26 Fun Things to Do in Edinburgh with Kids (Free Options)

Lauriston Gardens and kid playing

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

Edinburgh has a whole host of family-friendly attractions and things to do. Parks for play time, beaches to bathe at, castles to explore and a few more modern surprises making it a great city to visit regardless of your age. From interesting history to gory horror, outdoor adventures to family-friendly restaurants, this guide details the best things to do in Edinburgh with kids. 

Fun Things to do in Edinburgh with Kids. 

1. Edinburgh Castle With Kids

Edinburgh Castle is not only essential for understanding the history of Edinburgh, but it is absolutely brilliant for families.

Eking through all the nooks and crannies is like one giant history lesson but much more fun than school.

Castle From The Vennel Edinburgh_

→ Read Next | Where to Park in Edinburgh

Highlights include the Scottish Crown Jewels and the mystical Stone of Destiny.

Adding a splash of colour are actors in period garb.

Bang on one o’clock the famous gun salute sorts out the locals from visitors.


Edinburgh Castle is not cheap! 

Regardless, we try to take our two wee girls there every year and always find something new or a different spin on things.

→ Pro tip: Buy a Historic Scotland pass; you’ll recoup the investment visiting a few sights around the city/country.

Bring a picnic to save money, though we thoroughly recommend investing in one of their scones!

Young girl at Edinburgh Castle Guns

2. Enjoy the Free Acts on The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is around about 1.81km, starting at Edinburgh Castle and running all the way down to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood Park.

All year round there are free acts including magicians, musicians, artists and bagpipers who you can tip if you enjoy.

The Royal Mile show really ramps up in August when the Edinburgh Festival Fringe kicks off the world’s biggest arts festival!

Piper Royal Mile Edinburgh_

Read next | Walks in Edinburgh

3. Spit in the Heart of Midlothian

Gross, we know, but historically locals used to spit in this very spot outside of St Giles Cathedral.


Well it depends who you believe.

Some say it was in protest against local taxation, others will tell you it was to show dislike to the building that used to stand there, or the people in it, the Old Tolbooth Prison. 

Price: Free

Heart of Midlothian Royal Mile Edinburgh

4. Rub Hume’s Toe

There are quite a few unusual things to do in Edinburgh!

Rub the statue of the philosopher David Hume’s toe for luck, like many of Edinburgh’s students do.

It hangs over the edge so it’s hard not to give it a wee clean!

Price: Free

Humes Toe Edinburgh Royal Mile Edinburgh

5. The National Museum – Explore the Mother of all Museums

The National Museum is the best of all of Edinburgh’s museums, which you can read about in this guide to museums.

The grand old Victorian original (complete with an awe-inspiring central atrium) has been joined at the hip with a sleek modern sandstone extension.

They combine to sweep you and your kids on quite a journey.

You can explore the story of Scotland from prehistoric times to the present day.

Or just check out whale skeletons and model ships.

This is no staid museum with loads of things to press and play with.

→ Secret local tip – A wee secret is the playroom for younger kids hidden away behind the otherworldly Millennium Clock.

Entrance is free. A fantastic option for a rainy day!

National Museum Scotland Edinburgh

You may also like | Day Trips from Edinburgh by Train

6. Other Museums For Kids in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a huge variety of museums. The following have options for kids too:

  • Children’s Museum
  • Museum of Edinburgh (Huntly House Museum)
  • Museum on the Mound (Money Museum)
  • Surgeons’ Hall (Medical Museum)
Childhood Museum in Edinburgh

7. Get a Selfie with Greyfriars Bobby

Bobby was a very loyal Skye Terrier who spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave at Greyfriars Kirk until he passed away in 1872.

To celebrate this Edinburgh mascot, the fluff was given a statue on George IV Bridge.

Edinburgh’s wee dug’s nose is a little discoloured from tourists rubbing it. Get a selfie with his snout instead!

Greyfriars Bobby is also Everything Edinburgh’s logo.

Price: Free

Greyfriars Bobby Statue Edinburgh

8. Harry Potter Trail 

Did you know that She Who Cannot Be Named’s popular books were written in this fine city?

Many of the locations dreamed up have been inspired by Edinburgh landmarks and attractions.

Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard Edinburgh. Harry Potter
Harry Potter Figure at Victoria Street in Edinburgh

Your Harry Potter Bucket

  • Take a selfie at Diagon Alley (Victoria Street)
  • Check out the real Hogwarts at George Heriots
  • Work out the character names on the gravestones of Greyfriars Kirk
  • Look at the toilets of the Elephant Cafe

Price: Free with exception of cafe items 

Read next | Harry Potter locations fans can’t miss in Edinburgh

The Elephant House Edinburgh Harry Potter

9. Tell Them a Story at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

If your children like nothing better than a good story, give yourself a break and let someone else do the honours at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Tucked on the deeply historic Royal Mile you can just stroll in and check out the exhibits on storytelling, read the tall tales and try on a few costumes. 

I recommend, though, looking at their website in advance as they have all sorts of events. 

Many of these are free.

All of them are fun and engaging.

We love their borrowed Scots motto – “The story is told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart”.

Price: Free, additional cost for some shows and exhibitions

Tolbooth House Museum Edinburgh

10. Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is a must for kids wondering how things work and how the world around them was formed.

This sail-like striking modern building has echoes of the Sydney Opera House – its architecture is fascinating. 

Once inside, myriad exhibits sweep you through volcanoes and glaciers, all the way from the formation of the earth, right through to the present day.

Scotland’s largest interactive visitor attraction is the place to head if you struggle to answer your kids’ tricky questions on the Big Bang. 

A welcoming café is on hand too.

Holyrood Park Arthurs Seat Edinburgh Nature Hike

11. Urban Hikes With Kids in Edinburgh 

Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill, a tale of two hills – and one is a volcano! 

Can you guess which?

If you’re new to Edinburgh or just want to remember what an amazing city it is, stroll up Calton Hill at the eastern end of Princess Street.

Kids love the National Monument’s 12 pillars for climbing too.

Or hike up rugged Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.

From both these lofty vantage points the city of Robert the Bruce and Sir Walter Scott, of Greyfriars Bobby and Harry Potter, spreads out in front of you betwixt hill and river.

Both Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are ideal spots to point out all the places you are going to visit and let your wee ones help plan all the fun things you’re going to discover together. 

St Anthonys Chapel Holyrood Park Edinburgh Views

There is a coffee stand, modest museum and flash restaurant on Calton Hill too.

Edinburgh is actually the city built on Seven Hills so if your clan are walkers there are plenty of options.

Arthurs Seat Edinburgh Walk Park

Edinburgh’s Seven Hills

  • Arthur’s Seat (and Salisbury Crags)
  • Castle Rock
  • Calton Hill 
  • Corstorphine Hill
  • Braid Hill
  • Blackford Hill
  • Craiglockhart Hill

Price: Free

12. Princes Street Gardens

The spiritual green heart of Edinburgh.

Savouring sandwiches on the benches here is part of any Edinburgh childhood.

Follow the local example and take a pew.

I recommend West Princes Street Gardens as the castle looms right up in front of you and there is a free children’s playground.

Next to it is a café selling ice cream too.

Beware the local squirrels as they can be a wee bit too keen to share your sandwiches! 

Look out for live music events at the nearby Ross Bandstand, including free lunchtime concerts in summer.

Price: Free

Princes Street Gardens Cafe Scott Monument

13. Climb Scott Monument

While you are in the Gardens you might want to take advantage of the Scott Monument steps!

Located at the east of the park, you can climb the 287 steps for view of the city.

Scott Monument Edinburgh New Town Piper Princes Street Gardens_

14. Take it to the River

Most first time visitors to Edinburgh leave without even realising the city has a river running through its heart! 

Well it does – the Water of Leith.

Leith Shore

And handily you can wander along its banks.

A family favourite of ours is a visit to the (free) National Gallery of Modern Art followed by a wander along the river’s surprisingly bucolic banks downstream towards Stockbridge. 

As you ease along you’re surrounded by all sorts of greenery and will come across tweeting birds as your stress drifts away and the kids run around.

You pop up like a submarine in Stockbridge where a sprinkling of places to eat awaits. 

We like Pizza Express especially if we snare the window table that hangs out over the river.

Price: Free (river walk)

→ Read also | Free things to do in Edinburgh

Blue skies, two girls outside National Modern Art Edinburgh

15. Craigmillar Castle

If you prefer your history rough, rugged and ready this is Craigmaillar Castle for you.

A world away from its slick city centre sibling, this hideaway a few miles south is a proper ruin.
Here kids can ramble around checking out all the nooks and crannies playing out all their prince and princess fantasies.

Lovely at any time of year, it really comes into its own in autumn when you can kick around in the swathes of leaves.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of space on your phone or camera as there are great views from the ramparts too. 

You can pick up a fact-finding quiz if you want to learn as you go and have a wee souvenir.

young girl running blue skies over Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh

16. Edinburgh Dungeons

Edinburgh is packed with underground activities such as spooky tours of Mary King’s Close or historical tours of The Vaults which may be suitable for older children.

However, a fun way to learn about Edinburgh’s gory history is to take a tour of the Dungeons.

The Edinburgh Dungeons Tour_

17. See A Show

There are a number of theatres and independent cinemas around the city.

Check out the Dominion, Edinburgh Filmhouse or the Cameo for their PG screenings.

Look out for musicals and plays at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Kings Theatre Edinburgh and Usher Hall.

Visiting in winter?

A trip to the theatre to see pantomime is a must.

A real Scottish Christmas tradition.

Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!

18. Baby Loves Disco

If your babe loves to move, find your nearest kid-friendly dance floor in Edinburgh here.

19. The Chocolate Cafe 

OK, this activity is not just for children, big kids like Coro The Chocolate Cafe too.

Centrally located, just off Princes Street, Coro is a late night cafe that specialises in exceptionally good desserts.

Build a crepe, pile up a waffle or enjoy a milkshake at this lesser-known child-friendly cafe in Edinburgh.

Address: 13 Frederick Street.

You may also like our guides what to eat in Edinburgh and which restaurants to visit.

Love chocolate?

What about learning where it comes and how to make it at The Chocolatarium? Read our review.

20. Toots Play Cafe

Edinburgh’s first play cafe for under 5s, Toots Play Cafe is a big hit with Gemma (Everything Edinburgh’s) nephew, Jack.

Address: 227 Gilmerton Road (free parking)

21. Beaches in Edinburgh

Did you know that there are two beaches in the city which are both easily accessed from Leith?

At the bottom of Leith Walk drive right for Portobello Beach and left or Cramond Beach. 

Portobello Beach Cafes People _

→ Read Next | Best Beaches in Edinburgh

22. South Queensferry

Just within the City of Edinburgh boundaries is this deeply special royal burgh.

This waterfront suburb is surrounded by green belt on three sides and sports the River Forth on its northern fringes.

The walks around the Hopetoun, Dalmeny and Dundas estates are great.

Two young girls pointing at Forth Rail Bridge South Queensferry

Here lie the famous trio of bridges across the Forth too.

I thoroughly recommend taking a boat trip to see them at their most impressive on Maid of the Forth. Look out for seals and enjoy a scone!

Scone South Queensferry

The wee cobbled High Street is essential for a stroll and an ice cream – my girls insist the Wee Parlour has the best!

Swirl in the (free) Queensferry Museum and palatial Hopetoun House and South Queensferry makes for an ideal day trip.

Lothian Country bus 43 or train to Dalmeny.

You may also like this guide on things to do in South Queensferry.

23. Pick Fruit

Picking fruit is a very fond childhood memory of Everything Edinburgh.

Close to the city you can take the family to pack your own punnets at Craigie’s Farm.

They have a lovely farm shop too.

Strawberries on Pancakes Food_

24. Take a Train Ride

It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey, as the quote goes and a train ride is always a hit with younger kids.

Big windows, bridges and a toot toot horn, what’s not to be amazed at!

Waverley Train Station with People Edinburgh Transport

Go one train stop further than South Queensferry (Dalmeny) to the Kingdom of Fife to travel over the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, an UNESCO World Heritage site.

If transport is your kids thing, don’t forget the Edinburgh tram.

Forth Rail Bridge. Sunset. Night

25. Things to do in Edinburgh For Teenagers

A little trickier to please in addition to above check out the following for your older clan members:

  • Alien Rock – Indoor climbing – 8 Pier Place, Newhaven
  • The Boardwalk and Transgression Park – Indoor roller skating and scooter – Ocean Terminal, Leith
  • Murrayfield Ice Rink – Indoor ice skating – Riversdale Crescent, Edinburgh
  • Gravity – Indoor trampoline park – 6 Fountain Park
  • Midlothian Snow Centre – Dry slopes and tubing – Biggar Road
  • Shopping – Princes Street or Fort Kinnaird
  • Walk tours! Ghouls, Harry Potter and history
Transgression Park Boardwalk Ocean Terminal Christmas Lights
Hillend Ski Centre Near Edinburgh

26. Child Friendly Restaurants in Edinburgh 

Here’s a list of the most kid-friendly restaurants in Edinburgh recommended by friends, family and followers:

  • Hemma – 73 Holyrood Road, ideal for Dynamic Earth
  • Vittoria – 113 Brunswick Street or 19 George IV Bridge
  • Fazenda – 102 George Street (great for groups too)
  • Loudons – 2 Sibbald Walk
  • The City Cafe – 19 Blair Street (older kids)
  • Filling Station – Royal Mile
  • Mary’s Milk Bar (Ice cream) – 19 Grassmarket
  • Chapter One (vegan) – 107 Dalry Road
  • Scran and Scallie – 1 Comely Bank Road
  • Guild of Foresters Portobello – 36-40 Portobello High Street

You may also like | Edinburgh restaurant guide

Mary Milk Bar Food Grassmarket Edinburgh

27. Children’s Gardens and Parks in Edinburgh

  • Princes Street Gardens
  • St Andrews Square
  • Holyrood Park (Arthurs Seat)
  • The Meadows
  • Deaconess Garden
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
  • Starbank Gardens
  • Leith Links
  • Inverleith Park
  • Lauriston Castle

Read next | A guide to gardens and a post about parks in Edinburgh

Edinburgh for kids, Edinburgh with kids, things to do with kids in Edinburgh, Edinburgh with babies, Edinburgh with toddler, Edinburgh with teenagers, Harry Potter Edinburgh, child friendly restaurants Edinburgh, what to do in Edinburgh, Edinburgh activities, Edinburgh Castle, Arthurs Seat

Essential Edinburgh Information 

Plan your trip, tips & advice
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Food & drink in Edinburgh
Best time to visit Edinburgh
Things to do in Edinburgh
How much does Edinburgh cost?
Free 7-day Scotland itinerary

Plan Your Trip To Edinburgh 

Book accommodation at Booking.com
Reserve a skip the line pass or guided tour at GetYourGuide
Save money with this Edinburgh Pass

Any questions or comments?
Let us know below.

This guide was written by Everything Edinburgh and Robin McKelive.

Robin McKelvie is an Edinburgh-based travel writer, broadcaster and blogger. He writes for newspapers, magazines and websites across the world and also writes travel guidebooks. He also talks travel regularly for the BBC.

2 thoughts on “26 Fun Things to Do in Edinburgh with Kids (Free Options)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *