Edinburgh is a treasure trove of history, culture, and unforgettable experiences. Among its many attractions, one stands out that not only takes you back in time but also brings out the child in you – the Museum of Childhood. This unique slice of nostalgia, nestled in the heart of the historic Old Town, is more than just a museum. It’s a magical portal that transports you back in time to revisit the toys and games that you once loved.
In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to visiting the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, with visiting tips, an overview of what you can do at the museum, and suggestions for other places to visit after enjoying your trip down memory lane.
|Address:||42 High Street,
|Opening Hours:||Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm|
|Parking:||No on-site car parking. Nearest car park is NCP Holyrood Road EH8 9UL.|
|Contact:||Tel: 0131 5294142|
|Facilities:||Gift shop, Wi-Fi. Pubs, restaurants, shops on the Royal Mile. Nearest public toilets are in Waverley train station EH1 3EG.|
The Museum of Childhood is a magical place that transports visitors back to the world of their youth. Located in the heart of the historic Royal Mile, not far from the iconic John Knox House, this unique museum boasts a vast collection of toys, games, and other childhood memorabilia dating from the 1800s to the present day.
Established in 1955 by city councillor Patrick Murray, the museum was the first of its kind to focus exclusively on the experiences and culture of childhood, and today, it houses a fascinating collection of over 60,000 items that reflect the changing lives of Britain’s children.
As you step into the museum you’ll be greeted by a dizzying array of exhibits spread across five galleries. The first gallery showcases vintage toys including dolls, teddy bears, and model trains, while the second gallery delves into the world of childhood hobbies with displays of board games, jigsaw puzzles, and stamps. The third gallery is the last that’s accessible by lift and focuses on the history of children’s clothing from different eras.
Climbing the stairs to the museum’s fourth gallery provides an insight into the history of education thanks to a collection of old books and school memorabilia, and the fifth gallery presents a glimpse into the lives of children in the Victorian age.
What I love most about the Museum of Childhood is its attention to detail. It’s a museum that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face thanks to the various display cases that house every toy imaginable, from Buzz Lightyear to early home computers, Lego, and (my favourite) Meccano sets. Even better, if you’re visiting with kids you’ll be able to show them the toys you used to play with when you were their age including the original Gameboy and portable video games (who else has fond memories of Galaxian and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?).
Throughout the galleries, you’ll find several hands-on stations where all ages can play with old-fashioned toys or try on vintage clothing, and there’s even a make-believe tee-pee where families are encouraged to play together. The museum also hosts a variety of family-themed events and workshops throughout the year, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the world of childhood even further.
Although it looks small on the outside, this tardis-like museum stretches across two buildings filled to the brim with exhibits that could easily take a couple of hours to browse if you walk at a leisurely pace, especially if you’re anything like me and enjoy losing yourself in old photographs (the Museum of Childhood has a great photographic archive).
Although there’s no cafe on-site, thanks to its location you’ll find plenty of places nearby to go for food and drinks after a visit, or you can always take a short walk to some of the other free museums on the Roya Mile like the People’s Story Museum and the Museum of Edinburgh. If you’d like to see even more toys and games, I recommend heading to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street (a 10-minute walk), or the Dynamic Earth attraction located behind the Scottish Parliament Building (a 10-12 minute walk).
Whether you’re a history buff, a visiting family, or simply someone who wants to relive the magic of their earliest days, the Museum of Childhood is a must-visit attraction that’s guaranteed to spark happy memories.
1: The Museum of Childhood is set across two beautiful 18th-century buildings on the Royal Mile. These buildings are enormous inside so the museum is much bigger than you might think from looking at the entrance. In fact, you could easily spend a couple of hours looking at all of the exhibits, for absolutely no cost.
2: This is one of the best museums in Edinburgh, and it’s without a doubt the best museum dedicated to children’s toys and games in Scotland. Whether you’re a solo traveller or a parent with kids in tow, you’re guaranteed to have an enjoyable time at the Museum of Childhood.
3: If you like dolls you’ll be amazed by the enormous collection of Victorian dolls in this museum, as well as the fascinating Stanbrig Eorls dollhouse which began life in 1894 and took an entire lifetime to complete. It even has running water and electric lights!
1: Although the museum is spread across a multi-level building, visitors with disabilities will still be able to enjoy it thanks to the lifts that allow access to the upper 1, 2, and 3 galleries. Be aware, though, that the uppermost 4 and 5 galleries are only accessible via stairs.
2: As with most attractions in Edinburgh, it’s best to take public transport and walk to the Museum of Childhood. Waverley train station is just 5 minutes on foot if you walk up The Scotsman Steps, follow North Bridge, and turn left onto the Royal Mile. There’s also a bus stop near the museum entrance.
3: If you’re visiting Edinburgh and wondering what to take home as a souvenir, there’s a good chance you’ll find something in the museum’s gift shop which sells a range of unique toy-themed gifts.
Things to Do
Toy Story: Explore the vast collection of toys dating back to the Victorian era. Children and adults alike can marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of antique dolls, teddy bears, and other toys that tell the story of childhood across different generations.
Costume Drama: Dress up in period costumes and imagine life as a Victorian child. A photo session in costume is a must-do experience.
Interactive Game Zone: Dive into the world of vintage games and puzzles. These interactive zones are a fun way to learn about traditional games and toys.
Art and Craft Corner: Let your kids unleash their creativity at the art and craft corner. From painting to pottery, they’re guaranteed a fun time and will be able to create a keepsake of their visit.
Learning Experience: Walk through time with exhibits showcasing childhood through the ages and learn about the lives of children in different eras, engaging history enthusiasts of all ages.
Things to Do Nearby
The Royal Mile. 197 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PT.
This famous medieval street joins Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Known for its many alleyways, the Royal Mile features a variety of shops, bars, and restaurants as well as museums and other tourist attractions.
St. Giles Cathedral. High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE. 4-minute walk.
A grand Gothic-style medieval cathedral known as ‘The High Kirk’, St. Giles was the place of worship where John Knox used to preach. The museum is open daily and is free to visit. There’s a gift shop inside and free guided tours are held throughout the day.
John Knox House. 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR. 1-minute walk.
John Knox House dates back to the 15th century and was reputedly the home of the Protestant reformer John Knox. The house showcases the turbulent times of the Scottish Reformation through storytelling and displays.
The Museum of Edinburgh. 142-146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD. 6-minute walk.
This museum serves to inform and educate visitors about the history of Edinburgh from its industrial heritage to the people who made the city into what it is today. The museum is free to enter.
The People’s Story Museum. 163 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8BN. 6-minute walk.
The People’s Story Museum takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the city’s social history. Housed in the historic Canongate Tollbooth, it showcases the lives of Edinburgh’s ordinary people from the late 18th century to today through personal stories, photographs, and historical artefacts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you see at the Museum of Childhood?
At the Museum of Childhood, you can expect to see:
1: A vast collection of children’s toys and games from across the generations. This includes antique dolls, teddy bears, toy soldiers, clockwork trains, and electronic games.
2: Displays of children’s clothing, books, and school equipment.
3: Interactive exhibits where you can play with some of the toys and games.
4: Fascinating exhibitions exploring various aspects of childhood, from education and play to health and wellbeing.
Is the Museum of Childhood free?
Yes, the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh is free to enter.
What are the best museums in Edinburgh?
There are several museums in Edinburgh that most people will find interesting:
The National Museum of Scotland: This museum boasts a vast collection that covers science and technology, natural history, world cultures, Scottish history and archaeology.
Museum of Edinburgh: Housed in a series of 16th and 17th-century buildings, the Museum of Edinburgh tells the story of the city’s past and its people.
Surgeons’ Hall Museum: This museum is run by The Royal College of Surgeons and has collections relating to the history and development of surgery.
The Writers’ Museum: This museum is dedicated to the lives and work of Scotland’s greatest literary figures – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
How long does it take to visit the Museum of Childhood?
The Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh usually takes around 1-2 hours to fully explore. However, the time may vary depending on your level of interest in the exhibits. It’s open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, 7 days a week.