One of the first places you think of when you’re imagining about Harry Potter is Scotland, or more specifically Edinburgh. Although none of the movies were filmed here, this city – which is also the capital of Scotland, is home to many of the inspirations for the books.
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Even before Harry Potter was a thing, Edinburgh has always been a city filled with magic and spooky history. There is loads of different graveyards and pubs that are apparently haunted, as well as stories of witches and many ghost tours too.
If you’re pressed for time or are going to Edinburgh for a day trip, a great way to see all these sights and get loads of extra knowledge is by going on a magical walking tour like this one!
Harry Potter sites you have to see in Edinburgh
When visiting Edinburgh, many different locations that are tied to the wizarding world are dotted all around the city, so it’s a good idea to plan out when to see the different locations, especially if you don’t have a lot of time.
Below I’ve added all the different locations, as well as a map to help you plan out each stop along the way.
One of the most well known sites that inspired Harry Potter is this graveyard. One of the main graveyards in the city is Greyfriars, which is home to a few different graves with names you’ll recognise – such as Riddell, McGonagall and Moodie.
Greyfriars Kirkyard, which some people also refer to as JK Rowling’s Graveyard (doubt she’d like that though), can be seen from not only Edinburgh Castle, but also The Elephant House cafe where she is known to have written some of the first book.
Where: Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row
West Bow and Victoria Street
If you want to feel like you’re stepping into Diagon Alley, make sure you head to West Bow and Victoria Street – which is actually the same road with two different names (West Bow is the bottom curve of the road, while Victoria Street is the straight slope part).
You’ll automatically recognise it for its brightly coloured buildings, and Victoria Street is often believed to be one of the inspirations for Dragon Alley, so make sure you stop by and check out all of the Harry Potter themed shops throughout the street.
Where: Victoria Street, Old Town
New College – The University of Edinburgh
Although it doesn’t have a direct link to Rowling or Harry Potter, while you’re in the Old Town side of the city, make sure you head over to the New College.
New College is actually the University’s School of Divinity, and it has a big resemblance to parts the Hogwarts Castle too. New College is actually just around the corner from Edinburgh Castle and the top of the Royal Mile, so it’s the perfect place to stop by for a quick look!
Where: New College, Mound Place
If you’re interested in visiting more Harry Potter locations, make sure you check out my guide on visiting Hogsmeade Station in Goathland!
JK Rowling’s Handprints
Just a few steps off of the Royal Mile is the City Chambers, which in its courtyard is a flagstone on the ground containing the Edinburgh Award’s quadrangle, which hold the handprints of Rowling.
The Edinburgh Award was introduced in 2007 to recognise contributions to the city – JK Rowling received the award in 2008 and her handprint has been there ever since!
Where: City Chambers, 253 High Street
The Balmoral is the hotel in which JK Rowling stayed at while she completed writing the 7th and final book in the Harry Potter series – The Deathly Hallows.
For around £2,000 per night, you can stay in the JK Rowling Suite, which is still home to the same desk and chair which Rowling wrote the book, as well as the marble bust which she signed when she finished the book on January 11th, 2007. There is also a picture of the signature to show how it originally looked when it was first signed, as obviously due to age and wear the signature has begun to fade.
Where: The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street
This underpass is thought to be the inspiration for place for the Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley in the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix. It’s also thought that Potterrow could’ve been part of the inspiration for the name, although Harry Potter was apparently dreamt of on a train journey between London and Manchester.
Although not the most exciting place to visit – we’ve all walked through an underpass at some point in our lives, it’s only a short walk away from Greyfriars and the Castle.
Where: Potterrow Port, Old Town
If you’re headed to London as well, make sure you check out my other guide on Harry Potter locations in London!
The Elephant House
Updated for February 2023: The cafe was damaged in a fire in August 2021 and is still closed. I will update if the cafe reopens.
This cafe is one of the places most well known for as it’s where JK Rowling frequently wrote parts of the first book in the backrooms prior to being published in 1997, as well as having many pictures of her writing in the cafe during the late 90s.
In the cafe, the toilets have started to become a little homage to Rowling, with countless scribbles and signatures all over the walls. The cafe also has a great view across to the castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, and George Heriot’s School, which were all said to inspirations to the books.
I’ve only managed to go to this cafe once, which was back in 2008(!) a little over 10 years since the first book’s release. Little baby Alex was still a massive Harry Potter nerd even at 6 years old!
Where: The Elephant House, 21 George IV Bridge
Although another location not technically tied to the wizarding world, Edinburgh’s Dean Village is one place a lot of Potterheads like to explore. It’s a lovely little village on the west side of the city – about a 30 minute walk from the castle, that many people say resembles Hogsmeade due to its Harry Potter-esque vibes.
I would definitely recommend taking the time out to explore here – though it can get a little busy in the summer so bare that in mind. It can be a little slippy on the cobblestones in the rain, so make sure you have some good shoes when going for a wander.
Where: Dean Village, Dean Path
George Heriot’s School
Just around the corner from Greyfriars Kirkyard and viewable from The Elephant House is George Heriot’s School. It’s more of an urban legend, but many people think that this school was one of the inspirations for Hogwarts itself.
Although JK has said that she didn’t take inspiration from the school, this private school does also have four houses – Lauriston (Green), Greyfriars (white/yellow), Raeburn (red), and Castle (blue), which is similar to how Hogwarts is.
Where: Lauriston Place
If you fancy heading to see the castle while you’re in Edinburgh, make sure you had down to the Vennel to get a good view of the castle from the outside.
Although it doesn’t hold anything to Harry Potter itself, the castle is probably held some inspiration to Hogwarts, plus if you go in the late afternoon/closer to sunset (or even sunrise!) it does look very magical!
Where: The Vennel Viewpoint, 1 Vennel
That’s all of the spots on my list of Harry Potter sites. Did I miss any? Let me know which ones your favourites are!
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