A Guide to Victoria Street, Diagon Alley of Edinburgh

Without a doubt, Victoria Street is one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh. A wander along this elegantly curved street with a multi-coloured facade is undoubtedly one of the unmissable things to do in Edinburgh

Victoria Street is situated near the Royal Mile and is part of Edinburgh’s Old Town, which, together with the New Town, gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995.

This charming cobbled street is rumoured to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley, the fictional wizarding alley and shopping area frequented by the world’s most beloved wizard Harry Potter.

Curve of Victoria Street

Victoria Street has aged remarkably well since the 19th century and is an all-year-round spot for photographers and tourists. Along the street, you will find many bars, restaurants and shops.

The colourful stretch of the old Flemish-style buildings with arch-shaped facades and imposing Gothic structures are bound to cast a spell.

So, whether you are a Harry Potter fan, Instagrammer, architecture lover or shopaholic, you must put Victoria Street on your Edinburgh itinerary.

Where is Victoria Street

This winding street is situated at the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and only a few steps away from the historic Royal Mile, a medieval thoroughfare running from the magnificent Edinburgh Castle to the grand Palace of Holyroodhouse, near Arthur’s Seat.

Victoria Street connects the historic Grassmarket to the George IV Bridge. The Grassmarket is one of the oldest parts of Edinburgh and lies in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

colorful houses of Victoria Street

From the castle esplanade, it takes only a couple of minutes to reach Victoria Street. The nearest bus stops are located at Grassmarket and George IV Bridge. 

From Grassmarket, you can find Lothian bus service 2. George IV Bridge is served by bus services 8, 24, 27 and 41.

Edinburgh Waverley is the nearest train station, and it takes only 8 minutes to walk from there.

When and Why Victoria Street was Created

Designed by Scottish architect Thomas Hamilton, this cobbled street was built between 1829 to 1834. He was also the man behind many of the city’s prominent landmarks. With his usual Neo-classical styled buildings, the architect Thomas Hamilton added the Old Flemish architecture style for Victoria Street.

Even before the construction of this street, the West Bow was a thriving centre for shops and trade. But the only way to access the Castlehill area was by a narrow steep section, which was very difficult to cross with carriages.

grassmarket
Victoria street with christmas lights

So, under the Edinburgh Improvement Act of 1827, there was a plan to replace the older path and provide better connectivity from Grassmarket to the newly developed George IV Bridge. Many of the closes and houses of West Bow were demolished to construct this new street.

Victoria Street was initially named Bow Street. It got renamed in 1837 in honour of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the British throne. Some of the buildings at the foot of West Bow are from the 17th century.

Loved Victoria Street? Other Pretty Streets in Edinburgh

The Scottish capital city has no shortage of photogenic streets. After visiting Victoria Street, you might fancy checking out the other pretty streets of Edinburgh.

Circus Lane is one of the prettiest spots in Edinburgh. This cobbled street is located in the vibrant neighbourhood of Stockbridge. Visitors come here to admire the neatly placed mews houses, gorgeous flowers and shrubs, and the looming St Stephens Church tower.

Not too far from Circus Lane, Hawthornbank Lane is nestled in the magical suburb of Dean Village. The winding street gives a glorious view of the bright ochre half-timbered houses and the nearby Well Court.

Lined with several historic houses, cosy cafes and shops, Cockburn Street is another must-visit spot in the Edinburgh Old Town. It lies only a few steps away from Victoria Street. Also, take a meander along the Royal Mile, perhaps the most famous street in Edinburgh.

You would also love exploring Melville Street at West End. You will get a spectacular view of St Mary’s Cathedral and the elegant Georgian houses.

Harry Potter and Diagon Alley Connection

It is widely claimed that J. K. Rowling, who penned some of the chapters of the Harry Potter series sitting at a nearby cafe, might have drawn inspiration from Victoria Street and the Grassmarket area.

The atmospheric setting of this historic street has led many Harry Potter fans to believe that it might be an inspiration behind the magical street, Diagon Alley.

Entrance of Victoria Street
George Herriot School

While we rest the debate on hardcore Potter fans, we think you should just visit Victoria Street to decide for yourself!

Long before the Harry Potter fame, there was a wizard living in the West Bow, Major Thomas Weir. He confessed to performing sorcery and was later hung in the 17th century.

Over the years, several streets of the UK have claimed to be the inspiration behind the fictional Diagon Alley, like Gandy Street in Exeter, the Shambles in York and Cecil Court in London.

Leadenhall Market in London was featured in the Harry Potter film as the entryway into Diagon Alley. You can find the actual movie set at Warner Brothers Studio in London.

Nearby Harry Potter Sites

JK Rowling lived in Edinburgh while writing some of the books of her Harry Potter series. There are quite a few places around the city that are associated with her world-famous creation Harry Potter. Some of them are very close to Victoria Street.

You can visit the gravestones that have inspired the names of some popular Harry Potter characters. Also, you can hang out in the cafes and hotels where she penned her books.

For all Harry Potter fans, Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Edinburgh. Some of the characters of the Harry Potter series were born here. Here you will spot famous names like Tom Riddle, McGonagall and Mad-eye Moodie. Adjacent to the kirkyard lies the imposing turreted George Heriot’s School, believed to be the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Victoria Street at evening
Victoria Street in rain

The Elephant House cafe is just a stone’s throw away from Victoria Street, where the author used to come around very frequently and wrote the first few chapters.

The Balmoral Hotel was the place where J. K. Rowling wrote the last book of the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Although not a nearby location, Potterheads will absolutely love riding the famous Jacobite Steam Train from the Scottish town of Fort William.

How to Photograph Victoria Street

Victoria Street is one of the most photographed locations in the entire Edinburgh. So, this area gets super crowded during the peak summer months. If you want to avoid the crowd, try to visit this cobbled street early in the morning or late in the afternoon. 

To admire an elevated view over Victoria Street, climb up the narrow stairs between Swish and Walker Slater. It will bring you onto Victoria Terrace, a layer above.

From this vantage point, you can admire the elegant stretch of this cobbled street beneath you. Also, you will get an excellent view of the nearby George Heriot’s School. The superb architecture of this historic turreted building is believed to be an inspiration for Hogwarts.

Each year this winding street comes alive with twinkling Christmas lights. If you are visiting during December, make sure to take a stroll here in the late evening.

Shopping on Victoria Street

If you love browsing different quirky stores, this area has some great shopping opportunities. From buying local Scottish cheese at I.J. Mellis to trying on tweed jackets and coats at Walter Slater – there is something for every shopper.

But the biggest highlight of shopping on Victoria Street is the Harry Potter-themed souvenir and merchandise stores. You can pop inside Museum Context and The Enchanted Galaxy to buy various home interiors and unusual gifts. Also, they are a delightful place to explore. Budding wizards might be interested in buying their wands or broomsticks here. 

Shopping enthusiasts might like checking out the weekly farmers market at Grassmarket, selling everything from antiques to vintage clothes.

Places to Eat and Drink on Victoria Street

Victoria Street and the surrounding Grassmarket area are fantastic for a night out. The restaurants here are a mix of fine dining and budget-friendly options. 

If you’re looking for some traditional local cuisine, Howies will be a great choice. The family-owned restaurant has been serving fresh and reasonably priced traditional Scottish food for many years. They also have another restaurant on Waterloo Street near Calton Hill

Pop inside Bertie’s Proper Fish & Chips to sample some of the nation’s favourite dishes, like steak pies, haggis, deep-fried Mars bar, and of course, the battered Haddock. 

For the best-pulled pork sandwich in Edinburgh, visit Oink on Victoria Street. La Barantine Victoria has some great choices of bakeries and pastries as well. Also, you can indulge in healthy breakfast choices at Hula Juice Bar. 

Later, visit The Bow Bar for a wide selection of beer, cask ales and whisky. Also, you can grab a drink at White Hart Inn, a 500-year-old pub nearby.

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a leisurely wander along Victoria Street. Browse several Harry Potter souvenir shops and local artisan craft shops within the historic building fronts before stopping at a dinky cafe for a slice of cake and a hot beverage. We hope this article was helpful to you.

Love, Moumita & Sankha

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