Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit with teenagers. There are so many incredible things to see and do.
Edinburgh is steeped in history and there are plenty of fun ways for teens to learn while exploring this wonderful city.
Being a hilly city, there are numerous places in Edinburgh to experience stunning views. This gives teenagers an opportunity to snap Instagram-worthy pictures for their friends, family and followers.
If you’re prepared to venture a little beyond Edinburgh, you’ll also find a beach and some other wonderful attractions.
If you are in Edinburgh for the first time, the castle is a must. It’s packed with interesting history and it’s worth a visit for the breathtaking views alone.
Venture through the narrow walkways and royal rooms adorned with royal relics. See Scotland’s crown jewels. You can even take a tour through the old prison quarters to see how inmates lived in the 1700s. Make sure you pre-book in advance to guarantee entry.
Find out more at Edinburgh Castle.
Top tip: If you plan on visiting a few historic sites around Scotland, invest in a Historic Scotland pass. It will save money in the long run.
Walk along the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile runs from Hollywood Palace up to the cliff-top Castle. It’s well worth a walk along with your teenager. It’s often described as the beating heart of Edinburgh and an excellent place to sense medieval Edinburgh.
There are many small museums which have free entry and are super interesting. It’s home to many independent shops, Gothic churches and historic pubs.
Shopaholics might want to pop into the Royal Mile market. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir. You’ll have no trouble getting a kilt. Nearby, teenage shopaholics will enjoy the shops along Cockburn Street, Victoria Street and Northbridge.
The Royal Mile often has free Street acts including magicians, musicians, artists and bagpipers.
Go Underground at The Real Mary King’s Close
Photo credit : The Real Mary’s Queen Close Facebook
Teenagers are going to love going underground to learn about Edinburgh’s deepest secret. Concealed beneath the Royal Mile is a maze of hidden ‘closes’ where actual people lived, worked, and died. They’ve were forgotten and abandoned for centuries…until now. A guide takes you on a tour of the close and imparts lively information about the residents, the plague and local commerce.
Discover more at The Real Mary King’s Close
Take a Tour
In Edinburgh, you can take several tours. It’s worth going on at least one. There’s a haunted tour, a literary tour, a ghost walk and lots more. There’s something for everyone. Here is a couple that might appeal to teenagers.
Harry Potter Walking Tour
The Harry Potter walking tour is free and if your teenager loves the Harry Potter books, this is a must. Find out where JK Rowling wrote the books and the locations that inspired the characters and scenes in the stories.
Find out when and where they set off at the Harry Potter walking tour website.
Ghost and gore walking tour
Edinburgh is renowned for its gruesome history. Teenagers love this walking tour that focuses on ghosts and gore. It’s very entertaining, full of surprises and informative. Highly recommended.
Find out more at Witchery Tours.
The Greyfriars Cemetery Tour
A fascinating tour of Edinburgh’s most famous graveyard. Hear historical tales of the people behind the gravestones. Discover the story of the lecturer who taught Charles Darwin, the actor buried in full theatrical costume, the enigmatic Miss Cathcart and the First World War ace pilot.
Did you know Greyfriars Cemetery is associated with golf, the moon, and turnips? Who was the man who fought a duel in Hyde Park in London? Where is the 1770s bestselling novelist buried? Also, discover the graves with Harry Potter connections (although Harry Potter is not the primary theme of the tour).
Visit Greyfriars Cemetery
You can visit to Greyfriars Cemetery without going on a tour. If your teen is a Harry Potter fan, it’s an interesting place to walk around as you can stop the names on the gravestones that inspired the names of the characters in the Harry Potter book.
A fantastic hike in Edinburgh, even for teenagers, is Arthur’s Seat (a volcano which is now extinct.) Teenagers will admire the stunning views. The hike isn’t difficult, so it should be fine for most teens. If you can get them out of bed early enough, it’s a great place to watch the sunrise.
Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions
Camera Obscura is a unique attraction with 5 floors of interactive exhibits themes around optical illusions. Lose yourself in the puzzling mirror maze or try to keep your balance in the exhilarating vortex tunnel.
Make sure you book so you don’t miss out on the 160 six-year-old camera obscura in action. The Victorian spectacle is a unique way to see Edinburgh and cannot be missed.
Also, don’t miss the view of the city from the turret at the top of the building.
Visit a Museum
National Museum of Scotland
This free attraction is a great option for a rainy day. It’s one of the best indoor attractions in Edinburgh. There are over 20 000 unique artifacts to see and there’s something for all ages and interests.
Teenagers like the technology area and there is a wide selection of hands-on activities throughout the museum. If it’s sunny, make sure you head up to the rooftop terrace to enjoy views of Edinburgh Castle.
Find out more at the National Museum of Scotland website.
There are several other museums in Edinburgh to enjoy. They include:
Surgeons Hall (a medical museum)
Museum on the mound (a money museum)
If your teenager enjoys learning about gruesome history, the Edinburgh Dungeon will appeal. Walk the streets of 1645, learn about the murderous duo Burke and Hare and even face trial. It’s an experience with live actors, underground rides and special effects.
Dynamic Earth is both fun and educational for the whole family so if you have young children and teenagers, this is a good option. The interactive adventure takes explorers on a journey through space and time to learn how the forces of nature shaped Earth over millions of years. There’s often a host of events for kids to enjoy, so it’s worth checking out what’s on at the website before you go.
The Tour of Chocolate at the Chocolatarium
If your teenager loves chocolate, they will love the tour of chocolate at the chocolatarium in Edinburgh. It’s been voted in the top 3 food experiences in the world on Trip Advisor!
A 90 minute guided tour is so much fun. Make your own custom chocolate bar to take home. You also discover how chocolate is made and enjoy a session in the tasting room with over 40 different kinds of chocolate.
Find out more at the Chocolatarium website
If they like animals, a trip to Edinburgh zoo should be on your list of things to do with your teenagers. It’s the only zoo in the UK with pandas. Another favourite at the zoo is the Australian section with wallabies and koala bears. The penguin parade is also brilliant.
Just one thing to bear in mind, visiting the zoo is a lot of walking up big hills.
Book your tickets at Edinburgh Zoo
A short drive out of Edinburgh is Gilmerton Cove. Teenagers will love the adventurous and eerie nature of this attraction. Discover the underground caves and hand carved passages and chambers once used as a smugglers’ layer and secret drinking den. With tales of ghosts and spirits, it feels a little haunted which adds to the thrill of the attraction.
Booking in advance is essential.
Check out the website for more information.
Edinburgh Open Bus Tours
Edinburgh bus tours are a fantastic way to acquaint yourself with the city. They feature live tour guides and you can hop on and off as you wish to visit the different attractions. Conveniently they have an app with live bus time so you can keep up to date with when the next bus will arrive.
Find out more about Edinburgh Tours
The Scott Monument is the largest monument ever dedicated to a writer (Walter Scott). You can go up inside and climb 287 steps to the top. There are different viewing levels as you go up. There are wonderful views of old Edinburgh when you reach the top.
Carlton Hill for Amazing Views
Carlton Hill is located in the city centre. Here you’ll find beautiful monuments and some incredible views. It’s a top spot for some Instagram photos.
Boat Trips Edinburgh
South Queensferry is about a 35 minute drive from Edinburgh where you can hop aboard the most amazing boat trips.
If you don’t have a Forth Boat tours run a bus journey from Edinburgh to South Queensferry where you can board a boat trip. (see below).
There are lots of boat tours you can take. I have included a couple below but find plenty more boat cruises at the Forth Tour website.
Three Bridges Boat and Bus Experience
Hop aboard a bus in the centre of Edinburgh at St Andrew Square for a trip to South Queensferry. Then enjoy a boat ride to Blackness Castle and the Three Bridges on one of Forth Boat Tours’ vessels. It’s the only place in the world where there are 3 bridges that are built within half a mile of each other and each in a different centry.
Three Bridges and Inchcolm Island
This 3 hour cruise takes you to the 3 bridges and to see Inchcolm Island. You can buy an option landing pass and explore Inchcolm Island (add 90 minutes onto your journey). At Inchcom Islandn you can explore the iconic abbey and wartime defences. The island is also a haven for wildlife.
High Speed Sea Safari
If your teen fancies something a bit more high speed, why not take a sea safari? The sea safari takes in the 3 islands and 3 bridges on one high speed trip. During the trip you are guaranteed to see seals and thre is an abudance of sea birds to see too whcich may include fulmars and puffins.
The trips leave from Hawes Pier in South Queensferry (about 35 minutes drive from Edinburgh).
Portobello Beach is the coastal spot just a couple of miles from the city and there is plenty to do here. If it’s a sunny day, relax on the sandy beach. You can head to the amusement arcade and check out Portobello High Street for some independent shops and eateries.
Here are a couple more suggestions for adrenaline junkie teens.
Why not try rock climbing at the Alien Rock Centre located in a former church.
Ryze Xtreme Air Sports
It’s a little way out of the city, but the physical nature of this attraction will to appeal to some teenagers. It’s perfect for adrenaline junkies. Test your skills on the crazy obstacle courses. Challenge your family and friends to a game of dodgeball and have a go on one of the many trampolines.
For more information and to book check out their website.
Edinburgh Bike / Cycling Tour
If your teenager likes cycling, they will enjoy a bike tour of Edinburgh. The bike and helmet is included in the price. There are a number of different cycling tours you can take part in. For teenagers under 16, try the family tour. Teenagers over 16 who are confident on their bike can take part in a longer city tour of Edinburgh. Older teens (16 and over) can go on other bike tour beyond Edinburgh to places like Portobello beach. Find a list of all the Edinburgh bike tours here.
Escape rooms – like all cities Edinburgh has some good Escape Rooms. The Operation Odyssey escape room is fun.
Axe Throwing – axe throwing is the new craze to hit cities throughout the UK. Coaches will advise you on how to throw, then have fun throwing axes at the target. Find out more at Black Axe throwing.
Foot Golf – foot golf is a fun thing to try especially if you’ve never given it a go. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be – a bit like golf but with a football. Can you kick the football into the hole. Find out more about footgolf in Edinburgh
Getting Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a compact city with a fabulous bus service. If you can, leave the car behind as parking can be pricey in the city centre.
Buses in Edinburgh are easy to use, they take contactless payments and cap the daily cost for adults so you automatically get charged the cheapest amount for the journeys you’ve made on that day.
Or you can buy a day family ticket from the driver or the m-tickets app..
Find out more about Edinburgh bus tickets here.
.Apple maps or Google maps will also tell you which bus to get.
Fun places to eat
A great place for vegan cheese with plant-based burgers and sweet treats.
Coro the Chocolate Cafe
An exceptionally good cafe that specialises in dessert. Crepes, waffles and milkshakes are perfect for hungry teenagers
Hula Juice Bar and Cafe
This is one of the most Instagrammable cafes in Edinburgh, so perfect teen selfies. It’s excellent for brunch.
If you think your teen would love afternoon tea, try the Witchery by the castle. It’s a very atmospheric place to eat and you can choose between afternoon tea in the secret garden dining room or the candlelit original dining room.
Where To Stay
Best Hotels With Swimming Pools
The Radisson Blu – located in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile the Radisson Blu boasts a swimming pool, sauna and fitness centre. There are lots of room options with enough space for a family with teenagers. Choose from a junior suite, family room or interconnecting rooms.
Apex Waterloo Place – if you’re looking for a hotel with a swimming pool and gym facilities in the heart of Edinburgh, Apex Waterloo Place is worth checking out.
Best Luxury Hotel
The Balmoral – located in lovely grounds in the centre of Edinburgh, the Balmoral offers five star luxury. If you are staying with teens in toe they offer in house activities including teen spa treatments. Books, magazines, movies, games and content protected wi-fi are available on request. You can also book interconnecting rooms. Find out more about staying here with teenagers.
Best Budget Hotels
Premier Inn, Waverly Street – like all premier Inns, this is excellent budget accommodation with a Hypnos mattress for a good night’s sleep. The premier Inn on Waverley Street is close to everything so makes a good choice.
Holiday Inn Express – Another great budget hotel, with excellent reviews near the train station.
The Rutland Apartments – these four and five star apartments are located in the heart of the city centre, at the west end of Princes Street. The two bedroom apartments will sleep a family of four (although if you have two kids, check they don’t mind sharing a double bed!).
Hilton Edinburgh – A great hotel and only 10 minute walk to city centre. They have a place when you can pay and park a few minutes walk from the hotel. Easy to leave your car there for the whole time you’re in Edinburgh and take the bus / walk around the city.
Stay City Apartments Edinburgh – An mid range apart hotel with 1 and 2 bedrooms with kitchenettes. There are two locations, one in the centre of the city just below Edinburgh Castle and the other a 10 minutes walk away in Edinburgh’s West End.
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