All About the Top Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh + Map

Updated June 26, 2017

It’s been 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published.

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute…

Living in Edinburgh and travelling around Scotland has given me the opportunity to see things that look like they are straight out of Harry Potter almost everywhere I look. And it’s no surprise, given that J K Rowling calls Edinburgh home, and wrote many of the Harry Potter books here. A visit to Edinburgh almost wouldn’t be complete without taking a tour of Harry Potter locations. The sites that inspired Harry Potter in Edinburgh are found all over the city centre, but mostly within walking distance.

If you’re a fan, then this list of top Harry Potter sites will have you out on the streets feeling like you’re tracing the footsteps of J K Rowling as she wrote the series in Edinburgh, or stepping into the books themselves.

Read More: 9 Lesser Known Hidden Gems in Edinburgh

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

A Guide to the Top Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh

The Elephant House

21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN 

This is likely the most popular Harry Potter location in Edinburgh. Consequently, it’s also the busiest! The Elephant House is a cosy cafe that doesn’t look like too much from the street but stretches back to give views over Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard (other Harry Potter sites I’ll mention soon).

It’s a well-known narrative that J K Rowling first wrote the Harry Potter series in cafes around Edinburgh because it was cheaper to buy a cup of coffee than pay for her heating bill. She was a newly single mother, scraping by on welfare, having moved back to the United Kingdom from Portugal after a failed marriage.

Although a sign in the window of The Elephant House states it is the birthplace of Harry Potter, J K Rowling actually imagined the idea of Harry Potter on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990, and had already begun writing the first book before moving to Edinburgh in 1993. The Philosophers Stone was finished in 1995, which is also the year the Elephant House opened. J K Rowling did write some of the series there, but it was more likely The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Elephant House is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can try your hand at visiting all day. Seats near the back window give the best views of Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard, and it’s not hard to imagine the inspiration for some of Harry Potter might have come from here. The cafe has kept its elephant theme and not turned too Harry Potter, but make sure you check out the bathrooms.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Nicholson’s Cafe (now Spoon)

6A Nicholson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DH

So where did J K Rowling write the first book in the Harry Potter series? Most likely at Nicholson’s Cafe in Edinburgh, now known as Spoon. At the time it was co-owned by her brother-in-law and would have been a space that she could feel comfortable spending time in.

Nicholson’s Cafe later became a Chinese buffet and then turned into Spoon, a cafe/restaurant. There is a plaque on the corner of Drummond Street which confirms that J K Rowling wrote Harry Potter on the first floor of the building.

If you take a look in many cafes around the world today you’ll see plenty of people typing away on laptops. However, J K Rowling actually wrote the first Harry Potter novel on paper in longhand and later typed it on a typewriter at home.

I actually finished and published this post on the 20th anniversary of the publishing date for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Spoon!

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ

Greyfriars Kirkyard is just down the road from The Elephant Cafe and so another popular Harry Potter site in Edinburgh. William McGonagall was a Scottish poet and weaver, who has a gravestone here and is believed to have inspired the last name of Professor McGonagall. Some think that the gravestone of Mrs. Elizabeth Moodie may have inspired the name for Harry Potter character Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody.

While J K Rowling has never confirmed the gravestones at Greyfriars are a direct inspiration for some of the Harry Potter characters, she did mention that gravestones are a useful source of information in general, and has confirmed she took walks through the graveyard as it was close to both the Elephant Cafe and Nicholson’s Cafe.

I’ve never seen the graveyard closed, although it must be at times, but that doesn’t mean finding the graves of those who might have inspired Harry Potter characters is easy. Walk behind the church towards Flodden Wall, and you’ll find most of the graves behind here. The grave of Thomas Riddell Esquire, of Befsborough in Berwick, and his son, Thomas Riddell Esquire, is on the wall, and usually, a well-worn path on the grass will give it away.

Many prominent Scottish people are buried here, and it’s a point of interest to visit in Edinburgh even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan. The church is still active, and it’s also famous for being the burial site of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier who is said to have held vigil by his owners grave for 14 years after his death.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Top Free & Not So Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

George Heriot’s School

Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9EQ

Behind Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of the most prestigious primary and secondary schools in Edinburgh. One look at this building, originally built in 1628, and it’s easy to see how it may have provided some inspiration for Harry Potter. The school has four obvious wings, and it actually has a house system similar to Hogwarts with the houses of Castle, Lauriston, Raeburn, and Greyfriars.

It’s easy to assume a connection given it’s proximity to other Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh, but there’s no concrete evidence to suggest this is a Harry Potter site. While it may seem inspiring to outside visitors, Edinburgh and the United Kingdom, in general, are full of grand historical buildings, especially universities and schools.

You can’t visit George Heriot as it is still an active school, but you can see it from the gate, from Greyfriars Kirkyard, Lauriston Place, Geroge IV Bridge, and Edinburgh Castle.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Victoria Street (or, Diagon Alley?)

EH1 2JW

Victoria Street is a narrow curved street with high rise buildings, curling down from George IV Bridge to the the Grassmarket, a popular spot for eating, drinking, and taking in views of Edinburgh Castle from the cobbled streets below it. The whole area is a wonderful place for people to explore when they visit Edinburgh and given it’s in the vicinity of other Harry Potter locations, it’s easy to get to.

Some people think Victoria Street may be the real-life inspiration for Diagon Alley, with its colourful shops, many with pointed roofs. In the 1990s a bank and stationary shop were on the street, in locations similar to Gringotts and Flourish and Blotts are on Diagon Alley. While there’s nothing to confirm that Victoria Street is directly linked to Harry Potter, it’s a well-known spot in Edinburgh and highly likely that J K Rowling spent time here while she was writing the series. It may not be a direct Harry Potter location in Edinburgh, but it almost certainly provided some inspiration.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

The Balmoral Hotel

1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

This 5-star hotel located next to Waverley Station in the centre of Edinburgh is a more luxurious Harry Potter location than the rest. In January 2007, J.K. Rowling was in room 552 where she finished writing Harry Potter. A big difference from where she started, writing in Edinburgh’s cafes because it was cheaper to buy coffee than pay for heating, with her baby daughter at her side.

When she finished the book, she wrote on a gold bust of Hermes “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”. The bust is still in the room, and you can stay there for around £1000 a night.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Potterrow

EH8 9AL

After finishing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J K Rowling returned to study at Edinburgh University. Potterrow is a street next to the Edinburgh University campus, filled with Edinburgh University buildings, university accommodation and places to eat. While some say Potterrow was the inspiration for the name of the main character of the series there is no evidence it did so.

J K Rowling has said that she used the name Harry because it was her favourite boys’ name, and Potter came from the last name of siblings she played with as a child. So while this isn’t exactly a Harry Potter location, it’s a fun place to visit in Edinburgh to see the signs that look to be Harry Potter related, and there are some great places to eat and drink in the area, and lots of things happening during Edinburgh Festivals in August.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

JK Rowling’s Handprints

253 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1YJ

In front of the Edinburgh City Chambers just off the Royal Mile are the golden handprints of recipients of the Edinburgh Award. In 2008 J K Rowling added hers to others including Chris Hoy and Ian Rankin.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

Edinburgh Castle

Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

This possible Harry Potter location or inspiration is the most recognisable landmark of Edinburgh. J K Rowling has never confirmed Edinburgh Castle, or anywhere else, as inspiration for Hogwarts, although in the series it does mention it is located in Scotland. From certain perspectives, it’s easy to see how Edinburgh Castle, perched on top of a rock, could fit the Hogwarts description.

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

The Dog House

18-24 Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9HX

This isn’t exactly a Harry Potter location, but it should now be on every Harry Potter fans (over 18) list when looking for Harry Potter places to visit in Edinburgh because they serve BUTTERBEER. It’s a combination of syrup and Fosters, which doesn’t sound terribly appealing but does have the taste of popcorn and beer. Butterbeer was a drink made up by J K Rowling and not based on anything in particular, but you can now find recipes all over the internet and several places selling it, although if you want butterbeer in Edinburgh then The Dog House is the place to go.

Read More: Essential Sights on a Quick Visit to Edinburgh

Should you take a Harry Potter Tour in Edinburgh?

If you want to take a tour you can join The Potter Trail, a free walking tour (but with tips strongly encouraged). To join the free Harry Potter walking tour you just need to meet them at the Greyfriars Bobby Statue before the tour time. There is also the two and a half hour Harry Potter Walking Tour of Edinburgh which is paid.

Taking a tour gives you the opportunity to hear all the information from a guide, which may remind you of things you’ve forgotten or you could learn things you didn’t know before. You’ll also get to meet other Harry Potter fans and enjoy the experience together. However, be aware that sometimes the line between fact and fiction can be a little blurred on tours, and some sites are touted as certain Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh when this may not be strictly true.

This guide to the top Harry Potter sites around Edinburgh should help you to find your way on your own, and here’s a map to help!

While much of Edinburgh might have inspired J K Rowling in writing Harry Potter, none of the films were actually shot here, although there are Harry Potter filming locations around the rest of Scotland, including the viaduct at Glenfinnan and Glen Coe.

Basically, if you want to visit some awesome locations and sites related to Harry Potter, then Edinburgh and Scotland are the places to go! Wondering what to wear for your Harry Potter adventure in Edinburgh? Check out this fun Harry Potter Packing List!

Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Top Free & Not So Free Things to Do in Edinburgh

Have you ever visited a location or taken a tour because you loved a book or movie?

Sonja x

If you liked it, pin it!

Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map Guide to the Top Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh + Map

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32 Comments

  • Reply Rhiannon June 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Visiting Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for SO long now, mostly for the Harry Potter connection! The fact that there are so many places around the city that “could” be connected, but there’s no evidence just makes it all the more exciting and mysterious.
    And in answer to your last question — umm, yes! 😀 Just a few months ago I went to Croatia simply to see as many Game of Thrones filming locations as possible, and later on in the year will be heading over to NZ for Hobbiton (as well as seeing my boyfriend, but mainly Hobbiton!).

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 26, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      The speculation does make it fun! There’s so much that you could say that is similar, but I do love that there are a few concrete places like the cafes that you can visit! I loved being able to visit Spoon, even if it’s different from what the cafe would have looked like then!

      I loved seeing the Game of Thrones locations in Croatia too, and I’m also headed to Hobbiton this year!

  • Reply Yvonne June 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Yes I visited Shere, Surrey especially to see the locations from three favourite movies, Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason, The Holiday and The Wedding Date. I visited the church and White Horse pub, it was exciting seeing them for real and knowing these were the actual sites that were filmed.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 26, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      It’s so much fun to visit film or book locations I think. Sometimes they look completely different, and sometimes it’s like you walked into the movie!

  • Reply Shelly June 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I love this and the map you created! I have seen many of these sights, but am so sad to have missed JK Rowling’s handprints! Also, I didn’t know that the series mentioned that Hogwarts was located in Scotland!?! I would really like to do one of the two tours you mentioned…I guess I will have to return to Edinburgh one day.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 26, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks! I don’t think the handprints are that well-known. I completely forgot about them for awhile, even though I walk past where they are all the time! And yes, it mentions it’s located in Scotland, and you can even ride a train that’s like the Hogwarts Express over the Glenfinnan Viaduct like in the movie!

  • Reply Marcie June 26, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    What!?! I think I was in High School when I heard about Harry Potter for the first time. Jeez, now I feel super old 🙁 My husband is a huge HP fan and I think this may convince him that we *need* to go to Edinburgh! The walking tour sounds fabulous!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Haha it made me feel old too! I think I was 10 when they first came out, because I remember being the same age as Harry! Hopefully you do make it here :D. You can do a couple of different tours, or just take yourself around with the map!

  • Reply Natasha June 26, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    This is really cool. I live not even an hour from Edinburgh down in the Borders and I had no idea about these places. A wonderful article on the birthday of Harry Potter. Fantastic read

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks so much! There’s a lot of different information out there but I wanted to see what was really accurate!

  • Reply James June 26, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    I’m not a Harry Potter fan but I have watched all the movies so I recognize some places, maybe I am a fan? J K Rowling wrote the first Potter book in Spoon the long way by writing then typing it, but it sure has paid off! It’s amazing that just by the act of her writing a book all those years ago in this cafe that the most popular theme park in Orlando would appear years later. Now there is a bust in room 552 of the Balmoral with a 1K GBP per night price tag, JK Rowling has become royalty!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Edinburgh does have that look about it! It is crazy to think about how Harry Potter has led to all these things. Imagine if someone had told her that then!

  • Reply LC June 27, 2017 at 5:10 am

    I love this, Sonja! I wasn’t much of a fan of the movies, so it’s refreshing to see a guide which puts an emphasis on what inspired the novels instead. I can’t believe those books have been around for twenty freaking years. And also if I had a spare 1000 quid I’d totally want to stay in that hotel room, haha.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks so much! I love finding real life locations from books, not just movies :). I still can’t believe it either!

  • Reply Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad June 27, 2017 at 9:51 am

    What a fantastic list!! I didn’t know about some of these. How cool would it be to stay in that hotel room? Although maybe not for £1000 a night, haha! I found a “Diagon Alley” sign by Grassmarket (think it was somewhere between Victoria Street and the kirkyard), not sure who put that there lol.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      I’ve been to afternoon tea at The Balmoral and it was lovely, so I imagine the rooms are worth it! Although I most definitely can’t afford it haha. I saw that too but I think it’s been removed at the moment!

  • Reply Emily June 27, 2017 at 11:35 am

    This is a really in depth guide for any Potterhead! Doesn’t it make you feel old knowing that Harry is 20 now? I had no idea how many Potter locations there were in Edinburgh. I don’t think I’d need to take a tour though, I’d just use this post instead.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks! I don’t think you need a tour unless you want to have someone tell you all the things as you go around. But I really wanted to let people know how much of it is fact and how much is fiction haha.

  • Reply Natalie June 27, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Harry Potter has been out for 20 years? I just turned 50 last week (spent it in Greece 🙂 and between those two…I feel old!!! LOL!! We are HUGE HarryPotter fans and a trip around the Harry Potter series would be SO much fun! Talk about easy to get the kids interested! LOL! I’m bookmarking this because as soon as we get the chance we’ll be over there exploring with Harry Potter in mind!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 28, 2017 at 11:01 am

      I turn 30 this year, and I remember being the same age as Harry when it came out! So weird. I think this would be a great thing to do with kids. There is a special kids tour which mentions the books, but you could also make a treasure hunt of this!

  • Reply Archana Singh June 27, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    I had been to Edinburgh five years back but i didn’t check Harry Potter sites since i went during Christmas time. It was too cold to go out anywhere 😛 I am planning to visit this fall. Your guide will come real handy. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 28, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Haha it does get pretty cold around that time! It’s great you’re coming back and you’ll have the opportunity to see them. I hope the guide will be useful for you!

  • Reply Carlinn June 28, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Ahhh so cool! I would love to go visit ( I would probably read all the books again before I did! ) Those buildings do look straight out of a fairytale! I definitely need to come to Scotland asap! 👌🏻

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 28, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Writing this post made me want to read all the books again! I think I’m going to make a start. Living in Edinburgh and Scotland does feel like being in the middle of Harry Potter sometimes! Or at least, the muggle part.

  • Reply Mia July 1, 2017 at 11:10 am

    OMG this is awesome! I’m trying to build an itinerary for whenever I visit Edinburgh, so I’ll definitely be pinning and bookmarking your post. Cheers!

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 3, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m really happy that it’ll be useful for you!

  • Reply Laura Harris July 2, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I’ve been to Edinburgh once before on a short family trip but the only place I saw from this listt was Edinburgh Castle. Think I need to go back (and maybe combine it with the Jacobite steam train!)

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 3, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      Coming back is an excellent idea haha. Edinburgh is great! And I need to make it to the Jacobite steam train myself, it looks amazing too!

  • Reply Penny July 2, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Wow! I love the way you found the sources of J. K. Rowlings inspiration. It must ave taken so much of research to get this post together. Loved every bit of it!

    • Reply Migrating Miss July 3, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks! It was a bit of research but I really enjoyed it :). I like knowing and investigating things haha.

  • Reply Gemma Armit September 7, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    I need to go in search of those hand prints! I felt really nostalgic reading this, thank you.

    • Reply Migrating Miss September 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      I didn’t know they existed for so long! It’s pretty cool 🙂

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