Every Potterhead, at some point, has fantasized about walking the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley with a Hogwarts letter in hand. Whilst Diagon Alley sadly doesn’t exist except on the London Warners Bros Tour and at Universal Studios, Edinburgh is still the birth place of Harry Potter and the Wizarding World, ensuring that there are plenty of Harry Potter things to do in Edinburgh.
From Diagon Alley lookalike Victoria Street, thrilling Harry Potter-themed escape games, and Hogwarts filming location tours to J.K. Rowling’s handprint, and the spooky Tom Riddle Graveyard, you’ll be both spoiled for choice and all too excited to get started at the same time!
Buy original-looking wands, stuffed Hedwigs, and Hogwarts jumpers, or get your robes on, whip your wands out, and indulge in learning the art of potion making with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. It’s your chance to fill your mundane muggle life with some magic! Keep reading to find out all the Harry Potter Edinburgh things to do on your next visit to the UK.
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Department Of Magic
Want to experience the thrill of getting out of a sticky situation in the Wizarding World without any of the risks? The escape rooms at the Department of Magic have got you covered! Find hidden prophecies and defeat the Dark Lord, Dumbledore Army style, or join the dark side instead and become a Death Eater yourself! In this escape room, you start at the Mausoleum of the Dead with one task: to resurrect the Dark Lord. To bring him back, you need to find the right spell, look for some magic artifacts, and brew a spell-binding potion!
Located in Old Town, the Department of Magic provides an excellent opportunity to whip out your wands and have some magical adventures of your own!
Magic Potions Tavern
When you’re already at the Department of Magic, you might as well enjoy the Magic Potions Cocktail Masterclass at their Magic Potions Tavern and brew your own potions! With seasoned guides to show you the ropes, you won’t even notice that Snape isn’t there. The best part? The tavern has both alcoholic and non-alcoholic brews, so there’s something for everyone. Parents, be sure to try the rum-butter-beer – it does not disappoint!
Make some delicious Vials of Venom or Blood and Brains by donning your wizard robe and whisking your magic wand. If that sounds too dark for you, there are options such as Magic Beans and Groundkeeper’s Cottage. And if none of these cut it for you, there’s always the trusty old love potion you can count on!
Between the spooky graveyard where Lord Voldemort comes back and the Christmassy one in the last installment, it’s pretty clear that graveyards are quite the prevalent element in our favorite series. It might lead you to wonder how else graveyards influenced J.K. Rowling when writing Harry Potter. One word: names!
The Greyfriars Kirkyard is the famous Harry Potter Graveyard where J.K. Rowling is said to have found the inspiration for many of the characters’ names. Mad Eye Moody, Professor McGonagall, Scrimgeour, and even Potter himself can all be found at Greyfriars. The grave of “Thomas Riddell” is a fan favorite for being remarkably close to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Tom Marvolo Riddle. If you are lucky, you might even find a certain beloved “Black”!
This graveyard is open 24 hours a day, so head there for some Harry Potter spookiness and go on a hunt for the Potter family, just as Hermione and Harry did at Godric’s Hollow.
George Heriot’s School
Do you know what else Greyfriars Kirkyard is excellent for? Getting a view of the enchanting George Heriot’s School, which is also widely believed to be another inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! This fantastic Romanesque building stands at an ideal tourist location amidst shops and restaurants at the Grassmarket. Although you can’t enter the school and walk through the beautiful grounds, you can always have a look at it from the outside and take some instagram-worthy pics!
With over 1600 children who are divided into four houses, this school exhibits a lot of similarities with our beloved Hogwarts, that’s for sure. House Lauriston is said to have inspired green Slytherin, Greyfriars has white stripes like Hufflepuff, Castle is Ravenclaw blue, and Raeburn, which dons our favorite, Gryffindor red!
History buffs will be delighted to hear that, as the first large building to be constructed outside the City Wall, George Heriot’s School has been described as a “prodigy of the Scots Renaissance.”
With buildings that date back to the 12th century, this castle is one of Edinburgh’s most popular tourist spots and a must-visit for Harry Potter fans! Once you see it for yourself, you will understand why many believe this beautiful Edinburgh castle to have inspired the magnificent architecture of Hogwarts. Maybe it was combination of here and George Heriot’s School?
Located at one end of the Royal Mile, the view from the castle offers multiple viewpoints to marvel at the city.
The castle is home to many historical relics, such as the Stone of Destiny, Mons Meg (the famous gun from the 15th century), the Crown Jewels of Scotland, and more! A part of the castle even houses the National War Museum of Scotland.
Unsurprisingly, this Scottish National Heritage Attraction has recently been voted the top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards.
J.K. Rowling’s Handprints, The City Chambers
Head to the Edinburgh City Chambers’ flagstone courtyard to find golden handprints of several of the Edinburgh Award winners immortalized in bronze. You’ll find winners such as Ian Rankin, Sir Chris Hoy, Nobel Prize winner Professor Peter Higgs, and, of course, J. K. Rowling, who won the award in 2008 after completing the Harry Potter books.
This little-known secret on the Royal Mile is one of the many Harry Potter Edinburgh things bound to make Potterheads feel closer to the author. It is also one of the least crowded Harry Potter Edinburgh tourist attractions as it is very underrated. Even most Harry Potter fans living in Edinburgh seem not to be aware of this magical handprint of our favorite author!
Harry Potter Tours to Filming Locations
What better way to begin your Harry Potter journey than by taking the Hogwarts Express to visit numerous picturesque Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland? This day trip takes you on the Jacobite Steam Train, famously known as the Hogwarts Express. It is a must-do for parents of little Potterheads, as it offers you both the exact feeling Potter felt on his first ride to Hogwarts!
What makes this trip more interesting is the fact that the train takes you through shooting locations from all eight Harry Potter movies. For instance, the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct is where the setting of Harry and Ron’s mishap in the flying car takes place.
While on the train, don’t forget to catch a glimpse of Loch Shiel, the freshwater lake, which is a big part of the Potter movies. It is the background in scenes such as the Hogwarts Express journey and Harry’s ride on Buckbeak’s back. The second task during the Triwizard Tournament takes place in the Loch too! Get your tickets here.
Alnwick Castle Day Tour
What comes after the Hogwarts Express? Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, of course! This famous structure is not just the filming location of Harry Potter, but also Transformers, and even a few Downtown Abbey scenes were shot here!
Take the Alnwick Castle Tour, a 9.5-hour tour filled with castles, beaches, and the rustic moors of Scotland’s borders, to complete your Harry Potter vacation!
For kids over 6 years old, broomstick training is provided at Alnwick Castle at the very same spot that Harry had his first flying lesson in the movies! Just keep on the lookout for rain, as lessons will be canceled if the grounds are wet and slippery.
Tapping on the brick wall at the courtyard through Leaky Cauldron to enter the hidden magical world of Diagon Alley is every wizarding worlds fans fantasy. There may not be a real Leaky Cauldron or Diagon Alley but you can certainly imagine so here. Victoria Street, just as cobbled and winding as Diagon Alley, is filled with wizarding stores and boutiques selling wands, broomsticks, and pets. It is located at the hub of Edinburgh, connects the Royal Mile with the Grassmarket, and could possibly have been in Rowling’s mind when she was describing Diagon Alley. Book a Harry Potter magical themed walking tour to make the most of Victoria Street and Edinburgh.
Located at 40 Victoria Street, Museum Context is a haven for Potter fans. The place is filled with Harry Potter things, from house jumpers, scarves, robes, books, marauders’ maps, headbands, Hedwig (stuffed, of course), and wands! This magical store even comes with replicas of Nimbus 2001 broomsticks!
This building actually used to be “Robert Cresser’s Brush Shop”. Is it just me, does that sound a lot like Quality Quiditch Supplies? It might as well have been the inspiration, but we’ll never know! However, what many do say is that shopping at Museum Context gives you a feeling that’s akin to buying your first wand at the much-loved Ollivander’s Wand Shop!
Other Harry Potter Edinburgh Stores
The Enchanted Galaxy is the place to go if you haven’t got your fill of magical trinkets yet! Get enchanted by all the wands, movie props, and Harry Potter chocolates. Another excellent place to get some Harry Potter souvenirs before you exit Victoria Street is The Great Wizard, a store that was previously named The Boy Wizard.
From Victoria Street, head towards Grassmarket and take a left to find Black Moon Botanica in the famous Candlemaker Row (also said to be one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley). It’s said to have an ambiance that resembles Professor Sybill Trelawney’s classroom filled with crystals, candles, herbs, and tarot cards!
The Galaxy Geek Store is yet another store where you can buy everything Harry Potter. Located on South Bridge, this place is a haven for not only Potterheads but even Marvel fans, Game of Thrones fans, and more!
Yes, we know the scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where the Dementors attack Harry and Dudley in Little Whinging was scary. But now that old Voldie’s done and dusted, why not visit the spot where it was filmed to see what the Potterrow Port tunnel is really like!
While it is true that Victoria Street has the most Harry Potter Edinburgh things to do, Potterrow Street may have inspired J.K. Rowling to give Potter his fictional name. After all, she is bound to have come across the street while writing the books in Edinburgh. Taking a classic Potterrow picture is a must here!
Harry Potter Walking Tours
Take the award-winning ninety-minute Potter Trail to get bewitched by the enchanting trail from the Greyfriars Bobby Statue to the Victorian Terrance. The course takes less than an hour and a half and covers all the Harry Potter things to do along the way. This one‘s a free guided tour, but tips and donations are welcome.
Alternatively, you can also check out the two-hour Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour that covers multiple Harry Potter Edinburgh spots, from Greyfriars Kirkyard to the Royal Mile.
Harry Potter Edinburgh Cafes
For some magnificent magical drinks, head to the Cauldron Bar. Located on Frederick Street, the bar uses science and technology to brew some magical beverages. You can even attend the potion-making classes headed by the establishment’s Potions Master to learn the art of magic and molecular mixology while donning a cloak and holding a working magic wand! For parents with kids, they also offer non-alcoholic potions and classes.
If having an afternoon tea sounds more magical to you, the Cauldron Bar’s Wizard Afternoon Tea is an interactive magic experience that you can take with your little kids. Instead of alcoholic and non-alcoholic brews, you brew tea!
On Princess Street, Juniper has an enchanting collection of cocktails. The “Strawberries and Steam” smoking cocktail teapot is to die for! Tattu is a relatively new Chinese restaurant specializing in the magical “Dragon Egg Nest” and “Cherry Blossom.” Or Head to Monteith’s at 61 High Street for some Hot Buttered Beer.
For a funny picture and some thoroughly non-magical (but tasty) eats, head to Artisan Roast, which boldly promotes itself with a big sign that says “J.K. Rowling Never Wrote Here”!
We all know that J.K. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter on the train, but did you know she wrote the first book in cafés around Edinburgh? Yes, that’s right, and Nicolson’s cafe was one of the places that were most frequented by the then newly divorced, single mother Rowling!
Although Nicolson’s has long since closed, you can still visit the new cafe in its place, “Black Medicine Coffee” for some delicious coffee. Wondering if it’s authentic enough? A plaque on the corner of the street says, “J.K. Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter in the rooms on the first floor of this building,” and Rowling has confirmed it too.
J.K. Rowling’s Grand Suite at the Balmoral Hotel
For those ready to splash some cash, this is a luxurious Harry Potter-themed stay that you cannot miss! Since its opening in 1902, the Balmoral Hotel has made itself a landmark in the city of Edinburgh. Located next to the Waverley train station in New Town, Balmoral’s room 552 is said to be the place where J.K. Rowling completed writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last Harry Potter book.
THE room, now renamed the J.K. Rowling Grand Suite, has been redecorated to give the visitor a completely immersive Harry Potter stay. The magic begins even before you enter, with an owl door knocker and a star-filled lounge entranceway. The suite features a Hermes marble bust that is said to be signed by Rowling when she stayed there. With a king-sized bed and an Italian marble bathroom with a separate bathtub and shower, the suite promises luxury at its best.
The Elephant Room
The Elephant Room, in essence, is the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, as J.K. Rowling wrote a lot of her first book in its back room, overlooking Edinburgh Castle! Since its opening in 1995, the place has also been frequented by other popular authors such as Alexander McCall-Smith and Ian Rankin.
Delight yourself with some of the restaurant’s signature tea and coffee. Make a quick trip to the loo before heading out to see graffiti and written messages on the walls, all about Harry Potter. It’s probably what it feels like to visit one of Hogwarts’ bathrooms if you think about it!
Harry Potter Themed Places to Stay in Edinburgh
For the ultimate wizarding stay, why not try one of these themed Harry Potter accommodations in Edinburgh?
Harry Potter Themed Hotels in Scotland
J.K. Rowling Suite, Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
This is the exact room where J.K. Rowling finished writing the Deathly Hallows. The luxury room sleeps 2 adults in a comfortable king-sized bed that can be twinned plus 2 extra beds for children are available upon request. The rooms offers views of Calton Hill and luxury decor evoking the Scottish countryside. The room is also home to the the marble bust of Hermes that J.K. Rowling signed after finishing the book but expect other little nods to the wizarding series. Availability on Booking.com.
Magical Harry Potter-Inspired Flat, West Bow Edinburgh
A great centrally based one bedroom flat with sofa bed in the living area can sleep a family of four. The panelled effect walls, books and magical artefacts help give this accommodation the wizarding vibe: There’s even a secret cupboard to find. Availability on Booking.com
Wizarding Residence on Grassmarket, Edinburgh
The Wizarding Residence is a one bedroomed Harry Potter inspired apartment. It’s central location (and allegedly inspiration for Diagon Alley) means that Edinburgh’s famous castle, Royal Mile, Grassmarket and much more are all a short walk away. The accommodation is filled with quirky items and decorations from J K Rowling’s Wizarding world. The downside it is a one bedroomed place with a double bed so not ideal for families. Check availability on booking.com.
The Witchery by the Castle, Edinburgh
Sadly, each of the nine opulent Witchery Suites occupy just 2 guests in double beds and are not suitable for children but perhaps for an adult getaway? With rich furnishings, velvet walls, gothic and antique touches it is certainly a unique place to stay and reminiscent of what a Harry Potter suite may look like for Bellatrix Lestrange. Check availability on Booking.com
If you are travelling around the UK, then these Harry Potter themed places to stay in the UK and Ireland are brilliant too!
Which is the best Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh?
The Highlands tours on the “Harry Potter express” is a popular choice with Potterheads, followed by the Alnwick Castle, and the Scotland border tours.
Was any of Harry Potter shot in Edinburgh?
While none of the movies were filmed in Edinburgh, the city is still filled with numerous Harry Potter spots because it was where J.K. Rowling wrote most of her books. She’s lived in Edinburgh ever since 1993. However, the Jacobite steam train is a replica of the movie’s original steam train, so don’t skip taking a ride.
Where was Diagon Alley filmed in Edinburgh?
While Diagon Alley was filmed in Leadenhall Market, London, Victoria Street in Edinburgh is widely believed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley with regards to the film set.
Is Harry Potter’s Castle in Edinburgh?
Alnwick Castle is the location where the Harry Potter movies were shot. But Rowling has said that the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is located in Scotland.
Is a real-life Hogwarts opening in Scotland?
The Loretto School in Musselburgh is going to be transformed into a Harry Potter-themed school. So, yes, young Potterheads everywhere, you still have a chance to experience studying at Hogwarts!
Family Travel Planning Resources We Use
Flights: We always use Skyscanner as it is user friendly, allows you to check deals for everywhere if not sure where to go, and seems to find the cheapest flight deals in most cases.
Tours and Activities: GetYourGuide has a wide range of family friendly activities around the world.
Accommodation: Booking.com is who we use when researching for places to stay ( we like their flexible cancellation policies. We do also check directly with larger hotels brands too.
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