For this installation of Amsterdam Mama’s Quick Guides, we’re going to Edinburgh, Scotland — a truly magical destination for families.
Edinburgh is enchanting. Infused with a royal history, teeming with mystery, with a resiliency to match the volcanic rock it sits on. And for families, it’s compact, walkable, and bursting with things to do. Here’s our quick guide for families visiting Scotland’s capital city.
Top 5 Things To Do:
- Play at Princes Street Gardens. Not Princess, Princes — impress the locals! While the kids run and play, take in the striking Edinburgh skyline on the hill above.
- Climb up to Castle Rock for a peek at the Scottish Crown Jewels in the Edinburgh Castle. Tip: Buy tickets online(!) and ask for the Castle Quiz.
- Wander down the Royal Mile. Take your time and stop for treats often. Families might especially enjoy the Camera Obscura, Storytelling Cafe, and the Museum of Childhood, but skip the mess that is the Tartan Weaving Mill. Keep an eye out for quirky sites such as the Canonball House, the Wellheads, and the Heart of Midlothian (more here).
- Explore Palace of the Holyroodhouse and Gardens where there is a free family audio guide (for ages 7-11) and a family trail for the garden. Bring a picnic and go for a hike in Holyrood Park for impressive views of the city.
- Pop into the National Museum of Scotland, a wonderful museum for adults and children. Don’t miss the chiming of the Millenium Clock Tower and the free Family Trails available. On your way, dog lovers will want to search for the Grey Friars Bobby.
Make it Interesting:
- Cadies and Witchery Tour: scary and fun evening walking tour (recommended for older kids, use discretion).
- Edinburgh Treasure Trails: choose between four self-guided, downloadable treasure hunts for kids.
- Hop-On Hop-Off Buses – while Edinburgh is walkable, it can be steep for little legs, so let the buses take you where you want to go.
- The Potter Trail: Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss this guided walking tour of the notable places that influenced J.K. Rowling while writing the first book. Recommended for ages 5 and older.
- Haggis. Or not.
- Haggis Poo and Nessie Poo: stop in an old-fashioned sweet shop for these, and other delightfully-named treats.
- Deep-Fried Mars Bars: ask for it in (Fish and) Chip shops.
Play “I Spy”:
- Unicorns feature prominently on the Royal Coat of Arms and are found all over the city. See how many you can find.
- Statues: you can’t toss a caber in Edinburgh without hitting a statue memorializing a famous Scot. Keep a running tally and see how many names you recognize.
- Tartan: for those with Scottish ancestry, stop in any tartan shop and ask for your tribe’s pattern. For those without Scottish ancestry, best not to admit it.
- Bagpipe players: no matter the weather, you’re sure to spot at least one.
Read Before You Go:
- This is Edinburgh by M. Sasek: a beautifully illustrated book for children.
- Edinburgh Unlocked (Unlocked Guides): a guidebook for children.
- Gruesome Guides: Edinburgh (Horrible Histories Series): As the title suggests, the content is most appropriate for older children.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone doesn’t take place in Edinburgh, but JK Rowling began and ended the series here, and was no doubt inspired by Edinburgh.
Looking for family-friendly accommodation in Edinburgh? Book your stay via booking.com/amsterdammamas and we’ll receive a portion of the reservation value. Find the perfect accommodation for your family and support Amsterdam Mamas at the same time!
photo credit: Donna Bardsley
Donna Bardsley is the travel-loving mother of three homebodies who hate to leave the house. After living in Amsterdam for six years, she has recently moved her family back to the US where she is experiencing all the joys of reverse culture shock.