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Edinburgh vs Dublin: Which City Wins for Family Fun?

Edinburgh vs Dublin: Which City Wins for Family Fun?

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Are you debating between a Dublin or Edinburgh vacation? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about choosing a trip to Edinburgh vs Dublin.
This comparison of Edinburgh vs Dublin was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Major cities in the British Isles, like Edinburgh and Dublin, are some of the best places to visit for a family vacation! I should know, I’ve done both!

On the surface, it might look like there isn’t much difference between Scotland and Ireland’s historical capital cities.

They’re both safe, walkable cities with lots of fun attractions. The weather isn’t too different (read: rainy), the traditional music and pub scenes are similar, and the people are just as friendly.

So, who wins in the Edinburgh vs Dublin debate? Which is better for families?

This guide weighs all the considerations so you can make the right choice and enjoy a fun trip with your kids!

Image of Marcie Cheung and her son in front of Edinburgh Castle
Quick selfie with Edinburgh Castle. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Edinburgh vs Dublin: The Differences

Edinburgh and Dublin are two of five capital cities in the British Isles so they have many similarities. However, they have very separate histories, cultures, and languages (which might surprise you!). 

Culture

They are both UNESCO Cities of Literature. Dublin boasts authors like Oscar Wilde and James Joyce while Edinburgh can claim Sir Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Dublin and Edinburgh are both multicultural cities. However, the realities of Brexit mean that Dublin will continue to welcome international residents while Edinburgh might lose its diversity.

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Architecture

Edinburgh’s New Town is also a World Heritage Site thanks to its rows and rows of Georgian houses. While both cities are over 1,000 years old, Edinburgh has retained more of its medieval charm with cobblestone streets throughout the Old Town and New Town.

Dublin also has Georgian-era houses but these are mostly confined to the buildings around parks like Merriott Square and St. Stephen’s Green. Cranes are never far from Dublin’s skyline and the city has more skyrise apartment and office blocks.

Nightlife

One of the biggest differences between Edinburgh vs Dublin is the nightlife, which does affect families if you want to avoid the partiers!

Find out the top Dublin travel tips for people visiting Ireland for the first time recommended by top travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Marcie Cheung in front of the famous Temple Bar in Dublin
Temple Bar is famous! Photo credit: Tetiana in Dublin for Flytographer

Edinburgh has a thriving nightlife with plenty of pubs, but it’s nowhere near as rowdy as Dublin. Expect hoards of young pub-goers hitting the Temple Bar neighborhood from late afternoon onward, even on weekdays.

Language

The most commonly spoken language in Edinburgh and Dublin is English. While Scots and Scots Gaelic are gaining traction in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, this isn’t the case in Edinburgh.

Irish is one of the official languages of Ireland. You’ll notice it on every road sign alongside English and tour guides will sprinkle it into their speeches. However, English is still the most common language!

Currency

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom so Edinburgh uses the Great British Pound Sterling (GBP). Ireland, including its capital city Dublin, uses the Euro (EUR) currency.

How Many Days in Edinburgh vs Dublin?

You could spend a month in either Edinburgh or Dublin and still not see everything there is to see! However, one city definitely demands more time than the other.

How Many Days in Dublin?

Many of Dublin’s best attractions revolve around Guinness and Irish whiskey. They’re not exactly child-friendly activities! 

Find out the best things to do in Dublin with kids according to top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Marcie Cheung at Trinity College
Trinity College is home to the Book of Kells. Photo credit: Keryn Means

But there are lots of museums, parks, historic sites, and other fun things to do. So, two days in Dublin is ideal if you’re not planning to take any day trips.

How Many Days in Edinburgh?

Alternatively, Edinburgh has tons of family attractions from parks to museums to castles to hills. Yes, there are one or two attractions dedicated to Scotch, but they aren’t the top things to do in Edinburgh.

Image of Marcie Cheung and her family at the World of Illusions in Edinburgh Scotland
World of Illusions is pretty fun! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Spending three days in Edinburgh, without day trips, gives your family enough time to explore the highlights. We spent 5 days in Edinburgh including 2 day trips and it was perfect!

Edinburgh vs Dublin Public Transportation

Both cities are very walkable but there might be places too far to walk or the heavens might have opened and you want to avoid getting wet! Whether you visit Dublin or Edinburgh, you can expect excellent public transportation.

Edinburgh Trams and Buses

Edinburgh’s bus network is extensive and connects the whole county. 

It’s primarily run by Lothian buses and single tickets are currently £2 for adults and £1 for children. You can pay the driver with cash or by tapping your contactless card.

Edinburgh’s tram network is fairly new and connects different parts of the city. Fares are currently £1.80 for adults (£0.90 for children) and you can buy tickets from the machines at every tram stop before boarding.

Dublin Trams and Buses

Dublin Bus is the city’s public-run bus network and you can buy bus tickets from the driver.

Image of a tram in Dublin Ireland
Here’s a tram in Dublin. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Luas is Dublin’s tram network. If you plan on traveling by bus and tram, you can pre-purchase a Leap Visitor Card offering one, three, or seven days of travel. This includes the buses, trams, and local rail services! The card currently costs €8 for adults.

Edinburgh vs Dublin Tourist Attractions

Edinburgh is arguably a more touristy city with more attractions and tours than Dublin. But Dublin might take the lead on museums and there are plenty of other things to do in Dublin for families too!

Image of a boy wearing a Slytherin scarf in front of Tom Riddell's grave in Edinburgh
Don’t miss the Harry Potter walking tour! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kid-Friendly Edinburgh Attractions

  • Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile – One of the oldest fortified places in Europe, this hilltop castle is a can’t-miss with or without kids
  • Harry Potter Walking Tour – Learn about the hotspots that inspired the Harry Potter books on this interactive and magical walking tour
  • Calton Hill – This is the easiest of Edinburgh’s Seven Hills for kids of all ages to climb and offers amazing skyline views
  • The Edinburgh Dungeons – Tour through Edinburgh’s dark secrets with the help of costumed actors
  • The Real Mary King’s Close – Visit a labyrinth of hidden streets underneath Edinburgh’s Old Town
  • Princes Street Gardens – Stroll through Edinburgh’s best park with castle views
  • Palace of Holyrood House – 16th-century palace owned by the British Royal Family

Kid-Friendly Dublin Attractions

  • Guinness Storehouse – Kids and adults alike can learn about Ireland’s most popular export through this self-guided tour (soft drink or alcohol available)
  • Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells – See one of the oldest books in the world in this historic, 16th-century library
  • Viking Splash Tour – Tour Dublin’s land and waters on this amphibious vehicle!
  • Dublin Castle & Gardens – Explore Dublin’s 13th-century stronghold
  • Kilmainham Gaol – This former prison-turned-museum is a fascinating place to visit

Best Edinburgh Museums for Kids

  • National Museum of Scotland – Free, modern museum with scientific, cultural, and Scottish exhibits with an unbeatable rooftop view
  • The Writers’ Museum – Are your kids authors in the making? Learn about Edinburgh’s top literary icons in this free museum off the Royal Mile
  • Museum of Childhood – See and play with old toys and doll houses from the last century

Best Dublin Museums for Kids

  • EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum – State-of-the-art museum about Ireland’s immigration history
  • Natural History Museum – Sprawling museum with hundreds of animals, gemstones, and fossils on display in this beautiful 19th-century building
  • Little Museum of Dublin – Cute, small museum documenting Dublin’s history in a fun way
  • National Leprechaun Museum – Learn all about the mythical, folkloric creatures!
  • Dublinia Museum – Children’s museum with costumes bringing Dublin’s Viking history to life

Is Edinburgh or Dublin Better for Food?

Scottish and Irish food have a reputation for being on the bland side. But you will discover that it’s possible to find delicious traditional and international cuisine in both cities, plus lots of sweet treats!

Where to Eat in Edinburgh with Kids

  • The Scran & Scallie – Top-tier Scottish cuisine with a kids’ menu
  • Edinburgh Street Food Hall – Perfect place for a relaxed dinner with a variety of cuisines to suit picky tastebuds
  • Bread Meats Bread – Sometimes you just want to eat a burger and fries and you won’t find better in Edinburgh!
  • Ting Thai Teviot Place – The best Thai food this side of Bangkok
  • Mary’s Milk Bar – The go-to place in Edinburgh for ice cream worth the wait in line

Where to Eat in Dublin with Kids

  • Jay Kays Cafe – This kid-friendly brunch restaurant serves pastries and full Irish breakfasts
  • Old Mill Restaurant – Traditional Irish dining hall with a kids’ menu
  • PI Temple Bar – If you have a pizza craving then nothing else will scratch that itch
  • Neon Asian Street Food – Relaxed communal dining hall with make-your-own desserts!
  • Murphy’s Ice Cream – Originating in Dingle, they are happy for you to try as many ice creams as you like before you buy! So, don’t rule out the brown bread flavor

Day Trips From Edinburgh vs Dublin

Whether you want to visit more cities or dive into the countryside, Edinburgh and Dublin both offer great day trip options.

Best Edinburgh Day Trips with Kids

One of the easiest, best day trips from Edinburgh with kids is to South Queensferry. See the UNESCO-certified Forth Rail Bridge, sail on the Firth of Forth, and enjoy delicious ice cream in the quaint town.

Hop on a 45-minute train ride to Glasgow if you’re craving a livelier city. Glasgow Science Center is world-renowned and Kelvingrove Park is the perfect place to visit on a sunny day.

Image of Duone Castle in Scotland
Duone Castle is easy to get to from Edinburgh. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Duone Castle is a great day trip if you and your family love Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was filmed there and you can even buy coconuts and recreate some movie scenes!

If your kids are good passengers, book a small-group tour up to Loch Ness and see if you can spot the mythical Nessie on a boat cruise!

Best Dublin Day Trips with Kids

In all honestly, in the Dublin vs Edinburgh day trip debate, Edinburgh will win every time. But Dublin still offers one or two convenient choices!

Find out the top things to do in Wicklow Ireland by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Marcie Cheung taking a selfie at the Wicklow mountains
Wicklow is gorgeous! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Book a small-group tour from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains National Park, only a one-hour drive south of the city. See the beautiful lake of Glendalough and drive through the incredible Sally Gap mountain pass.

Catch a 90-minute train service to Kilkenny where you can explore Kilkenny Castle, St Canice’s Cathedral, and much more. Here’s a full list of Dublin day trips.

Can You Visit Both Edinburgh and Dublin On the Same Trip?

Getting from Edinburgh to Dublin (or vice versa) is very easy. 

There are approximately 14 flights per day between Edinburgh Airport and Dublin Airport. And the flight time is only one hour and 10 minutes!

Plus, Ireland and the UK are part of an agreement called the Common Travel Area (CTA). As a visitor to either country, you can enjoy easy and visa-free travel between the two nations.

But you should only attempt to visit both cities if your trip is one week or longer, especially when traveling with kids.

One week gives your family enough time to see the best of both cities without rushing!

Edinburgh vs Dublin FAQs

Are Edinburgh and Dublin in the same time zone?

Yes, Edinburgh and Dublin are in the same time zone. 

They are in the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) timezone approximately from October to March and the British Summer Time (BST) timezone for the rest of the year.

When is the best time to visit Edinburgh or Dublin?

The best time to visit Edinburgh and Dublin for the best weather is summer from June to August. However, this is when the cities will be busiest, and accommodation prices will be more expensive.

Spend spring break in Edinburgh or Dublin for a happy medium between the weather, prices, and crowds. It rains year-round anyway!

Families should note that Edinburgh welcomes the Fringe Festival for the entire month of August. More than three million visitors and performers flock to the city making it not the best time for sightseeing!

The same can be said for Dublin on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. It might sound fun in theory, but in reality, hotel prices skyrocket and the crowds might overwhelm your kids.

Is Dublin bigger than Edinburgh?

Dublin’s metropolitan area is 45.5 square miles while Edinburgh measures 102 square miles. So, no, Dublin is not bigger than Edinburgh. Edinburgh is over twice as big as Dublin!

However, their population size is similar. As of the 2022 census, Dublin’s population is 592,713. As of 2021, Edinburgh’s population is 526,470. 

Is Edinburgh or Dublin more expensive?

Since both cities are capitals, they are not cheap places to visit. However, Dublin is undoubtedly more expensive than Edinburgh for travelers.

Expect accommodation, food, transport, and activities to cost more in Dublin. If you’ve ever visited London, you will find Dublin’s prices on par.

Edinburgh vs Dublin Wrap-Up

Hopefully, this Edinburgh vs Dublin breakdown helps you choose the best city for your family trip! No matter which city you visit, chances are you will have a fun vacation in Europe (as long as you pack a raincoat!).

Looking for more Dublin and Edinburgh content? Check out 19 Fun Things To Do in Dublin With Kids, 13 Delightful Dublin Travel Tips for First Timers, 12 Best Day Trips From Dublin by Train, 13 Best Day Trips From Edinburgh by Train, How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Photo Shoot in Edinburgh, Scotland, and 9 Best Edinburgh Hotels for Families Worth Booking!

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