Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Scotland's capital is brimming with things to do with the children on a short stay in the city. From its storied streets to iconic monuments and museums, there are endless activities to keep the little ones and Mum and Dad entertained all day long. Here is our round up of the top ten.
1. The Museum of Childhood
As the world’s first museum exclusively focused on children’s history, the Museum of Childhood on Royal Mile is a family must-do in the Scottish capital. Amongst the displays you will find toys, games, clothes, books and dolls, dating from the 1800s to the present day. As well as its historical collection throughout the ages – which includes Radio Rex, a 1920s voice activated toy – the fun-filled dress up area and puppet theatre are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours on end.
2. National Museum of Scotland
With endless exhibits to keep little minds active and entertained, the National Museum of Scotland is a treasure trove of Scottish nature, history, transport, art, design, science, fashion, technology and more. Home to Dolly The Sheep, the Millennium Clock which springs to life on the hour and stunning panoramic views from the seventh floor, this is a day out you and your kids will never forget.
3. Scott’s Monument
Forming an iconic part of the Edinburgh skyline along Princes Street, Scott’s Monument, dedicated to Ivan Hoe and The Lady of the Lake writer Sir Walter Scott, is worth the 287 steps to the breath-taking view at the top.
4. The Scottish National Gallery
Located in the heart of the city, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the top free attractions in Edinburgh. Inside you'll find Scotland's national collection of fine art that dates back to early Renaissance through to the early 19th century. With eye-catching masterpieces by the greats such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Botticelli, it's easy to spend hours gazing at the impressive collections. The gallery offers a shuttle bus service for visitors between its three gallery sites for a voluntary donation of just £1.
5. Pentland Hills Regional Park
Take in the fresh air and open spaces of the Pentland Hills Regional Park in the south-west of Edinburgh. With arguably the best views of the city and beyond, it's well worth a visit. With a 100km interlinked walkway, there are many different paths to follow - from gentle strolls to more strenuous hikes. If you're looking for free things to do in Edinburgh with kids, why not follow the park's Harlaw biodiversity trail - where children can enjoy learning about the local plants and wildlife along the route.
6. The Writers Museum and Makars' Court
Dedicated to the lives and work of Scottish literary figures, and one of the many free museums in Edinburgh - The Writer's Museum is a great place to visit for literary fans or those interested in Scottish history. Celebrating the work of greats such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, there's much to see and do. Be amazed by the collection of rare books, manuscripts and personal possessions - including Burn's writing desk and the printing press on which Sir Walter Scott's first novels were produced.
7. Royal Mile and Grassmarket
The famous Royal Mile, and neighbouring Grassmarket, are must-sees when visiting Edinburgh. As the historic heart of the capital, the Royal Mile runs down the Old Town and connects Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyeoodhouse via a mile of cobbled street. Happen upon one of the many hidden closes and discover its secrets, or head down picture-perfect Victoria Street to the vibrant Grassmarket where you can see the castle in all its glory. It might surprise you to learn that this medieval marketplace has a gruesome past and was once the site for public executions. You can learn more about the area by following the free Edinburgh Greater Grassmarket Historic Trail map which you can pick up from shops in the area.
8. Edinburgh Zoo
For a great day out, you can't beat Edinburgh Zoo. Our world-class attractions and our extensive animal collection will provide you and your family with memories to last a lifetime! Edinburgh Zoo is home to the only giant pandas in the UK. The female is called Tian Tian (Sweetie) and the male is Yang Guang (Sunshine). Both pandas have very similar, but separate, enclosures as giant pandas are entirely solitary animals that only meet once a year during the breeding season. There’s lots going on during school holidays for the kids to really feel connected, come visit soon.
9. Royal Yacht Britannia
Explore the ocean-based home of Her Majesty the Queen & the Royal Family. Get swept up into the world of pristine privilege at Edinburgh’s renowned attraction, The Royal Yacht Britannia.
Learn the history of Royal Yachts through a series of informative photos and exhibits Gasp at the 3-meter replica model of Britannia, made of Legos. Plug in your audio guides and walk the gangplank onto the Britannia herself. Explore the main decks, including the Engine Room, the Sun Lounge, the Royal Deck Tea Room and The State Apartments. Guests like Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill once slept in The State Apartments. Check out the gleaming Rolls-Royce Phantom V, still very much present on this five-star vessel.
10. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Experience and take part in over 100 illusions as well as a breath of fresh air on the magnificent Rooftop Terrace, which offers the most spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh. At Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, experience five floors the necessary health and safety guidelines in place to make your visit the most enjoyable ever! Get involved, play, touch everything. Great fun for all ages and nationalities, whatever the weather. 'Five Stars, outstanding, world class', Scotland’s oldest purpose-built attraction, established in 1835. Please note the attraction is located in a listed 17th Century building over 5 floors without a lift. Open every day, open late on holidays. 100’s of interactive hands-on optical illusions, tricks and fun things to do including vortex tunnel, mirror maze and shrinking room. Fully safe and ‘Good to Go’ certified.
Scotland has so much to offer and some amazing places to stay. See our Scotland guide and OurStay properties to plan your ideal UK family holiday- click here.