If your kids are as Harry Potter obsessed as mine, then no trip to Edinburgh will be complete without looking up some of the best Harry Potter Edinburgh attractions. From cafes where J.K Rowling wrote her iconic books to streets that inspired Diagon Alley, wannabe witches and wizards will feel right at home in Edinburgh and all its Harry Potter locations.
Rowling, who resided in Edinburgh when she began writing the first book in the series, drew much of her inspiration from the city’s enchanting atmosphere and historic landmarks. It is said that Rowling spent countless hours writing in local cafes, capturing her imagination and giving life to the beloved characters and settings that would later become part of the Harry Potter universe.
Additionally, Edinburgh’s rich history, with its hidden alleys, medieval architecture, and mystical tales, served as a backdrop for the magical elements of the story. The city’s iconic Edinburgh Castle and the majestic Edinburgh University are believed to have influenced the creation of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where many of Harry Potter’s adventures take place.
Today, fans of the series can visit various locations in Edinburgh linked to Harry Potter, such as The Elephant House café, where Rowling wrote portions of the books, or Greyfriars Kirkyard, where she sourced names for some of her characters. Undoubtedly, the city of Edinburgh remains an integral part of Harry Potter’s legacy, capturing the hearts and imaginations of readers worldwide.
Was Harry Potter filmed in Edinburgh? What is the Edinburgh Harry Potter connection?
None of the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed in Edinburgh. But JK Rowling did write two of her books, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in Edinburgh while also taking inspiration for all seven books—and eight movies—from the streets and cafés in the area.
Harry Potter Edinburgh Attractions
1. The Elephant House Cafe – Harry Potter Edinburgh
The Elephant House Cafe is essentially where it all began. Because J.K. Rowling wrote most of the first Harry Potter book there!
The quaint little red-painted cafe was a refuge for Rowling before she made her vast fortune. Now, however, the cafe has become a popular spot for Harry Potter fans who want to grab a coffee and take in the birthplace of Harry Potter and the story of the boy who lived.
Unfortunately, due to a fire in the building, the Elephant House Cafe has had to close its doors. But you can still take a look from the outside.
2. Victoria Street Edinburgh aka Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley is one of the most famous streets in the entire Harry Potter franchise. After all, It’s the very first place Harry Potter visits in the wizarding world. And where did it get its inspiration from? Well, from Victoria Street and West Bow in the Grassmarket Area.
Victoria Street and its sweeping row of colourful restaurants and shops is a spitting image of Diagon Alley—just sadly without the wand shops, broom shops, and Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
3. Greyfriars Kirkyard Edinburgh
Have you ever wondered where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for the names of some of her characters? Well, Greyfriars Kirkyard—a graveyard in Edinburgh—has the answer. Strolling through the graveyard while looking at the headstones, you’ll begin to notice some familiar names.
On one gravestone, you’ll find the name Robert Potter who inspired the last name of Harry, James, and Lily. William McGonagall gave Minerva McGonagall—our favourite professor—her last name. Elizabeth Moodie influenced the name, Mad-Eye Moody. And Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn inspired the Minister of Magic’s Rufus Scrimgeaur’s name.
But, of all the headstones to visit, there is one in particular that gains everyone’s attention. And that is the grave of you know who, The Dark Lord. Thomas Riddell, who died in 1806, inspired the name for Lord Voldemort—his birth name, anyway. Of all the graves in the cemetery, Tom Riddle’s grave has become a popular attraction for Potterheads. And we wonder how the real Tom feels about inspiring the greatest fictional villain of all time.
Some people believe that Greyfriars Kirkyard may have even inspired Godric’s Hollow.
4. JK Rowling Suite at The Balmoral Hotel
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book began in a quaint cafe. And her last Harry Potter book ended in a luxurious hotel—the Balmoral Hotel. In fact, she wrote the final chapters of The Deathly Hallows in one of the Balmoral’s grandest suites, Room 552.
The hotel has now renamed the suite the J.K. Rowling Suite. And has an owl door knocker, Rowling’s writing desk, and a signed marble Hermes bust.
Staying in the Rowling suite will set you back a few thousand pounds, so if you’re after a Harry Potter-themed hotel or Airbnb, then do check out our post: 10 Harry Potter-themed hotels and Airbnb.
5. The Potter Trail – Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh
One of the best ways to see Edinburgh’s Harry Potter attractions is by joining a Harry Potter walking tour. The Potter Trail is a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh that takes you all around the popular Harry Potter attractions.
The tour lasts for roughly 90 minutes, and it’s completely free! However, donations are recommended. And as the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and entertaining, it’s great to support them in any way you can.
5. Museum Context – Harry Potter Shop
On Victoria Street lies the Museum Context—the area’s most famous Harry Potter shop. Originally a brush shop—which many people believe inspired Ollivander’s Wand Shop—Museum Context has three floors of Harry Potter merchandise, including books, toys, robes, and wands.
If you’ve ever wanted a Diagon Alley shopping experience, then Museum Context is the closest you’ll ever get. Unless your letter to Hogwarts comes through, that is.
6. City of the Dead Tours Edinburgh
The City of the Dead tour is a spooky tour of Edinburgh’s underground vaults and graveyards. The same exact vaults that may have inspired the Hogwarts dungeons. Now, the tours aren’t for the faint-hearted. But they are a way to see Edinburgh from a different perspective.
At the very top of the Royal Mile lies the Edinburgh Castle. And just one look at it gives major Hogwarts vibes. Although it hasn’t been proven that J.K. Rowling did take inspiration from the castle for Hogwarts, it’s still an interesting Edinburgh attraction. And its history as a fortress is definitely worth learning about.
8. The Writers’ Museum
Edinburgh was the world’s first city that UNESCO designated a UNESCO City of Literature. And it can partly thank its world-famous writers for that. Now, Edinburgh is home to several literary attractions, including The Writers’ Museum, which all book fans should visit.
The Writers’ Museum celebrates Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson—three world-famous Scottish writers. And contains relics, portraits, and rare books that you won’t get to see anywhere else.
There is even a section on J.K Rowling where you can learn about her writing process. And see some of her manuscripts.
9. Candlemaker Row
Candlemaker Row is at the bottom of Victoria Street. And many people refer to it as Deviation Alley. There are a few different street art areas to explore on Candlemaker Row. And the most popular is the red phoenix wings.
The street is also home to independent boutiques. Witches and wizards will particularly love Black Moon Botanica.
10. Black Medicine Coffee
Another cafe that J.K. Rowling frequented when writing her first Harry Potter book was Nicolson Cafe, AKA Spoon. Now, however, the cafe goes by the name Black Medicine Coffee. And just outside the shop, you’ll see a small plaque that highlights the fact J.K. Rowling wrote some of the book’s earliest chapters there.
11. The Dog House
If you’ve been to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, then you may have already tried Butterbeer. But if you haven’t—and you’ve been dying to—then you can get your hands on some in The Dog House.
The Dog House on Clerk Street has butterbeer on tap. And its quirky interior is a sight that you won’t want to miss.
12. The Cauldron Bar
The Cauldron Bar is another immersive Harry Potter experience that teaches you how to make potion cocktails. During the experience, you’ll be given a cauldron, a wand, and a set of spells that will help you concoct cocktails in true witch or wizard style. They even have potion lessons for children—non-alcoholic potions, of course.
13. Harry Potter Edinburgh Escape Room
One of the best escape rooms for Harry Potter lovers is the Department of Magic Escape Rooms in Edinburgh. You’ll have two different escape rooms to choose from: Prophecies Quest and Dark Lord Resurrection.
The Prophecies Quest will take you on a journey of defeating the Dark Lord—great for Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws. Whereas the Dark Lord Resurrection room is more suited to Slytherins as you’ll battle to bring Lord Voldemort back.
14. Department of Magic Cocktails
After you’ve finished up with the Harry Potter-themed escape room, head downstairs to the Magic Potions Tavern. The Magic Potions Tavern provides you with a magical-inspired cocktail-making class. And with cocktail names like the Dark Lord, Herbology 101, and Divination Brew, you’ll truly feel like a witch or wizard grabbing a drink in the Leaky Cauldron.
15. Potterrow Port and Potterrow Street
Potterrow Port near the University of Edinburgh is an underpass that is rumoured to have inspired Harry Potter’s last name. That and Robert Potter’s gravestone in the Greyfriars Kirkyard, that is.
But as well as its name drawing in Potter fans, the underpass actually looks strikingly similar to a scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. At the beginning of the movie, after Dudley bullies Harry in the park, the pair end up in a subway near Privet Drive. But they aren’t the only people—or things if you’d prefer—there, as Dementors attack both Harry and Dudley, leaving Harry to protect Dudley with his Patronus.
16. Lewis Chessmen at the National Museum of Scotland
There is a chess set in the National Museum of Scotland that looks incredibly similar to Wizard Chess. You know, the violent game of chess that Ron and Harry played in the Philosopher’s Stone.
The pieces in Wizard’s Chess—and the giant chessboard that Harry, Ron and Hermione play on toward the end of the movie—were inspired by the Lewis Chessman. The Lewis Chessman was a medieval chess set that was found on a beach in Uig.
17. Edinburgh International Book Festival
As Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature, it probably comes as no surprise that it hosts a yearly book festival every August. The Edinburgh International Book Festival was one of the first places Rowling read her Harry Potter books to her fans. So if you’re in Edinburgh during August, be sure to pay it a visit!
18. J. K. Rowling’s Handprints at the City Chambers
The Edinburgh City Chambers near Mary King’s Close is home to J.K. Rowling’s golden handprints. After completing her book series, J.K. Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2008. And imprinted her hands on the floor outside the City Chambers for Potter fans to see.
19. George Heriot’s School
George Heriot’s School was built back in 1628. And although J.K. Rowling has denied that it was the inspiration behind Hogwarts, it still has a slight resemblance. The school has four tours, gothic architecture, and four houses which compete against each other every year. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
But as the school is a working school, you can only catch a glimpse of it from Greyfriars Kirkyard, George IV Bridge, or Lauriston Place.
20. The Witches Well
Witchcraft, for most, is a fictional term. But back in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, people were actually accused of being a witch. And sadly, being a witch didn’t grant you access to Hogwarts.
Instead, those convicted of witchcraft were executed—and hanging was the preferred process. You can visit the Witches Well—a cast iron drinking fountain memorial—to pay your respects to those who were falsely accused.
21 The Hogwarts Express to the Highlands
The Hogwarts Express is actually a real train which muggles refer to as the Jacobite Steam Train. Both Harry Potter and train fans head off on the 84-mile round trip from Fort William to Mallaig. And the journey takes you past many Harry Potter filming locations.
One of the most iconic locations is the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Glennfinnan Viaduct appeared in four Harry Potter movies, with the most famous scene being when Ron and Harry fly Ron’s dad’s flying car over both the train and bridge.
For the top 10 Harry Potter themed hotels and airbnbs do check out our post!
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.