Official Guide to Edinburgh
  • 11°C

Must-sees in Edinburgh for Harry Potter Fans

18 November 2016

The Harry Potter book series is surely well-known by almost everyone on the planet, but did you know that JK Rowling penned the world's favourite wizarding stories right here in Edinburgh? As you walk around the city, you can see the streets and sights that inspired the global sensation. Visit the locations in our guide and get a real sense of Hogwarts and the wizarding world, right here in Scotland's capital...

The Elephant House and Spoon Café

The Elephant House

[Image by Alf Melin]

Start your journey where it all began. Before she made her millions with the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling would seek refuge from the cold and write her early manuscripts in Edinburgh's warm and welcoming cafés. The most notable is The Elephant House on George IV Bridge, where you'll find lots of tourists taking selfies in front of the sign marking the "birthplace" of Harry Potter. 

If you want to avoid the crowds, walk around five minutes away to Spoon Café on Nicolson Street. The premises was previously occupied by Nicolsons Café, where Rowling is rumoured to have spent most of her time writing. The location is marked with an understated plaque on the corner of Drummond Street, so keep your eyes peeled!

JK Rowling's annotated first edition

Harry Potter

[Image courtesy of City of Edinburgh Council]

From Thursday 8 December until Sunday 8 January, Edinburgh Writers' Museum is displaying a rare first-edition copy of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, annotated with illustrations and anecdotes by Rowling herself. There's no entry fee, and the one-of-a-kind book will be opened at different pages on set days throughout the exhibition.

The Edinburgh Writers' Museum is located at Lady Stair's Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA and you can find opening hours, as well as information about which days different pages will be on display on the museum's website >

Greyfriar's Kirkyard

HP ED 9 (1)

In between her writing sessions in the Edinburgh cafés, JK Rowling would stroll around the streets of Edinburgh, which served as much of her inspiration for the Harry Potter universe. Perhaps somewhat morbidly, she would walk around the nearby Greyfriar's Kirkyard and look at the gravestones, with some of the names making their way into her books. Keep an eye out for McGonagalls, Potters, Scrymgeours and more.

However, undoubtedly the most famous resident in Greyfriars Kirkyard is Thomas Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort or "He who must not be named". Many fans make the pilgrimage here to pay tribute to the man who gave his name to the most evil of the wizarding world.

Victoria Street

5141

Head across the Grassmarket and you'll find the curve of Victoria Street and The West Bow, where restaurants are stacked on top of shops tightly packed together in brightly painted buildings and selling oddities and trinkets.

It's no wonder then, that this colourful street is rumoured to have served as the inspiration of London's magical shopping thoroughfare Diagon Alley. Head along to the Grassmarket, soak up the atmosphere and pick up something unique as a souvenir from this curious street. 

Explore the Grassmarket >

JK Rowling's Handprints

4676543244 8Fec2b7a5d B E1429007656804

Just off the Royal Mile, you can find the famous author's handprints reproduced on a flagstone in the quadrangle in front of Edinburgh City Chambers. The prints were produced when JK Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2008. 

You'll also find the handprints of other recipients of the Award, including Sir Chris Hoy, Ian Rankin OBE and local hero Tom Gilzean. 

George Heriot's School

Herriots

Even though the location of Hogwarts has never been officially determined, rumour has it that JK Rowling based the magical school on George Heriot's School in Edinburgh's city centre. With four houses, four towers and breathtaking gothic architecture, you can understand why the author found it so inspiring.

It's rarely open to the public, but you can get a good view of it from George IV Bridge, Lauriston Place and Greyfriar's Kirkyard.

The Balmoral Hotel

Balmoral

The Balmoral is the pinnacle of luxury in Edinburgh and highlights JK Rowling’s rags to riches story. While she started her writing in the humble surroundings of the Edinburgh's cafés, she completed the last scenes of her final book in one of the hotel's grandest suites.

The suite, renamed the JK Rowling Suite in her honour, contains her writing desk and has a marble bust of Hermes, the Greek god of travel, signed by the author. Book ahead and stay the night here for the ultimate Harry Potter experience! 

Edinburgh literature guide >