Harry Potter in Edinburgh: 15 Places You Must Visit

With its towering Gothic buildings, conspicuous spires and turrets, dingy wynds and medieval alleyways, and the riveting past, Edinburgh transports you to the magical world of Hogwarts.

Discovering the places that might have inspired the creation of the world’s most beloved wizard, Harry Potter, is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.

It’s not hard to see why author J. K. Rowling was inspired by this city. According to the author, this city is “where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafes.”

While wandering around the Old Town of Edinburgh, you might feel as if you might stumble upon Harry Potter and his mischievous friends.

So, get your wands out and grab your Nimbus 2000. We’re going to explore this magical city on a self-guided walking tour. Here are some of the Potter pilgrimages we could add to your Edinburgh itinerary.

Harry Potter Tourist Attractions and Things to Do in Edinburgh

1. Wander around Victoria Street

Without a doubt, Victoria Street is one of the most photographed places in Edinburgh. This elegantly curved, cobbled street oozes timeless charm and is bound to cast a spell on all Potterheads.

Victoria Street is believed to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley, the fictional shopping area used by the world’s most beloved wizards, Harry Potter and his friends.

It is located only a few steps away from the busy Royal Mile. J K Rowling wrote some of the chapters sitting at a nearby cafe. So, it is very likely she has indeed walked around this area.

victoria street

Even long before Harry Potter, the historic Grassmarket area of Edinburgh was associated with witchcraft.

Today, Victoria Street is lined with various cosy cafes, busy restaurants and souvenir shops.

Try to visit this pretty street early in the morning or late in the afternoon to take photographs without the crowds.

Climb the narrow stairs to Victoria Terrace. From this viewpoint, you will get a lovely perspective of this cobbled street and the nearby George Heriot’s School, rumoured to be an inspiration for Hogwarts.

2. Get spooked in Greyfriars Kirkyard

For all Harry Potter fans, Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of the must-visit attractions in Edinburgh. Some of the favourite characters of the Harry Potter series were born here.

At the entrance of the Greyfriars Kirkyard, you will find the headstone of Bobby, the beloved Skye terrier who guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years.

Stroll around the atmospheric graveyard adjacent to the church. There are several monuments, memorials and ornate headstones.

Although it looks peaceful during the day, this graveyard is one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh.

Watch out for the engraved name of Robert Potter; William McGonagall, the inspiration behind Hogwarts’ Professor Minerva McGonagall; Elizabeth Moodie, the inspiration for famed auror Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody; and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn, inspired Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic.

But the most famous one here is of Thomas Riddle, Lord Voldemort himself.

The real Thomas Riddell buried here was a lawyer with no connection to He-who-must-not-be-named. When he died in 1802 at the age of 26, little did he know that one day, his name would inspire one of the most notorious villains in literature.

3. Ride the Hogwarts Express via the Glenfinnan Viaduct 

Harry Potter lovers can’t miss the opportunity to ride the world-famous Jacobite Steam Train, also known as the Hogwarts Express. 

The train leaves from the town of Fort William and passes through the incredibly beautiful scenery of Scottish Highlands, before reaching Mallaig, a small port town.

If you are short on time, there are several companies running day tours from Edinburgh. 

The most famous section of the journey is when the train crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, a pilgrim site for all Potterheads. It was featured in the Harry Potter movies.

You must have remembered the scene from the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron stole Mr Weasley’s flying car after they missed the train, and they were spotted flying over this viaduct. The bridge was also seen in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie.

4. Indulge in delicious coffee and cakes at The Elephant House

Located on George IV Bridge, at the heart of Edinburgh Old Town, The Elephant House is a small cafe where J. K. Rowling wrote significant portions of the first two novels of the much-loved book series. 

Opened in 1995, it is a popular site in Edinburgh for all Harry Potter fans. Visitors flock here to get photos of the ‘birthplace’ of the Harry Potter sign. 

They are open for breakfast and lunch. Pop inside for some delicious cake and a hot cup of coffee. During the summer months, it gets super crowded. 

The cafe is beautifully decorated. You will find old newspaper articles and photos of J. K. Rowling.

Don’t miss a visit to the bathroom. It is covered in graffiti made by Harry Potter fans from all around the world. It is fun to read all the messages and quotes from the books. 

The Elephant House was frequented by some other famous writers as well, including Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith.

5. Take a day trip to Alnwick Castle from Edinburgh

Spend a day exploring the magnificent Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. 

It is one of the best day trips from Edinburgh for all Harry Potter lovers.

Alnwick Castle is one of the filming locations of two Harry Potter movies – the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry and his classmates learned to fly their broomsticks with Madam Hooch on the Outer Bailey of this castle. Also, Harry learned to play the wizarding sport Quidditch here. Try to spot the location where Ron crushed his dad’s flying car.

Young Potterheads can take part in the Broomstick Training sessions on the grounds.

Hop on a train from Edinburgh Waverley station to Alnmouth. Then, catch a local bus to visit the castle.

While you are here, we would highly recommend adding historic Bamburgh Castle to your itinerary. It has been featured in many films and TV series including Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Last Kingdom. 

6. Spend the night at Balmoral Hotel

While J.K. Rowling started writing her magnum opus at various modest cafes in Edinburgh, she did complete her final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in one of the city’s grandest hotels, The Balmoral Hotel.

The lovely clock tower of this hotel is a part of Edinburgh’s iconic skyline. Climb the nearby Calton Hill for a stunning view over this historic building.

J.K. Rowling stayed in Room 552, which was later renamed in her honour as J.K. Rowling Suite. She spent around six months here finishing her book.

Affluent Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh will love a stay in this tastefully decorated room.

We were lucky enough to have spent a night here. Inside, you will find the marble bust of Hermes that J.K. Rowling signed after finishing the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It says, “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room”.

Even if you are not staying here, you can still visit the in-house restaurants. We would recommend experiencing a decadent afternoon tea at Palm Court.

7. Admire the Architecture of George Heriot’s School

Located next to Greyfriars Kirkyard, the stunning architecture of George Heriot’s School has led many to believe that it is the inspiration behind the magical school of Hogwarts.

This magnificent Renaissance-style turreted building was established in 1628 as a hospital. Today, it serves as a private primary and secondary school. Coincidentally, it also has four houses, just like in the Harry Potter books.

George Heriot’s School is not open to the public. They often allow visitors during the Doors Open Days.

But you can admire the gorgeous architecture from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, Victoria Terrace, Lauriston Place and Greyfriars Kirkyard.

There is no denying that buildings here have outstanding architecture. We think George Heriot’s School, along with the city’s Fettes College and Stewart’s Melville College, give away a strong Hogwarts vibe.

8. Discover the handprints at the City Chambers

You can find the golden handprints of J.K. Rowling on the flagstone at the courtyard of The City Chambers off the busy Royal Mile in Edinburgh Old Town. 

The handprint was installed on the occasion of J.K. Rowling winning the Edinburgh Award in 2008 for her outstanding contributions to the city.

Aside from the creator of Harry Potter, there are handprints of other notable personalities. You will find handprints of Scottish writer Ian Rankin, cyclist and racing driver Chris Hoy, artist Elizabeth Blackadder and rugby player Doddie Weir.

9. Explore the captivating Edinburgh Castle

Some believe Edinburgh Castle was an inspiration behind Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books.

Perched over an ancient volcanic plug, this magnificent fortress is one of the best castles in Scotland and a must-visit tourist attraction in this city.

We do know from the books that the school of wizards is located somewhere in Scotland. The dramatic setting of Edinburgh Castle does have similarities with Hogwarts. 

The author was living in this historic city while writing her books. So, it’s not possible that she hasn’t seen this imposing castle. Moreover, there is a view of this castle from the windows of The Elephant House, the cafe where she wrote a few chapters of the first two books.

10. Harry Potter shops in Edinburgh

If you are interested in buying some Harry Potter-themed gifts and souvenirs, pop inside Museum Context on Victoria Street. They also have another store on Cockburn Street just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh Old Town.

You will find an extensive collection of quirky and magical objects across the two floors of this shop. Budding wizards might be interested in buying their wands or broomsticks. Also, you can buy officially licensed house scarves.

Decorated with various Harry Potter memorabilia and sculptures, you might mistake it for the Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley. On the top floor, there is a small photo area where you can pose with a sorting hat.

In summer there is usually a long queue to enter this store. So, come early to avoid crowds.

Also, take a look inside The Enchanted Galaxy, another Potter-themed store in this city.

11. Visit The Writers’ Museum

Edinburgh has inspired not only the Harry Potter creator but also several other celebrated world-famous writers, poets and playwrights.

This city was designated as the UNESCO City of Literature in 2004. This was the first city in the entire world to receive such honour.

It has inspired literary geniuses such as Sir Ian Rankin, Alexander McColl Smith, Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott.

Bibliophiles visiting Edinburgh would love a visit to the Writers’ Museum, located at Lady Stairs close, near the top of the Royal Mile.

This small museum celebrates the lives of three legends of Scottish literature, Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

After a visit to this museum, ramble around the courtyard of Makar’s Court. Look out for the quotes of Scottish writers engraved on the flagstones.

12. Find the Lewis Chess Pieces

Housed in the Nation Museum of Scotland, the legendary Lewis chess pieces were created in the 12th century.

They were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1831.

The beautifully sculpted chess set will surely remind you of the nerve-wrenching game of chess played by Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Philosopher’s Stone movie.

You can find them in the Kingdom of the Scots section of the museum.

While you are here, visit the exhibitions on natural and ancient history, ancient civilisations, archaeology and the history of Scotland.

Also, head to the rooftop terrace for a breathtaking view over Edinburgh rooftops.

Harry Potter Experiences in Edinburgh

13. Department Of Magic

Located at Blair Street near the Edinburgh Royal Mile, the Department Of Magic has two escape rooms and a magic potion tavern.

Delve into a world of witchcraft and wizardry as you solve the mysteries and puzzles of the escape room. This immersive experience is perfect for a small group.

Aspiring wizards would enjoy mixing their potions in this immersive cocktail experience. So, put on your cloaks and begin potion-making. You will be given easy-to-follow instructions and incantations. It’s a fun experience for both adults and kids.

They also serve Harry Potter-themed magical afternoon tea.

14. The Dog House

What’s a better way to end the Harry Potter adventure in Edinburgh, than chilling with a glass of butterbeer? The drink is made with butter syrup and beer. 

They also serve butterbeer cocktails, which have a dash of whisky in them. You can find the Harry Potter-inspired wizarding beverage at The Dog House in Clerk Street. 

The interior of this pub is very quirky. You will find an array of funky items hanging from the ceiling, like teddy bears, toys, pictures and guitars.

They also host pub quizzes and live music performances on certain days. Also, this bar is a popular place with local students.

15. The Cauldron Edinburgh

The Cauldron Edinburgh is another place in the city where you can get an immersive cocktail-making experience. It’s perfect for all fans of Harry Potter. 

Upon your arrival, find your wand. Cast a spell to receive a welcome drink. The potion-making class lasts for an hour and 45 minutes, and you can make two cocktails for yourself. Experiment with the art of molecular mixology to brew some magical drinks.

They also have an alcohol-free potion class suitable for young witches and wizards.

Map of the Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh

Here is a map showing all the places mentioned in this guide. If you wish, you can save this to your phone for future travel inspiration. Click on this link to open it in Google Maps.

Was Harry Potter filmed in Edinburgh?

No. Edinburgh is not the filming location of the Harry Potter movies. Rather, this city has inspired the author J.K. Rowling, who was living here while writing some of the books.

However, various locations across the Scottish Highlands were featured in the films, and you can easily visit them.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Loch Shiel, Steall Falls, Glencoe and Rannoch Moor are some of the filming places of Harry Potter movies in Scotland. Also, you can visit Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, on a day trip from Edinburgh. 

We wish you a lovely stay in Scotland’s capital city. It is truly a magical place. Have fun exploring all these beautiful places. 

We hope this travel guide has inspired you to visit Edinburgh.

Love, Moumita & Sankha.

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