Visiting Edinburgh? Here's 15 great things to do with your family


Visiting Edinburgh for the holidays? Whether it's galleries, shows, walks and all sorts of events and goings-on, you won't run out of things to do in Scotland's capital. Plus Bonnie & Wild has you covered for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and why not check out our photography gallery and monthly ceilidh!

© Eduardo Vieira

Edinburgh Castle – towering over Scotland’s capital, this is one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. While entry certainly isn't cheap, Historic Scotland members do get in for free (Historic England go half-price), while family and other discounts are available. Stride along the ramparts, explore the Royal Palace and National War Museum, and meet Mons Meg. Try to get there for the One O’Clock gun! Open daily from 9.30am.

© Maksym Symonenko

Calton Hill – A must, especially on a bonnie day. Across the road from the St James Quarter, this ancient volcanic plug is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and offers you some beautiful views across Edinburgh and beyond to the Firth of Forth. Or look across to Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. The National Monument makes for great climbing, while a small art gallery and restaurant means you can easily spend a quality bit of time here. There are a few other monuments worth a gander too, including the Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson's Monument, the Old Royal High School, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs' Monument and also the City Observatory! Phew. Pop into Bonnie & Wild for some nourishing food and drink afterwards.

© National Museums Scotland

National Museum of Scotland and Museum of Scotland – Another must. Cross over the Royal Mile to Chamber Street to access this magnificent museum. A full and fascinating collection that reaches across fields such as natural history, scientific discovery, Egypotolgy, early Scotland and much, much more. And if you’re still hungry for some culture then you should also try National Gallery of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and many more smaller art galleries, including the legendary Fruitmarket and City Arts Centre to the Collective Gallery on Calton Hill. Closer to home, you can also see Scottish Landscape Photography of the Year Exhibition in our very own Food Hall. Free, and open from 9am daily.

Scott Monument – built in 1840 in honour of the great writer Sir Walter Scott, this is another of Edinburgh’s famous landmarks with extraordinary views. Stretching 61 metres high and with 287 steps, it’s not for those of a nervous disposition, especially if you’re scared of heights. But the views are beautiful and the experience of clambering up ever-narrowing staircases is rather exciting. Probably not for those with jittery knees or nerves. Open daily from 10am to 3:30pm, and closed for lunch 12:30pm-1:45pm.


© Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth – Across from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Dynamic Earth will take you on a journey through space and time to the birth of our very own Planet Earth. A mesmerising and immersive experience, you’re taken back to the Big Bang and then led through a series of rooms before returning to the present day. The ground shudders as a lava flow streams past you, while their polar room will give you the shivvers. Hear the screeches of the jungle in their tropical rainforest. Great for all kids, young and old. Open daily from 10am.

© Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura and the World of Illusion – Just down from the Castle on the Royal Mile, this is one of Edinburgh’s most famous visitor attractions. With five floors and more than 100 exhibits for all ages, it’s packed with activities designed to intrigue and delight. Explore their Kaleidoscope Tunnel, lose yourself in their Mirror Maze, then pop up to the rooftop terrace for more spectacular views of Edinburgh and its old town. Open daily from 9am.

Arthur’s Seat – Another cracking walk, though a bit more vigorous than Calton Hill. You can ascend from various starting points, but whichever way you go, you’ll still have a bit of a scramble at the top, where the rock can be polished in places. Busy, and with spectacular views. If you’re still in the mood, take a stomp along the Salisbury Crags.

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Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
– Gorgeous at any time of year, this is a colourful and peaceful haven of nature a mere mile or so north of the city centre. Free to enter and a joy to explore, there's also a few cafes, shops and the Inverleith House Gallery, as well as meandering paths that take you on a beautiful world tour of plants, trees and flowers.

© VisitScotland

Portobello beach – On sunny, warm days get yourself down to the beautiful Portobello Beach. Popular and lively, there’s a great vibe here, with sailing, kayaking, beach volleyball and all sorts going on. It’s rightly popular with ice-cream lovers, promenanders and wild swimmers (Wardie Bay over by Newhaven also good for sea dip).

© Merkat Tours

Walking Tours – While you can easily spend time exploring Edinburgh by yourself, there are plenty of themed tours for visitors to the city, including immersive tours from Mercat Tours and the somewhat scary Mary King’s Close! Or take a meander along the Water of Leith up to and through the charming Dean Village - great for discovering Stockbridge and the Modern Art Gallery...

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Edinburgh Zoo – A bit further out the city, Edinburgh Zoo has been a family favourite for generations. Home to more than 2,500 incredible animals from around the world, the Zoo gives visitors the opportunity to see first-hand some spectacular animals and learn more about our natural world, including the challenges facing wildlife today. Along with ranger talks throughout the day, there’s also a busy programme of bookable events. Open daily, from 10am.

Murrayfield Ice-Park – Chill out while shredding the ice at Edinburgh’s ice-skating rink, over by Scotland’s Rugby Stadium at Murrayfield. With learn-to-skate classes during the week, as well as public skating sessions during the week, the Ice Park is a firm favourite for many Edinburgh families. Remember to wrap up warm! Open daily with various hours. Public sessions generally from 2pm and 4.30pm.

Everyman Cinema – There’re a fair few cinemas in Edinburgh, but we’re particularly fond of our local Everyman Cinema, up on Level Five of the St James Quarter. Pop down to Bonnie & Wild for pre- and/or post-film food and drinks!

Ceilidh dance at the White Heather Club – A must-try (and a must come back) for city visitors and residents alike, the White Heather Club takes place just outside Bonnie & Wild’s Food Hall and is a brilliant and family-friendly fun evening. Free and super popular, you’ll always get a dance, even if you’re on your own. Band leader Charlie Kirkpatrick will lead you through the moves to famous Scottish country dances such as Strip the Willow, Dashing White Sergeant and the Gay Gordons. Last Thursday of every month, from 8pm.

What visit to Edinburgh wouldn't be complete without an open-bus tour of the city?! Kids go free on these hop-on-hop-off bus tours of Edinburgh that take in all the city highlights (a fair few of them are listed above). A variety of different routes and options, with multi-lingual commentary available in 10 different languages alongside a guide. For info and to book visit www.edinburghtour.com


What else is on? While the above list is far from exhaustive, there is always something going on in Edinburgh each day, from street food pop-ups to buskers to all manner of performances, shows and exhibitions. Have a look at The List website for up-to-date information, as well as our own events page.

And of course, there's all this and we've not even mentioned the Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe? That's when the city's at its busiest and most vibrant! Stuck for something to do? You'll be stuck trying to find a quiet moment to relax!

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