Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

This is, quite possibly, the most geektastic thing to do in Edinburgh. Others may embrace dubious claims about where Harry Potter was written, and getting weirded out by medical miscellany at Surgeon’s Hall Museum was cool, it didn’t have holograms, plasma orbs, mirror mazes, giant kaleidoscopes, or non-permanent (that bit is key!) ways to sever your own head.

The centerpiece of this attraction on The Royal Mile is an actual camera obscura, an optical instrument from the 1850s that uses lenses to project a live, miniaturized view of Edinburgh onto a curved table inside a dark room. You get a timed ticket for the show when you buy admission to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, and a popular approach is to take in the show first and then explore the rest of the museum from the top down. Photography is allowed throughout most of the attraction, except during the camera obscure demonstration (so make sure you go see it for yourself!)

View of Edinburgh Castle from Camera Obscura

The oldest purpose-built tourist attraction in Edinburgh, Camera Obscura offers amazing views of the city from its rooftop outlook, equipped with telescopes to help you see far into the distance. The views alone are worth the price of admission, but there is a whole other world of wonders left to see.

The remaining four floors of this attraction encompass the World of Illusions alluded to in the name. The exhibits are fun, colourful, and interactive, covering many different facets of the science of Optics. Don’t let the fun factor deceive you. This attraction is not just for kids. As a thirtysomething geekgirl I found it just as enthralling as the schoolkids. I won’t go into detail about all of the exhibits, but let the photos speak for themselves.

Camera Obscura tunnel Edinburgh

An infinite tunnel of pretty lights. Or is it an illusion?

Camera Obscura green orb

Ooh, a spooky green orb…must touch!

Camera Obscura Kaleidoscope

So yeah, who doesn’t love a ginormous psychedelic kaleidoscope?

Camera Obscura Edinburgh plasma orb

One of the gajillion pics I took of the plasma orb. So much fun to play with!

Camera Obscura super selfie

The most au courant use for a human-sized kaleidoscope apparatus? A superselfie of course!

Camera Obscura tube light fingers

Hooray for touching things!

Camera Obscura Sparkly Kaleidoscope

This mesmerizingly infinite display changes colours. Yes, I am indeed aware that there are other colours than purple.

Camera Obscura stereoscopic pictures

Righteous stereoscopic pictures create a 3-D effect. They were cutting edge technology in their day.

Camera Obscura viewfinder

Made you look!

Camera Obscura clown hologram

There’s an entire room of holograms, but it also contains clowns. You have been warned.

Camera Obscura Praxinoscope

This is a praxinoscope. While I don’t really go for dancing pipe-cleaner men with eccentric hairstyles, I am dying to use “praxinoscope” in my next Scrabble game.

Camera Obscura allsorts illusion

These allsorts will not ruin your diet or spoil your dinner. They may, however, drive you mad since they do not exist.

Camera Obscura mirror maze

If all that isn’t enough, there’s also a maze made entirely of mirrors. I dare ya.

Oh, and as for the severed heads, I was too chicken to ask a stranger to take my photo. I really must get over that. In the meantime, you can use your imagination. Better yet, visit Camera Obscura.

Camera Obscura severed head

Acknowledgements and Disclosure: Many thanks to VisitScotland for providing me with a pass that got me free entry into this attraction. All opinions and related nonsense are purely my own.


    1. Me too, obviously. Thanks for the extra nudge to make sure I paid them a visit. Glad I waited until my camera was fixed too. It would be a fun place to go on a date 😉

  1. I went here a decade ago when I was studying in Northumberland, England and remember it being super fun. Great pics – thanks for the walk down memory lane! 🙂

  2. This looks awesome! I love visiting fun museums like this, its so easy to get bogged down visiting more ‘serious’ museums or historical sites. A little levity is always appreciated while travelling.

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