stations. The establishment offers on-site strength training and afterward, you can relax in the sauna or treat yourself to a massage.
Celebrate life at Our Dynamic Earth
This is a museum dedicated to our planet and world culture. The building is full of hands-on activities that use innovative technology to teach its visitors about the world. You can explore the exhibits or attend a virtual tour of the museum and its eleven Earthscapes.
At Our Dynamic Earth discover what it feels like to be in a tropical rainstorm or earthquake and learn about the ice age, glaciers, mountains and the ocean floor through interactive activities. This visitor attraction is a great way for the whole family to learn about the big bang and the formation of our planet, how humans have evolved, and the life of other creatures.
Visit another world at the Potter Trail
The Potter Trail is a must-see place for all Harry Potter fans. You can see the very streets where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books and catch a glimpse of the scenery that inspired her. Tours began in 2012 and now occur twice per day and are open almost every day.
The Harry Potter walking tour is free to attend or you could choose to book a private tour. On your adventure, you will visit some magical sites like the real Diagon Alley and the spot where Voldemort was buried. You can participate in a Harry Potter trivia and find out which house you would fit into.
Walk the Royal Mile
Near the West End, you've got the Royal Mile, which will take you to several of the top places in the city and is a great place to visit while exploring Edinburgh. The street spans all the way from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, with more fun things to see along the way.
While walking Edinburgh's Royal Mile you will see street performers, shops, restaurants and impressive stone buildings. There is so much to do in this area that you and the kids can stay occupied for the whole day.
Get spooked in the Edinburgh Dungeon
If you and the kids want to learn about the dark history of the city in a fun and entertaining way, take a trip to the Edinburgh dungeons. The activity takes almost an hour and a half and consists of a tour with several shows and two amusement rides.
This attraction is best suited to brave older kids since it can get scary for young children. You will experience loud noises, frightening stories and dark rooms.
Climb to the top of Arthur's Seat
If you want to take a break from the Edinburgh City Centre drive just outside of town to see the amazing Arthur's Seat. It is actually the remains of an old volcano that has been inactive for millions of years and is the perfect activity for adventurous kids.
Hundreds of people climb Arthur's Seat every day. You will find lots of dirt and gravel hiking paths to follow to the top of the steep hill, and once you reach the summit you will see amazing views of the city skyline.
What are the Best Family Activities in Edinburgh?
Best Things to do with Younger Children
There are so many species that call the Edinburgh Zoo home, and young kids will love seeing all of the amazing animals.
Everyone can have fun at Wonder World, as there are activities made for experienced climbers and smaller guests can play on their own mini climbing wall.
Toddlers will love exploring the four floors of fun at Time Twisters in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World
This attraction is enjoyable for people of all ages and your little ones will love learning about the butterflies and bugs here.
World of Illusions at Camera Obscura
Youngsters will be amazed by the tricks and illusions at this family-friendly activity.
Best Things to do with Older Children
Babies and toddlers might find it scary in the Edinburgh dungeons, which is why it is better suited to brave and mature kids.
Our Dynamic Earth
Older kids will get the most from the educative experience offered at Our Dynamic Earth.
Edinburgh International Climbing Arena
This activity has lots for grown kids to enjoy, but there is also a smaller climbing wall and soft play area for the little ones to enjoy too.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Older children will appreciate all of the beautiful plants and displays at the botanic gardens and smaller kids might get tired walking around the site.
This is one of the city's top visitor attractions thanks to its impressive architecture and artifacts like the Scottish crown jewels, but younger kids might get bored here.
Free Things to do with Kids
Harry Potter Trail
This Harry Potter tour is fun, safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and they only ask for an optional donation at the end of the activity.
LOVE Gorgie Farm
This city farm is a great activity for all kids in Edinburgh and you don't have to pay to get in.
To see the best views of the city and spend some time in the great outdoors, hike up this free-to-visit volcano.
You can walk this iconic street for free when visiting Edinburgh and discover all of the entertaining activities that it has to offer.
National Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh's national museum is free to enter, and with dinosaur bones and other incredible exhibits, it is the perfect activity for a family on a rainy day.
Enjoy Scotland's Capital as a Family
From zoos to parks and museums to play houses, there sure is a lot to do in Edinburgh. Everyone in the group can find something to do here and with the proper planning you can have a great family vacation. With all of the fun in store, no doubt the family will build up an appetite at every day's end! Be sure to look for tasty Edinburgh street food, another activity the kids will adore.