Want to know where to find the best Harry Potter sights in Edinburgh? If you’re a Potter fan get a little step closer to the magical wizarding world and pay a visit to the Scottish capital. Author J.K. Rowling actually lived in Edinburgh when she wrote some of the Harry Potter books and during her time in the city, she found a lot of inspiration for her best-selling novels. Edinburgh is home to some important locations that shaped the world-famous books and as a tourist you can get up close and personal to some of the magical places that inspired the Philosopher's Stone, Goblet of Fire, the Deathly Hallows and many more. We’ve rounded up the best Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh so that Potter fans can get their fandom feels and walk the same streets as Rowling once did when she was in the process of creating the books...
So where to find these places? It’s time to get sirius...
Need a hostel in Edinburgh?
It would make sense to start with the place where the first book was born. So, first things first, slyther-in to the Spoon Cafe. The creation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone all started at this quaint cafe in Edinburgh Old Town where JK Rowling spent her days conjuring up the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter. She wrote large chunks of the book from this cafe which is why it’s known as the true birthplace of Harry Potter all over Edinburgh. You can find the Spoon Cafe located in Nicholson Street, just a 9 minute walk away from our hostel. Stop by for a coffee and pastry and live a day in the life of J.K. Rowling when she was a budding writer unaware that her books would become world-famous and that her characters would be brought to life on the big screen.
The Elephant House
Carry on your Harry Potter-themed cafe crawl with a coffee in the most famous of JK Rowling’s favourite work spots. The Elephant House in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town is the place in which Rowling busied herself with the Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire books. It is not (as it claims to be) the birthplace of Harry Potter, however it was also where novelists like Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith got to work, too. Now, the line for this famous little cafe can stretch well out the door! So either get there early or late in the day, or be prepared for a bit of a wait.
This 19th century 5-star hotel is where JK Rowling finished her last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Located in the heart of Edinburgh on Princes Street, this is a real fandom sight in the city, home to a marble sculpture of the Greek god Hermes on which Rowling inscribed the words “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”. This sculpture can be found in the suite she stayed which has now been renamed as the J.K. Rowling Suite and it costs £1000 a night if you wanted to book it out. Woah! Us backpackers can’t afford that but you can always pop into the hotel for a drink or take photos of it from the outside.
Known as one of the most haunted graveyards in the world, it’s no wonder one of the most evil and terrifying characters in the literary world was inspired by this place. At Greyfriars Kirkyard you will find the tombstone of Thomas Riddell, which may have been the inspiration Rowling needed to come up with the Lord Voldemort's real name. But it’s not just the evil side of the books you’ll find in this graveyard, as here is where the names ‘Potter’, ‘McGonagall’ and ‘Moodie’ all came from, too. See whether you can spot them all in Greyfriars Kirkyard on Candlemakers Row, just ensure you’re respectful as you do.
While there is no firm evidence that Edinburgh Castle inspired the creation of Hogwarts School, there is an uncanny resemblance between the two historic buildings - for example, they both sit high on a rock. People like to believe that as J.K. Rowling spent a lot of her time writing the books in the city, that maybe she was subconsciously inspired by the castle (as she would have walked past it a trillion times). JK Rowling hasn’t confirmed that this is fact or fiction. But she has said that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is located in Scotland.
Either way, Edinburgh Castle is our favourite attraction to visit in the city so we recommend booking tickets to go inside whether you’re a Potter fan or not.
The Dog House
This quirky bar on Clerk Street doesn’t have any claim to fame when it comes to where J.K. Rowling wrote the book or gained inspo from, but what it does have is butterbeer. No real Harry Potter fan can leave Edinburgh without indulging in the most iconic drink of all the books. You could call it the Three Broomsticks! Order a pint of the sweet and creamy wizarding version of beer, and enjoy the crazy interiors and constantly buzzing atmosphere of the Dog House.
When you wander the historic streets of Edinburgh you’ll notice some similarities between some of the areas that Rowling describes in her books. Victoria Street, for example, is said to have inspired Diagon Alley and any real Potter fan would see why once they walk down the old, winding street - it has a real magical charm about it. Located in Edinburgh Old Town, Victoria Street is a cobblestoned shopping street and much like Diagon Alley it runs in a narrow curve with colourful shops and pointed roofs.
In fact many of the streets in the Grassmarket area (where Victoria Street runs through) is said to have inspired Rowling, even though she hasn’t confirmed this herself. She did spend a lot of time in coffee shops around Victoria Street so it’s definitely a possibility.
Museum Context Shop
Harry Potter fans, get your Edinburgh souvenirs from the city’s official Harry Potter shop on Victoria Street. Whether you want your house scarf, Voldemort’s wand, the Marauder's Map, a chocolate frog or any other Potter-related merch, the Museum Context Shop will sell it. Plus it’s a great place to browse through to remind you of all the little details throughout the books and films. While it’s tempting to spend your whole bank balance in here, don’t be ‘riddikulus’ with your money.
JK Rowling’s Handprints
J.K. Rowling was presented with the Edinburgh Award back in 2008, for her “outstanding achievements and contribution to the city” for producing her incredibly successful series of other-worldly novels. From this, you can now find Rowling’s handprints in gold in front of the Edinburgh City Chambers, just off the Royal Mile. Here you’ll find other famous Scots like Sir Chris Hoy, Tom Gilzean and Ian Rankin OBE.
Treat yourself to a real immersive, wizarding experience, and craft your own cocktails with your own magic wand at The Cauldron. For £29.99, you’ll receive an hour and 45 minutes of interactive cocktail making, including a welcome drink and two magically crafted cocktails that are definitely strong enough to get you on your way. Book your slot in advance to guarantee you get this wizarding experience in the heart of Edinburgh, although you’ll also find branches of the Cauldron in London, Dublin and New York, too.
The Potter Trail Walking Tour
With so many Harry Potter sights around Edinburgh, we’re not surprised that there’s a dedicated walking tour just for Potter fans - and it’s free! If you would rather have a guide take you around all of the Potter sights in the city then you can book yourself onto the walking tour for free and learn some secrets about the magical wizarding world on the way. The award-winning tour, called The Potter Trail, will take you through certain locations that inspired characters and scenes from the books, as well as the coffee shops we mentioned above where Rowling wrote the novels. The tours run every day at 2pm from September - March and from 4pm from April - August. The tour lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. You can book your space online.