As the birthplace of the Harry Potter books, Edinburgh is full to the brim with sites which inspired JK Rowling when creating her wizarding world! Just wandering around Edinburgh will highlight some of the buildings and areas which inspired the Harry Potter we’ve all come to obsess over. So, it would only be fair to pay homage while visiting Edinburgh by taking a magical DIY Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh’s infamous Harry Potter spots!
DIY Magical Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh
Repeat after me: “I solemnly swear we are up to no good”. Right, now we’ve got that out of the way: witches, wizards, muggles and squibs, grab your cloaks and wands – its time to explore some hidden Harry Potter spots of Edinburgh!
George Heriot School (of Witch Craft and Wizardry)
Start off your tour of Edinbrugh’s Harry Potter sites by coming face-to-face with the very building which inspired Hogwarts school. George Heriot private school, were JK Rowling’s children actually studied, is the ancient building which inspired her description of Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry. As its still a working school you can’t explore the grounds but you get a good view from the street of the towers and ornate design which is mirrored in Hogwarts!
Where: Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9EQ, UK
Find Voldemort’s Tombstone in the graveyard of GreyFriars Kirk
Just a short walk from George Heriots school you’ll find the Greyfriars Kirk. If you venture into the graveyard there, you’ll spot some familiar names. The tombstones provided JK Rowling with inspiration when naming characters in the Harry Potter stories, specifically “he-who-must-not-be-named”. Keep your eyes peeled for the headstones of Tom Riddle, aka Voldemort, and the poet William McGonagall who no doubt inspired the name for Professor McGonagall. The gravestones that inspired the names of both these Harry Potter characters can be found inside the Flodden Wall portion of the graveyard, at the back of the kirk.
Greyfriars Kirk is one of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh dating back to the 1600s so naturally it comes a rich history of its own. Most notably is the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful dog who wouldn’t leave his masters grave after he died and stayed with him until he too passed many years later. A statue of the loyal Greyfriars Bobby can be seen across from the entrance to the grave yard. His little nose has worn away due to myths of rubbing it for good luck – try not to damage Bobby anymore and stick to just photos!
Where: 1 Greyfriars, Edinburgh
Warm up in The Elephant House cafe
As one of the birth places of Harry Potter, you can’t skip The Elephant House cafe on your wizarding tour of Edinburgh. JK Rowling wrote some of the early Harry Potter books in this cafe making it is the ultimate place to do some re-reading of your favourite book. Not only has JK Rowling frequented this little Edinburgh cafe, but so have other celebrated Scottish writers like Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith.
Order a Fleurs Fantasy (hot chocolate with a shot of Baileys) and be sure take a leak(y cauldron) in the bathrooms before you leave. They’re covered in Harry Potter graffiti which is fun to read through!
Where: 21 George IV bridge, Edinburgh Old Town
Wander down the real-life Diagon Alley
Aside from being one of the most beautiful streets in Edinburgh’s old town, Victoria Street also provided JK Rowling with inspiration for Diagon Alley, where witches and wizards go to stock up on supplies for the school year (but you already knew that, right?). With it’s colourful and eclectic array of shops, it’s not hard to see similarities between Victoria Street and Diagon Alley.
Where: Victoria Street, Edinburgh
Pick up school supplies at Edinburgh’s wizarding shops
While exploring Victoria street you’ll have to pick up your own school supplies in Diagon House – a two story boutique specialising in all things Harry Potter. They stock everything from chocolate frogs and potions, to wands, house memorabilia and Hogwarts textbooks! They even have a cupboard under the stairs!
Yeap – tall enough to be a 3rd year wizard!
Where: 40 Victoria Street
See the Bank which inspired Gringotts Wizarding Bank
The former Royal Bank of Scotland on The Mound, now the Museum on the Mound, is thought to be one of JK Rowling’s inspirations for the Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Harry Potter. The museum, which showcases displays about the evolution of money in Scotland, is housed behind the impressive facade of the Royal Bank of Scotland on the Mound. Unfortunately you can’t exchange your muggle money for wizarding money, but we still think its worth a look on your Harry Potter tour.
Where: The Mound, Edinburgh
Edinburgh city chambers
We all love Harry Potter and his peers, so of course we love JK Rowling who brought the whole Harry Potter world into being. Living and using Edinburgh so much for inspiration has meant that JK Rowling has played a major role as a resident of the city. In 2008 JK Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh award for being an outstanding Edinburgh resident. Outside the city chambers on the royal mile you’ll find bronze plaques of her hands.
Where: 253 High Street, Edinburgh
Stay in the JK Rowling Suite at the Balmoral Hotel
If you’re an extreme Potterhead and have the Galleons to splash you can consider making your accommodation extra magical too. The 5* Balmoral Hotel is home to a special JK Rowling suite where the writer is said to have written the final chapters of The Deathly Hallows. At $1000 a night its not very budget friendly, but its certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Where: 2 Princess Street, Edinburgh
Stay in the Harry Potter Themed Apartment, Edinburgh
Image belongs to original owner
If you don’t have the dollars for The Balmoral, but you’re still looking for Harry Potter themed accommodation then this apartment in Edinburgh has got you sorted! Every inch of it is Harry Potter themed – even the kitchen cupboards! It is a much more budget-friendly option for staying in Harry Potter accommodation in Edinburgh. It looks to be booked up for the foreseeable future but keep your eyes peeled for any cancelations!
Where: 265 Canongate
Grab a pint in the JK Rowling pub
This current art installation is part of a visual art project highlighting places that have inspired Scottish writers in Edinburgh. What was previously the Conan Doyle Pub, named after the notorious writer of Sherlock Holmes who lived nearby, has recently undergone a transformation seeing the name change to “The JK Rowling”. The renaming of the pub to “The JK Rowling” is only temporary though, so be quick to see it! (The JK Rowling Pub is set to return to its original name on the 25th January 2018).
Where: 71-73 York Place, Edinburgh
Where to find all these Harry Potter spots in Edinburgh
As promised here is your
marauders google map, ready to open on your phone to guide you around Edinburgh’s magical sites! We started the tour at the most Southernly Harry Potter site and worked our way North, ending at the temporary JK Rowling Pub, the same as the chronological order this tour takes you!
To easily get to our starting point you can catch a 23, 27, 45 or 47 Lothian bus which will cost £1.60 for an adult and drop you opposite George Heriots school (aka the real-life Hogwarts). Or number 2, 41, 42 or 69 buses will drop you round the corner.
This route is 100% walkable, as is all of Edinburgh, and we highly encourage that you do walk the tour so you are able to soak up the atmosphere of the old town of Edinburgh which inspired the Harry Potter books. We recommend allocating a couple of hours to walk this Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh, plus an additional couple of hours if you plan to enter the various Harry Potter sites.