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The city’s worst kept secret is that the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions in Edinburgh has the best views of the Old Town and beyond! But did you know it also has trippy exhibitions, a vortex tunnel and plenty of toys that nosey folk will love?
Camera Obscura is not just a tall historic building with five floors of illusions, it’s also a gallery with intriguing, interactive and often cheeky artwork.
So why not do more than laugh at the silly magic mirrors attached to the outside of Camera Obscura and step indoors for a lighthearted yet mind-bending experience and epic views of the city of course.
Location and Setting
Camera Obscura is located smack bang next to Edinburgh Castle on Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile.
Over the road, you will find The Witchery (romantic restaurant and hotel) and The Scotch Whisky Experience.
Around the corner is the photogenic Ramsay Garden with its striking red stairs.
Look out for the cute Camera Obscura pink bench before you go into reception to redeem your electronic ticket which can be purchased here.
After the ticket exchange is complete, a friendly member of staff will talk you through how to get around the five floors of illusions.
On the way up, you will visit the blue rooms on floor 1 (toilets), 3 (Eye Spy Edinburgh) and 5 (Magic Gallery) before reaching the Camera Obscura Rooftop Gallery.
On the way down, you’ll experience crazy rides in the pink rooms, 4 (Light Fantastic), 2 (Bewilderworld) and then the exit through the shop.
Just before you start your trip upstairs, check out the mesmerising flowing exhibition next to the reception desk.
If you love the Boomerang feature on Instagram, you are going to be in for a good time over the next hour or two!
Five Floors of Freakiness
Enjoy the legs up to your armpits that you’ve always wanted, test how hot you really are with the thermal camera and remember to look really closely at the art because it’s not always what it first seems.
Don’t miss the wee window which peeps out to the Old Town, a wee teaser of what’ to come on the sixth floor.
Speaking of peeping, this Edinburgh attraction is a mecca for voyeurs!
Security cameras hone in on popular spots around the city and you can control where it goes.
You’ll never secretly try to pick your nose in public again.
Good luck trying to find our way out of the mirror maze with flashing lights and atmospheric music piling the pressure on.
Once you’ve made it through the maze you’ve got to try the vortex challenge.
I swear that bridge was spinning!
Some of my family said they couldn’t do it, will you succeed?
Camera Obscura Rooftop
On the sixth floor, you will come to the stunning 360 rooftop which opens out to the Royal Mile on one side and the New Town on the other.
There are even turrets that you can climb inside of!
Plaques explain what you are seeing and tell you a little about the city’s history.
You’ll get a superb view of the gated 17th-century privately funded Heriot’s School. Ironically, it was once a school for ‘poor, fatherless bairns’.
Does it look like it inspired Hogwarts? Find out the answer in our Potter locations guide.
Come face to face with the spires and roofs of Edinburgh’s most popular buildings and peek into the windows of unsuspecting locals and tourists using the binoculars.
You can see as far as the Kingdom of Fife’s beaches through the lenses.
Not just an Edinburgh rainy day activity, if you can catch the city on a dry day, you’ll get cracking shots.
If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Jamie from the Camera Obscura team who is a friendly, fountain of knowledge.
- Address: Camera Obscura, Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND
- Demonstrations of the Camera Obscura show are not available at this time
- Self-guided tours take around 1-2 hours
Do You Have To Reserve A Ticket?
Camera Obscura does sell out, especially at the weekend so to avoid disappointment it is best to reserve your ticket in advance.
With GetYourGuide, tours have a 24-hour cancellation guarantee so if you can’t make it, you don’t lose your money.
Other Things To Do Near Camera Obscura
If you’ve never seen Ramsay Garden, swing by to have a look at the architecture.
From here you can make your way down to Market Street (Waverley Train Station, Edinburgh Dungeon, Brewhemia pub), Princes Street Gardens and the New Town.
If you want to continue with the big kid itinerary, check out The Chocolatarium halfway down the Royal Mile.
Read about our chocolate tour experience here.
Fancy learning more about Edinburgh’s Underground?
This South Bridge Vaults tour is the right mix of storytelling, superstition and history.
I’ve been on two vaults tours and have to say that this tour was done the best.
The tour guide, Darren, was the right balance of friendly and theatrical. Read about it here.
The meeting place is the box outside of the Bank of Scotland, across from Deacon Brodies.
Prefer to hit the Old Town pubs?
From Camera Obscura, you can reach the Grassmarket in five minutes walking down Castle Wynd.
Grab some pizza at Civerinos on Hunter Square, Thai at Ting Thai Caravan or a romantic meal with Scottish produce at The WIthchery.
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Disclaimer: This guide was written in partnership with GetYourGuide. I, Gemma, have been working alongside GetYourGuide since 2017. Opinions are my own.