As the charming capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has oodles to offer families who are looking for a busy yet somehow tranquil city break. Unlike many of the main UK cities, Edinburgh’s quaint Reformation-era buildings and cobbled streets will capably transport you and your youngsters back to medieval times. Perfectly juxtaposed alongside New Town, which provides an ideal contemporary contrast, Old Town Edinburgh is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Surely that’s enough to persuade you that Edinburgh is the ultimate city of choice for your UK family staycation?
Don’t be deterred by rumours that the city is ridiculously expensive, either. Look online at low-cost hotel booking sites, and you can bag an absolute steal. A stay near Holyrood Park will put you just outside of Old Town, within walking distance of many of the family attractions that feature on this list.
NB: there’s absolutely no need to pay Royal Mile or New Town prices, unless, of course, someone in your family has accessibility concerns. Let’s do this.
What to do with the kids in Edinburgh
Can you really do Edinburgh without visiting Edinburgh Castle? I think not. Without a doubt, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s most famous landmark and is arguably riding high in the top position of Scotland’s most notable landmarks too.
Sitting proudly in Edinburgh’s skyline on Castle Rock, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is indeed the capital’s very own Hogwarts. The castle is simply steeped in 1000 years’ worth of local and UK history, perhaps too much for younger children to take in in its entirety. Luckily, along with the site’s audio guides, child-friendly trails can also be picked up from the entrance area, adding another element of adventure to your visit. Just don’t forget to join the queue to view the oldest British crown jewels!
The Edinburgh Dungeon
One for families with teens aged 13 and up, shall we say, The Edinburgh Dungeon is a multi-sensory whistle-stop tour of Scotland’s most grotesque bits of history from the last 1000 years. With 11 interactive shows, 360 sets, and two underground rides, prepare to experience 80 minutes of pure real-life local terror.
Featuring infamous Scottish horrors from Agnes Finnie to Sawney Bean – and all the Burkes and Hares in between – the Dungeons is a uniquely thrilling, immersive walk-through attraction that uncovers of Scotland’s perilous past.
Museum of Childhood
From the outside, the Museum of Childhood may well not look like much. Nestled in a slim multi-storey terrace building at the heart of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, much like a child’s toybox, the museum is home to a whole host of wonders that simply unravel as you explore the attraction.
Fundamentally, the museum is a collection of children’s toys and playthings and was the first museum in the world to entirely dedicate its exhibitions to the history of childhood. Expect to see books, railways, dolls, and construction toys a-plenty, with a few hands-on bits and bobs for good measure.
You’ve got to time your trip right to benefit from the wonders of the Edinburgh Fringe. Hosted in the first weeks of August, the Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. Think theatre, comedians, musicals, puppetry, street acts, dancing… Edinburgh Fringe is an ‘explosion of creative energy from around the globe’. Be warned, it’s darn busy!
If you’re new to the Fringe, plan in advance using the festival’s website calendar and ticketing service. That said, if you do walk Royal Mile during the festival, you’re likely to pick up discounted, sometimes free, tickets from promoters. The best time to head to the Fringe is during the opening week, or to watch the preview shows. You will get the most for your money, with cheaper tickets and 2-4-1 offers, and the city won’t quite be as manic just yet.
Family-orientated shows vary each year, with 2018’s Edinburgh Fringe featured an array of artistic talent from Brainiac LIVE! and David Baddiel’s AniMalcolm to locally produced productions of The Twits and Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales.
Located on the edge of Holyrood Park, Dynamic Earth is a five-star visitor attraction that tells the entire and not-so-simple story of planet earth. In complete contrast to all the archaic builds in and around the city, Dynamic Earth can be found inside a futuristic structure, which is home to tens of exhibitions which reveal just how our Earth works.
After travelling back in time to witness the Big Bang, families will get up close to many of the globe’s extraordinary attributes, from volcanoes and the dinosaurs to ice caps and polar bears. Voted Edinburgh’s Best Family Attraction, prepare to embark on an interactive adventure of a lifetime.