Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply someone curious to explore the real-world sites tied to the Harry Potter books, Edinburgh is an absolute must for any aspiring wizard. Thanks to its cobblestone streets and magical monuments, it’s no wonder that Scotland’s capital city inspired some of the most iconic scenes in the beloved series.
This ultimate Harry Potter guide to Edinburgh will take you through 21 incredible locations around the city that bring J.K. Rowling’s beloved Wizarding World to life. We’ll review cafés where Rowling spent time writing the series, where to try real-life butter beer, and even where to find Tom Riddle’s grave.
So, make your pilgrimage to Diagon Alley or discover where Hogwarts may have been set using our guide. Following our advice (and the map at the end of this post), you’re guaranteed to make your time in Edinburgh more magical–especially if you’re a Potterhead!
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Was any of Harry Potter filmed in Edinburgh?
While Edinburgh served as a source of inspiration for J.K. Rowling, it was not used as a filming location for the Harry Potter movies. Filming did take place across the United Kingdom and even in parts of Scotland. For example, the Jacobite Steam Train in Fort William was used as the Hogwarts Express.
However, the majority of production was done at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in Watford, Hertfordshire, South East England. Nowadays, this venue is home to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.
Although you won’t find any locations from the Harry Potter films in Edinburgh, it’s still an exciting place to visit as a fan. We’ll review a list of sites below to explore if you’d like to follow in J.K. Rowling’s footsteps. After all, she called Edinburgh home beginning in late 1993 and spent countless hours writing in the city’s cafés.
Harry Potter things to do in Edinburgh
Victoria Street, located in the heart of Old Town, tops our list of Harry Potter Edinburgh locations. In fact, it’s often speculated to have inspired J.K. Rowling when she envisioned Diagon Alley. The connection has never been officially confirmed.
However, we think this charming and winding street resembles the bustling wizarding marketplace with its colorful buildings and unique architecture. As you stroll along Victoria Street, you’ll encounter a vibrant array of independent boutiques reminiscent of the magical shops found in Diagon Alley.
You can even find various Harry Potter-themed stores! The street’s connection to the Grassmarket area and its intersecting lanes of West Bow and Candlemaker Row add to its enchanting atmosphere.
Greyfriars Kirkyard, a historic cemetery, holds an intriguing connection as one of the Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. First, it’s believed to have provided inspiration for Godric’s Hollow graveyard. However, more importantly, you can find tombstones here bearing the names of certain Harry Potter characters.
For instance, the grave of William McGonagall, a Scottish poet, shares a name with Hogwarts’ esteemed professor, Minerva McGonagall. You can also find the tombstones of Elizabeth Moodie, Margaret Louisa Scrymgeour Wedderburn, Anne and Robert Potter, and Thomas Riddell Esquire, further fueling the theory that Rowling pulled names from this cemetery.
We love this theory and think Greyfriars Kirkyard is 100% worth visiting! Nonetheless, Rowling likely got these names from historic registers rather than actually walking through the cemetery.
George Heriot’s School
After visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard, don’t miss seeing the possible inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: George Heriot’s School. This prestigious day school was built in 1628 in an impressive Renaissance architectural style. You can catch a glimpse of it through the gate near William McGonagall’s tombstone or from Edinburgh Castle.
While the school itself isn’t open to the public, it has gained attention for its speculated connection to the Harry Potter world. After all, J.K. Rowling hinted that Hogwarts was located in Scotland. Plus, students at George Heriot’s are even sorted into four houses: Lauriston (green), Greyfriars (white), Raeburn (red), or Castle (blue).
Nonetheless, the author debunked this theory on Twitter in 2020. She stated that the concept of Hogwarts was created years before she lived in Edinburgh.
The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel, a prestigious 5-star hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, holds a special place in the Harry Potter legacy. In fact, Rowling chose The Balmoral as her distraction-free zone for writing the final book in the series.
After completing the book, she signed a marble bust of Hermes with the following inscription: “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan. 2007.” Nowadays, her guest suite has been officially renamed the J.K. Rowling Suite, even featuring an owl door knocker.
If you have the extra cash, you can stay in this exact room for over £2,000 per night. Or, for a more budget-friendly option, drop by the SCOTCH Whisky Bar or book afternoon tea at the Balmoral’s Palm Court.
The Elephant House Cafe
The Elephant House Café is one of the most famous Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. Although the establishment refers to itself as “the birthplace of Harry Potter,” the author refuted this particular claim. Nonetheless, it is where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of her renowned series.
Situated on George IV Bridge, this quaint café became a haven for the author’s creativity during her time in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the Elephant House is currently closed due to fire damage, leaving visitors and fans eagerly awaiting its reopening.
Museum Context: Retailer of Harry Potter Merchandise
Museum Context, a renowned Harry Potter shop in Edinburgh, is an absolute must-visit destination for fans of the beloved wizarding world. Situated at 40 Victoria Street, this enchanting store spans three floors, offering a treasure trove of all things Harry Potter related.
Whether you’re seeking collectibles, wands, jewelry, stationery, prints, or more, Museum Context has it all. Not only does it cater to the desire for magical memorabilia, but it also provides ample photo opportunities! Additionally, you can find a second location for this store on Cockburn Street.
J.K. Rowling’s handprints at Edinburgh City Chambers
J.K. Rowling’s handprints are proudly displayed at Edinburgh City Chambers. These handprints were commemorated as part of The Edinburgh Award 2008, an accolade bestowed upon Rowling in recognition of her exceptional contribution to literature.
As you make your way down the Royal Mile, don’t forget to stop for a photo. You can also check out handprints from other award winners, including Ian Rankin, Sir Chris Hoy, and George Kerr.
Butterbeer at the Dog House
Visiting the Dog House is a must for fans seeking an immersive Harry Potter experience in Edinburgh. This quirky establishment serves its own version of butterbeer, a delightful concoction that will be familiar to fans of the series. Made with a magical blend of Fosters and butterscotch syrup, this beverage can be enjoyed in a pint or half-pint size.
Remember that the Dog House is a bar and that butterbeer does contain alcohol. So, this activity isn’t exactly family-friendly. However, if you’re traveling with fellow adult Potterheads, you won’t want to miss the chance to try butterbeer in real life! We actually thought it tasted pretty good.
Department of Magic Escape Rooms
The Department of Magic Escape Rooms offer an exhilarating experience that Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss. Priced at £19-25 per person, you and your team will have 50 minutes to solve puzzles, uncover secrets, and finish your tasks before time runs out. Reservations in advance are essential, and you can play with a maximum of 6 guests per room.
Regarding your escape room theme, there are two options: the Prophecy Quest and Dark Lord Resurrection. In the Prophecy Quest, you join the Order of the Phoenix to fight against Voldemort. Meanwhile, in Dark Lord Resurrection, your team takes on the roles of Death Eaters, aiming to resurrect the Dark Lord. Whichever path you choose, be prepared to test your wits!
Magic Potions Tavern at the Department of Magic
This unique tavern, where the art of potion-making comes to life, is a must on any Harry Potter in Edinburgh bucket list. In your Magic Potions Masterclass, you can create concoctions that stir the senses and ignite the imagination. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance!
There are a few different options for experiences you can book here. Firstly, there’s the Magical Potion & Smoking Magic Shot choice, where you brew your own potion. You can choose between concoctions like Liquid Gold, Potion No. 9, or Dragon’s Inferno. Then, end the night with a smoking shot in a magical chest!
If you’d prefer a more affordable option, go with the Magical Bubbler Cocktails. You’ll receive your table for just over an hour and get to brew a bubbler like Dream Tonic, Alcomystery, or a Vial of Venom. It’s a great way to experience the tavern while only spending £8 per person.
Or, if you want a similar activity that isn’t Harry Potter themed, check out The Cocktail Geeks. This cocktail bar serves drinks inspired by a regularly rotating theme. Every four months, you can expect a new menu relating to topics like Star Wars, The Last of Us, and Lord of the Rings.
The Cauldron Bar
The Cauldron Bar is one of the top places for Harry Potter fans to visit in Edinburgh, offering two different magical experiences. If you choose the Wizard Afternoon Tea, you’ll use your magic wand to brew tea and cast spells. You’ll also indulge in a delectable spread of macarons, scones, cakes, and finger sandwiches.
For those who prefer to try their hand in the Potions Making Class, you’ll brew three different cocktails using your wand-interactive station. Start with a welcome drink and then continue on to crafting two molecular cocktails. The entire experience lasts just under two hours.
Plus, note that there is also an option to brew mocktails! With this in mind, both the afternoon tea and potion-making activities are family-friendly.
Black Medicine Coffee Co.
If you’d like to see one of the Edinburgh Harry Potter locations that Rowling frequented, head to the corner of Drummond Street and Nicolson Street. You should notice Black Medicine Coffee Co. and then a Chinese restaurant above it.
If you look closely, you can also find a plaque that reads, “J.K. Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter in the rooms on the first floor of this building.” Americans often think that the first floor means inside Black Medicine Coffee Co. However, remember that in Europe, the first floor would actually be our (Americans’) second floor.
So, Rowling actually wrote parts of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the space that’s now a Chinese restaurant: DunDun Delicious. Initially, when J.K. Rowling was living in Edinburgh, she would often leave the house to work in cafés. Luckily, at that time, her brother-in-law was a part owner of Nicolson’s Café–the coffee shop that initially occupied the second floor.
Potterrow Port & Potterrow Street
Potterrow Port and Potterrow Street have sparked a playful theory regarding the origin of the name “Potter” for J.K. Rowling’s main character. After all, Potterrow Port, a pedestrian underpass, and Potterrow Street, near the University of Edinburgh, share the surname of the iconic wizarding protagonist.
However, while this theory holds a whimsical charm, it has been debunked by the author herself. Rowling clarified that she came up with the name “Potter” from childhood friends who shared the last name.
Nonetheless, this location may also remind you of a scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! After all, dementors chased Harry and Dudley through a similar-looking tunnel. Luckily, Harry could cast a Patronus charm, staving off the Dementor’s Kiss.
Join a Harry Potter walking tour
Consider taking a guided tour if you’d like to see as many Edinburgh Harry Potter locations as possible! There are two main options for Harry Potter tours: The Potter Trail or Potter Tour. The first company offers a top-rated free walking tour.
It lasts a little over an hour and begins at the statue of Greyfriars Bobby at noon every day. We recommend arriving at the start point about 10 minutes before then! Moreover, even though this tour is technically free, we always suggest bringing some cash to tip your guide.
For those who would prefer a deep dive, we suggest J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh & the writing of Harry Potter with Potter Tour. During this four-hour experience, you’ll see significant locations like The Balmoral Hotel, Potterrow Street, Greyfriars Kirkyard, and more.
The Enchanted Galaxy
The Enchanted Galaxy is a gift shop on Victoria Street that will captivate fantasy enthusiasts of all ages. Browse through a wide range of collectibles, wands, and an array of products tailored to each Hogwarts house, allowing you to embrace your magical identity.
In addition to Harry Potter-themed items, the shop also offers a delightful selection of Disney and Star Wars merchandise. Apart from the original location on Victoria Street, you can also find two other Enchanted Galaxy stores: one on Market Street and the other at Edinburgh Airport.
National Museum of Scotland
If you’re visiting Edinburgh for the first time, the National Museum of Scotland can’t be missed! However, did you know there is actually a Harry Potter location here? On level 1, in the Kingdom of the Scots section, you’ll find the Lewis Chess Pieces.
The 9 displayed pieces date back to the late 12th or early 13th century. Plus, if you look closely, you may notice that they actually inspired the pieces used in Wizard’s Chess. In fact, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone actually features a replica of the Lewis Chess Pieces!
Edinburgh Castle & Princes Street Gardens
While not official Harry Potter locations, it would be a shame to visit Edinburgh without visiting its iconic castle or gardens! Many readers theorize that J.K. Rowling could’ve drawn inspiration for Hogwarts from Edinburgh Castle.
The castle’s origins can be traced to at least the 12th century. Since then, it’s served as an ancient stronghold, royal residence, and military garrison. Notable features within the castle include the Honours of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the Great Hall, and St. Margaret’s Chapel, which is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.
Princes Street Gardens make up the most famous park in the city, complete with historical monuments and memorials. We suggest taking a stroll through both adjacent parks: East Princes Street Gardens and West Princes Street Gardens.
The Writers’ Museum
If you have extra time as your tour Edinburgh, don’t miss the Writers’ Museum. Step into this charming museum and discover the rich literary history surrounding Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Through a collection of manuscripts, personal belongings, and fascinating exhibits, visitors can delve into the worlds created by these literary masters. Although J.K. Rowling isn’t featured, we do think Lady Stair’s House, where the museum is located, looks like it could exist in the Wizarding World.
Nestled along the Water of Leith, Dean Village is a picturesque area that transports visitors to a bygone era. With its quaint stone cottages and charming cobblestone streets, it exudes a magical atmosphere reminiscent of locations from the Harry Potter series. While not an official Harry Potter site, it’s easy to imagine Dean Village as the real-life embodiment of Hogsmeade or Godric’s Hollow.
Armchair Books is a small, family-run business and a delightful haven for book lovers. This charming used bookstore is packed with books of various genres and eras. As you step inside, you’ll be enveloped in a cozy atmosphere reminiscent of Flourish and Blotts, the beloved bookshop in Diagon Alley.
The Witches’ Well
Nestled within the picturesque Royal Mile, the Witches’ Well holds a place of intriguing historical significance. Although it’s not directly connected to Harry Potter, it is tied to the real-life persecution of witches in Scotland.
This small but captivating fountain is a tribute to the victims who were burned at the stake between 1479 and 1722. Erected in 1894, it features a central column adorned with intricate carvings, including two witches entangled by a snake.