Do you have tweens or teens and are wondering how to keep them entertained during a trip to the Scottish capital? We’ve covered things to do in Edinburgh with kids in this comprehensive guide but we thought it would be a great idea to dedicate an entire blog post to things to do with teenagers in Edinburgh as they can have very different interests and needs. Believe me, we’re speaking from experience! We’ve even written a ready-made detailed 3 day itinerary for anyone planning to visit Edinburgh with teens (click here to download it)! So read on to discover our comprehensive list of ideas of teenager activities in Edinburgh.
In This Post You Will Find:
Visit the Dungeons at Edinburgh Castle
You may be met with some eye-rolling when you suggest a visit to a castle but hang in there…you really can’t come to Edinburgh and not visit the castle. Granted, they’ll be past the age of running around doing ‘‘quizzes’ but they’re bound to enjoy a trip to the prisons of war and the dungeons. The 1 o’clock gun is fun too and your teens can get some great insta-worthy shots around the castle.
Discover a world of Illusions at the Camera Obscura
Located just a stone’s throw from the Castle, this world of illusions is just so much fun for all ages. Whether you’re kids, tweens, teens or adults. It’s one of Edinburgh’s oldest attractions having been established in 1835 but this place is full of modern-day fun. Set over 5 floors, your teens will love the vortex tunnel, the mirror maze and all the interactive exhibits. Parents or carers will no doubt enjoy the beautiful panoramic views from the rooftop across the city as well as finding out about the original 169 year camera obscura.
Insta shots at Calton Hill
If you have teenagers, there’s a pretty strong chance they spend a large chunk of their time glued to their screens. Why not turn this to your advantage and take them somewhere that has Instagram written all over it? You may find they come to life and are perhaps even enthusiastic at the idea of posing amongst the various historic buildings on Calton Hill, also known as Edinburgh’s Acropolis. Whether they want that selfie for IG, that shot for their “bereal” or their “streak” on snapchat, you might be surprised at the level of teenage enthusiasm for this particular spot in Edinburgh. You can all admire the National Monument (inspired by the Parthenon!), Nelson’s Monument or the amazing views towards the Castle, Arthur’s Seat or towards the Firth of Forth.
HOW TO GET TO CALTON HILL: The easiest way to get there is to go to the very east end of Princes Street until you reach Waterloo Place. Here you will find the start of the steps leading up to Calton Hill which are located just after “Howies” restaurant on your left.
We’ve created a 3 day itinerary for visiting Edinburgh with teenagers! Click here for a handy downloadable PDF version of this itinerary. Go ahead, download it, print it out and get planning!
Spooky Walking Tours
There are plenty of walking tours on offer in Edinburgh, however, there may be some that may interest your teen more than others. How about a spooky ghost tour or a visit to Edinburgh’s underground (haunted!) vaults? Some of the tours take place when it’s dark so can be a fun evening family activity. This is definitely also a fun thing to do in Edinburgh with young adults.
Here’s a seriously spooky selection of walking tours they might enjoy:
Sightseeing bus tour
A sightseeing bus tour can be a fun way to get round a city and you won’t have your teens moaning about having to walk anywhere. Also, they might enjoy a trip down memory lane if you opt for the Edinburgh ‘Citysightseeing’ bus tour which offers a “Horrible Histories” version of the bus tour. Alternatively you can also jump on the regular hop-on-hop-off bus. Click here to book your tickets. The bus will also take you down to the Ocean Terminal, a large shopping centre, where you teens can spend some of their holiday pennies perhaps?
Comedy Horror Ghost bus tour
If your teens don’t fancy a walking tour, they might be tempted by a trip on the Edinburgh Necrobus! Jump aboard the Ghost Bus Tour and prepare to be spooked out on a comedy horror sightseeing show through the Scottish capital. Catch the Ghost Bus at Lawn market, in front of The Heritage of Scotland, next to Deacon Brodie’s Tavern (take an umbrella if it’s raining as you have to queue up for quite a while before being able to get on the bus). The tours take place in the evening and last about 1hr 15 mins including a spooky stop at the graveyard.
It’s quite a pricey outing and you’ll learn more historical facts on one of the walking or bus sightseeing tours, however, it’s a good laugh. Our 13 year old loved it and our 16 year old found it a bit cheesy! There’s an optional short 10 minute tour of St Cuthbert’s graveyard included in the tour which is definitely worthwhile. It’s quite spooky at nighttime especially with the eerie shadow of the castle looming overhead.
Spooky, scary and thrilling… your teens or young adults will love the Edinburgh Dungeon. Located close to Waverley train station (East Market Street), this tourist attraction will have everyone shaking in their boots. Professional actors bring the darkest of Scottish history to life and do a great job of freaking out all the visitors. A bit of history combined with a thrilling underground ride, 11 live actor shows and spooky special effects. This is a great Edinburgh teenage activity!
The Real Mary King’s Close
Carrying on with the spooky theme… book tickets for a guided tour down the Real Mary King’s Close. Discover Edinburgh’s forgotten underground history and explore one of the rare preserved 17th century streets hidden under the Royal Mile. The guides are dressed in period costumes and bring the life and stories of the inhabitants of this Close (street) to life. A real insight into 17th century living conditions. Our kids really enjoyed this tour!
Harry Potter Trail
Are your tweens or teens into Harry Potter? Edinburgh is the perfect place for HP fans! For a start, it’s the place where JK Rowling wrote some of her early Harry Potter books. In fact, you could even take your teenagers to have a peek at the Elephant House, the place the author frequented when writing her early drafts. Sadly, you cannot go into the tearoom as it’s closed down following a serious fire in 2021. It is also believed that JK Rowling took inspiration from Edinburgh for some of the locations in her novels. For instance, Victoria Street is meant to be Diagon Alley and Hogwarts is inspired by the school… To find out more, book onto a Harry Potter trail and you’ll get a really unusual visit of the city.
Magic Potions and Escape Room Experience
This is so much fun and an absolute must for a memorable family bonding experience. Located a stone’s throw from St Giles Cathedral and off the Royal Mile, you’ll find the quirky Department of Magic. Here, you can head to the Magic Potions Tavern as well as the Escape Rooms where you can take part in either the “Prophecies Quest” or the “Dark Lord Resurrection” escape game (maximum of 6 players).
Alternatively participate in some potion making at the Magic Potions Tavern. Don a magic cloak and mix up some magical ingredients to create some weird and wonderful cocktails such as the Dark Lord, Vial of Venom or the Herbology 101. You can choose both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. We’re sure you’ll agree that visiting Edinburgh with teens can be lots of fun!
Bucket List High Tea experience
How about a sophisticated afternoon indulging in a high tea? Although this is by no means a cheap treat, it certainly is something for the memory bank. There are many places that offer high teas, however, the most iconic ones include Palm Court at the Balmoral, Grand Café at the Scotsman Hotel, Colonnades at the Signet Library and the Dome. For a quirky take on afternoon high tea, jump aboard the Red Bus Bistro and discover the city whilst indulging in some tasty treats.
Hot chocolate and cupcakes
If a high tea is going to stretch your budget too far, you could always swap for a hot chocolate and cupcake. Our teens love going to a café and there are some rather lovely ones in Edinburgh. We love Mimi’s Bakehouse located on the Royal Mile (close to the Museum of childhood) the Milkman on Cockburn Street, Mary’s Milkbar in the Grassmarket as well as many of the cafés found in Edinburgh’s fabulous museums. Our favourites are the Portrait Café at the National Portrait Gallery, Contini’s at the National Gallery of Scotland (great views across Princes Street Gardens) and Cafe Modern One at the Modern Art Gallery Café (check out the beautiful outdoor terrace). It’s a great way to combine a museum visit with a treat at the café.
Chihuahua café or cat café
As mentioned above, teenagers usually enjoy a trip to a café but how about combining a dog and a cake or a cat and a cake? For the canine lovers, check out the Chihuahua cafe just off George Street or if you’re looking for the purrrrfect activity, for the cat lovers, head to Maison de Moggy down in the Grassmarket (don’t miss their millionaire’s hot chocolate!)
Enjoy chocolate heaven at the Chocolatarium
While Edinburgh is renowned for its rich history, art, and culture, there’s one hidden gem that you shouldn’t miss: the Chocolatarium! It may not be the obvious choice, but trust me, it’s worth adding to your must-visit list. I took my teenage daughter there during a recent trip to the capital, and we had an amazing time bonding over chocolate indulgence.
Tucked away just off the Royal Mile (heading down towards Holyrood Palace), this delightful venue is a compact chocolate emporium that reveals everything you need to know about the world of chocolate. We dove deep into the history of chocolate, discovered how it’s made, and learned valuable tips on purchasing ethical and fair trade chocolate. Our guide, Fraser, was an absolute delight – knowledgeable, friendly, and a fantastic entertainer. And the best part? We even got to make our very own chocolate using fun Scottish-themed moulds!
It makes a fun change from traditional Edinburgh attractions and we’re pretty confident your teens will love it too (just check out all the reviews here). This place is a must-visit for both tourists and locals alike! Don’t miss out. Click HERE to book your tickets! and embark on this delightful 90-minute tour. Trust me, it’s excellent value for money and an adventure you won’t regret!
Discover the National Museum of Scotland
Dubbed as “the UK’s most popular attraction outside of London”, this is a truly wonderful museum and has something on offer for all ages. It’s located very centrally, close to the Royal Mile and is a perfect place to head to on a rainy day. Your teenagers will no doubt love the F1 car simulator on the ground floor, learning about genetics through creating their own glowing pig or programming a robot as well as the various interactive exhibits in the science and technology spaces. There are many floors and galleries to explore including design, archaeology, science, technology, world cultures and the natural world.
Goriness at Surgeon’s Hall
We’ve covered lots of spooky activities… so how about something a little gory?! Not recommended for the squeamish amongst you but if you don’t mind a little blood and gore, then Surgeons Hall could certainly spark your teens’ interest. Dating back to 1699, this museum was created as a medical resource centre for trainee doctors and now provides a fascinating insight into the history of medicine. Located on South Bridge, it is now one of Europe’s largest pathology collections. Be prepared for a good range of body parts in glass jars, and yes, there is the skeleton of the famous Edinburgh grave robber William Burke, nice!
Royal Yacht Britannia
Why not combine a bit of royal history with an outing to a shopping centre? Moored at the Ocean Terminal – a shopping centre located a 10-15 minute drive from the city centre in the Leith/Newhaven neighbourhood – you’ll find the actual boat that the Queen and her family took to sail around the world. A visit of the floating home provides a fascinating insight into a bygone era and the royal family. Your teens might also enjoy checking out the 11 foot LEGO replica of Britannia. You can also round off the visit with a traipse round some of the shops. To get there, either drive and park in the free Ocean Terminal car park or catch public transport (buses 11, 22, 34, 35 and 36) or use one of the hop-on hop-off tourist buses.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
If your teenagers enjoy being in the great outdoors, then a wander up Arthur’s Seat could be a great adventure. There are a number of ways to reach the top of this extinct volcano, but for the easiest option, head to the bottom of the Royal Mile and join the path to the right of Holyrood Palace from the car park on Queen’s Drive. You’ll get some fantastic views of the city, the Castle and out towards the sea.
Special VIP treat at the cinema
A treat for everyone, a night at the cinema in special VIP, luxe or first class seats. There are a number of cinemas offering a bit of luxury in Edinburgh including the Vue cinema in the Omni centre (top of Leith Walk and next to St James Quarter), the Odeon cinema on Lothian Road (West End) or for something quirky, discover the art deco style Dominion cinema in the Morningside neighbourhood (south of the city, catch bus 23, 11 or 16).
Located about 3 miles out of the city centre, you’ll find Edinburgh zoo. The zoo is bound to be a crowd pleaser no matter the age. The zoo prides itself on its conservation work and only hosts protected species. It’s set on a hillside so be prepared for a bit of a work out. You can reach the zoo by car or your easiest option would be to catch the bus 12, 26 or 31 from the city centre and head out of town to Edinburgh Zoo.
There are daily talks with the keepers and of course, the famous penguin parade with the only knighted Penguin in the world.
Buy tickets ahead by clicking here and download a map of the zoo, prior to your visit, from the Edinburgh Zoo website. This will allow you to plan your visit, ensuring that you don’t miss any of the highlights.
Modern Art Museum & Water of Leith Walkway
Mix up a nature walk and a visit to Edinburgh’s fantastic modern art museum. The Water of Leith walkway starts in Leith and goes all the way to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. There are several places where you can join this walkway and our favourites are Stockbridge (fun neighbourhood) and Dean Village. As mentioned further up, museums generally have lovely cafes and this art gallery is no exception. There is a lovely outdoor terrace which overlooks sculptures and a herb garden.
Aquadash at the Royal Commonwealth swimming pool
We often mix up activities for the kids along with activities for the grown ups. For instance, you could spend a morning at the large Royal Commonwealth swimming pool and visit a museum in the afternoon. Or if your teens are old enough, you could drop them off at the pool whilst you go for a gin or whisky tasting in town. The pool is located very close to Arthur’s Seat so you could also combine the two. This swimming pool measures 50 meters and if you check the timetable, you could take part in a fun extreme aqua dash. Click here to check Aquadash times and to book tickets online.
Why not drop your young people off at a trampolining centre whilst you enjoy some sightseeing by yourself. It’s a win-win, right? There’s ”Gravity”, a large trampolining park at Fountain Park west of the city centre. You’ll also find a bowling alley, a cinema, bars and restaurants there too. Plenty to keep the family entertained! You can get there in about 15 minutes from the city centre (Princes Street) by catching the bus n°30, 10 or 22.
Here’s another fun activity if you’re teens have a head for height and enjoy some physical exercise. There are several great climbing centres in Edinburgh. Alien Rock has two venues on offer – Alien One located in a former church in Newhaven (close to the Ocean Terminal down near Leith) where you can try lots of rope climbing. YOu could drop them off and then head to the nearby Royal Yacht Britannia for a visit. The other venue is Alien Bloc, an indoor bouldering centre, which is located closer to the city centre in the Warriston/Powderhall neighbourghood. It’s a 10 minute walk to the Botanic Gardens or a short walk to Broughton Street (check out our guide HERE).
Another fantastic place is the International Climbing Arena at Ratho, Europe’s largest indoor climbing centre. It’s located about half an hour west of Edinburgh city centre and so you really need a car to get there or you could choose to cycle along the Union Canal. You could drop off the kids (make sure you pre-book and complete registration forms) and then head for a wander round Jupiter Artland (check opening times as they’re closed over winter).
3 Day Itinerary
We hope you enjoyed our round-up of things to do with teenagers in Edinburgh. Hopefully we’ve given you lots of ideas of things to do to keep the whole family happy. A city break with teenagers can be a great option, especially in a city like Edinburgh! So whether you’re travelling to Edinburgh with a tween, teen or young adult, there really is something for everyone.