Planning some family fun in Edinburgh? Scotland’s historic capital city is a fantastic city to explore in a weekend, and there’s lots to keep the whole family entertained, from the teeniest tots and too-cool-for-school teenagers to parents and grandparents.
Read on for our weekend itinerary of family fun, featuring some of our favourite family-friendly activities and accommodation in Edinburgh.
Please note – we recommend booking ahead for tickets and tables. All times and prices noted are correct at the time of writing – please confirm when booking for your family.
Family-friendly accommodation in Edinburgh
Before we get your weekend started, you need somewhere to stay. There are so many options here, from budget to boutique. Here are some suggestions….
Best budget accommodation
Stay in one of Mortonhall Caravan & Camping Park’s sustainable wooden wigwams to add an extra element of adventure to your weekend away! The 4-star caravan park is set in a quiet country estate, complete with Highland cattle, and there’s plenty of space for small people to run around while you enjoy the views. It’s just 4 miles to the city centre, so you have the choice of parking up and taking Lothian Buses number 11 into the city centre. Under-5’s stay for free and under 16’s stay for half price.
Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh – City West has an outdoor playpark in its grounds, making it a great choice for a family stay on a budget. On-site parking is £5.00 per night, with the number 43 Lothian Bus delivering you to the centre of Edinburgh in around 15 minutes. Breakfast is included.
Best central location accommodation
The fully equipped apartments at ApartHotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile are at the lower end of the Royal Mile. They have an indoor play area and a kids’ online mini guide to the city. Car parking is the compromise for the central location – use the NCP car park Holyrood Road, five minutes’ walk away, and ask the ApartHotel reception to validate your ticket to receive a discount. Also on the Royal Mile is the Radisson Blu Hotel – Edinburgh City Centre. Family rooms here are stylish and spacious, and the whole family can make a splash in the indoor heated swimming pool. Kids of all ages will love making their own breakfast pancakes at the pancake station. There’s parking on-site, on a first come, first served basis.
Best luxury accommodation
Edinburgh’s only ‘boatel’, the Four Sisters Boatel and The Camillia Boatel offers a magical experience for families, providing unique luxury self-catering accommodation in two wide-beam canal barges. Drift off to sleep aboard The Four Sisters or The Camilla, moored on the Union Canal, 15 minutes’ walk from the Royal Mile and Princes Street. There’s secure underground parking close by.
The Balmoral Hotel is an iconic part of Edinburgh’s history. Opened in 1902 (as The North British Station Hotel) its stunning views and warm hospitality with top-class facilities have attracted world-wide guests and Harry Potter fans will know it as the place where JK Rowling wrote the final chapter in the Harry Potter series. They have a range of thoughtful family services for the youngest family member including baby bath products, hooded towels and rubber ducks.
Take a look at our Accommodation Guide for more family-friendly accommodation suggestions.
Friday afternoon and evening
Whether you’ve had a leisurely journey or an after-school dash to Edinburgh, check into your accommodation and take a moment to relax – we’ve a fantastic weekend waiting for you! Begin by making your way to Princes Street Gardens, the ribbon of green parkland between Edinburgh’s New and Old Towns. Grab a coffee from one of the café kiosks while the kids run off some energy in the playpark at the west end of the gardens. There’s play equipment for a range of ages, and the view is impressive to say the least – you’re right below Edinburgh Castle.
The Scott Monument is an unmissable Edinburgh landmark standing 200ft tall over the west end of Princes Street Gardens. It’s dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and is one of the largest monuments to a writer anywhere in the world – the kids will have fun spotting the ‘giant rocket’! If you’ve a head for heights then try to arrive in time for the last tour, at 4.30pm, which includes the Museum Room on the first floor and the third floor viewing platform. The panoramic views over the city are worth the 287 spiral steps.
You’re sure to be hearing cries of ‘I’m hungry’ by now, but luckily Edinburgh is bursting with an eclectic mix of excellent eateries. Your route is towards the Old Town, so wind your way up The Mound for dinner. Makars Gourmet Mash Bar is a celebration of classic Scottish produce with a choice of gourmet mash. Kids’ portions are just £5.00 per person. Located on George IV Bridge, Vittoria on the Bridge is an excellent family-run Italian restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere. The kids’ menu offers three courses for £10.00 and there’s a free kids’ pack to keep even the hungriest (and hangriest!) of wee tummies occupied until dinner is served. Tummies full, wander along to the Royal Mile, heading uphill towards Edinburgh Castle and Camera Obscure & World of Illusions. Housed in a 17th century building, this is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built attraction. Inside, there are five floors of mind-bending illusions and experiences, topped by the camera obscura itself, and spectacular 360 degree views over Edinburgh. The Rooftop Terrace is the perfect place to watch the sun set behind the spires and steeples punctuating the city’s skyline.
Start the day in the centre of town, at the award-winning Mimi’s Bakehouse in the City Art Centre, just opposite Waverley train station. Get set for a jam-packed day with a cup of locally-roasted artisan coffee – you might be tempted by their brunch menu or delicious scones and bakes, too. Step straight from Mimi’s into the City Art Centre, where you’ll find historic paintings and photography alongside sculpture and contemporary art and craft. Before you tour the exhibitions, head down to the basement to ArtSpace for activity sheets relating to the artworks. You can also have some serious family crafting time here; there are creative prompts and a whole range of materials to get arty with. Now you’re heading to Dynamic Earth,
for an incredible interactive adventure through time and space. The kids will be jumping with excitement as you step inside the time machine and travel back to the Big Bang. It’s a great immersive experience – get ready for spaceships and submarines, moving floors, sounds, lights, and tropical rainstorms as you learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, the rainforest and more. There’s a chunk of iceberg in there, too – and yes, you ARE allowed to touch it! Don’t miss the planetarium, which runs various daily shows.
Head for lunch depending on your choice of afternoon activity. Make your way onto the Royal Mile and stroll the 15 minutes along to bustling South Bridge. Jump on the number 29 Lothian Bus, taking you north through the grand sweeping streets of the New Town to Stockbridge. Hop off when you reach prestigious Royal Circus, and call into The Pantry to refuel. Food here is always fresh and tasty with a mix of classic and original dishes. There’s a small kids’ menu and a play area for the wee folk.
Alternatively, walk round the corner from Dynamic Earth to the Scottish Parliament building, where the number 35 Lothian Bus will take you towards Leith and Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre. Find a family-friendly lunch at Joy Tots on Ferry Road in their baby and toddler craft café, or visit Mo Beans at the top of Leith’s Easter Road, where the back room offers books and board games.
From The Pantry, follow the road to cross the Water of Leith and enjoy passing through the vibrant neighbourhood of Stockbridge on your way to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Keen gardeners will enjoy the different green spaces while kids love to play hide and seek. Favourites are the Rock Garden, the Chinese Hillside and the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, which has a maze leading to a stone pavilion – the inside of which is decorated with seashells and pinecones. Alternatively,From Mo Beans take the number 35 Lothian Bus to Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, or from Joy Tots stroll via Portland Street and Ocean Drive to Ocean Terminal. You’re headed for the Royal Yacht Britannia. The tour begins in the visitor centre, on the second floor of Ocean Terminal. This beautiful yacht sailed more than one million nautical miles on almost 1,000 state visits around the world. Now, you’re invited aboard to walk in the Royal Family’s footsteps as you explore the five decks, including the bridge, state apartments, crew quarters and the gleaming engine room. Britannia was voted TripAdvisor’s No.1 UK Attraction for 2023, so even the grumpiest of teenagers can’t fail to be impressed!
After all your exploring, it’s definitely time for dinner. You’re headed to The Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge, an award-winning gastropub with a wonderful family-friendly atmosphere. Your ‘wee scallies’ will love having their own menu and playing in the Scallie Corner indoor play area, giving you the chance to enjoy the exceptional food from chef Tom Kitchin. The restaurant is just ten minutes’ walk from the botanic gardens, or, if you’ve been shipshape on the royal yacht, take the number 36 Lothian bus from Ocean Terminal, headed for South Gyle, and hop off at Ann Street and follow Dean Park Street.
Edinburgh is still family-friendly after dark, so head back to Princes Street – taking either the number 29 Lothian Bus from Cheyne Street, or number 19 from Learmonth Crescent. There’s nothing quite like a visit to the theatre, and Edinburgh Playhouse is a fantastic venue to see some of the world’s biggest musicals and stage shows. Kids large and small will feel a buzz of excitement as you step through the doors of the opulent 1920s building and take your seats in the magnificent auditorium.
While a trip to the zoo isn’t usually an evening activity, Edinburgh Zoo welcomes visitors to various After Hours events throughout the year. Keep an eye on their website ahead of your trip and you might find yourself discovering what the animals get up to after the crowds of visitors have headed for home.
If you have teens or younger folk who aren’t too easily scared, then check out The Ghost Bus Tour. This vintage Routemaster bus is the perfect setting for some spooky comedy and theatrics on a short drive round some of Edinburgh’s ghostly spots. Fans of Horrible Histories, Wednesday and The Addams Family will be in their element! The bus departs from the Lawnmarket, at the top of the Royal Mile.
Start your day with a breakfast or brunch treat at Coro Chocolate Café, a local favourite, just off Princes Street. Chocolate lovers will be in heaven, but there are plenty of savoury options, too. Kids of all ages will love the ‘create your own’ menu with pancakes, crepes and waffles and a choice of more than 50 toppings. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to climb an extinct volcano? Well, that’s next on your itinerary! Arthur’s Seat rises from Holyrood Park, right in the centre of the city, an iconic landmark soaring high above the skyline. Take the number 29 Lothian Bus from outside Coro Chocolate Café, stepping off at the Commonwealth Pool and walking downhill towards the park. If you don’t fancy Arthur’s Seat, then visit another extinct volcano instead – Castle Rock. Edinburgh Castle stands atop these cliffs, one of the oldest fortified places in
Europe. Follow in the footsteps of kings and queens, soldiers, prisoners and even a pirate or two as you explore. Kids will be mesmerised by Scotland’s Crown jewels and fascinated by Mons Meg, the enormous medieval cannon. There are fantastic views from the ramparts, too. You’ve earned your lunch, so retrace your steps from Arthur’s Seat and head to the Royal Mile. From the castle, take a stroll downhill. Lunch today is at the Storytelling Café, within the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The café is home to The Haggis Box, who put a tasty street-food style twist on Scotland’s national dish. There are vegetarian and vegan options available, as well as a daily soup and light lunches, too. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is just the place to discover more of Edinburgh and Scotland’s rich cultural heritage. There’s a free exhibition, and children and adults will love the interactive Storywall, with tales of Greyfriars Bobby and Wee Willie Winkie alongside more familiar stories like The Gruffalo. There are events on throughout the year, so keep an eye on the website ahead of your visit. Attached to the Storytelling Centre is John Knox House. It was built in 1470, making it the oldest, original medieval building surviving on the Royal Mile. There’s a fascinating exhibition inside, but the kids will be busy searching out all the hidden rooms and false spaces designed to fool intruders.
Our last stop of the afternoon is round the corner on Chambers Street, at the National Museum of Scotland. There’s lots to discover here, including three interactive galleries. Kids of all ages will be impressed as they launch a hot air balloon high or get a robot to spell out their name. Smaller folk will love the dressing up and story corner, before uncovering the remains of an extinct dinosaur or taking a deep sea dive in a mini submersible. Finish off your weekend with a family dinner at Civerinos just around the corner in Hunter Square. It has a New York diner feel – think big red booths that little folk will love to slide into, while teens will be impressed with the neon electric atmosphere and current soundtrack. Civerinos is famed for its pizza but there’s plenty of choice on the menu, and a separate kids’ menu, too.
More family fun ideas
Looking for more ideas to keep all the family entertained? Have a look at our Family-friendly Guide to Edinburgh
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