Founded in 1835, Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions is one of Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attractions. Located on the top floor, the Camera Obscura provides real-time views of the city, while the five floors below it are crammed with puzzles, optical illusions, and interactive exhibits that fool the eye and the mind.
Many tourists taking sightseeing tours along the Royal Mile, a prominent thoroughfare that cuts through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, will see the historic 19th-century Camera Obscura building. To access the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, you’ll have to purchase tickets at the door on the day of your visit. World of Illusions exhibits include the Mirror Maze and the Vortex Tunnel. Tickets also provide access to the 15-minute Camera Obscura show, and the rooftop terrace.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tickets are valid for the whole day so if you can, leave to get lunch or a coffee and return after.
- Bring your phone or camera to capture wacky, perspective-warping images.
- Allow around two hours to explore.
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is not wheelchair accessible.
- Camera Obscura show times are allocated at the time of ticket purchase.
How to Get There
Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions is situated at the west end of Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle. It’s about a 10-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley train station. Local buses stop at the nearby George IV Bridge, which is just a 3-minute walk away, while sightseeing buses stop on the Royal Mile, just a 1-minute walk away.
When to Get There
The best time of the year to come is during summer, when clear skies offer the best rooftop views. Note that Camera Obscura shows only run when there is sufficient light, so it’s important to come early, especially during short winter days. The attraction is also at its quietest in early morning.
History of the Camera Obscura
The 19th-century Camera Obscura, which has been used since 1853, was the height of technology back in Victorian times. Despite the advent of virtual reality, this device still manages to enthrall 21st-century visitors. The pinhole camera uses lenses and mirrors to cast real-time images of Scotland’s capital onto a table in a darkened chamber.