Harry Potter in Edinburgh | 7 Magical places to visit

Magic, they say, is just around the corner for those who believe. I guess you believe in magic too since you are here, reading this post. Welcome, wonderers! I am very glad that you wandered here.

I have been a Potterhead for as long as I can remember, and the world that J.K. Rowling created has always been a sanctuary for me: a place where I could lose myself in the thrilling adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I am lucky enough to live in a city that is so strongly connected to the wizarding world. At some point, I even lived on the same street as J.K. Rowling herself. Maybe even the same flat, who knows? So, yeah, here are my top 7 places to visit for any Potterhead when in Edinburgh.

1. Enjoy Coffee at the Elephant House Cafe

Elephant House Cafe

In need of a coffee break at a café where Joanne, aka J.K. Rowling, used to write? Then make your way to The Elephant House. This café is arguably one of the most frequented spots associated with the renowned author. Although the café bills itself as the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, Rowling has playfully debunked this claim, stating that the wizarding world’s story had its roots long before her visits to The Elephant House. Nonetheless, she did pen portions of her tale there and has allowed them this small badge of honor.

The café offers a selection of budget-friendly lunches and coffees, making it a delightful stop for a quick refreshment. However, I recommend arriving early, as it tends to fill up quickly.

PLEASE NOTE: The Elephant House is currently closed due to a significant fire incident in 2021. As of this writing, there is no confirmed reopening date. Rumors are circulating that the building’s owner may be facing liquidation. Despite this setback, you can still appreciate the building’s exterior and immerse yourself momentarily in its magical history.

2. Find Potter and Riddle at the Greyfriars Kirkyard

Find Potter and Riddle at the Greyfriars Kirkyard

Just a stone’s throw from The Elephant House lies Greyfriars Kirkyard, one of the world’s most storied cemeteries. For the moment, let’s put aside the rich tapestry of its history and delve into its connection with the boy who bore the lightning bolt scar on his forehead.

To Potterheads, this cemetery holds special significance as the resting place of Tom Riddle, better known to many as Voldemort (Avada Keda—Oops! Sorry, almost let that one slip). Yet, it’s not solely Riddle who holds a claim to fame here. Other familiar surnames are etched into the stones, such as Moody, Potter and McGonagall. While there’s no official confirmation that Rowling drew inspiration from these graves for her character names, she has acknowledged taking strolls in this cemetery. One can’t help but wonder if, perhaps subconsciously, some of these names nestled themselves into her creative psyche. So, are you up for a magical graveyard exploration?

3. Connect with J.K. Rowling Through Her Hand Print

Ever whimsically compared the size of your hands to J.K. Rowling’s? It might sound quirky, but if you’re curious, I have just the spot for you. Right beside the City Chambers, in the heart of the Royal Mile, lie Rowling’s handprints, etched deep into the ground. Can you resist the urge to match your hands against those of your literary hero? I know I couldn’t!

But it’s not only Rowling’s mark that graces this place. You’ll also find handprints from other luminaries, such as Ian Rankin, a titan in crime writing, and George Kerr, one of Scotland’s distinguished Judo masters. Believe me, this is a locale deserving of your time!

4. If you have enough $, Stay at the Balmoral Hotel, Room 552.

Balmoral Hotel

To complete her final book, Rowling returned to Edinburgh and resided in room 552 of Balmoral Hotel for six months. She finished her illustrious series on January 11, 2007. Today, the suite still exists, but it would require a hefty amount of Galleons to sleep on the same bed where Rowling once rested. Room 552, ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve had the chance to stay there, please send me photos, or better yet, invite me over for a cup of tea or PJ party!

5. Nicholson Cafe or How About Some Noodles?

Nicholson Cafe

One of the most renowned locations where Rowling once penned her captivating tales is the Nicholson Café. Although it’s now a Chinese restaurant (rumoured to serve sensational noodles), you’re more than welcome to pop in for lunch and soak up the space still echoing with Rowling’s creative energy. Back in the day, this café, owned by her brother-in-law, was a haven for her. With plenty of seating, excellent coffee fueled her writing sessions.

A modest black plaque outside the building marks its significance, revealing that J.K. Rowling wrote parts of her magical saga within these walls. As a writer myself, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness that the original café has closed its doors. I would have relished the opportunity to draft my blog posts amidst such an inspiring ambiance. But who knows? Perhaps it’s time to create new stories over a lunch of tantalising noodles.

6. Get Yourself a wee souvenir from the Museum Context

Museum Context
Museum Context

Of course, I wouldn’t dream of letting you leave Edinburgh without some “non-Muggle” souvenirs. Another fascinating spot where you could easily spend an hour is Museum Context, also fondly referred to as the Harry Potter shop. You can find the shop on Victoria street, so if you have a moment, definitely check it out. They sell not just Harry Potter-related merchandise, but also house a fantastic collection of props used in the making of the Harry Potter movies. Plus, there are a few photo stands, so bring your cloak and your scarf and have a blast creating some magical snaps.

7. Walk down Victoria street

Victoria street

Often associated with Diagon Alley, Victoria street is a colourful spectacle that one can easily imagine in a magical world. You’ll find a bookstore and even a joke shop, although sadly, they don’t stock Nimbus 2000s. Whether or not it actually inspired the famed author is not confirmed, but it’s easy to see how it could have. Regardless, take the time to appreciate this buzzing locale – your Instagram followers will certainly thank you for it.

Cocnclusion for Harry Potter in Edinburgh

Harry Potter in Edinburgh

Edinburgh intertwines history with hints of magical tales, making it a dream for Potterheads. From Victoria Street’s charm to Rowling’s imprints, every spot carries a story. As you explore, perhaps you’ll capture a bit of that magic for yourself. Simply put, in Edinburgh, magic is real and waiting to be discovered.

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