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21 Best Indoor Activities in Edinburgh You Need To Try [2021]

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Edinburgh might not be known for always having the best weather.

But a little drop of rain or gust of wind doesn’t mean you have to postpone exploring this beautiful city.

In fact, some of Edinburgh’s top attractions are indoor activities that will keep you entertained (and dry!) throughout your trip.

This list will guide you through 21 fun indoor activities in Edinburgh, with something for the history buffs, the shopaholics, the art-lovers and everything in between.

So when outdoor sightseeing isn’t an easy option, this list of the best indoor activities in Edinburgh has got you covered!

This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Catherine Taylor.

1. National Museum of Scotland

people-walking-around-white-domed-museum-national-museum-of-scotland

Price: Free

Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Phone number: 0300 123 6789

Let’s kick off this list of the best indoor attractions in Edinburgh with one of Edinburgh’s most-loved museums: the National Museum of Scotland.

Free, educational and full of interactive exhibits that will keep visitors of all ages and interests happy, this museum is a proper crowd-pleaser.

Travel back in time through the history of Scotland, explore centuries of fashion and style including designs by Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, and discover the culture and relics of Ancient Egypt, East Asia and more.

Every room is a different experience from the last – you might actually find yourself getting lost in amongst it all!

Thankfully, there’s plenty of exhibition maps to get you back on track…

It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon in this place, so make sure you keep a good chunk of time free to explore.

There’s also a café with great views over the Grand Gallery, so you can stop and refuel in between exhibitions.

2. Edinburgh Castle

view-of-edinburgh-castle-sat-on-hill-from-grassmarket-on-a-sunny-summers-day

Price: £17.50 for adults, £14.00 for concession (65+ and unemployed), £10.50 for children

Phone number: 0131 225 9846Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

Come rain or shine, a visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without seeing Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is the most visited tourist attraction in Scotland, with over two million visitors every single year.

The grounds of the castle are exposed, of course, so if you have a good jacket and an umbrella you’re good to explore the beautiful exterior of the castle.

But if not, there’s plenty to see and do inside as well!

Once inside, you’ll wander through the lavish rooms of the Royal Palace and the Great Hall, visit the National War Museum, and see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

One of the best parts of visiting Edinburgh Castle is the spectacular views across some of the city’s most beautiful areas, including the Royal Mile, Princes Street and the lush greenery of Princes Street Gardens.

And if you plan your timings carefully, you’ll be able to witness the One O’Clock Salute, where a cannon is fired at 1 pm every day. An Edinburgh tradition!

3. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

exterior-of-camera-obscura-and-world-of-illusions-on-sunny-day

Price: £16.20 for adults, £14.40 for students and seniors (65+), £12.60 for children

Address: Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2ND

Phone number: 0131 226 3709

Sitting right at the top of the Royal Mile is Camera Obscura, a weird and wonderful attraction that’s sure to mesmerise you!

Over an impressive five floors, you’ll find galleries full of over 100 mind-bending illusions, magical light tricks, and a lot of hilarious photo opportunities.

It’s a hands-on experience to throw yourself into and it’s great for all ages.

Don’t leave without visiting the Rooftop Terrace, which offers full 360-degree views over the city.

Although it sounds like it might be one of the city’s more modern establishments, Camera Obscura has actually been around since 1853, making it one of the oldest indoor activities in Edinburgh!

4. Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen’s Gallery

palace-of-holyroodhouse-on-sunny-day-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £21.90 for adults, £19.70 for over 60s, £19.20 for students, £12.00 for children

Address: Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8DX

Phone number: 0303 123 7306

Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile – at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle – the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen.

This Palace is a beautiful structure home to a whole lot of Scottish royal history.

See the royal chambers where Mary Queen of Scots once lived, explore the renaissance buildings of the interior court, and visit the Queen’s Gallery to see the latest showcase of the Royal Collections.

The collections feature master paintings, decorative furniture and other key works of art collected by the royal family and often shown in Scotland for the first time.

You also get pretty spectacular views of Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano and the main peak of the hills in Edinburgh.

It stands as a backdrop to the Palace, so at least you can still enjoy the hill this way without having to go outside and climb it!

5. Scottish National Gallery

old-window-on-a-dark-winter-day-looking-out-to-garden-at-the-scottish-national-gallery

Price: Free

Address: The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL

Phone number: 0131 624 6200

If you’re a big art-lover, the Scottish National Gallery is one of the best indoor activities in Edinburgh for you on a bad weather day.

Located on the Mound, just a short walk from Princes Street, this gallery (with café/restaurant and gift shop) makes the perfect escape from the elements.

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Plus, it’s one of the best free things to do in Edinburgh, making it ideal for those on a budget!

Home to original Van Goghs, Monets, Botticellis and more, this impressive gallery features some of the greatest art from across the world as well as Scotland.

And they’re all displayed in a beautiful building right in the heart of Edinburgh!

Immerse yourself in a world full of brush strokes and stone sculptures, and finish it off with a cup of tea and a slice of cake. What could be better?

6. St James Quarter

shops-inside-st-james-quarter-shopping-centre

Address: 1 Leith Street, Edinburgh EH1 3DX

Phone number: 0131 290 1118

Newly opened in 2021, St James Quarter is the shopping district to visit when you’re in Edinburgh.

With eighty different retailers, thirty restaurants and the Bonnie & Wild food hall (more on that in a minute), St James Quarter is set to become a real cultural and lifestyle hub right in the middle of the city.

The bright and airy canopy-roofed Galleria is home to tons of cutting-edge brands – some of which are debuting in Scotland for the first time at this venue, including Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Bershka and & Other Stories.

And of course, there are the usual suspects like Zara, H&M, Mango and Tommy Hilfiger.

Just off from St James Quarter is the famous Multrees Walk, home to some more luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Coach and Burberry.

7. Bonnie & Wild Marketplace

restaurant-table-and-bar-inside-bonnie-and-wild-scottish-marketplace

Address: 1 Leith Street, Edinburgh EH1 3DX

Phone number: 0131 560 1800

Up on the 4th floor of St James Quarter, you’ll find Bonnie & Wild Scottish Marketplace, an absolute gem in the food and drink scene of Edinburgh.

It’s an innovative social dining experience where you’re not restricted to one single menu.

Instead, you can choose from a ton of speciality retailers and three swanky little bars!

Fresh seafood, hand-made sourdough pizzas, luxury patisseries, and plant-based creations are just some of the food you can expect.

All you have to do is wander around, order your favourite(s) and head back to your designated table in the open-plan seating.

And if you leave feeling inspired to recreate some of the dishes for yourself, you can even pick up beef, seafood and other ingredients from local producers.

Just make sure you also pick up craft beers, wines and spirits from the bottle shop too! It’d be rude not to, right?

8. Lane 7

interior-of-lane-7-bowling-alley-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Address: 1 Leith Street, Edinburgh EH1 3DX

Phone number: 0131 373 0003

If there’s one more place you have to pop into while visiting St James Quarter, it’s Lane 7.

There are a few of these venues dotted up and down the country, actually, and Edinburgh is the latest addition to the family.

Picture a bar, bowling alley, ping-pong hall and games room all rolled into one funky-lit, graffiti-decorated venue.

That’s Lane 7, and it’s guaranteed to fill any rainy afternoon with fun and games.

Make your way around each activity with a drink in hand (if you fancy it) and be sure to keep track of your scores.

It’s open from 11 am until late, so you can really get the party started at any time of day.

Warning: this one might be a risky move if you have some overly competitive people in your group…

9. Fore Play Crazy Golf

fore-play-crazy-golf-course-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £9.50 per person at peak times, £8.00 per person at off-peak times

Address: 14 Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT

Next up is a venue with one of the cheekiest names in town – Fore Play Crazy Golf.

It’s one of the best indoor activities in Edinburgh if you’re looking for fun times, punchy cocktails and tasty food.

Fore Play combines all three under the one roof to create the ultimate day (or night) out.

Grab a putter and make your way around nine Edinburgh inspired golf holes, with famous mini landmarks like Greyfriars Bobby and the Scott Monument dotted along the way.

Afterwards, choose from two bars stocked full of gin cocktails, craft beers and spirits (the first round should be on the crazy golf loser!) and some of Edinburgh’s best street food from vendors The Pitt.

Crazy golf might not sound like your typical tourist attraction, but when it’s as good as Fore Play, it can’t be missed!

10. The Royal Botanic Gardens Glasshouses

exterior-of-the-royal-botanic-gardens-glasshouses-edinburgh

Price: Free

Address: Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ

Phone number: 0131 248 2909

You might not think a botanic garden would be a great place to spend a bad weather day, but tuck yourself inside The Royal Botanic Gardens Glasshouses and you can escape the Scottish weather and pretend you’re in a tropical rainforest instead!

The 27 glasshouses cover an impressive two acres, leaving you plenty to explore while listening to the elements batter against the glass roof. It’s a surprisingly soothing experience.

The Tropical Palm House is the oldest and most famous of the glasshouses and it’s located right in the centre of the gardens.

Wander between exotic plants and learn the history of the glasshouses, which are impressive structures in themselves!

Plus, this place makes for a great Instagram background…

11. The Scotch Whisky Experience

the-scotch-whisky-experience-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £17.00 for the Silver Tour, £29.50 for the Gold Tour, £40.00 for the Platinum Tour

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Address: 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE

Phone number: 0131 220 0441

Now we all know that Scotland is famous for its whisky, and there’s no place better to learn about the history and heritage of whisky distilling than the Scotch Whisky Experience.

Delve into the story of whisky through a range of immersive experiences, anywhere from a quick tour to an advanced tasting.

(All with a few drams for you to enjoy at the end!)

Not only will you learn exactly how whisky became such an iconic Scottish staple, but I guarantee you’ll also leave with a newfound love and appreciation for the drink.

There’s also a gift shop where you can purchase and take home a whisky of your own.

What better Scottish souvenir to bring home?

12. Edinburgh Gin Distillery & Visitor Centre

edinburgh-gin-distillery-and-visitor-centre-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £25.00

Address: 1A Rutland Place, Edinburgh EH1 2AD

Phone number: 0131 656 2810

If whisky isn’t quite your thing, why not try the Edinburgh Gin Distillery?

The history and culture of this distillery are just as rich as that of any other, and this one is a true Edinburgh classic.

Take a guided tour around the boutique five-star distillery and witness each stage of the distilling and production process, from botanicals and juniper berries all the way to a fresh, tasty gin.

There’s a tasting at the end, of course, with cracking views of the stills to round off your experience.

And later on, when you spot a bottle of Edinburgh Gin at the hotel bar, you’ll already know the story behind it!

13. St Giles’ Cathedral

exterior-of-st-giles’-cathedral-on-sunny-day

Price: Free

Address: High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1RE

Phone number: 0131 226 0674

St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in Edinburgh.

Founded in the 1120s, the church has a long and rich history for being a site of the Scottish Reformation, and it still operates as a cathedral today with daily services and musical events.

But the real highlight of a visit to the cathedral is the chance to see the stained glass windows up close.

These beautiful pieces of art line the walls of the church and mostly depict biblical scenes in bright colours and Celtic shapes.

You can also join a rooftop tour in small groups of up to four people, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Royal Mile.

14. The Royal Yacht Britannia

the-royal-yacht-britannia-on-dock-on-river

Price: £17.00 for adults, £15.00 for 60+ and students, £8.75 for children

Address: Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

Phone number: 0131 555 5566

This one might be floating on water, but it’s a surprisingly great place to escape from the outside for an hour or two.

The Royal Yacht Britannia has served the Royal Family for 44 years as a royal residence for state visits, fancy receptions and even royal honeymoons.

Explore the Royal Residence including the Sun Lounge and State Drawing Room, peek into the Bridge and Admiral’s cabin, and find out more about what life was like for the crew below decks.

Discover the history and timeline of this famous ship and finish it all off in the Royal Deck Tea Room.

The waterfront views look particularly dramatic on a stormy day, making this one of the best rainy day activities in Edinburgh!

15. Festival Theatre

exterior-of-festival-theatre-on-sunny-day

Address: 13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9FT

Phone number: 0131 529 6000

If you’re looking for great entertainment – anything from musicals, to ballet, to opera and beyond – then a visit to Festival Theatre is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh on a rainy day.

It’s actually the largest performance area in Scotland and the home of Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera, even gaining a reputation as one of the world’s leading dance houses.

The venue has a year-round programme with a huge variety of shows and performances.

You’re more than likely to find something incredible that lines up with your visit to Edinburgh!

Just make sure to book your tickets in advance as there are very limited tickets on the day (or sometimes none at all).

Then all you have to do is turn up, sit back and enjoy the show!

16. Afternoon tea at Palm Court

restaurant-tables-in-palm-court-in-the-balmoral-hotel

Price: £45 per person for afternoon tea and £60 per person for champagne afternoon tea

Address: 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

Phone number: 0131 556 2414

Now, this is an experience fit for a royal.

The very aptly named Palm Court is located in The Balmoral Hotel.

It’s the most breathtaking room filled with palm trees, opulent furnishings and a stunning glass-domed roof and a sparkling chandelier.

Pick away at dainty sandwiches, sweet pastries, fresh cakes and your choice of loose-leaf teas or champagne, all while listening to gentle harp strings and breathing in your surroundings.

It’s a truly decadent experience that will make you feel like you’re dining in a Venetian courtroom rather than Edinburgh city centre.

This award-winning treat is slightly more on the expensive side for an afternoon tea but I promise you, it won’t disappoint.

17. The Chocolatarium

person-making-chocolate-inside-the-chocolatarium

Price: £19.50 for adults, £12.00 for children

Address: 3-5 Cranston Street, Edinburgh EH8 8BE

Phone number: 0131 556 7005

Chocolate lovers, look no further – this is one of the best indoor activities in Edinburgh for you!

The Chocolatarium is home to Edinburgh’s only chocolate tour (quite a niche concept, I know).

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Here you can take a ninety-minute fully-guided tour to learn all about the process of making chocolate.

Start in the Cacao Jungle, where you learn about the process of growing and harvesting cacao, before moving on to the Chocolate Factory Kitchen.

Here you’ll watch as the bitter cacao beans are transformed into sweet, silky chocolate – and taste it as you go, too.

Finally, at the end of the tour, you have the chance to create your own chocolate bar with as many toppings as you like.

There’s even the option to make your chocolate haggis flavoured. It’s up to you to decide if you’re brave enough to try that one, though…

18. The Real Mary King’s Close

the-real-mary-king’s-close-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £18.95 for adults, £18.95 for senior citizens and students, £12.45 for children

Address: Warriston’s Close, 2, High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1PG

The Real Mary King’s Close invites you to ‘step down into Edinburgh’s hidden history’, and really, there’s no better way to describe this spooky experience.

The tour takes place entirely underground – right beneath the beautiful, cobbled streets of the old town, in fact.

Follow character guides through over 400 years of myths, legends and real-life historical tales of the rich and poor that once lived in the infamous close.

This is by no means a ghost tour, but the spooky atmosphere of the underground is captivating.

You’ll certainly leave this tour knowing some of the lesser-told stories of this beautiful city.

19. The Edinburgh Dungeons

galloway-boat-ride-at-the-edinburgh-dungeons-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £19.75 per person

Address: 31 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DF

Phone number: 0131 240 1041

However, if you are looking for a ghost tour, then look no further than the Edinburgh Dungeons, one of the best things to do in Edinburgh on a rainy day.

There’s a lot of major cities in the UK with their very own ‘Dungeons’ but it has to be said that Edinburgh’s is one of the very best.

Join this interactive experience that takes you through The Courtroom, the Witches’ Judgement, The Cannibal’s Cave, the infamous Boat Ride, and so much more.

And as always, along with the jump scares there’s a good amount of laughs in there, too.

Get up close and personal with Edinburgh’s scariest stories – just try not to scream!

20. Edinburgh International Climbing Arena

edinburgh-international-climbing-arena-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price: £12.20 per person

Address: South Platt Hill, Newbridge, Edinburgh EH28 8AA

Phone number: 0131 458 2100

Indoor climbing might not be the first thing you think of when searching for indoor activities in Edinburgh.

But the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena is an impressive spot and a fun afternoon away from the elements!

This one is located just outside the city centre, but is easy enough to reach by car or public transport.

With a total of 62 lead climbing lines to choose from, as well as a bunch of bouldering walls, this place has you sorted from beginners all the way up to climbing experts.

There’s even a kids playground with climbing elements and a soft play area, making this one perfect for a wholesome family day. Get climbing!

21. Dynamic Earth

dynamic-earth-museum-lit-up-at-night-indoor-activities-edinburgh

Price for tour and planetarium: £15.95 for adults, £13.95 for concession (60+ and students), £9.95 for children

Price for planetarium only: £5.50 per person

Address: Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS

Phone number: 0131 550 7800

One of the very best indoor activities in Edinburgh, Dynamic Earth is a museum and interactive exhibit that tells the story of our very own planet earth.

Travel right back to the beginning of time in the Deep Time Machine and witness the exploding stars of the big bang; watch volcanoes burst and snowcaps melt before your eyes; plunge into the depths of the ocean and marvel at creatures of the deep – all in 4D.

It’s a real eye-opening insight into this great big world we live in and a really unique experience in the UK.

With a gift shop, soft play area and cosy café, you’re sorted for a whole day at dynamic earth.

From here, you also have cracking views of Arthur’s Seat, the Salisbury Crags and the beautiful architecture of Edinburgh.

This makes it the perfect place to round off your trip.

 

So there you have it: 21 fun indoor activities in Edinburgh to keep you dry on a rainy day.

There’s something for the art-lovers, the history buffs, the shoppers, the foodies and even the royalists!

Which of these indoor activities in Edinburgh are you going to try out first? Please let me know in the comments below.

21 Fun Indoor Activities in Edinburgh You Need To Try [2021]. From museums and palaces to crazy golf and botanical gardens, here are 21 fun indoor activities in Edinburgh you need to try! Click through to read more...

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