Summer holidays 2019: 15 free things to do with kids in Edinburgh

During the school summer holidays, finding ways to fill the day can become tiresome (and expensive) very quickly.

By Rhona Shennan
Friday, 21st June 2019, 12:10 pm
Your summer holiday plans for the family just got sorted (Photo: Shutterstock)
Your summer holiday plans for the family just got sorted (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here are 15 free family-friendly activities that you can enjoy with the kids in Edinburgh this summer.

Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a national treasure of the capital, with a collection of 100,000 plants, 70 acres to explore and 10 glasshouses.

Visitors to the gardens will be able to see and learn about a whole host of plants from around the world, learn about the diverse living collection and discover a history which dates back almost 350 years.

Most Popular

    Entry into the gardens is free, but some exhibitions and glasshouses may charge entry.

    Arboretum Place, EH3 5NZ

    Arthur’s Seat

    Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano and sits 251 metres above sea level, which means it offers unrivaled views of the entire city from its peak.

    Scaling Arthur’s Seat also offers a chance to experience history with the likes of St Anthony’s Chapel that stands high above St Margaret’s Loch.

    On the south side of Arthur’s Seat is Duddingston Loch which is the setting of Scotland’s most famous painting, The Skating Minister.

    Calton Hill

    If Arthur’s Seat feels a bit too ambitious, a perfect alternative is to take on Calton Hill. With equally stunning views of the city offered from its summit, Calton Hill is famous for its collection of some of the most important landmarks in Edinburgh.

    Home to the National Monument, the Nelson Monument and the City Observatory, Calton Hill is a must visit if the weather permits.

    Scottish National Gallery

    If it looks like the weather is going to take a turn for the worse, you can head indoors to the Scottish National Gallery.

    The Scottish National Gallery boasts some of the greatest art in the world, featuring masterpieces from the likes of Monet, Van Gogh and Rembrandt, as well as a comprehensive collection of Scottish painting from the likes of Ramsay, Raeburn and Wilkie.

    Admission to the gallery is free, but some special exhibitions may charge entry.

    The Mound, EH2 2EL

    National Museum of Scotland

    The National Museum of Scotland offers you the opportunity to visit one of the top 10 UK visitor attractions, as well as one of the top 20 most visited museums and galleries in the world.

    The natural world, world cultures, science and technology, art, design, fashion and Scottish history is all held under this one roof. The museum is home to an incredible selection of over 20,000 amazing artefacts.

    While the museum is free, it’s also a registered charity that relies on donations, so do donate something if you can.

    Chambers Street, EH1 1JF

    Magdalen Chapel

    Edinburgh is filled with beautifully designed churches and chapels, so it would be easy to pass by Magdalen Chapel without knowing any better. But Magdalen Chapel actually is home to the only stained glass that survived the Scottish Reformation in its original location.

    The central window contains four stain glass shields, including one that represents that Royal Arms of Scotland and the arms of Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots.

    41 Cowgate, EH1 1JR

    Museum on the Mound

    While a museum about money might not sound terribly exciting, the Museum on the Mound takes that concept and makes it deeply interesting. It takes a fresh look at money - art and design, technology, crime, trade and security all feature in the story of money.

    If you’ve ever wanted to see a million pounds, wondered what Scotland’s oldest banknote looks like, or fancied cracking open a safe, the Museum on the Mound is the place to go.

    The Mound, EH1 1YZ

    Museum of Childhood

    The first museum in the world dedicated to all things about the history of childhood. It displays toys and games from across the generations, as well as exploring other aspects of growing up, from experiences like schooldays, clubs to clothing, health and holidays.

    The museum recently underwent a huge refurbishment and now is home to the likes of a Buzz Lightyear action figure from the year 2000 and a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone dating back to 1979.

    42 High Street, EH1 1TG

    Princes Street Gardens

    These public gardens are situated in the heart of the city centre and the perfect location for your next picnic.

    The gardens have so much to offer, including - the world renowned Floral Clock, which was first planted in 1903, and that had a special planting scheme that commemorates a special anniversary each year. Public monuments and memorials are also scattered throughout the gardens, dating back from the 1840s to the 1990s.

    Princes Street, EH2 2HG

    Portobello Beach

    The award winning Portobello Beach is definitely worth including on your itinerary, with two miles of sand perfect for sunbathing and hitting the water.

    Popular among locals and tourists alike, this is the place to be if the sun makes a rare appearance in the Scottish skies.

    Promenade, EH15 2DX

    Gorgie City Farm

    Georgie City Farm allows kids to get a hands-on experience of getting to know a variety of farm animals for free. Once you’ve made your way through and said hello to all the animals, you’ll be able to relax at the play park, or stroll through the gardens that showcase the farms produce of fruit and vegetables.

    The farm even has its own produce stall where fresh produce is available to purchase and take home.

    51 Gorgie Road, EH11 2LA

    Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art

    For another injection of art, you should head to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It’s a must see venue for modern and contemporary art, and the huge lawn located outside the front of the building is home to an amazing sculpture park.

    Families are invited to take part in the gallery’s year round programme of family activities.

    Some exhibitions may charge for entry.

    75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR

    Harry Potter tour

    Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter after all, and the city is full to the brim of amazing information and inspirations for the wizarding world series. But where to start?

    Why not go on a Harry Potter tour? This award winning tour will take your around Edinburgh and allow you to discover things about the books, such as where Lord Voldemort is buried, the cafe in which JK Rowling wrote the first book, the location of the real life Diagon Alley and what the school which inspired Hogwarts looks like.

    The tour gathers at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby at the junction of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge, and you can make a donation for the guide at the end, if you wish.

    Writers’ Museum

    If you and the family are feeling inspired, you can head to the Writers’ Museum - a space which celebrates the lives of three giants of Scottish literature: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

    This museum is home to rare books, personal objects of the authors (including Burns’ writing desk), a plaster cast of Burns’ skull (one of only three ever made), portraits of the writers and much more.

    Lawnmarket, Lady Stair's Close, EH1 2PA

    Free comedy at The Stand

    Every Sunday lunchtime you can catch a free comedy show at Edinburgh’s famous comedy club, The Stand. Rated PG, you can see Stu and Gary’s Free Improv Show with the kids.

    The 90 minute performance will see Stu and Gary use audience suggestions to put together a hilarious show. As the show is free, you don’t need to book tickets, just turn up before 1:30pm and enjoy.

    5 York Place, EH1 3EB