Scottish Parliament building

{Edinburgh} Visiting the Scottish Parliament with Kids

The Scottish Parliament is maybe not somewhere you had considered taking kids for a day out, but we recently had a very enjoyable trip there. Ever since my eldest did a project about the Parliament at school, we have wanted to take him to see it. Unfortunately it was not possible at the time due to Covid, but we finally made it there.

Scottish Parliament building
Scottish Parliament entrance

During a self-guided visit, you can explore the Main Hall, see the permanent exhibition ‘A Parliament for the People’, and visit the debating chamber. You can print off a map, available in multiple languages, before your visit or pick one up from the Main Hall when you arrive.

Scottish Parliament exhibition

The exhibition begins with a display in the Main Hall, which explains how the Parliament works, what the different constituencies and committees are, and what devolved powers Scotland has.

Scottish Parliament exhibition

The display included big video touch screens, where you can listen to people talking about different subjects such as the Ban on Smoking, Growing Up in Care, LGBT+ Equality , Land Reform, or British Sign Language. The boys were quite interested in these. Each subject had a timeline and a video testimonial, and they listened to quite a few of them.

Scottish Parliament exhibition
Scottish Parliament exhibition

The exhibition continues in the exhibition gallery space, where you can learn more about the history of the Parliament and its building, including a model of the debating chambers, an interactive timeline, and a tactile exhibit about the architecture of the building and the different shapes you can find in the architecture.

Scottish Parliament exhibition
Scottish Parliament exhibition

After spending some considerable time in the Main Hall and exhibition gallery, we went upstairs to the public viewing gallery that looks over the debating chamber. The boys thought it was pretty cool to sit in the seats and pretend they were politicians.

Scottish Parliament debating chamber

It also put some of the things they had read about in the exhibition in context, and we looked for some of the architectural shapes we had learned about.

Scottish Parliament debating chamber

There are also some pieces of artwork scattered around the building, which are worth a look at. In particular, the piece “Travelling the Distance” caught the boys attention, which is an installation of 100 porcelain sentences by women (99 + the artist) who had been asked to write a sentence about another woman who inspired them. We spent some time studying the different writing and seeing what sentences we could read.

Scottish Parliament artwork
Scottish Parliament Travelling the Distance artwork

We finished our visit with a stop over at the Parliament cafe for lunch. The haggis, neaps & tatties was a very generous portion and good value for money, and I was also pleasantly surprised with the gluten free soup and roll option which again was a generous portion.

As well as the Parliament map, there is also a Family Activity Guide that you can either print off in advance, or pick up from the Main Hall on arrival. It includes a trail around the outside of the Parliament building, looking some more at the architectural features of the building as well as including some puzzles, and is a great way to extend your visit. The boys did some of the puzzles over lunch, then we headed out for a walk around the building before heading home.

Scottish Parliament childrens guide
Scottish Parliament building

Overall, we spent almost 2.5 hours at the Parliament, including lunch and the walk around the outside, which is longer than I had expected. So, next time you’re looking for something new to do in Edinburgh with kids, why not consider a visit to the Scottish Parliament!

Scottish Parliament architecture

We also picked up these little comics to take home, which have been produced together with a Thorntree Primary School, and explain a bit more about how the Parliament works from a kids friendly perspective.

How to get there

The parliament building is at the bottom – or east end – of the Royal Mile (postcode EH99 1SP). Lothian Bus no.35 will take you all the way there.

Visitor Info

Opening hours: Open Mondays to Saturdays, times vary depending on whether Parliament is in recess or not. Check out their website (see below) for the latest opening hours.

Cost: Free admission


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