Harry Potter in Edinburgh: A City of Magical Inspiration

Castles, old tales, whisky, haggis and black pudding, Edinburgh is a truly magical capital city. However, for fans of Harry Potter, there’s even more reason to visit the muggle city of Edinburgh. You can find many of J.K. Rowling’s inspirations for her Harry Potter series and even walk through the graveyard where Volde- I mean…He Who Must Not Be Named’s family is buried.

Even for those who have just heard of Harry Potter, there’s much more than fantasy to Edinburgh. In fact, we’ve put together an entire guide to visiting Scotland in winter (the best time to visit!). If you’re just staying hanging around the city, take a look at our 3 days in Edinburgh for an in-depth guide on all there is to do. Hint: there is a lot!

But now it’s time to spice up your trip to Edinburgh with a little magic. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of Harry Potter in Edinburgh!

Elephant House Cafe

The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh

This is THE cafe in Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan.

However, even though the Elephant House touts its “birthplace” of Harry Potter crown, that’s not technically accurate. There is another cafe where Rowling spent more time, which we’ll talk about below. All that said, Elephant House is yummy and still essential in the Harry Potter story. Visit the restroom to read the scribbles of the many Harry Potter fans who’ve visited.

Balmoral Hotel

This hotel, right near Waverly Station, is where J.K. Rowling finished the final book in the Harry Potter series. This room is now named the J.K. Rowling Suite and is available to book for a night. But be prepared to shell out a massive amount of money as it’s quite expensive to stay the night. For a look into this magnificent room (and its hefty price tag) take a look at the J.K. Rowling Suite on the Balmoral Hotel website.

Spoon Cafe

Much less talked about and less advertised than the Elephant House Cafe, Spoon Cafe is where Rowling did a large portion of her writing for Harry Potter back when it was called Nicolson Cafe and owned by her brother-in-law. Going here gave her a free babysitter as well as some quiet time to write.

Her brother-in-law ended up selling his cafe and then it became a Chinese restaurant. Today, it’s Spoon Cafe. Pop in and have a coffee!

Potterow Port The tunnel from the 5th Harry Potter film in Edinburgh

Look familiar?

This tunnel is located on the University of Edinburgh’s campus and you can find it at the beginning of the film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Per J.K. Rowling’s wishes, filming initially took place at Potterow Port in Edinburgh. However, filming interfered with students getting to their exams so an exact replica was made at the studio.

George Heriot’s School (AKA Hogwarts)

George Heriot's School which is Rowling's inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter

George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh dates back to the 1600s and you can probably guess how this inspired Rowling’s world of Harry Potter. It was once a hospital and school for orphan boys but now serves as a prestigious private school and indeed, there are four houses. No doubt that the architecture and houses of this school were Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. The four houses in this muggle school are:

Greyfriars (White)

Lauriston (Green)

Raeburn (Red)

Castle (Blue)

The grounds are gated but you can get a great look from the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard.

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (Graveyard)

One of the most popular places in Edinburgh for tourists, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is a must-see for Harry Potter fans. Besides the graveyard’s amazingly intricate and ominous headstones, you’ll find many famous names from Harry Potter. The Riddle family, Moody, McGonagall and a few other characters have headstones in this graveyard. Try going at night for a real spook.

Riddell Tombstone at Greyfriar Kirkyards in Edinburgh

Cockburn Street

Cockburn sounds a bit like Knockturn, don’t you think? Once a more dangerous area, Cockburn street served as Rowling’s inspiration for Knockturn Alley. However, it’s no longer associated with scary vibes so enjoy your walk along the curvy cobblestone and you’ll find plenty of Harry Potter themed shops lining the street. Some great restaurants too!

Victoria Street

Victoria Street in Edinburgh

Thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, Victoria Street and its vibrant color stands out among the rest in Edinburgh. You’ll find plenty of Harry Potter shops, of course, but you’ll also find some great eats like Oink (sandwich pictured below).

Sandwich from Oink in Edinburgh

Stop in at John Kay’s and you’ll get a feel for what it was like to shop at Flourish and Blotts.

John Kay's on Victoria Street in Edinburgh

Edinburgh City Chambers

J.K. Rowling's handprints at the City Chambers

J.K Rowling received the Edinburgh Award for having such an impact on the city soon after she finished the final book. You can find her hand prints at the Edinburgh City Chambers just off the Royal Mile. Can’t miss it!

Summary of Harry Potter in Edinburgh

It’s a lot of fun to see the connections between Edinburgh and Harry Potter. Why not take an exclusive Harry Potter walking tour while in town? We did and we loved it!

You can always check out Airbnb experiences, of which there are plenty to choose from, or you can always trust Sandemans for a great experience. Regardless, Edinburgh and all of Scotland will be one of your favorite places in the muggle world.

Happy Travels!

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We’re Darah and Garrett. Our life has been an adventure ever since we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. Now we’re running around the world, working online, and eating everything we can.

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5 years ago

Your photos look really good. It makes me want to book a ticket to Edinburgh tonight. I think I’m gonna go on a vacation soon and I’m bringing all of my books. It would be great to read all of them there. It’s like reliving the novel.