Best Things to Do in Edinburgh for Young Adults

The best things to do in Edinburgh for young adults that you'll actually enjoy doing...

Whether this is your first trip to the Scottish capital or your 500th, there’s no harm in finding out more (and actually good) things to do in Edinburgh for young adults.

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Obviously, there’s no shortage of things to do in and around the gorgeous city of Edinburgh: it is the capital city, after all, but how do you separate the stuff worth doing with your mates from things best left for a trip with your parents, family, or people older or younger than you?

You come right here, that’s what. As a team, we’ve actually been to Edinburgh (many times, which helps) and yes, we’re young adults - so we’re in a pretty good position to recommend activities and places to visit.

Ready to find out what you’ll be doing on your next visit to Edinburgh? Read on!

And just so you know, nobody pays us to be listed here. They’re just our recommendations to you, so you can find the best things to do in Edinburgh. No affiliate links, just personal opinions!

Hunt Down Some Hidden Gems on an Edinburgh Treasure Hunt

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

If you’ve never been to Edinburgh before, this should be the first thing you do. But even if you’re an Edinburgh local – believe me when I say there are things on this trail you’ll have never noticed before.

Treasure hunts like these are a great way to find your bearings, explore Edinburgh, and most importantly, have a laugh. 

Unlike a typical walking tour, these self-guided hunts require more active participation and total immersion. It’ll be up to you and your team to fine tune your sleuthing abilities, poke around Edinburgh’s nooks and crannies and put your thinking caps on. 

Answer riddles and clues that reveal hidden gems and odd urban quirks, discover centuries’ old secrets, and get top-notch, bar and café recommendations along the way if you need a cheeky pitstop. Whether you want to race against the clock or take your sweet time exploring, prepare to see Edinburgh through a playful, interactive lens… 

Track Down Edinburgh’s Famous Dogs - Callum, Bobby, Toby, Maida, Coolin & Bum (No, that’s not a typo!)

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Looking for things to do in Edinburgh for young adults that you won’t find in brochures or tourist guides? Well, this is my personal challenge to you.

Most tourists in Edinburgh will start their city exploration by plundering The Royal Mile, or making a beeline for the Castle or Holyrood Palace. Not you, though. 

If you didn’t already know, Edinburgh has an affinity with canine companions that manifests itself in some pretty interesting (and cute) artwork - you’ve just got to know where to look. 

According to my count, there are 6 famous dogs scattered around Edinburgh, including loyal Greyfriars Bobby to the lesser-known (but equally charming) Coolin. 

Unconventional, a bit weird, but definitely fun, seeking out Edinburgh’s tail-wagging mascots is an enjoyable twist on visiting tourist locations. I’ll give you some clues to get started, and then it’s up to you to sniff out the others… 

Psst: You’ll find Callum in the Scottish National Gallery, while Bobby, Toby, Maida, Coolin and Bum are dotted around Edinburgh’s streets and parks. Coolin was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bum was a gift from San Diego, California. Finally, always look closer at Edinburgh’s statues, many of them have a canine companion at their heels…

Get Your Hands on Something Quintessentially “Edinburgh” at Tron Kirk Market

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

I absolutely love a market - especially one with an abundance of arts and crafts - and if you do too, I recommend dipping into Trok Kirk Market.

Tucked away in the heart of the Royal Mile, Tron Kirk Market is a treasure trove of local crafts and quintessentially Edinburgh good. Think handmade jewellery, artisanal soaps, pieces of art, cards, coasters - or in my case, handknitted socks (honestly, they are so warm and comfy) - it’s all there for the taking.

Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, just going for a wander around this authentic and historic market is a great activity on a rainy day. The market itself is housed in what used to be a church (it closed down in the 1950s) and still has its stained-glass windows and beautiful roof. 

Check it out for yourself and thank me later when you have your own cosy socks on! 

Do an Outdoor Escape Room Themed Around Edinburgh’s Legendary Myths and Beasts

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Looking for things to do in Edinburgh for young adults that you can’t do anywhere else? This is for you. 

If you’re only visiting Edinburgh for a short period of time, it’d be a shame to spend it locked up inside in a dark room. Luckily, you don’t have to. In this outdoor escape room, you still get all the puzzles and challenges you’d expect in a conventional escape room, but with the twist that your adventure takes place on Edinburgh’s city streets. 

Wander through historic streets solving puzzles and decoding myths that are as entangled as the city’s own cobblestones, test your team’s wit and nerve and get introduced to Edinburgh’s legendary myths and beasts - without missing out on the live action unfolding in front of you.

Nip in To Edinburgh’s Best Kept Museum Secret, The Writers’ Museum

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Listen, it’s ok to be super nerdy about some things - and if you happen to be a book lover like me, then you’ve got to stop by Edinburgh’s wonderful Writers’ Museum. 

I’ll be honest, this place first caught my eye when I was strolling through the backstreets of the Royal Mile, battling for my share of the pavement against huge hordes of tourists. Like Lucy stumbling into Narnia through the wardrobe, I saw this tiny doorway and stepped inside it just to get away from them. And I am so glad I did.

Not only is this museum free (it’s FREE!), it’s also home to treasures that once belonged to some of Scotland’s literary legends, including Burns, Scott and my personal favourite, Robert Louis Stevenson. Although it’s small, every nook and cranny of this place is filled with fascinating objects, artefacts and everything a book-lover could ask for.

Personal highlights include Stevenson’s riding boots and spurs he wore in Samoa, Walter Scott’s rocking horse, and an incredible poem written by a pupil from a local primary school called “Grump loves grog”. 

Travel Back in Time to Plague-Ridden Edinburgh at (The Real) Mary King’s Close

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

If you want things to do in Edinburgh for young adults that are touristy but well-worth doing, head to The Real Mary King’s Close.

For transparency, this is one of Edinburgh’s tourist highlights - it has top reviews, plenty of visitors and tickets sell out like hot cakes. On the other hand, the tour groups are kept purposefully small, the guides are incredibly knowledgeable and charismatic, and the place itself has been restored to perfection. 

As a visitor, you get the chance to delve beneath Edinburgh’s streets and hurtle back in time to a tumultuous period in the city’s history. Discover how Edinburgh’s citizens fared under its 11th bout of the plague, what a loo looked like in Medieval Edinburgh, and see the enormous pile of gifts that have been donated for years to “Annie”, Mary King’s Close’s resident ghost. 

Atmospheric and slightly eerie, The Real Mary King’s Close tour offers a glimpse into the lives of 17th-century Edinburgh’s citizens, with stories that might just send a shiver down your spine.

Have a Picnic in Princes Street Gardens

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

It might seem an obvious thing to do, but this was honestly one of my favourite things I did in Edinburgh on my last visit.

Obviously, Princes Street Gardens are pretty famous - it sits adjacent to the Scott Memorial, after all - but it also provides some incredible views, a chance to people watch, and get some much-needed space from tourist crowds.

With the majestic Edinburgh Castle as your backdrop, Princes Street Gardens is an idyllic spot for a lazy afternoon. Pack some Scottish treats—perhaps some shortbread or a smoked salmon sandwich—and watch the world go by in one of the city’s most picturesque settings.

PSST: Cherry blossom fan? Visit Edinburgh in mid to late April to see them - it’s worth it for the beauty alone! 

Snuggle a Four-Legged Furry Pal at Maison de Moggy

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Even though Edinburgh is undoubtedly a dog-loving city, there’s a real treat in store for feline friends too. 

I stumbled across Maison de Moggy on my way to breakfast, distracted from my rumbling stomach by the sight of four absolutely gorgeous kitties napping in the window. Well, I had to go in to find out their names (it’s only polite!) and I left absolutely enchanted. 

As Scotland’s first cat café, Maison de Moggy is the original cat cafe that invites you to snuggle up with their resident felines. Grab a cuppa and a cake, find a cosy corner, and you might just have a kitty curling up on your lap. 

PSST: Just like their home, these kitties have French-inspired names. Trés chique!

Eat Incredible Japanese Food at Bentoya

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Want things to do in Edinburgh for young people that include having a delicious (but reasonably-priced) meal? Head to Bentoya.

One of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh, this eatery offers an authentic Japanese dining experience, from sushi to ramen, all crafted with meticulous attention to detail. If you’re a fan of Wagamama, prepare to have your mind blown. The vibrant, bustling atmosphere adds to the authenticity, and the decor itself looks like a tiny replica of a Japanese café.

The staff are also really great here and service is quick and easy - ideal if you’re in a rush or have somewhere to be in the city centre after your meal.

Hunt Down “Harry Potter” Book and Film Landmarks

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Scroll past if you’re not a fan of HP, but if you do happen to be a Potterhead, you’ll already know that Edinburgh and the series pretty much go hand-in-hand.

After all, this is where J. K Rowling penned much of the series - from the café where she wrote the books (The Elephant House) to real-life inspirations behind Hogwarts, character names and film locations, the city is teeming with Harry Potter landmarks and *magical* coincidences.

Take a tour (there are several available in the city) or just keep your eyes peeled as you wander about - I especially recommend Greyfriars Kirkyard for spotting HP names (you’ll find Tom Riddle’s Senior and Junior, Scrimgeour, Moody and McGonagall around here) and there are also plenty of blue plaques outside of buildings, too. 

Select Player One and Two and More at NQ64

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Depending on how young you are, you may or may not remember the days of Sega Megadrives, early Nintendo consoles or even the craze of Guitar Hero - but for the nostalgic among us, this is where you can go to get your gaming fix.

Part bar and part arcade, the neon-lit, retro world of NQ64 is a great place to kick back with your mates and just have a laugh. The drinks menu is impressive (the cocktails are named after classic games and characters, as a Crash Bandicoot fan, I always opt for the Aku Aku) and they even come with flashing light ice cubes.

Of course, the real draw of this place is the games themselves. Consoles, arcade games like Tetris, basketball games, Guitar Hero, Dance Revolution… it’s all here. NQ64 a nostalgic nod to your childhood, but with a licence to drink—what’s not to love?

Get The Best Views of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a trek up to Edinburgh Castle. 

Standing majestically over the city, the castle offers panoramic views that are simply unbeatable - and the good news is, you don’t actually have to go inside to get them. Simply walk up the Royal Mile to where the Castle stands, walk around both sides of the entrance to the Castle and get the obligatory selfie with your mates!

If you love military history or have never entered the Castle before, I would recommend that you go inside at least once. But, as tickets are expensive and I think there are plenty of other things to do in and around Edinburgh, I wouldn’t put it as an essential for your first trip unless you’re a history buff or a photographer. 

For those who do want to go inside, I recommend dipping into the military museum onsite as well as the war memorial, St Margaret’s Chapel, and keeping an eye out for the dog cemetery - all of these are fascinating places but be warned, it can get very crowded so snapping pics without fellow tourists in the background (or blocking the view) can get tiresome.

Explore the historic fortress, soak up some Scottish history, and snap some postcard-worthy shots from the highest points. Just remember, it’s quite the climb, so wear comfy shoes!

Visit The Place “Where Dexter Met Emma”

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Looking for things to do in Edinburgh for young adults that strike a romantic chord? Head to Edinburgh University.

For fans of 'One Day', a visit to the place in Edinburgh where Dexter met Emma has become a kind of pilgrimage. Even if you just want a space to hang out and chat with your friends (or your partner) this is the place to do it. It’s quiet, pretty and historic - and yes, you feel like you’re walking in the footsteps of your favourite characters while exploring locations from key scenes in the book and film. 

It's a romantic and slightly bittersweet way to connect with a story of love and friendship that spans decades - and it’s become a sort of TikTok sensation with people creating the iconic scene. Why not add yours to the algorithm? 

Have a Gourmet Brekkie at Hula Grassmarket

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

One of the few things that unites millennials and gen-z’s is a love for a breakfast or brunch (I don’t make the rules) and if you want my go-to spot to get it in Edinburgh, here it is. 

Start your day of exploring with a gourmet breakfast at Hula Grassmarket. This cafe’s ethos is to provide healthy but tasty food in a vibrant setting - and they’ve hit the nail on the head. With a menu packed with super juices, smoothie bowls, locally sourced poached eggs on toast, stacks of pancakes and some great vegan alternatives, this is the place to go if your friendship group is full of picky eaters. 

It gets bonus points for being in a great location and the prices here are super reasonable as well. 

Dip Into Some Cosy Bookshops

things to do in Edinburgh for young adults

Maybe it’s the university or the many students you see wandering around Edinburgh, but for me, the city feels inextricably linked to academia and bookish types (helpful, if like me you love a good book). 

Luckily, there are heaps of great bookshops dotted around the city, some of which cater to very specific genres or interests - which is great if you’re on the hunt for something rare or unique. 

The perfect activity for a rainy day or when you just want to lose yourself in a labyrinth of books and discover your next great read. 

I’d start with Blackwells (yes, it’s a chain but these well-stocked shelves are irresistibly full of popular and rarer titles), and then move on to secondhand bookshops such as Armchair Books or Edinburgh Books. 

PSST: Into sci-fi or fantasy fiction? Check out Transreal Fiction. The opening times can vary (you’ll be fine if it’s a weekend) but this is the place to go if you need inspo or want some guidance on what your next sci-fi or fantasy read should be! 

Find More Things to do in Edinburgh with CityDays

Things to do in Edinburgh

So there you have it! 15+ things to do in Edinburgh for young adults. 

Want to find more things to do in Edinburgh? Of course you do! 

Discover Edinburgh’s secret sights and noteworthy nooks by playing one of our Edinburgh treasure and scavenger hunts, walking tours or outdoor escape room games!

We also provide team building activities in Edinburgh that can be made bespoke to include your office, wherever in the capital you are - just drop us a message.

All you have to do is team up with your partner, friends, family or whoever to solve riddles, complete challenges and answer trivia to lead you on an unforgettable journey around Edinburgh’s most intriguing streets. 

The best part? We’ll recommend top-rated pubs, cafés and restaurants and give your team the chance to earn rewards by competing on our leaderboard. 

Book your next adventure today!