A complete self-guided Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh

I never seem to meet anyone who simply just ‘likes’ Harry Potter. They either fall into two camps – completely and utterly obsessed or do not understand the hype. I fall into the first category and am a true believer that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home. This also means I like to visit locations linked to the Harry Potter books and films. For me, it helps to bring the magic alive. Which is why when I visited Scotland I insisted on dragging my friend on a self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh.

Why is there a link between Harry Potter and Edinburgh?

Edinburgh has a deep connection with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in fact, some consider it the birthplace of the franchise as it was where J.K Rowling wrote many of the books.

“Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafés.”  – J.K Rowling

There are several Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh which fans can visit, some of which have an obvious connection, some which are more discreet and some which are pure speculation and have yet to be confirmed by the lady herself.

Guided Harry Potter Walking Tours in Edinburgh

There are many Harry Potter walking tours in Edinburgh which take place daily, many of which get booked up far in advance, especially during the busier months of summer. These tours are often run by fellow Harry Potter enthusiasts so will offer additional titbits of information relating to the books and films.

One particular Harry Potter location tour in Edinburgh involves a series of quizzes and games, encouraging you to outwit your guide with your spell knowledge.

A guided tour is a good idea if you potentially find it difficult to navigate yourself around a new city or you are short on time. They are also a good way to meet fellow enthusiasts and really immerse yourself in the destination.

However, when I visited I decided on a self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh. This was because it was my first time in Edinburgh and I only had one day, not being restricted to a tour meant, if I wanted I could stop off at other non-Harry Potter related tourist attractions along the way.

A self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh

This Harry Potter walking tour will take around all the major Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh as well as the less obvious ones. All the locations are within a reasonable proximity to each other however, it is important to point out that Edinburgh is incredibly hilly – take comfortable walking shoes.

The Elephant House

(21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN)

Said to be one of the birthplaces of the Harry Potter stories, The Elephant House is one of the most important Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh, if not most. J.K Rowling was a struggling single parent when she wrote parts of the Philosopher’s Stone in this cafe.

Today the cafe is never empty, Harry Potter fans flock to The Elephant House on George Street to feel the magic of this location. If you are visiting to simply take photos and not purchase any food or drink, visitors are encouraged to make a donation to charity while there.

If you do go inside, be sure to head to the toilets, where the walls are covered in messages from the thousands of visiting fans over the years.

Ian Rankin, author of the bestselling Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and other series of novels, have also frequented The Elephant House over the years.

Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery)

(26A Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QE)

In close proximity to The Elephant House is a Churchyard with a cemetery. It is often speculated whether J.K Rowling spent time here or walked through here frequently as there are a few names which are similar to the characters we have grown fond of.

In Greyfriars Kirkyard you will find the gravestones of Robert Potter, Tom Riddell and William McGonagall. Other gravestones with potential links include Elizabeth Moodie (Mad-Eye Moody?) and Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn (Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic in the final Harry Potter book?)

Victoria street in Edinburgh is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley. Therefore it is a popular stop for people looking for harry potter locations in edinburgh

Victoria Street

While it has never been confirmed by J.K Rowling, Victoria Street is suspected to be part of the inspiration behind Diagon Alley. The colourful, cobbled and winding street is not far from the Elephant House and runs adjacent to to Candlemaker Row, a further road which will leave you feeling like you just walked through Diagon Alley.

Along Victoria street, you will find various boutique stores and unsurprisingly a number of stores which sell Harry Potter themed memorabilia. You will even find a joke shop on Victoria Street, however, sadly, it is not run by the Weasleys.

The Victoria Street part of Edinburgh’s Harry Potter trail is close to the Grassmarket area. Every Saturday between 10am – 2pm a Farmer’s Market takes place where you can purchase area-sourced produce, meats & cheeses, plus baked goods and beer. It is not in anyway wizard themed but it is a nice addition to visit if following the self-guided Harry Potter tour on a Saturday.

Nicolson’s Cafe (now known as Spoon)

(25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX)

Another cafe where J.K Rowling spent time writing the Harry Potter books. Now known as Spoon, in 1997 it was called Nicholson’s Café, and it was owned by Rowling’s brother-in-law.

The cafe has large windows which overlook the University of Edinburgh and still to this day has a plaque to commemorate where part of one of the world most famous book series was written.

The Balmoral Hotel

(1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ)

The Balmoral Hotel was the place that ended it all. Room 552 at the Balmoral Hotel, J.K. Rowling checked into this luxurious suite overlooking the city so that she could concentrate while finishing The Deathly Hallows.

It has now be renamed the Rowling Suite in her honour and so Harry Potter enthusiasts can book to stay. It contains a marble bust of Hermes, the Greek god of travel, signed by J.K.Rowling herself.

Diagon House / Museum Context

(40 Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2JW)

Museum Context (Or Diagon House as it is also known) is an immersive shopping experience in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and the flagship store at 40 Victoria Street is a unique celebration of the fact that Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter.

The shop contains a world-class selection of officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise, in turn making it a magnet for Harry Potter fans worldwide who queue from morning until night to explore the store.

City Chambers – J.K Rowlings hand prints

(253 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1YJ)

The City Chambers is a huge council building on the Royal Mile, which features a fantastic Hollywood-style plaque that pays tribute to winners of the prestigious Edinburgh Award, presented to outstanding Edinburgh residents.

J.K. Rowling won in 2008, which means that the hands that wrote the Harry Potter books are immortalised in bronze in the chambers’ courtyard.

George Heriot School

(Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9EQ)

Like Greyfrier’s Kirkyard, the George Heriot School can be seen from the windows of the Elephant House Café, leading to speculation it was the inspiration behind Hogwarts.

Built in 1628, this prestigious, castle-like school is said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts as well as the Hogwarts house system. It is not usually open to the public, but it does sometimes host events during the Edinburgh Festival in August.

Potterrow

While some believe J.K Rowling got her inspiration for the lead Character’s surname inside Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, others believe it Harry Potter was named after a street in Edinburgh – Potterrow Street.

Along Potterrow street you will find buildings associated with Edinburgh University and aside from the now name famous street sign, there is not much else related to the book series here.

Harry Potter self-guided tour map:

Other Harry Potter locations near Edinburgh

Many people seem to be under the impression other book and film locations are located in Edinburgh, however, unfortunately they are not. Therefore if you are planning on seeing more Harry Potter locations in Scotland then it is important to plan in advance.

Ride the Hogwarts Express in Scotland – Book an excursion from Edinburgh

It is the dream of so many people to ride the Hogwarts Express but if you want to this you need to head to the highlands. The Jacobite Steam Train, aka the Hogwarts Express, is located in Fort William. It is a world famous steam train which passes Ben Nevis and Loch Ness. It also crosses the viaduct featured in every Harry Potter movie.

There is currently a 2 day tour which you can book on to experience and ride the Hogwarts express. The tour includes transportation to and from Edinburgh, guide, accommodation as well as your ticket on to the train.

Visit the filming location of Hogwarts

Combine movie magic and historic wonder on a trip to the Scottish Borders. Alnwick Castle is the true star of this show, not only was it a key location for Harry Potter films, it’s a historic location of epic conquests and royal splendor. There is even an opportunity to test your broom skills.

You can booking onto a day tour from Edinburgh with includes a tour of Alnwick Castle as well as various other points (non Harry Potter related) along the Scottish border.

Edinburgh Hotels for Harry Potter Fans

Canongate Luxury Homestay 

Located 650 yards from Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Canongate Luxury Homestay offers accommodation in Edinburgh. Canongate Luxury Homestay boasts views of the mountain and is 650 yards from Omni Centre.

The beautiful private apartment overlooks the Royal Mile and best of all? It is Harry Potter themed. The apartment has been kitted out by a Harry Potter super fan with a Gryffindor dormitory theme for the master bedroom and a second bedroom themed around the Hogwarts Express. There is even a desk in the apartment which even once belonged to J.K Rowling. If you are looking a true Harry Potter experience in Edinburgh, this is definitely where you need to stay.

The Balmoral 

Located on Princes Street, The Balmoral has a Michelin-starred restaurant, a pool and a gym. Waverley Station and Edinburgh‘s main shopping area are within 5 minutes’ walk.

The Balmoral is part of the Harry Potter trail in Edinburgh as it is where J.K Rowling stayed while writing The Deathly Hallows. Super fans can even stay in the J.K Rowling suite, this is the suite where the J.K.Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It contains a marble bust of Hermes, the Greek god of travel, signed by J.K.Rowling herself.

 

Looking for Harry Potter experiences in other parts of the world? 

Everything you need to know before visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando

Why you need to visit the Harry Potter studio tour more than once

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