Things for Families to Do in Edinburgh

Last Updated: by Craig Neil.

Edinburgh hosts 12 major cultural events each year including The Fringe (the world’s biggest arts festival) and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (one of the biggest street parties in the world).

Edinburgh is also a UNESCO City of Literature and the city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover the best things to do in Edinburgh for families with this complete visitor guide which includes visiting advice, travel information, and details about where to go and how to get there.

tourist attractions in Edinburgh

The Best Family Things to Do in Edinburgh

There are a huge number of family attractions in Edinburgh that are guaranteed to give both children and adults a great time, whether climbing to the top of an extinct volcano, wandering down the atmospheric medieval streets that join The Royal Mile, or exploring the grandest castle in Europe.

These attractions and many more are all located in a compact city that’s easy to navigate and oozes culture and history from every nook and cranny.

In fact, Edinburgh has so many attractions it can get a bit overwhelming trying to decide which ones to visit – a task that’s made a thousand times more difficult for visitors who only have a day or two to explore this wonderful Scottish metropolis.


It’s not so bad if you live in the area because you can always go back another day, but how do you decide on the best way to spend your precious time if you’re a visiting tourist?

It’s a question I get frequently asked so in this article I hope to give visiting families the definitive guide for suggestions on where to go and what to do while they’re in Edinburgh.

Some of the attractions in the list below are historic in nature – something that’s unavoidable when coming to a city with over a thousand years of history – but I’ve also included lots of modern attractions as well as a few in the great outdoors to balance things out if you’re sightseeing with kids in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Sightseeing Advice
Planning to visit Edinburgh’s top attractions? You’ll save time and money by purchasing a pre-paid hop-on hop-off bus pass.
The pass allows unlimited travel in Edinburgh for 48 hours and includes free entry to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyrood Palace.
Buy your Royal Attractions Bus Pass here.

Discover more things to do in Edinburgh with these articles: Attractions in Edinburgh for Couples and Things to Do in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

  • Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 225 9846
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is everything that’s great about the best Scottish attractions. It’s awe-inspiring, very old, in a stunning location and has more things to see and do than you’ll be able to fit into one visit.

There are ancient buildings to walk through, lots of interesting artefacts to look at, some excellent museums to wander around and a superb collection of exhibitions, gift shops, and cafés.

You can reach the castle entrance by following The Royal Mile to the very end of its northernmost point where you’ll be presented with a magnificent open courtyard.

This is where the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every year where military bands and performers from all over the world come together to entertain a quarter-million tourists annually, watched by upwards of 100 million people on TV.

The Royal Palace is perhaps the most impressive section of the castle as it houses not only the royal apartments but also the great crown room which houses the Honours of Scotland.

Edinburgh Castle

These artefacts are the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Jewels held in the Tower of London and they’re no less magnificent, comprising a crown, sceptre and the Sword of State.

The Stone of Scone – the ancient stone upon which Scottish monarchs were crowned – is also held within the vaults of the crown room and all the exhibits are presented with lots of background information.

Although tickets to the castle are a wee bit expensive it really is an amazing place to visit, especially if you’re in Edinburgh with kids.

Holyrood Palace

  • Address: Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX
  • Contact details: Tel 0303 123 7306
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace

The palace of Holyrood House (as it’s officially known), is the main residence of the British monarchy in Scotland, located at the opposite end of The Royal Mile from Edinburgh castle.

The palace has a long history dating back to the 12th century and it’s still used to host state occasions to this day.

Holyrood Palace offers lots of activities for visitors including viewing the official staterooms of Mary Queen of Scots and the Throne Room, as well as exploring the ruins of Holyrood Abbey and the beautiful palace gardens.

The route through the interior rooms will take you on a tour of the history of the building including the 17th-century king’s apartments, the Great Gallery, and the 16th-century apartments where Mary Queen of Scots lived.

Holyrood Palace

After visiting the inside of the palace the ruins of Holyrood Abbey are usually the last area to be explored which is an extremely atmospheric place and very photogenic.

Finally, no visit to an attraction like this would be complete without a visit to the café which is, of course, top-notch. The quality of the food on offer is amazing, and although it’s a little pricey it’s well worth the expense.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

  • Address: Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6JJ
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 555 5566
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: The Royal Yacht Britannia
Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former yacht of the British Royal Family which now takes pride of place at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre at Leith in Edinburgh.

Over the course of her working life, Britannia sailed over 1 million miles around the world and she’s now open year-round for visitors to follow in the footsteps of world leaders as they walk through her beautifully ornate rooms.

As you walk around Britannia’s five main decks you can listen to an interesting audio guide that explains what life was like on board not only for the royal inhabitants but also for the Royal Navy crew that manned her during her voyages.

Starting at the bridge, you pass through the state apartments, the crew quarters, and the engine room before finally reaching the Royal Racing Yacht, Bloodhound.

Royal Yacht Britannia

There are some fascinating parts of the ship which all ages will enjoy visiting, like the huge state banquet room with its massive dining table and the gleaming Rolls-Royce Phantom which used to travel on the ship along with the Royal Family.

If you fancy a little treat you can pick up some fantastic homemade fudge in the NAAFI sweet shop and there’s a highly recommended restaurant in the Royal Deck Tea Room where you can sample top-notch Scottish cuisine.

The Royal Edinburgh Zoo

  • Address: 134 Corstorphine Rd, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 334 9171
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: The Royal Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo

Set over 82 acres of parkland on the south-facing slope of Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh Zoo is the second most popular tourist attraction in Scotland after Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Zoo has a huge amount of things to see and do, and with over a thousand animals to look at including lions, monkeys, penguins, tigers, and the only giant pandas in the UK, you’re definitely not going to get bored.

The enclosures that house these animals are exceptional, especially Penguins Rock which has Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool and the Budongo Trail where you can watch chimpanzees in one of Europe’s most innovative man-made habitats.

Edinburgh Zoo

Other enclosures are home to exotic birds, reptiles, insects and mammals from all over the world, with each habitat clearly signposted and marked so that you won’t ever find yourself getting lost.

Even so, as a top tip, I’d recommend going to their maps and guides page which has an interactive map and a free downloadable pdf so you can get to grips with the layout before heading out.

Facilities available include a gift shop, two restaurants and a coffee shop, and there are several smaller fast-food eateries dotted about as well.

Calton Hill

  • Address: City Observatory, 38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA
  • Contact details: NA
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Calton Hill
Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a large hilltop located close to the hustle and bustle of Princes Street where a collection of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks are situated within a few hundred feet of each other.

The hill is included in the UNESCO World Heritage status that’s been awarded to the city which is hardly surprising considering the amount of history you will find there.

If you walk east from the city centre you’ll be guided by tourist information signs that direct you up the short walk to the top of the hill.

From there you can take in breath-taking views of the city, from the rising faces of Salisbury Crags to the south to the dramatic views of the city centre to the west.

Calton Hill

Once at the top you’ll find lots of interesting landmarks on Calton Hill including the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the City Observatory which are just a few of the reasons why the site is regarded as the best place for free things to do in Edinburgh for families.

The National Monument is Scotland’s memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died during the Napoleonic wars and it’s the dominating feature of Calton Hill, while just a few yards away is the commemorative tower that honours Admiral Nelson.

Nearby to the tower is the Dugald Stewart Monument which offers a gorgeous view of Edinburgh and is one of the most-photographed landmarks in the city.

Calton Hill has recently been redeveloped as a tourist attraction by Collective, a group that has installed a restaurant, an art gallery and a viewing platform on the site of the old city observatory.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

camera obscura edinburgh-min

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city, helped no end by the fact that it’s located in the dead centre of the main sightseeing area of Edinburgh.

Directly opposite you’ll find The Scotch Whisky Experience and Edinburgh Castle is located just a couple of minutes walk up Castle Hill, so three major tourist sites can be visited with hardly any walk between them.

At Camera Obscura, visitors get to experience a variety of optical illusions set across six floors inside a purpose-built Victorian building, with each floor dedicated to different displays of light and sound.

One floor, for example, features a collection of holograms, while another has a spinning vortex wheel and a mirror maze.

Suffice it to say, you’ll never know what’s around the next corner as you walk through each room.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

Although Camera Obscura is advertised as a modern attraction it actually has a lot of history behind it.

The very first display was created as a way for an Edinburgh telescope maker to showcase his work in the early 1800s, but it was also used in an exhibition about urban planning before passing to a university and then to the current owners who added the modern light and sound shows.

The earliest display – the Camera Obscura – is located on the top floor where visitors can see an image of the Edinburgh city skyline projected onto a desktop.

This was something that wowed crowds back in the 1800s and it’s still an interesting thing to see today.

One final point worth mentioning is that this attraction is open till 9 pm at the weekend which makes it one of the best family things to do in Edinburgh at night.

Craigmillar Castle

  • Address: Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh, EH16 4SY
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 661 4445
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Craigmillar Castle
Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle lies 4 miles (6.44 km) south of Edinburgh Castle in an area that’s rarely visited by tourists even though getting to it takes less than half an hour by bus (number 14) from Princes Street.

This castle is much smaller than its famous rival in the city centre, but it played an important role in Scotland’s history and was used extensively as a royal stronghold during times of political unrest in the capital.

Mary Queen of Scots stayed there several times, first as a guest and later in its jail, and you’ll discover more about the story of Mary and her time at Craigmillar when you visit thanks to a number of information panels dotted around the site.

The castle consists of a large tower house that was built in 1425 which is enclosed by an outer courtyard surrounded by high stone walls.

Craigmillar Castle

It must have been a near-impenetrable fortress back in the day and it’s no wonder royalty chose to hide themselves away there, especially considering the tower house has walls that are an incredible eleven feet thick!

Externally you can walk around the remains of formal gardens and explore the ruins of a private chapel, while inside there are lots of winding stairways to climb and enough nooks and crannies to keep kids occupied for a good hour or two.

Sadly, there’s no café at this Historic Environment Scotland site so if you need refreshments you’ll have to head back into the city.

Before you do, I recommend taking a walk around the heavily-wooded Craigmillar Castle Park which offers nice walks and plenty of places to sit and admire the view.

Cramond Island

  • Address: Cramond, Edinburgh, EH4 6NU.
  • Contact details: NA
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Cramond Island
Cramond Island

One of the best reasons to visit Edinburgh is to discover how diverse it is in terms of landscapes.

The city centre features a mix of medieval and modern buildings, there are huge green spaces at Holyrood Park and The Meadows, there are hills-galore including the Pentland Hills and Blackford Hill, and there are a number of coastal attractions including Portobello and Cramond.

The latter – Cramond village – lies on the northwest border of Edinburgh next to the opening of the River Almond where it meets the Firth of Forth.

The village is easily reached from Edinburgh city centre within half an hour by bus (numbers 41, 32 and 36) so it’s an ideal place to unwind away from the noise of Princes Street, with the nearby beach at Silverknowes offering a fairly wide expanse of sand as well as a popular walking boulevard.

Looking out to sea you’ll notice a WWII anti-tank barricade leading to a small island which is only accessible when the tide is out.

Cramond Island

To get there, check the tide timetable at the Cramond causeway and then walk along the barricade. It’s a short walk (maybe 20 minutes) but it’s impossible once the tide returns – which it does within a matter of minutes.

Cramond Island isn’t particularly big but there are lots of places to sit and enjoy the view with a large grass area in the middle and a couple of small pebble beaches at the edges.

The northern side of the island has several derelict WWII storage buildings that are worth a look, but watch where you step as there’s a lot of broken glass in them.

The highest point of Cramond Island rises 68 feet above sea level where it offers a good spot to look across the Firth of Forth to Fife as well as lots of birdwatching opportunities towards the Forth bridges.

The view is very pretty indeed and on a sunny day it’s downright stunning, but be warned in summer the island gets crowded with visitors, especially at the weekend.

Gilmerton Cove

  • Address: 16 Drum St, Gilmerton, Edinburgh, EH17 8QH
  • Contact details: Tel 07914 829177
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Gilmerton Cove
Gilmerton Cove

If you’d like to experience a completely different type of tourist attraction that has a fascinating history while being just a wee bit creepy, Gilmerton Cove should sit at the top of your sightseeing itinerary.

What you’ll discover when you visit is a series of man-made underground rooms that were dug out of the earth hundreds of years ago for a purpose that is still unknown to this day.

Gilmerton is a little tricky to find if you’re not familiar with Edinburgh so your best options for finding this attraction are to either get a taxi or take the bus (numbers 3, 29, 30, 33).

Once at Gilmerton look for a small white building on Drum Street near the crossroad which looks unremarkable except for a couple of Gilmerton Cove signs in the windows.

Gilmerton Cove

Sadly, this attraction does not allow you to visit at any time (I guess due to safety concerns), so you have to book in advance for a guided tour that will take you through the cove to explore each chamber while listening to stories from the tour guide about how and why the caves were dug.

Some theories suggest the caves were originally smuggler’s tunnels that were expanded into storerooms over the years.

Others suggest they were secret drinking dens (there are benches carved into the rocks), while other stories suggest the caves were the site of witchcraft rituals.

Whatever their true nature it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure, but we do know the tunnels stretch much further than previously thought thanks to recent surveys that suggest the tunnels of Gilmerton Cove could be twice as big as what is currently excavated.

Holyrood Park

  • Address: Queen’s Drive, Edinburgh, EH8 8HG
  • Contact details: NA
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Holyrood Park
Holyrood Park

Situated about a mile to the East of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Park is an outstanding area of natural beauty that offers tourists and locals alike a haven of tranquillity in the midst of Scotland’s capital city.

Although the park is located centrally inside Edinburgh it has an array of natural wonders to explore over its 650-acre wilderness.

Wild meadows, peaceful lochs, mountain-like ridges and swathes of gorse take visitors on a cross-country journey all within a few minute’s walk from Holyrood Palace.

On a quiet day when there are few tourists around it’s easy to forget you’re in a busy city and instead imagine that you’re way up in the Scottish Highlands.

The most accessible route onto the paths that lead into the park is to walk down The Royal Mile towards the Scottish Parliament building where you can’t fail to miss the towering Salisbury Crags looming overhead.

You can walk around the perimeter of the park or you can follow the road that winds its way across it, but if you really want to experience the beauty of the place it’s a good idea to just follow the well-maintained pathway that runs through the centre.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb up to the 800-foot-high summit of Arthur’s Seat – the highest point in Edinburgh – to take in breath-taking views of the city.

Be aware that although the path to the top is well-used it’s also a hard climb so anyone with a medical complaint might want to consider giving it a miss.

John Knox House

  • Address: Scottish Storytelling Centre, High St, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 556 9579
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: John Knox House
John Knox House

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is one of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe – if not the world – and exploring its eclectic collection of tenements and high-rise buildings is one of the highlights of any visit to the city.

While many of the oldest buildings were demolished by the Victorians there are a few that have survived unaltered for hundreds of years, including the iconic John Knox House situated midway up the High Street.

John Knox was one of Scotland’s most influential people in the 16th century who became famous not only for his epic sermons in St. Giles Cathedral but also for his battles against Mary Queen of Scots.

Although Knox only spent a short time at the house his importance meant it became a museum to both him and the time he lived in, which visitors can experience when they explore each room in the three-storey building.

John Knox House

Each room is filled to the rafters with fascinating artefacts as well as displays that tell the story of the other famous resident of the house – James Mossman – who met a grisly end after being convicted of treason when he illegally minted coins in support of Mary Queen of Scots.

The lower floor gift shop joins onto The Scottish Storytelling Centre which features a reasonably-priced café, while the upper floors have restored artworks, furniture, and displays about Knox and Edinburgh in the 1500s when Scotland was entering the reformation

Visitors will discover what effects this change to Scotland’s religion had on ordinary men and women during a self-guided tour with audio guides that point out lots of interesting features you might otherwise miss.

Museum on the Mound

  • Address: The Mound, Edinburgh, EH1 1YZ
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 243 5464
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Museum on the Mound
Museum on the Mound

Although Edinburgh trails behind Glasgow when it comes to free attractions there are a few that are definitely worth mentioning, including this one situated on The Mound overlooking Princes Street Gardens.

The Museum on the Mound is solely dedicated to money with a collection of interesting exhibits that include printed notes, the earliest credit cards, hundreds-of-years-old safes, and exhibits about crime and punishment.

The museum is run by the Bank of Scotland (one of the oldest banks in the world) and is housed in their grand head office that was built on more than a million cartloads of earth that were dug up when Edinburgh’s New Town was built (hence the name Museum on The Mound).

Museum on the Mound

This is by no means one of the largest museums in Edinburgh but it’s most definitely one of the most interesting, and there are several exhibits that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else in Britain such as the display of £1 Million in banknotes and the oldest banknote in Scotland.

Perhaps the best thing about the museum is that there are lots of activities to keep children entertained including activity books, a safe-cracking display, and interactive coin-striking sessions.

Adults meanwhile, will no doubt enjoy looking at some of the earliest photos of Edinburgh and artefacts that show how and why Scotland’s oldest banks were founded.

The National Museum of Scotland

  • Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
  • Contact details: Tel 0300 123 6789
national museum scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is the largest museum in the country. Set across 5 floors, this popular tourist attraction in Edinburgh takes visitors on a voyage of discovery through a series of collections that range from East Asian exhibits to Scottish culture.

There is so much to do at The National Museum for Scotland that you will struggle to fit it all into one day, so my recommendation is to explore it over a couple of days alongside the other attractions in this article.

The museum is split into two halves – a Victorian arcade that has been recently restored and a modern gallery building.

While the modern building is by far the largest area the Victorian building is more impressive thanks to its grand vaulted iron and glass ceiling and its wide-open galleries that line the main hall over three levels.

National Museum Scotland

The galleries have been designed to appeal to adults and children alike and you’re guaranteed to find something that will interest you whether it’s art and design, natural history, technology, archaeology or world culture.

This museum can be a wee bit overwhelming for first-time visitors so it’s just as well there are a couple of cafes inside to take a break.

Seeing as there’s so much on offer and admission is completely free, the National Museum of Scotland is easily one of the best free things to do in Edinburgh for toddlers and children.

Princes Street Gardens

  • Address: Princes Street, EH2 2HG
  • Contact details: NA
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens run alongside Princes Street (…obviously…) in Edinburgh and are a popular destination for tourists thanks to several landmarks including The Scott Monument and the Ross Fountain.

The gardens were built on top of the Nor Loch which was a polluted body of water underneath Edinburgh Castle that was drained in 1820.

This green oasis in the heart of the city runs the entire length of Princes Street and over the other side of Waverley Station in an area that covers an impressive 37 acres.

Coupled with The Meadows and Holyrood Park it’s no wonder that Edinburgh is officially the greenest city in Britain.

There are a number of year-round features that make Princes Street Gardens a must-visit for any tourist, the foremost being the 200-foot tall Gothic masterpiece The Scott Monument.

Princes Street Gardens

This beautiful stone structure is dedicated to the novelist Sir Walter Scott and it is, in fact, the largest monument dedicated to a writer anywhere in the world.

Other landmarks in the gardens include the Ross Bandstand and the Ross Fountain, which is one of the most elaborate fountains of any city in the UK and is a well-known tourist viewpoint with Edinburgh Castle dominating the background.

The gardens were originally one single stretch of land, but when the Scottish National Gallery was built the gardens were split into east and west sections with The Mound road joining the New Town and the Old Town.

Today, both sections are well-used but the east section is far busier at Christmas when it plays host to Edinburgh’s Christmas festival, while the west section is busiest in summer when it sets the stage for a number of music events.

Real Mary King’s Close

Real Mary Kings Close

Real Mary King’s Close is an underground tourist attraction on the Royal Mile which takes visitors beneath the city streets to experience what life would have been like in the 17th century when Edinburgh was gripped in the clutches of the devastating bubonic plague.

At that time, Edinburgh had virtually non-existent sanitation and human waste was regularly thrown into the streets which attracted rats and the plague-carrying fleas that fed on them.

During a visit, costumed guides take groups down into the original alleyways of Mary King’s Close where they will see how hundreds of people lived in filthy conditions, and they will hear tales of the plague doctors that treated those unfortunate enough to contract the disease.

Real Mary Kings Close

The guides also take groups into the deepest recesses of the underground chambers to visit some of the most haunted rooms in Scotland, including the spooky Annie’s Room which is said to be haunted by a 10-year-old girl.

Elsewhere, there are videos that retell the stories of real-life people that lived on Mary King’s Close, including Mary King herself who was a wealthy burgess that owned a successful clothes shop.

As with many of Edinburgh’s earliest streets, Mary King’s Close fell into ruin and was eventually sealed up and used as the foundations for new buildings.

However, it was eventually rediscovered and opened to the public thanks to this attraction which has renovated the site to exactly how it would have looked in the 1600s.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens

One of the best botanic gardens in the UK is located in Edinburgh and a short bus ride from the city centre will allow you to explore over 13,000 different plant species in the most beautifully landscaped and manicured grounds you’re ever likely to see.

For tourists, the facilities at the RBGE easily match those found at any other Edinburgh attraction with cafés, a restaurant, snack stations, a gift shop and an information centre catering to the needs of visitors of all ages.

Due to their immense size, the Royal Botanic Gardens can be entered via several different gatehouses so you’d be wise to pick up a map at the visitor centre to get your bearings at the start of your visit.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Although the gardens are free to enter it’s well worth paying the entrance fee to get into the premier attraction of the RBGE which is the incredible tropical jungle that lives inside the enormous glasshouses.

These glasshouses contain some of the oldest plants in the entire collection as well as some of the largest, which makes for a fascinating walk around the 3,000 exotic plants that have been sourced from all over the world.

Other highlights include a woodland garden, an enormous tree collection, a Rhododendron collection, alpine houses, and a botanic cottage (which is used for education and community sessions), while the visitor centre houses exhibitions that change on a regular basis.

The Scott Monument

  • Address: E. Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh, EH2 2EJ
  • Contact details: Tel 0131 529 4068
  • Out About Scotland complete guide: The Scott Monument
scott monument

As I mentioned earlier in this article, Princes Street Gardens is home to a number of landmarks, the most prominent being the 200-foot-tall Scott Monument.

The monument was built in 1844 in dedication to the Edinburgh-born novelist Sir Walter Scott and as well as being the most ornate structure in the city it’s also the world’s largest monument dedicated to a writer.

For a modest fee, tourists can climb the 288 steps that wind their way to the top of the monument onto viewing platforms that offer superb views of Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens.

Scott Monument

The staircase is very narrow and towards the top it’s not possible to climb up if another person is coming down, so anyone that’s afraid of small spaces might like to give this attraction a miss.

There’s more to the monument than the viewing platforms though, as visitors can learn about Scott and his works in museum exhibitions housed on two of the floors, while those with sharp eyesight can try to find all 68 statues installed on the exterior.

A visit to this remarkable structure won’t take long (perhaps plan a half hour) but it’s an absolute must-do and is something I guarantee will be one of the most memorable parts of a visit to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Sightseeing Advice
Planning to visit Edinburgh’s top attractions? You’ll save time and money by purchasing a pre-paid hop-on hop-off bus pass.
The pass allows unlimited travel in Edinburgh for 48 hours and includes free entry to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyrood Palace.
Buy your Royal Attractions Bus Pass here.

Bonus Ideas – Festivals in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a jam-packed festival schedule throughout the year so no matter when you visit you’re bound to find something happening somewhere in the city.

The two biggies are of course the Fringe and Christmas festivals but there are plenty of others that have something to offer if you’re not keen on those more famous (and more commercialised) events.

The Royal Military Tattoo, for example, is an iconic 3-week spectacular set against the majestic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle where skilled military bands from across the globe showcase their talents in a series of daredevil displays and intricate marching formations.

The Scottish pipers are probably the highlight and they always get a massive cheer but you’ll see impressive displays from every corner of the globe including motorbikes and acrobatics.

One word of advice though – make sure you book your ticket months in advance as they sell out fast.

At the end of the year you can enjoy Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations which take over pretty much the entirety of the city centre.

At Edinburgh’s Christmas you’ll find a collection of theatre shows, ice-skating rinks, market stalls, kids’ fun parks and themed rides, while Hogmanay features an amazing night-time torchlight procession through the city, the world’s biggest street party, and big-name music concerts.

Edinburgh Christmas

As much as I love the Christmas shows and markets I have to admit they’re a wee bit overpriced so prepare to spend a packet unless you live in an applicable Edinburgh or Fife postcode in which case you’ll get a 20% discount.

If you want to know more about Edinburgh’s busy festival schedule take a look at the official This is Edinburgh website.

I’ve also listed the main festivals in the table below if you want to book your trip to Edinburgh around a particular event.

Edinburgh FestivalDates
Edinburgh International Science Festival 4th to 19th April
Edinburgh International Children’s Festival 20th to 31st May
Edinburgh International Film Festival 17th to 28th June
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 17th to 26th July
Edinburgh Art Festival 30th July to 30th August
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 7th August to 31st August
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 7th August to 29th August
Edinburgh International Festival 7th to 31st August
Edinburgh International Book Festival 15th to 31st August
Scottish International Storytelling Festival 16th October to 31st October
Edinburgh’s Christmas Late November to Early January
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 30th December to 1st January

The Edinburgh Fringe

fringe edinburgh

The Edinburgh Fringe Arts Festival is a multi-arts extravaganza that runs throughout August each year across venues all over the city.

Known simply as ‘The Fringe’ it has grown in size every year since its creation in 1947 and it’s now one of the biggest events in Britain.

There’s a huge amount to see and do during the Fringe from watching circus acts to listening to up-and-coming bands (and every other art form in-between), so trying to get to grips with it all on your first visit will probably make your head spin.

To put it into perspective, over the 25-ish days that the event runs there are around 50,000 performances of over 3,500 different shows held in more than 300 venues attended by over half a million visitors.

To say the city gets busy in August is an understatement.

So what’s the best way to tackle it? Well, you should probably start with your accommodation which will be impossible to find unless you book it months in advance, preferably before the preceding Christmas.

Most hotels start ramping up their prices around June so by the time the Fringe comes around you’ll often see city centre rooms that have tripled in price from what you’d expect to pay in winter.

edinburgh fringe

If you don’t have friends and family to stay with you might be lucky and find a rental home nearby, so take a look at the Airbnb website before you go splurging on an overpriced hotel.

With regard to watching the shows, bear in mind some of them are a bit pricey (£25+ per person) so if you intend to spend a few days in the city expect to spend a couple of hundred pounds or more just on tickets.

Options for buying tickets are to head to the ticket booths outside the major venues or search for bargains at the Half-Price Hut located near the Scottish National Gallery off Princes Street.

You can take a chance and just see whatever bizarrely-named show takes your fancy or you can grab a copy of the Fringe catalogue from outside the Half-Price Hut or download the much more environmentally friendly mobile phone app.

You’ll have plenty of options for food and drink as there are stalls set up in all the main venues, but bear in mind that everything is priced just that wee bit more than you’ll find in the city’s standard bars and food outlets.

I always grab a bite to eat and have a drink in Rose Street before heading out to the next show, although I have to admit there’s more of an atmosphere in the festival beer gardens (the one in George Square Gardens near Edinburgh University is family friendly with a nice relaxed atmosphere).

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Edinburgh good for a family holiday?

Edinburgh is a great destination for families of all ages. As well as hosting 12 major cultural events each year (including The Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival), Edinburgh was the first city to be granted the title of UNESCO City of Literature and it’s one of the few cities on the planet to have its centre elevated to UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
World-class family attractions include Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh Castle and Camera Obscura.

How do I travel to Edinburgh?

Edinburgh Airport lies 5 miles to the west of the city centre and has regular public transport links across the city and the surrounding areas.

A regular airport bus is operated by Lothian Buses (the Airlink 100 service) which runs every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day from Waverley Bridge.

When are Edinburgh’s annual festivals?

Edinburgh International Science Festival: 4th to 19th April.
Edinburgh International Children’s Festival: 20th to 31st May.
Edinburgh International Film Festival: 17th to 28th June.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival: 17th to 26th July.
Edinburgh Art Festival: 30th July to 30th August.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe: 7th August to 31st August.
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: 7th August to 29th August.
Edinburgh International Festival: 7th to 31st August.
Edinburgh International Book Festival: 15th to 31st August.
Scottish International Storytelling Festival: 16th October to 31st October.
Edinburgh’s Christmas: Late November to Early January.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: 30th December to 1st January.

Where can I take my kids in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Holyrood Park, Calton Hill, The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Zoo, The Royal Botanic Gardens, St. Giles Cathedral, The Royal Mile, The Scottish National Galleries, The National Museum of Scotland, Greyfriars Kirk, The Scott Monument, Dean Village.

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Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.