Edinburgh is a dream come true for any Harry Potter fan and brings the wizarding world to life! It’s actually one of my favorite cities to visit with its historic look, cobblestoned streets, charm, friendly locals, and the obvious Harry Potter ties.
J.K. Rowling wrote the majority of the series while living in Edinburgh and confirmed that this city provided inspiration for many aspects of the books. The moment you arrive in Edinburgh and begin to wander, you will immediately begin to see the similarities to the fictional world of Harry Potter.
Get in touch with your inner witch or wizard and follow my Harry Potter Edinburgh guide for all the must visit sights on your next trip to Edinburgh!
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A Harry Potter Edinburgh Guide - 10 Must Visit Harry Potter Sites
1. The Elephant House Café
The Elephant House Cafe should be one of your first stops for Harry Potter Edinburgh sites. This cozy café served as a home base for J.K. Rowling while writing many of the books. Once you step inside and sit at one of the tables in the back room it’s easy to see why Rowling came here so often. The views of Edinburgh castle from the café’s windows are quite magical.
Be sure to visit the restroom as fellow HP fans have written messages and love notes over every inch of wall space to J.K. Rowling and HP characters. Harry Potter ties aside, The Elephant House Café serves well priced bites and is a nice place to relax while enjoying some loose-leaf tea.
2. Edinburgh Castle
It’s said that Edinburgh Castle is one of several castles that served as inspiration for Hogwarts which makes it an abvious must for Harry Potter Edinburgh locations. The fact that J.K. Rowling had a perfect view of the castle from the windows of one of her favorite cafés breathes some truth to this rumor. The imposing hilltop location of Edinburgh Castle and the overall architecture are striking similarities to Hogwarts.
3. Spoon Café
Another spot that Rowling often wrote in was Spoon Café, then called Nicolson's Café. It’s in the University area and was owned by her brother-in-law. This second story café is less touristy than The Elephant House Café and makes for a nice stop for a meal or evening drinks and dessert. There is also a plaque on the outside of the building that reads “J.K. Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter in the rooms on the first floor of this building”. First floor would be the second floor to Americans.
4. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Just steps from The Elephant House Café is the inspiration for Godric’s Hollow graveyard, Greyfriars Kirkyard. This Harry Potter Edinburgh site not only reminds you of HP movie scenes taking place in Godric’s Hollow, but also serves as inspiration for several notable names. Take time to wander and read the names on the gravestones. Many of them are characters in the Harry Potter series. It’s not hard to imagine J.K. Rowling walking here before or after her visit to The Elephant House Café and finding inspiration for unique names.
At the entrance of the graveyard, several Potters are listed on the Giles grave. Further in the graveyard on Flodden Wall you will find the grave marker of William McGonagall (Professor McGonnagall), Elizabeth Moodie (Mad Eye Moody), and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn (Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic). The most popular marker on Flodden Wall lists Thomas Riddle.
If you need help finding these graves you can actually find two in Google Maps. “Grave of Tom Riddle” should automatically pop up on the map. A search for “Grave of McGonagall” will bring that one up as well. The other graves mentioned above are all nearby and located on the same wall.
5. George Heriot’s School
You can gaze upon another inspirational builidng for Hogwarts from behind iron gates in Greyfriars Kirkyard. George Heriot’s School is located just outside the walls of the cemetery. It has many similarities to Hogwarts school system including being a co-ed secondary school, having four school houses, four towers, and castle like architecture. Gaze at this Edinburgh Harry Potter site and picture what it would be like to attend a real life Hogwarts!
6. Potterrow Port and Potterrow Street
Potterrow Street is by the University of Edinburgh (where J.K. Rowling taught) and rumored to have inspired Harry’s last name. Check out Potterrow Port (located below Potterrow Street) and you will find a scene that looks almost identical to when Harry and Dudley were running away from the dementors in the underpass in the 5thmovie.
7. Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row – Diagon Alley
This is one of my favorite Edinburgh Harry Potter sites. Several streets (most notably the split level Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row) in the popular Grassmarket area are believed to have inspired Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. The cobblestoned streets, colorful and narrow buildings, and pointed roofs will have any HP fan reminiscing of these famous wizarding shopping areas.
8. The Balmoral Hotel
Room 552 (now called the Rowling Suite) on the 11th floor of the Balmoral Hotel is where Rowling completed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She stayed at this 5 star hotel to concentrate and finish the series with no distractions. Another mark of fame to room 552 is the marble bust of Hermes where Rowling wrote “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”.
9. MUSEUM CONTEXT
Museum Context is a Harry Potter shop done right. If you're looking for a gift or ten for your HP friends back at home you will have plenty to choose from. The shop not only carries a wide selection of Harry Potter products but also goes above and beyond in decorating the shop in true Potter style. It makes for a fun visit even if you don't have any room in your suitcase. Out of the two locations in Edinburgh, the one at 40 Victoria Street is by far the best.
10. JK Rowling's Handprints
Shortly after JK Rowling completed the Harry Potter series she was awarded the Edinburgh Award. You can find her handprints along with other winners of the award just off the Royal Mile in front of the Edinburgh City Chambers.
Extra: Bars - The Cauldron, Pop up geeks, The Dog house
These aren't technically Edinburgh Harry Potter sites, but any HP fan would appreciate these bars. The Cauldron is a complete experience where you enter a "potions class" to create your cocktails. You must book this in advance. Pop Up Geeks changes the theme of their bar every month or so and sometimes they do a Harry Potter theme. Definitely check their website to see what theme they're offering during your visit. The Dog House serves their version of Butterbeer (the alcoholic version). It’s worth a stop after visiting all the Edinburgh Harry Potter sites to mull over how magical Edinburgh is!
Extra: The Jacobite Steam Train - Hogwarts Express
The Jacobite Steam Train is the only Harry Potter attraction listed that is not located in Edinburgh (departs from Fort William). It’s too good of an experience not to mention and is a great trip if you plan on exploring the Highlands. The company that runs the Jacobite not only provided the actual train for all 8 films, they also allowed Warner Bros. to film the route. The service still runs which means HP fans can book the Jacobite Steam Train and not only ride the real-life Hogwarts Express, but see the scenery we all know so well from the movies.
Skip the work and join a Harry Potter Tour
If you would rather someone guide you through the majority of these Edinburgh Harry Potter locations, try a tour! We did The Potter Trail and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Looking for more things to do in Edinburgh? Check out these Edinburgh Harry Potter tours and more!
See my other UK posts
Have you visited some of these Harry Potter Edinburgh sites? Let me know which your favorite Edinburgh Harry Potter locations were in the comments below!
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