Author: Craig Neil
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Last updated on May 25th, 2023.15 minutes to read.
The historic city of Edinburgh is brimming with exciting attractions for teenagers, from exploring medieval castles to immersing themselves in interactive museums.
The city has some of the biggest city parks in Europe as well as beaches, shopping centres, and more cinemas and trendy places to eat than could ever be fit into a single visit.
It’s fair to say that teenagers are pretty much spoilt for choice when it comes to finding things to do in Edinburgh.
In this article, we’ll dive into a world of fun and discovery as we unveil the top attractions and hidden gems that make Edinburgh the perfect destination for an action-packed day out for teens.
If you have younger children take a look at this article: Things to do in Edinburgh with kids.
Map of things to do in Edinburgh with teenagers
1: The Edinburgh Dungeon
Website: The Edinburgh Dungeon
The Edinburgh Dungeon is a thrilling and immersive experience that will take you on a journey through the ghoulish history of Edinburgh.
Upon entering the dungeon you’re greeted by a cast of costumed actors who bring the macabre stories of the city’s past to life with a combination of theatrics and spine-chilling special effects.
Some of the highlights of a visit include the courtroom where you’ll face the wrath of a 17th-century judge and the torture chamber where you’ll learn about the gruesome methods used in ‘Auld Reekie’ to extract confessions from prisoners.
You’ll also have the opportunity to discover the chilling tales of Burke and Hare, the infamous serial killers who sold their victims’ bodies to Edinburgh’s top medical schools (I’ve included information about this notorious duo in this article: Murders and Executions in Edinburgh).
One of the most popular attractions at The Edinburgh Dungeon is ‘Drop Dead’ where you’ll climb into a rickety chair with your friends, be hauled high up into the air, and then plummet back down to the ground.
It’s the closest you’ll ever come to experiencing what it would have been like to face the gallows in the Grassmarket – minus a cheering mob!
In addition to that lot you’ll also experience the gruesome tales of Scotland’s haunted castles, have a spine-tingling encounter with Edinburgh’s plague victims, and face the horrific cannibals of the Bean clan.
With its captivating storytelling, engaging live performances, and eerie atmosphere, a visit to The Edinburgh Dungeon is without a doubt one of the best fun things to do in Edinburgh for young adults, families, and teenagers alike.
2: Ten-Pin Bowling
Websites: Lane7, Tenpin, World of Bowling
Ten-pin bowling is a popular and exciting activity that offers a fun experience for people of all ages and skill levels.
When you step into a bowling alley in Edinburgh you’ll be greeted with a vibrant atmosphere, modern facilities, and friendly staff, and the majority of them feature on-site fast food restaurants as well as arcade machines – teenager heaven!
There are several great ten-pin bowling alleys in Edinburgh to choose from, each with its own unique theme. One of the most popular venues is Lane7, located in the St. James Quarter. This state-of-the-art entertainment centre features multiple bowling lanes, mini golf, an arcade, and a diner, providing a fantastic all-around experience.
Another option is Tenpin Edinburgh, situated near the city centre at Fountain Park. This bowling alley offers 20 lanes, cosmic bowling with glow-in-the-dark lighting, a pool and table tennis area, and a delicious menu featuring burgers, pizzas and all the other unhealthy foods that teenagers crave.
For the best value experience, consider World of Bowling, a smaller yet stylish bowling alley on Newmarket Road which features a milkshake and slushie bar and a crazy golf course.
Regardless of where you choose to play, ten-pin bowling in Edinburgh is a fantastic way to spend an evening with friends, and with midweek deals at most venues it doesn’t even have to be too expensive either.
3: Calton Hill
|Admission Price:||Free to visit Calton Hill. Nelson Monument has paid entry.|
|Parking:||No on-site car park. Paid car parks across Edinburgh.|
|Facilities:||Restaurant, toilets, snack kiosk, luggage store, disabled access|
Out About Scotland Guide: Calton Hill
Calton Hill, located in the heart of Edinburgh, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the city. With its iconic landmarks and stunning panoramic views, this historic site offers a unique experience for people of all ages, especially teenagers.
One of Calton Hill’s main attractions is the Nelson Monument, built in honour of Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Visitors can climb the 143 steps to the top for unparalleled views of the city and beyond. The City Observatory, another fascinating site, has been repurposed into a museum and a contemporary art gallery that showcases thought-provoking exhibitions.
There’s also a restaurant – The Lookout – that presents diners with one of the best views in the city, although it’s admittedly not an ideal place for teenagers to eat (tasting menus start at £85…).
The Dugald Stewart Monument faces a stunning backdrop of Edinburgh and is one of the best places in the city for selfies, while the National Monument (an unfinished acropolis) is a great place to clamber up and people-watch with friends.
The hill is also a great place for events, the pick of the bunch being the annual Beltane Fire Festival held in April where visitors can experience a mesmerizing celebration of Celtic culture complete with dancing, drumming, and fire performances.
In summary, Calton Hill is an essential stop for any teenager exploring Edinburgh and its captivating blend of landmarks and breathtaking views make it one of the top things to do in Edinburgh for free.
4: Princes Street Gardens
|Opening Hours:||Mon to Sun - 7am - 9.35pm|
|Contact:||0131 529 7921|
Out About Scotland Guide: Princes Street Gardens
In the centre of Edinburgh, between Waverley railway station on one end and Lothian Road on the other, you’ll find Princes Street Gardens.
The gardens are worth visiting at any time of the year but summer is when they really shine thanks to dense coppices of trees dripping with leaves and flower borders exploding with colour.
As soon as the sun shines Princes Street Gardens becomes the go-to place for young people, partly because there’s lots of space to spread out and also because the myriad shops and fast food restaurants of Princes Street are just a couple of minutes’ walk away.
There are loads of spots for teenagers to sit in the 37-acre gardens, but most of them tend to congregate on the northern side near the Ross Fountain. As a top tip though, the southern side of the gardens under Edinburgh Castle is usually much quieter which might be preferable for teens wanting to escape with a good book in hand.
Princes Street Gardens is divided by the free-to-enter Scottish National Gallery buildings, with the western side being nearly twice as big as the eastern side, though the east side is home to the magnificent Scott Monument which is the highlight of the entire gardens.
Other reasons to visit Princes Street Gardens are the many music concerts which are staged year-round in the west garden and the always-popular Edinburgh’s Christmas which features a German market and Santa’s winter wonderland in the east garden.
Website: Jump In, Gravity Active
Edinburgh offers several indoor trampoline parks where you can enjoy bouncing, flipping, and flying through the air either for recreation, fitness, or even competitively.
Trampolines consist of a durable mat stretched over a metal frame with springs attached to provide lots of bounce. It’s a low-impact exercise that has a number of health benefits and it’s fast becoming one of the most popular leisure activities for teens, even rivalling tenpin bowling.
Trampolining is a fun way to stay active but it’s important to make sure the trampoline is in good condition and there’s proper supervision and safety equipment in place such as a safety net and adequate padding.
With that in mind, anyone looking to go trampolining should stick to the top-tier trampoline parks, and thankfully Edinburgh has a few to choose from.
One popular trampoline park in Edinburgh is Jump In, located in Musselburgh and roughly a 20-minute drive from Princes Street. Jump In has standard sessions starting from a tenner as well as special Friday night sessions where disco lights are turned on and party music is pumped out.
Another great option is Gravity Trampoline Park at Fountain Park. Gravity is one of the UK’s biggest chains of trampoline venues so their centres are packed to the rafters with activities including climbing walls and fitness classes, plus they have discounts and annual passes to help families save a few quid.
Safety is crucial when it comes to trampolining so keep these safety suggestions in mind:
- Warm up and stretch before jumping to avoid injuries.
- Do not attempt flips or tricks beyond your skill level.
- Only jump within your designated area.
- Use safety equipment such as grip socks which are often provided or available for purchase at the parks.
- Children should always be supervised by an adult. A disclaimer must be signed by an adult before trampolining.
- If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, consult with a doctor before trampolining.
6: Cramond Island
|Opening Hours:||Open 24/7
Access depends on tide times
|Parking:||Free parking is available at Cramond car park (postcode EH4 6NU)|
|Facilities:||No facilities on Cramond Island
Toilets and cafe in Cramond village
Out About Scotland Guide: Cramond Island
Cramond Island is a small island in the Firth of Forth, around 6 miles from the centre of Edinburgh.
The island is reached via a causeway that runs from the shore of Cramond village along an anti-tank barrier built during WWII. From this vantage point, visitors can take in breathtaking views of the Firth of Forth, the Fife coastline, and the Forth Bridges.
The convenience of being able to visit Cramond from Edinburgh city centre is the main attraction for many visitors, especially local teenagers looking for a beach day as not only are there plenty of spots on the island to relax with friends but there’s also Silverknowes Beach immediately to the west which has a 3/4 mile stretch of golden sand.
Thanks to a large parking area on Marine Drive and another in Cramond village, parents can drop their kids off and pick them back up with ease, while the village itself has a few handy facilities including public toilets and a cafe.
In summer, the wide footpath that runs alongside the beach is a top place for roller skating, and there are often ice cream and snack vans on the grass area in front of the car park
As far as the island goes, it can be a fun destination but you need to be aware that it can only be accessed during low tide, so visitors must time their visit accordingly to avoid being stranded.
There’s a tide timetable posted at the start of the causeway but I personally use Tides Chart which displays the tides in an easy-to-read graph.
7: Real Mary King’s Close
2 High St,
|Opening Hours:||Monday-Friday: 09.30 to 17.00
Saturday-Sunday: 09.30 to 21.00
|Admission Price:||Adult: £19.50
Child (5 – 15 years): £12.95
Adult Flexi Ticket: £22.00
Child Flexi Ticket (5 – 15 years): £15.00
|Facilities:||Gift shop, coffee house, toilets, guided tours|
|BUY TICKETS||Click here to purchase|
Out About Scotland Guide: Real Mary King’s Close
Seeing The Real Mary King’s Close is a must if you’re looking for an unusual historical experience to share with your children while in Edinburgh.
Hidden under the modern city streets, this maze of subterranean rooms and alleyways is a spooky reminder of Edinburgh’s plague-ridden history and is an incredible way to see the city from an entirely new perspective.
You can find the historic Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh’s Old Town, just off the world-famous Royal Mile.
The close is named after Mary King, a wealthy trader who lived in the area in the 17th century. Though affluent in its heyday, it fell into ruin after her death and was eventually abandoned and used as the foundation for new buildings, after which it was forgotten for hundreds of years.
The close was rediscovered in the 1990s and is now open to the public for guided tours which offer an insight into the lives of the close’s former residents who ranged from prosperous merchants to destitute beggars.
During a tour, you’ll visit each of the abandoned homes of Mary King’s Close led by costumed guides who bring history to life with entertaining tales, exhibitions about the black plague and Edinburgh’s notorious plague doctors, and video displays of the people who lived in ‘Auld Reekie’ during the time of Mary King.
It’s a great tourist attraction – one of the best in the city, in fact – and it’s guaranteed to be enjoyed by all family members, including hard-to-please teens.
8: OMNi Centre
|Opening Hours:||Monday to Sunday 6 am to 1 am.|
|Parking:||There is a 1,000-space (9 disabled) multi-level car park at the Omni Centre which is accessed via Greenside Row.
Entry from 00:00 to 06:59 £2.50/hour
Entry from 07:00 to 18:59 £3.00/hour
Entry from 18:00 to 23:59 £2.70/hour
Maximum rate for any 24 hour period £22.00
Tel: 0131 524 7770
|Facilities:||Bars, restaurants, public toilets, car park, cinema, gym.|
Out About Scotland Guide: Edinburgh OMNi Centre
Located to the east of the more recently constructed and much bigger St. James Quarter, the OMNi Centre is one of Edinburgh’s most popular entertainment complexes.
The OMNi Centre has a variety of restaurants, a cinema, and a top-notch fitness centre as well as a high-class hotel, and its location means it’s easily walked from the city centre.
To get there, take the turning down Leith Street opposite the Balmoral Hotel and continue past the St. James Quarter until you reach the glass-fronted OMNi a few minutes later.
Both Leith Street and the pedestrian-only Greenside Place provide pedestrian access to the building, but if you’re driving you should head to the back of the centre which faces Greenside Row where the entrance to the Q-Park garage can be found.
The OMNi Centre is home to a variety of restaurants including a Wetherspoons, Tony Macaroni, Nando’s, and Slug & Lettuce, as well as a couple of newer and lesser-known eateries such as Tea Tea and Edinburgh Street Food.
The burgers, pizzas, and wraps (mainstays of the teenage diet) served at most of these restaurants, together with the cinema and the fact that the whole complex is undercover, make the OMNi a great destination on a rainy day.
The Vue cinema is a firm favourite with teens as the prices are very reasonable with pre-booked tickets starting at only £5 for adults and £2.50 for young children.
That being said, if you’d like to save even more money I recommend taking advantage of the Meerkat Movies discount which offers two tickets for the price of one on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
9: Ghost Bus Tour
Website: Ghost Bus Tours
A ghost bus tour is a spine-chilling experience that takes you on a journey through the city’s dark and haunted past.
It combines the thrill of a ghost tour, a dash of hilarious commentary, and the convenience of a bus ride, allowing you to explore the ghoulish side of Edinburgh while comfortably seated in a vintage double-decker bus.
Ghost bus tours typically start at the Lawnmarket (postcode EH1 2NT) and take you to various haunted sites and locations linked to notorious figures, grisly murders, and paranormal sightings.
Some of the key stops include the Royal Mile, Greyfriars Kirkyard, the Grassmarket, and Holyrood Palace, but there are 12 destinations in total, all chosen for their unsettling tales from the past.
Though it’s undoubtedly one of the more crazy things to do in Edinburgh, what sets a ghost bus tour apart from a regular sightseeing tour is the expert guides who’ll regale you with chilling tales and historical anecdotes.
The theatrical storytelling, spooky sound effects, and dim lighting create a creepy atmosphere which is guaranteed to be a highlight for any teenager visiting Edinburgh.
Tours run every day of the week and tickets can be purchased online with children’s tickets (ages 5 to 15) costing around £15 each and family tickets priced at around £50.
10: Royal Yacht Britannia & Ocean Terminal
|Opening Hours:||January - March: 10:00 to 17:00
April - August: 09:30 to 18:00
September - October: 10:00 to 18:00
November - December: 10:00 to 17:00
|Admission Price:||Adult: £18.00
Student (with ID): £16.00
Child (aged 5-17): £9.00
Child (under 5): Free
Family (2 adults and up to 3 children): £49.00
|Parking:||Free car parking in Ocean Terminal multi-storey|
|Contact:||0131 555 5566
|Facilities:||Restaurant, gift shop, toilets, audio guides, private tours|
|BUY TICKETS||Click here to purchase|
Out About Scotland Guide: Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, located in the Leith area of Edinburgh, is a modern retail and leisure complex that boasts a varied selection of shops, restaurants, and leisure facilities with fantastic waterfront views of the Port of Leith and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
The shopping centre features over 70 stores catering to various tastes and budgets with popular high-street brands sitting alongside smaller independent shops that showcase local products and unique items.
There’s a great mix of fashion, homeware, electronics, and beauty stores at Ocean Terminal, so if you have bored teenagers it’s a great place to send them for a little retail therapy.
In addition to shopping, Ocean Terminal has a wide range of cafes, restaurants, and fast food outlets that cater to all tastes, while for entertainment the centre houses a state-of-the-art Vue Cinema featuring multiple screens and the latest movie releases.
The complex is also home to the Royal Yacht Britannia, one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions which allows you to explore the British royal family’s former floating palace.
The entire ship is open from the royal dining room to the engine room, and an audio tour gives visitors a feel for what life was like on board one of the most famous ships in British maritime history.
Although it’s located a little outside of Edinburgh’s city centre, Ocean Terminal is easily accessed by bus as well as the newly-opened tram system, plus there’s a large multi-storey car park on-site if you’d rather drive.
11: Harry Potter Tour
A Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh is a magical experience that transports fans into the enchanting world of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series.
Many of the city’s winding streets and historic landmarks played a significant role in inspiring the author as she wrote the books, making Edinburgh an ideal destination for Potterheads young and old.
Tours typically start at the Royal Mile or the Elephant House Cafe where Rowling wrote portions of the first book.
Key stops on Harry Potter tours inevitably include Greyfriars Kirkyard – home of the grave of Tom Riddle which inspired the character of Lord Voldemort – and George Heriot’s School, a stunning building reminiscent of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Other points of interest include Victoria Street which supposedly served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and Rowling’s handprints at the City Chambers. Some tours even venture into the upmarket Balmoral Hotel where the author completed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007.
In short, a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh is a captivating experience that’s a must-do for all teenage fans of the series as they’ll get to see the spellbinding places that inspired J.K. Rowling. Prices are around £10 per ticket and most tours take around one hour.
Frequently asked questions
What should 16-year-olds do for fun in Edinburgh?
In Edinburgh, 16-year-olds can enjoy attractions like the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, an interactive venue with optical illusions and hands-on exhibits. They can also explore the thrilling Edinburgh Dungeons, participate in escape rooms, or visit the National Museum of Scotland for a fun educational experience.
Outdoorsy types, meanwhile, can go on a Harry Potter tour or climb Arthur’s Seat for amazing views of the city.
What can teenagers do on a rainy day in Edinburgh?
1: Dynamic Earth: This interactive museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of the planet from earthquakes to volcanoes and the ice age.
2: Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: This attraction features five floors of optical illusions, interactive exhibits, and a rooftop camera obscura.
3: National Museum of Scotland: This museum has a wide variety of exhibits including natural history, science and technology, and world cultures. There are also interactive exhibits designed specifically for children.
4: Edinburgh Dungeon: This attraction takes visitors on a journey through Scotland’s darker history, featuring live actors, special effects, and scary stories.
Is Edinburgh suitable for kids?
Yes, Edinburgh is a great destination for families with kids. The city boasts a wide range of fun and educational activities for children such as visiting Edinburgh Castle, exploring Edinburgh Zoo, and taking a ghost tour through the city’s historic streets.
With regard to outdoor activities, you can take a hike up Arthur’s Seat or enjoy a day trip to nearby beaches like Portobello and Silverknowes Beach.
What is the most fun thing to do in Edinburgh for a teenager?
One of the most fun things to do in Edinburgh for a teenager is to visit Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. This interactive attraction, located near Edinburgh Castle, features six floors of hands-on exhibits, optical illusions, and mind-blowing visual effects. Highlights include the Ames Room, which alters your perception of size, the Vortex Tunnel, which creates a dizzying sensation of movement, and the Mirror Maze, which challenges you to find your way out.
Other fun activities for teenagers in Edinburgh include exploring the Edinburgh Dungeons which combines history with interactive shows and thrilling rides or trying out an escape room, like the ones at Exit Plan Edinburgh or Escape Edinburgh.