7 Enchanted Places All Harry Potter Fans Should Visit In Edinburgh
Edinburgh is known as a literary capital and in 2004 the city became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. From the philosophers of old to the empowered female writers of the 20th century, the Scottish capital is the ultimate destination for bibliophiles.
J.K Rowling first started writing her stories in Edinburgh and it was the place she returned to finish the final book. With its medieval streets, gothic vibes, and rich history, it’s easy to understand why she found so much inspiration here. Edinburgh has since become a popular destination for Harry Potter fans the world over. So let your imagination run wild as you explore this beautiful city with our list of places all Harry Potter fans should visit in Edinburgh!
1. The Elephant House Café
This café was once a quiet hangout on George IV Bridge and a popular destination for many writers. The likes of J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin, and Alexander McCall-Smith were all known to frequent The Elephant House. However, since Rowling’s books became cult-classics, it’s been given the nickname “The Birthplace of Harry Potter” and has gained some serious notoriety. As a result, this now bustling and often jam-packed café has become a place of pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans who want to set foot in the very place where it all began.
While you’re here, enjoy your tea and sticky bun at the back of the café, overlooking the very same views that once inspired Rowling. Let your imagination take over as you look to Castle Rock and George Heriot’s School; a classic gothic scene that is believed to have inspired the setting for Hogwarts.
Of course, you can’t take a trip to The Elephant House Café without using their famous (or infamous!) toilets. It’s worth venturing inside, even if only just to take a moment to gaze in wonderment and the shrine written to the boy-wizard who first came to life here. Perhaps you’d even like to leave a word of gratitude yourself, though it’s not really encouraged. The staff, however, gave up painting over the walls a long time ago…
2. Greyfriars Kirkyard
After you’ve warmed yourself up with a hot drink and a pinch of magic, head up the road and around the corner to Greyfriars Kirk. In this 16th-century churchyard, you’ll find some of the gravestones which inspired the names behind Rowling’s characters. Look out for the graves of William McGonagall and Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle (Riddell). Perhaps you’ll even discover a name no else has found before, so keep your eyes peeled as you quietly wander around.
While you’re here, we recommend going inside Greyfriars Kirk itself. The ancient church stands on the site of a pre-Reformation establishment of the Franciscan order and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the Old Town.
3. George Heriot’s School
Also in the area is the prestigious George Heriot’s School, established in 1628. This four-tower, castle-like building was in Rowling’s eye-line as she wrote from The Elephant House. It’s said to have inspired the famous Hogwarts and possibly also the fictitious school’s four-house system.
George Heriot is still used as an independent school today, so it’s not open to the public. However, it sometimes opens for events during the Fringe Festival, making it rare but possible to set foot inside. Unfortunately, unless you’re lucky enough to be visiting in August, you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks here.
4. Edinburgh City Chambers
One could easily pass this council building by on the Royal Mile without giving it a second thought, but for Harry Potter fans this would be a big mistake! Be sure to make a quick stop inside The City Chambers courtyard, where you’ll see an engraved plaque embedded in the stone on the ground, similar to the handprints found at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The plaques pay tribute to the winners of the prestigious Edinburgh Award, which was awarded to JK Rowling in 2008. Here, immortalised in gold, are the prints of the very hands which brought Harry Potter to life.
Other notable handprints here include those of Annie Lennox, Ian Rankin, and Sir Chris Hoy.
5. The Writers’ Museum
Any regular readers of our blog know we’re big fans of The Writers’ Museum. This beautiful old building is the perfect location for snapping some old-world photos and the museum inside offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the Edinburgh-based writers who made this city such a famous literary destination.
Though the exhibition is primarily based around the life-stories of historic writers Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, the museum also pays tribute to J.K. Rowling. For instance, there’s a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, with personal anecdotes and illustrations by Rowling. It’s well worth a quick stop inside and entry is free!
6. Victoria Street & Candlemaker Row
One of the most photographed spots in Edinburgh, this quirky street will charm and delight you. This famous Victoria Street is lined with whimsical shops and cafés and is a destination all of its own. You can get everything from cheese and macarons to books and gag-gifts here. It’s understandable why it was the main inspiration behind the famous Diagon Alley.
Take a walk around the corner to the adjacent Candlemaker row, where you’ll see even more crooked and narrow buildings. Look out for the Diagon Alley plaque and a mural here, which mark the real-life spot that paved way for the fictitious Alley.
7. Diagon House
Back on Victoria Street is Museum Context, an official Harry Potter themed emporium and one-stop shop. This alluring treasure trove, nicknamed ‘Diagon House’, is a self-proclaimed purveyor of all things Harry Potter and it’s brimming with official merchandise and bespoke gifts. In short, it’s a must-visit for Harry Potter fans.
The location for this shop isn’t without a story of its own. The building was once the home of Robert Cresser’s Brush Shop, where bespoke brushes and broomsticks were made and sold on the premises for over 130 years.
Once inside Diagon House, you’ll be transported into the world of wizardry and all things magical. The shop boasts a huge collection of quality items made by local artisans and an exceptional selection of ‘curiosities’. You can pick up everything from a Harry Potter inspired map of Edinburgh and wizard chess set to an official Quidditch Jumper in house colours and an Ollivanders Wand. This is far from your average souvenir shop and is a must-visit for any Harry Potter fan coming to Edinburgh!
Visiting Edinburgh this year?
Stay near Victoria Street aka ‘Diagon Alley’ in this beautiful West Bow home.
West Bow is nestled at the bottom of Victoria Street in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh. This vibrant area is home to some wonderful restaurants, cafés, and bars. And staying here, you’ll be within walking distance of just about all of the city’s major attractions.
This contemporary home is beautifully renovated to a high standard. There are gorgeous light wooden floors throughout and a large skylight gives this apartment a wonderful sense of space and light. The open plan sitting room/kitchen is spacious and the apartment is kitted out with all mod-cons, including a six-burner hob, a Sonos sound system, wifi, and a flat-screen TV with Freeview channels. You’ll sleep well in the beautiful double bedroom, located at the back of the apartment. There’s also a fabulous bathroom with a large bath and separate double shower.