Comprising The Grassmarket, West Port, Victoria Street, Cowgate, Candlemaker Row and Merchant Street, and joining onto the Royal Mile & Old Town and the Southside, the Grassmarket can easily, and is best enjoyed, on foot.
Lined with buzzing bars, restaurants with world-wide flavours, delicious coffee shops and electric shops, the area’s winding streets are a delight to explore at your leisure. But the Grassmarket is also home to some attractions and activities that should not be missed…..
If you love all things Harry Potter, the Grassmarket is sure to tingle your magical senses – not only is the cobbled Victoria Street thought by many to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, but the street also has two shops packed with everything young witches and wizards need for a term at Hogwarts.
The Grassmarket also its own wizard connections. In what is now the location of a Quaker Meeting House, in the 17th century it was the site of the home of Major Weir, ‘the Wizard of the West Bow’. Together with his sister, he was executed for witchcraft in 1670 and although the house was demolished in 1829, images of Weir’s ghostly figure have been reported walking through the building’s walls!
Get a real sense of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World in Edinburgh in our guide to The Ultimate Harry Potter Guide to Edinburgh >
Visit a 17th century church
The first church to be built in post-Reformation Scotland, Greyfriars Kirk was founded in 1620 and as well as being home to a welcoming and active congregation, is one of Edinburgh’s most visited churches.
One reason for this is its reputation as one of the world’s most famous graveyards. Any fan of the Harry Potter series will know the name Tom Riddell, aka Lord Voldemort, but it was the grave of Thomas Riddell, who was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in 1806, as well as William McGonagall and Elizabeth Moodie who are thought to have inspired author JK Rowling in devising names for the story’s leading characters. Today, a well worn path leads visitors to these graves.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is also where you’ll find a memorial to Greyfriars Bobby – probably Edinburgh’s most well known dog. After his master’s death, this faithful pup spent 14 years guarding his grave and captured the hearts of Edinburgh’s residents, who brought him food. As you leave the Kirkyard, don’t miss the chance to stop by his bronze statue on the corner of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row. Erected a year after he died, in 1872, it is now a major city tourist attraction and is not uncommon to see people waiting patiently to get a photo alongside Bobby.
Enjoy cake with a cat
Scotland’s first cat café can be found on West Port. Home to an adorable selection of cats, including Norwegian Forest Cat, Fabian and Ragdolls, Alain & Amelie, Maison de Moggy offers guests the chance to relax with these friendly felines, all whilst enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake – what could be sweeter!
Take a guided tour
You can learn a lot about the history of the Grassmarket and the rest of Edinburgh's Old Town on one of the many walking tours or ghost tours available in the area.
Mercat Tours have a range of history walks guaranteed to broaden your knowledge on Edinburgh’s past, while Invisible Edinburgh’s “Uncover Stories of Crime and Punishment” focuses on the somewhat grizzly history of the Grassmarket.
If you want professional entertainers, fascinating history and terrifying tales, then a tour by City of the Dead is for you. Their “Haunted Graveyard Tour” includes access to Edinburgh’s Covenanter’s Prison and the Black Mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard – home of the infamous Mackenzie Poltergeist.
Find sanctuary in the city
Cared for today by a team of volunteer gardeners, West Post Gardens opened in 1910 to provide a place for the children of the neighbouring slums to have somewhere to play and experience nature.
This rich green place is usually open to the public on Sunday afternoons from 2pm - 4pm, weather permitting.
Visit a local market
Home to arts & crafts, bread, cakes, meat, fish, fruit & veg, cheese, charcuterie, sweet treats and preserves, as well as a tempting selection of street food, the Grassmarket Market takes place every Saturday from 10am to 5pm and is a popular place for locals to stock-up and catch-up with friends.
Just round the corner on Castle Terrace, every Saturday from 9am to 2pm the stalls at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market are packed with organic meat, fresh fruit & veg, freshly baked breads & pies, as well as handmade soaps & candles.