Despite having lived in Edinburgh until I was in my early twenties, Camera Obscura World of Illusions was a place I had never visited before. However during our last visit to Edinburgh we made sure it was on our to-do list.
We really didn’t know what to expect as we entered this architecturally beautiful yet unusual looking building located next to Edinburgh Castle at the end of the Royal Mile.
This is our review of the Camera Obscura World of Illusions
We arrived just after opening at 9:30 (which is highly recommended as it can get very busy later in the day) and as we entered the lobby area of the attraction you get a glimpse of some of the optical illusions to come.
After a warm welcome when we collected our tickets from the main entrance we made our way to the top floor where we were booked onto the Camera Obscura Show – one of the oldest shows in Edinburgh dating back to Victorian times.
As it’s Scotland’s oldest purpose-built attraction, established in 1835 there are no lifts so we made the climb up the spiral stone staircase until we got to the fifth floor. It was worth the effort as you are rewarded with some of the best panoramic views of the city from its roof terrace.
The girls loved looking through the many binoculars that are set up in various locations to zoom in on different landmarks including Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Princess Street and across to the Kingdom of Fife and the Forth Bridges. It was a great area to wait before the start of the Camera Obscura Show.
The show was great fun and really interactive as you see live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a circular viewing table through a giant periscope. Our guide was really knowledgeable and part of the show involves audience participation.
We were all given a piece of card and had great fun picking up people walking on the Royal Mile below and wiggling them around before dropping them back onto the ground (it is an optical illusion).
You could even make the traffic climb over paper bridges which the girls thought was hilarious. It was such a unique experience and a really interactive way to see this beautiful city and learn about its history.
We were amazed how a simple array of mirror, lenses and daylight could produce this marvellous view of Edinburgh. It was great for the girls as they are familiar with the Edinburgh skyline and could shout out the answers to what areas of Edinburgh the camera was projecting.
We didn’t realise that the famous clock on the luxury Balmoral Hotel (shown below) is set 3 minutes fast so rail commuters are not late for their train at the main train station Edinburgh Waverley and the Royal Mile is actually more than a mile long.
After the show we made our way back down each of the five floors of the attraction, which have different themes – Magic Gallery, Light Fantastic, Eye Spy Edinburgh and Bewilder World.
I can now see why the guide told us to start at the top of the Camera Obscura and work down as you miss lots of the crowds this way.
We entered the Magic Gallery complete with many head spinning optical illusions and bendy mirrors that transformed your appearance, colourful giant kaleidoscopes and a really fun shadow wall. The girls loved touching the plasma tubes along with one of the world’s biggest plasma domes and had great fun touching their daddy giving him a shock.
Holly thought it was funny to reach into a black hole and appear to be shaking hands with herself.
The Light Fantastic area is one of the largest hologram exhibitions in Europe and as we walked through we could see lots of images that changed before our eyes. The exhibits that really caught our eye were the scary giant spider and a picture of Frankenstein – these holograms were so detailed and realistic.
In the Ames room we had an Alice in Wonderland type experience as we were shrunk and Chloe and Holly appeared much bigger than us. You can even get a picture of your head on a dinner plate of food, that’s why it’s essential to bring your camera here – there are so many great photo opportunities.
The infinity corridor provided more amazing photo opportunities and a cool heat camera showing where your hot and cold parts are!
It was interesting to see old, live and unique pictures of Edinburgh whilst at Eye Spy Edinburgh the girls had took over surveillance cameras of Edinburgh. They loved zooming in on different areas of the city watching people go by not knowing they are being watched.
Bewilderworld was our favourite area with a fun mirror maze which was really easy to get lost or come out the same way as you entered. The Vortex tunnel was the girls favourite attraction as we tried to stay on our feet as we crossed the bridge in the rotating tunnel.
I only managed it once and felt queasy as I hung onto the railings but the girls loved it so much they kept running through it over and over again.
A cool piano staircase leads you down into the gift shop at the exit of the attraction. On the way out at the shop exit we noticed another quirky exhibit – Autowed where you can get married, renew vows or become ‘best friends forever’, through a robotic wedding machine.
It took us around two hours to explore the Camera Obscura and its world of illusions, including lots of questions from our fascinated daughters as they tried to make sense of some of the exhibits that they had seen.
With so many illusions, holograms, tricks and effects across its five floors there was so much to do and I can see why it is one of the top rated attractions in Edinburgh to visit. I can’t believe we have never been to the Camera Obscura before, we loved it.
Pricing and Opening Hours
Click here for admission prices, current opening hours and to book your visit online.
Alternatively you can convert £2.50 of you Tesco Clubcard vouchers into £10 to spend on tickets for Camera Obscura or if you travel by train and show your ticket children enter free.
We were provided with a family ticket for the purpose of this review