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Fun Things to do in Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh

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city guide

Edinburgh, Gaelic Dun Eideann, capital city of Scotland, located in southeastern Scotland with its centre near the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, an arm of the North Sea that thrusts westward into the Scottish Lowlands. The city and its immediate surroundings constitute an independent council area. The city and most of the council area, including the busy port of Leith on the Firth of Forth, lie within the historic county of Midlothian, but the council area also includes an area in the northwest, around South Queensferry, in the historic county of West Lothian.

Physically, Edinburgh is a city of sombre theatricality, with much of this quality deriving from its setting among crags and hills and from its tall buildings and spires of dark stone. Edinburgh has been a military stronghold, the capital of an independent country, and a centre of intellectual activity. Although it has repeatedly experienced the vicissitudes of fortune, the city has always renewed itself. Today it is the seat of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive, and it remains a major centre for finance, law, tourism, education, and cultural affairs. Area council area, 102 square miles (264 square km). Pop. (2001) city, 431,393; council area, 476,626; (2011) city, 459,366; council area, 482,640.


Best time to go

The best time to visit Edinburgh is June through August when the average high temperatures rise to a balmy 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But this is also the city's busiest time for tourism, especially in August when festivals fill up the calendar.


Fun city facts and activities

    We can all agree that it's great having plans in the diary but isn't it even better when those plans don't involve spending cash? There are many ways to empty your wallet in Edinburgh from Michelin-starred restaurants to world-famous tourist attractions. But it's also possible to have a fun day out while you're on a budget. From museums and art galleries to gardens and educational outings, these are our top recommendations when it comes to spending absolutely nothing in the Scottish capital. Happily, the best free things to do in Edinburgh are also some of the best things to do full stop.
City facts

Neighborhoods to explore

    New Town/City Center
    Old Town
    South Side
    Tollcross/Lothian Road

Food Specialties

    Edinburgh is world-famous for its many outstanding restaurants, which fit neatly amongst all the history, culture and natural beauty the city has to offer. You can expect both the finest and freshest local produce as well as international ingredients and flavours, featuring creations by the very best chefs around.

    From top-quality meat and shellfish from across Scotland to inventive plant-based menus that offer twists on the traditional, there are so many ways to experience the best of the city's dining scene.

Edinburgh Offbeat activities

Free or cheap things to do

1. Ghost Tour of Edinburgh: Take a spooky tour of Edinburgh's most haunted locations, including Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.

2. Climb Arthurs Seat: Get a stunning view of the city from the top of Arthurs Seat, an extinct volcano located within the city limits.

3. Visit the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions: Explore the interactive exhibits and illusions at this one-of-a-kind museum.

4. Take a Literary Walking Tour: Take a walk and explore the city's literary heritage, with stops at famous sites like the birthplace of Robert Louis Stevenson.

5. Visit Edinburghs Cat and Dog Home: Take a tour of this animal sanctuary and meet some furry friends.

6. Take a Whisky Tour: Learn more about Scotlands national drink on a tour of one of the citys many whisky distilleries.


Offbeat activites
Kid friendly

Fun things to do in with kids

Free or cheap things to do

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

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.

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.

4. Rub Humes Toe
There are quite a few unusual things to do in Edinburgh!
Rub the statue of the philosopher David Humes toe for luck, like many of Edinburghs students do.

5. The National Museum Explore the Mother of all 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.

6. Other Museums For Kids in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has a huge variety of museums. The following have options for kids too:

Childrens Museum
Museum of Edinburgh (Huntly House Museum)
Museum on the Mound (Money Museum)
Surgeons Hall (Medical Museum)

7. Get a Selfie with Greyfriars Bobby
Bobby was a very loyal Skye Terrier who spent 14 years guarding his owners grave at Greyfriars Kirk until he passed away in 1872.

8. Harry Potter Trail
Did you know that She Who Cannot Be Nameds popular books were written in this fine city?

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.

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.

11. Urban Hikes With Kids in Edinburgh
Arthurs Seat and Calton Hill, a tale of two hills and one is a volcano!

12. Princes Street Gardens
The spiritual green heart of Edinburgh.
Savouring sandwiches on the benches here is part of any Edinburgh childhood.

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 Craigies Farm.

24. Take a Train Ride
Its not about the destination its about the journey, as the quote goes and a train ride is always a hit with younger kids.

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

26. Child Friendly Restaurants in Edinburgh
Heres 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
Marys 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

27. Childrens 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

Anchor 1
Best Parks

City data and FAQ 

What is Edinburgh known for?

The festival (in August), its castle, the Royal Mile, the Rose Street pub crawl, Greyfriars Bobby, its dark side (Burke and Hare, Deacon Brodie, Mary Kings Close, Underground Edinburgh), its historic and picturesque architecture, pipers in kilts_
Tony Gilbert - Lives in Scotland (1990 Present)

Being the capital city of Scotland and home of the devolved Scottish Parliament; the second largest city in the country in terms of population (after Glasgow); its also the 7th biggest in the U.K; Its castle, which sits on an old volcanic rock plug high above the city and dates originally from the 12th century. Its the citys second most popular tourist attraction. Part of the city (the combined Old & New Towns) is a UNESCO World Heritage site; Hosting a series of media & arts festivals each summer, plus the renown Military Tattoo; Its railway station (Edinburgh Waverley) has the largest number of operational platform faces of any station outside London; Being the site of three universities (University of Edinburgh, Herriott-Watt and Edinburgh Napier); Having more green space per head of population than any other city in the U.K
Gary McAdam - Lives in Baildon, UK (2019 Present)

Do you need a car to visit Edinburgh?

No. The city centre is very walkable and there is an excellent public transport system. Parking near to the main tourist attractions and city-centre hotels is limited, so a car is more of hinderance than a benefit.
Tim Peak Lives in Derbyshire, UK

No. The city centre with most of the best sights is about a mile and a half long and three quarters of a mile wide. And unusually there is a lot of accommodation near or in the centre. There is also a good bus and tram service to visit some outlying parts of the city. If you plan to get out of the city to places like Rosslyn Chapel, the Pentland Hills, or most of the beaches then you will need a car. But if you stay in Edinburgh for two weeks, I would recommend only hiring a car for one.
John Kingston

Only if you're driving in from somewhere else in the UK. If you're arriving from overseas, I would suggest that renting a car to get around in Edinburgh is simply not worth the expense. The city itself is not all that big; the typical places that tourists would generally want to visit are in a fairly small area, so it isn't difficult to walk between them. You will struggle to find parking spaces anywhere near the city centre a lot of central on-street parking is now limited to residents only. If you want to range a bit more widely, the city's public transport system is pretty good and not very expensive as such things go. You can pay bus fares by debit card, and if you make sure to always use the same card the fares are capped at 4.40 per day. That's pretty cheap for unlimited bus travel.
James Taylor Lives in Scotland

Parking is an utter nightmare in Edinburgh. You are much better off without a car. If you have one, leave it at one of the park-and-ride places on the outskirts and get the bus into the city centre instead.

Is Edinburgh worth visiting?

If you are interested in theatre, concerts and film, then yes, Edinburgh is the best place in Scotland.
If you are interested in shopping, theres little of interest in central Edinburgh. The interesting one-off shops are not in the city centre but in Morningside, Newington and Bruntsfield, one or two miles from the centre.
If you are interested in scenery and long hikes in the wilderness, no. Go further north to Fort William or Corrour, or out to the islands of Skye or the Hebrides.
Ken Johnson

Are two days enough to visit Edinburgh?

If you have two days, you can see some of Edinburgh, including some key sites. You will not see all of it, but enough to know you want to come back. Or not as the case may be.
Marcus Streets Lives in Cambridge, UK

You could just about do Edinburgh in two days but you;d be pushing it. Depending on your interests, there are the Royal Mile, fascinating and with interesting and quirlky shopping streets off it, Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Whisky Experience, Mary Kings Close, Holyrood Palace, Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat, Dynamic Earth, the Scottish Parliament, Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Botanic Gardens, excellent art galleries, the National Museum of Scotland, scores of great pubs and restaurants_
Tony Gilbert - Lives in Scotland (1990 Present)

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