Of all our travels in Europe when we lived in Zurich, Edinburgh was my most favorite city to visit! Maybe because I was really into Outlander at the time. Or maybe because it’s the birthplace of the Harry Potter series. Or maybe the cute, winding cobblestone streets, seemingly untouched by time and filled with fun shops and coffee houses. Whatever the reason, Scotland is definitely one place I would recommend as a must do to add to your travel list, and especially Edinburgh!
We spent about three days in Scotland, with Edinburgh as our base. We took one tour bus out of the city to see the Highlands, and the rest of the time we stayed in the city to do stuff! One thing you might miss out on when vacationing with kids is the nightlife! Of course there are many bars and a hopping nightlife scene in Edinburgh, but they’re not exactly kid friendly spots! But don’t worry, besides the drinking culture, there’s plenty more to do in Scotland!
Five Fun Things to do in Edinburgh with Kids
Walk around the Old City and take it all in
This is a great activity to do the day you arrive because you can make it short or long depending on how much time you have. There’s plenty to see just walking around, not to mention shops to check out! Carter loves street music and we saw several people playing music, including the multiple bagpipe players around town. You can also check out sites that are worth seeing, but don’t necessarily need a special time blocked off to go to. For example, the famous Greyfriars Bobby statue and Greyfriars Kirkyard (look for Tom Riddle’s grave!).
Don’t forget to check out The Elephant House coffee shop! This coffee shop is known for being the place where J.K. Rowling came up with her ideas for and wrote some of the Harry Potter series! Be sure to hit the bathroom inside, which is covered with Potter themed graffiti!
Tip: they do not have wifi so if you plan to “check in” here on Facebook you’ll have to use your phone data to do so!
National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland was great for all ages! It had plenty of interesting exhibits that kids would enjoy as well as adults. From Scottish history, to natural history, to technology there was a lot to see and do in the museum.
The museum also has plenty of hands on sections for kids to enjoy! There were interactive exhibits throughout and special kids areas, too. The also had detailed Lego models of the museum and older buildings, which was really cool! Oh, and admission is free! (donations accepted) They also have special times, programs and sensory bags for children with autism
This science museum is a really fun place to bring kids. It’s basically a presentation and museum in one. It’s an immersive experience where you “travel” back in time to see the beginning of Earth and then go forward to check out different parts of the Earth. (See if you can guess which celebrity voices the “time machine” elevator!) Each room has a different ecosystem such as the ocean, polar caps etc.
There’s also a pretty good kids play area and a 360° theater. They have a really good gift shop and a cafe as well. Be sure to also check out the information about the rock formations of Scotland as you climb the steps outside to enter the museum!
Standing over the town on a giant rock formation is Edinburgh castle. The castle is rich in history and there is plenty to see and do inside including the Battery, National War Museum and a display of Crown Jewels. Carter had fun checking out all the weapons and cannons!
The castle is fairly easy to get to, you can just walk right up the hill to the entrance (be aware, it is steep)! Or, if you’re staying somewhere a little further away in town, you might want to take the bus or a cab to get closer. That way you don’t have to walk miles through town, and then up the hill to the castle. If you can, go midday so you can catch the 1:00 gun fire! The castle has been doing the 1:00 Gun since the 1860’s every day except Sunday and certain holidays. It’s right by the Redcoat Cafe, and don’t be late because you will miss it!
One of our full days we decided to do a Highlands tour. It’s an easy way to see a lot of stuff, and since we didn’t have a car we couldn’t exactly go out exploring on our own! The tour we chose was kid friendly and went to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and a whiskey distillery. If you only have a few days to spend in Scotland I would highly recommend something like this. You can see the town a day or two and then take a tour to see the Highlands and get the best of both worlds!
There are many tour companies that offer Highlands tours, so you can find many different options of what to see and do! We used a company called Highland Experience and it was pretty good. They have several one day tours to pick from and longer tours as well.
Tips for your visit:
- Dress appropriately! This is a walking city with many cobblestone streets and steep climbs so be sure to wear good shoes. And dress for the weather in layers! It gets cold and wet, as you’d expect.
- A lot of the restaurants turn into bars in the evening, and earlier than you’d expect. Children are not welcome in these restaurants after a certain time, so be sure to check ahead.
- You can use English Pounds but Scotland also has it’s own printed bills. You might get change back in Scottish Pounds. You can use English pounds all over the UK, so if you’re trip takes you to England as well just get pounds and you can use them in Scotland, too.
Visiting Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, was a fun and magical experience! I would definitely love to go back and spend more time visiting Scotland. Traveling with kids can present it’s own unique challenges, but it always seems worth it in the end. My son (four at the time) definitely enjoyed our stay in Edinburgh as well!