Yearning to discover a hidden world in Edinburgh, Scotland? You’re not the only one… J.K. Rowling once strolled through the cobbled streets of the city uncovering its magical side. She fell into another world filled with warlocks and witches… and you can too! Keep reading to find out the must-see Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh.
Many years ago, a young, aspiring writer once walked through the cobbled streets, tiny corridors, and gothic buildings of Edinburgh, Scotland.
As she strolled through the city’s haunted graveyards and listened to its renowned ghost stories, another world came to life right in front of her eyes.
A world filled with magic, where young warlocks and witches tried and tested spells in a wondrous school meant only for those bestowed with a magical touch.
A world which inspired her to dream bigger and ultimately write one of the most famous and renowned book series on the entire planet.
Within the walls of Edinburgh, the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter was born.
Nowadays, one can explore the city uncovering the sites and places which inspired J.K. Rowling. So, are you ready to discover the magical world of Harry Potter in Edinburgh? Let’s go!
Pssst… wanna continue the magic after this post? Check out my pal Sierra’s post on the ultimate Europe Christkindlmarket bucket list (hint: Edinburgh’s on there)!
Table of Contents
- 1 Must-see Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, Scotland:
- 1.1 1. Diagon Alley
- 1.2 2. George Heriot’s School
- 1.3 3. Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
- 1.4 4. Spoon Cafe (Nicolson’s Café)
- 1.5 5. McGonagall’s Grave
- 1.6 6. Elephant Cafe
- 1.7 7. Tom Marvolo Riddle’s Grave, aka Lord Voldemort
- 1.8 8. Half Hangit Maggie
- 1.9 9. Potterrow Street
- 1.10 10. Balmoral Hotel
Must-see Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, Scotland:
1. Diagon Alley
I think it’s only right to start with one of the most magical places in the world of Harry Potter: the kooky and strange street of Diagon Alley. Also known as Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh; a colorful, historical, and gorgeous split-level cobbled road right in the center of the city.
One glance at this spectacular road and you’ll have no doubts as to how it inspired the fictional Diagon Alley. There’s even a joke shop situated along the street! Although, sadly, you won’t find George and Fred Weasley running it and wreaking havoc.
2. George Heriot’s School
Also known as the school which inspired J.K. to create the magical school of Hogwarts. Heriot’s school was initially built as a school for orphans, which were sorted into four different houses.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s as if the orphan Harry Potter himself attended this school and was put into one of the four competing houses!
P.S. The school is also beautiful in the evening! You can view it from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard… which just happens to be next up on the list!
Psst… hey you! Yeah, you. Are you thinking of traveling without proper insurance? Think again, pal! You never know what could happen when on the road. That’s why I always recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance!
3. Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
You know in the 4th book (and movie) where Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory transport with the Goblet of Fire Champion Cup to the haunted graveyard where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named comes back to life? One walk through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and you’ll find yourself there too.
Imagine a creepy-cool graveyard filled with snake-adorned gravestones, dark and dreary mausoleums, and an eery feeling, as if you’re constantly being watched.
That’s what it’s like in Greyfriar’s — and it’s amazing. No doubt, Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is one of the best Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh!
4. Spoon Cafe (Nicolson’s Café)
While many believe the Elephant Cafe was the birthplace of the Harry Potter series (including the cafe, which boasts it on their window), this is just not the case. In fact, the birthplace of the magical series was actually the Spoon Cafe.
Formerly called Nicolson’s Café and owned by J.K. Rowling’s brother-in-law, she used to frequently spend her time here writing.
If you haven’t heard, J.K. was quite poor when she first started the series and couldn’t afford to heat her house in the winter.
Thus, she would (supposedly) spend her days sipping on free coffee and soaking up the heat in her brother-in-law’s coffee shop.
5. McGonagall’s Grave
Yes, you can visit Professor McGonagall’s Grave in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard! Okay, fine, maybe just the grave that inspired her character. It’s pretty cool though, and the story behind the grave is even cooler.
From what I learned on the wonderful (FREE) Potter Trail tour, William McGonagall was a poet, although not a very good one. He’s actually famous for being one of the worst poets in British history!
You’ll find McGonagall’s grave near the gates of George Heriot’s School… which is suspiciously close. It’s as if J.K. was writing Harry Potter whilst viewing these two inspirations at the same time!
6. Elephant Cafe
Okay, so I know I mentioned above that this cafe wasn’t *really* the birthplace of HP, but it while is wasn’t where the series was started, J.K. did do a good portion of her writing here. The cafe even has pictures of J.K. Rowling sitting in the cafe, sipping on a coffee, and furiously writing to prove it!
One look at the outside and inside of the Elephant Cafe and there’ll be no doubt in your mind as to why J.K. chose to write here.
It’s cute, comfortable, and the perfect place to transport yourself to the magical world of Harry Potter!
7. Tom Marvolo Riddle’s Grave, aka Lord Voldemort
Just like McGonagall’s grave, you can also visit Tom Marvolo Riddle’s Grave, aka Lord Voldemort! Stealthily hidden in a back part of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, you’ll find the gravestone situated along Flodden’s Wall.
You’ll find planks stacked below and dirt all around. It’s almost as if the grass even refuses to be around him…
8. Half Hangit Maggie
Take a stroll through Edinburgh’s Grassmarket to find the spot where the famous Maggie Dickson was hanged — and came back to life!
The story is Maggie had an affair with the Innkeeper’s son and became pregnant. Though, she had the baby prematurely and it died… Attempting to dispose of the body, Maggie left the baby alongside the river bank, but it was discovered and traced back to Maggie!
She was charged under the contravention of the Concealment of Pregnancy Act (the whaaaah?) and taken back to Edinburgh for trial and, ultimately, execution — the latter taking place at the Grassmarket.
After the hanging and Maggie was declared dead, her body’s journey to the graveyard was disrupted by banging and yelling — coming from the coffin…
The coffin’s lid was lifted to the sight of Maggie, most definitely alive. The law saw it as God’s will and she was freed to live for a further forty years!
Although, why is Maggie’s hanging destination a must-see Harry Potter site in Edinburgh? Because it’s rumored that Maggie Dickson’s story inspired the amazing character of Headless Nick!
9. Potterrow Street
Situated in central Edinburgh, some say this street which inspired J.K. Rowling to name her magical hero Harry Potter!
While there’s not much to see here, as it’s mostly the University of Edinburgh’s student buildings and a few eateries, you will find an underpass which looks curiously similar to the one where Harry and Dudley get attacked by Dementors.
There’s also a cute little sign you can take a picture by which says “Potterow Port.”
Note: While it’s been proven that Potterow had no influence over Harry’s last name, it’s still a cool place to find visit and get a picture!
I mean, you can always fudge things and tell others you visited the birthplace-of-Harry-Potter’s-last-name. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your secret.
10. Balmoral Hotel
One of the most expensive hotels in Edinburgh, the Balmoral is a 5-star, 19th century hotel where J.K. Rowling finished the last chapters in her final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It’s in room 552 where J.K. broke down in tears when she completed the series and famously scribbled on the marble bust of the god Hermes, “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.”
There are my must-see Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh! If you’re looking to have a magical time in the city, no doubt you’ll fall under the spell of Edinburgh when exploring these Harry Potter attractions.
Although, if you want to remove the hassle of finding these sites all on your own, go on the famous Potter Trail tour! It’s both free and ahhh-mazing. You’ll love it!
Have you explored Edinburgh in search of Harry Potter? What was your favorite site to see?
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