A Harry Potter Lover’s Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

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It's been more than a decade since the release of the last Harry Potter book (and almost a decade now since the release of the last Harry Potter movie!), and yet the fandom is going as strong as ever. Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon that may never fade away.

And this Harry Potter fan is totally here for it!

Amanda at Calton Hill in Edinburgh
Looking out over Edinburgh, filled with Harry Potter goodness

If you're a huge Harry Potter fan like me, then you'll definitely want to add Edinburgh, Scotland to your travel bucket list. Edinburgh is where Harry Potter author JK Rowling lived while she wrote most of the Harry Potter books (and indeed where she still lives today!), and has many Harry Potter ties.

In this historic city, you can visit gravestones that might remind you of some of your favorite Harry Potter characters, see buildings and streets that definitely (probably) inspired JK Rowling, hang out in cafes and hotels where chapters were written, and shop in various Harry Potter-themed stores.

Edinburgh Castle
Hogwarts? Nope, just Edinburgh Castle.

If you're a Harry Potter fan headed to Scotland anytime soon, here are the top Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh that you won't want to miss.

1. Visit Victoria Street

Victoria Street in Edinburgh

My favorite street in Edinburgh also happens to have Harry Potter ties (coincidence?). Victoria Street is a curving, cobbled street in Edinburgh's Old Town that connects George IV Bridge and Grassmarket.

The street is known for its historic stone buildings with brightly-painted shops on the ground floor – very Diagon Alley-esque. While JK Rowling has never explicitly said that she took inspiration from this street, it's not difficult to imagine.

Shops on Victoria Street in Edinburgh

While you're on Victoria Street, you can pop into some magic- and Harry Potter-themed shops like Museum Context and Boy Wizard. These shops are filled with everything from Harry Potter wands to wizardy artwork, and are fun to explore.

Boy Wizard shop in Edinburgh
One of the shops along Edinburgh's “Diagon Alley”
I was really tempted to buy this spoon art. Wouldn't Luna Lovegood love it?

2. Wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard

I love exploring cemeteries when I travel (the older the better), so Greyfriars Kirkyard would probably have been on my list even if it had nothing to offer me as a Harry Potter fan. The cemetery, connected to the 17th-century Greyfriars Kirk, has graves dating back to the 1600s, and has some spots of interest to Potterheads, too.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard (especially some of the gravestones along the remnants of the old Flodden Wall), and you may spy some very familiar names. The most famous gravestone is probably that of Thomas Riddell, followed by graves for William McGonagall (a famously bad Scottish poet), Elizabeth Moodie, and Daniel Scrymgeour.

Thomas Riddell's grave
Thomas Riddell's grave

JK Rowling has never said that she took specific character names off gravestones in this old cemetery. But the cemetery is located within easy walking distance to cafes Rowling did some of her writing in, and she definitely HAS said she's always loved the name McGonagall.

BONUS: Greyfriars Kirkyard is also next to George Heriot’s School, a historic primary/secondary school. Rowling wasn't living in Scotland when she first conceived of Harry and Hogwarts, but the school sure looks a lot like Hogwarts with is stone walls and four towers. Students at George Heriot's are even sorted into four houses.

George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh
George Heriot’s School, or Hogwarts?

3. Get dessert at the Elephant House

Walk past The Elephant House cafe on George IV Bridge, and you'll likely see people posing for photos next to the sign in the window that proclaims it as the “Birthplace of Harry Potter.”

That claim is a stretch – Rowling has said she got the idea for Harry years before she moved to Scotland – but she DID write at The Elephant House in the early days when she was a poor cafe-hopping writer.

The Elephant House in Edinburgh

The Elephant House can get very busy with Harry Potter fans, but it's usually quieter if you pop in for dessert or tea later in the evening. The cakes here are really good, and the cafe interior is cozy. If you can snag a seat by a window, you'll get a pretty great view of Edinburgh Castle (something Rowling loved about this spot).

You'll also want to use the restrooms here – fans have covered every inch of the walls with graffiti messages to JK Rowling and various Harry Potter characters.

The other cafe where Rowling definitely spent time writing in Edinburgh (Nicolson's) is no longer around; it's now a restaurant called Spoon.

Cafe owners in Edinburgh have a sense of humor!

4. See JK Rowling's hand prints

In 2008, JK Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh Award, and had her handprints cast in front of The City Chambers. Stop by for a visit and quick photo while you're on the Royal Mile.

JK Rowling handprints

You can see most of the above sites on a Harry Potter walking tour of Edinburgh. The most famous tour is the Potter Trail, a free walking tour that runs daily. This tour can get very busy, though, so keep that in mind. Another fun option is this tour that focuses on JK Rowling's Edinburgh.

5. Admire the Balmoral Hotel

Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
The Balmoral Hotel, seen from the Scott Monument

JK Rowling went from writing the first couple Harry Potter books in Edinburgh cafes to finishing the final novel in a suite at the 5-star Balmoral Hotel. The suite (Room 552) is now named the JK Rowling Suite, and has on display a marble bust of Hermes that the author signed when she finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows there in 2007.

Chances are fitting a stay in this suite into your Edinburgh itinerary probably isn't in your budget (the room goes for around $2000 per night), but you can still stop in to The Balmoral Hotel. Their SCOTCH whisky bar is especially good for a drink.

6. Take a themed afternoon tea bus tour

Harry Potter tea bus

I'm obsessed with afternoon teas in the UK, and there's a unique Harry Potter one you can do in Edinburgh. It's put on by Red Bistro Bus, and takes place on a converted red double-decker bus. The bus interior is loosely Harry Potter-themed, and you're served things like I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter-Beer, chocolate frogs, and other afternoon tea trappings.

Harry Potter afternoon tea bus
My non-alcoholic I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter-Beer

You enjoy said afternoon tea as you drive the streets of Edinburgh, seeing many of the spots that inspired (or may have inspired) JK Rowling.

I did this tour after I'd already done a Harry Potter walking tour, so many of the stories were similar. But I loved it just the same!

Harry Potter afternoon tea bus

*Note: It looks like this bus tour has changed slightly since I took it in 2019. There is still a Harry Potter-themed bus tour with drinks and food offered, but it's no longer a themed afternoon tea like this.

7. Have a Harry Potter-themed cocktail

If adult beverages are more your speed, head for the Magic Potions Tavern at Department of Magic. This spot is most known for their Harry Potter-themed escape rooms (a fun thing to do if you're traveling with friends!), but you can also stop in for magical cocktails.

Afterwards, maybe keep the theme going with dinner at The Devil's Advocate. It's not actually Harry Potter related, but it's a cool restaurant tucked away down a narrow close, and feels very Potter-esque.

Advocate's Close in Edinburgh
Advocate's Close

8. Take a ghost or witch tour

Edinburgh has always had a slightly spooky and witchy past (the city is almost 1000 years old, after all, and used to routinely burn and drown witches), so signing up for a ghost tour is basically mandatory.

There are a variety of different spooky tours you can try, from ones that take you down into the city's underground vaults after dark, to walking tours that focus on the city's “darkside.”

Where to stay in Edinburgh for Harry Potter lovers

I've already mentioned The Balmoral Hotel suite for super-fans, but here are some more options for Harry Potter fans in Edinburgh that are a bit easier on the budget:

Harry Potter apartment 1 – This listing on Airbnb is located conveniently right at the corner of Victoria Street and Grassmarket, within easy walking distance to restaurants and the Royal Mile. The apartment is tastefully Harry Potter-themed, with fun wall paper and even “hidden” doors.

Harry Potter themed apartment
Harry Potter themed apartment
Hidden bedroom behind books!

Book this Harry Potter apartment!

Harry Potter apartment 2 – This luxury apartment on Canongate is another great option for the Harry Potter fan, with touches like a fireplace and king size bed.

The Witchery by the Castle – For those looking for a hotel stay, you could consider The Witchery, a boutique hotel with 9 “indulgent” suites that will make you feel like you're sleeping in a very luxurious Hogwarts.

READ NEXT: Riding the Harry Potter Train in Scotland

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Which of these would you most like to do in Edinburgh?

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Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh
Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, Scotland

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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15 Comments on “A Harry Potter Lover’s Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

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  1. 2 years ago me and my, then, girlfriend went to Edinburgh… we love Harry Potter and really enjoyed the ‘real’ diagon alley

    Now we’re engaged and in February next year we are going back to Edinburgh to get married!!

    This article has really created alot of options for me to surprise my new wife with!… im seriously thinking of one of the Harry Potter tours!

    I loved reading your guide

    Thank you!

      That’s amazing! What a magical wedding that will be! Glad I could give you some ideas for your next visit!

    My Harry Potter..♥♥
    I didn’t know that Edinburgh tends to present Potter in such awesome way. JK Rowling is genius!
    When I go there, I wouldn’t miss the tea bus tour adventure, looks fun! and Harry apartment is a heart touching place.
    Thanks Amanda, You are INSPIRING!

      I have about 750 posts on my blog – but note that some of them are old and not relevant any longer (meaning not all of them get traffic!). You could get a lot of traffic with far fewer posts if you focused more on SEO (which I definitely did not do when I started almost 10 years ago!).

    Oh Man! I’ve been in Edinburgh and missed the half of these cool Harry Potter Stuff!!! It seems like I have to go there again… I like your writing style very much btw 🙂

    I’d definitely take the tea bus tour! Looks so fascinating and pretty!

      It was fun! Edinburgh is a lovely city to ride a bus around, too.

    The Harry Potter Apartment looks like the most desired dream come true for a Potterhead like me! Can’t wait to go there! Thanks for this awesome post with such nice information!

      It was a fun place to stay for sure! Edinburgh is such a great city, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan.

    Great post Amanda! I really want to do that afternoon tea bus now! I didn’t know they did a Harry Potter themed one until you said about it. You can also get butter beer in the Dog House and Mousetrap pubs (and probably more, but those are the ones that come to mind). Also that cocktail place is amazing – everything comes out in test tubes and potion bottles and you have to make it yourself! So much fun, and of course we put HP robes on to do it hahaha.

      The bus tour was really fun! (I mean, I do love a themed afternoon tea, though, so I’m definitely biased!) I’ll have to check out the butterbeer next time!

    So cool! My mom and I are going to Scotland next fall and we both love Harry Potter, so we’ll have to stop by some of these places!

      Definitely put some of these on your list! (The cemetery is definitely a must, and I also loved the afternoon tea bus tour if they’re still doing it next year!)

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