Magical Guide to Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh (with Maps and Itinerary)
This blog post contains affiliate links. This means that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase from one of the links below (at no extra cost to you). More information can be found here.
For lovers of the Harry Potter books, Edinburgh holds a very special place in our hearts. Home to J.K. Rowling while she was writing the novels, the city is full of opportunities to explore behind-the-scenes elements that helped to shape the magical series that captivated the world and touched us all on an individual level.
This comprehensive Harry Potter guide to Edinburgh dives into places in Edinburgh with connections to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling while she was writing the series. It includes locations where Rowling wrote, places that provided inspiration for the author, and Harry Potter things to do while visiting Edinburgh.
You’ll find no Harry Potter filming locations in Edinburgh (you’ll have to go into the Scottish Highlands for that), but you will find Lord Voldemort’s grave, be able to sit in the same places where Rowling penned the series and learn about buildings in Edinburgh that influenced Hogwarts.
This post covers everything you need to know about the history of these Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh and their connection to the wizarding world, where to find them, tips for visiting and even show you how to go on your own self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh.
Table of Contents
- Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh
- J.K. Rowling Writing Locations
- Harry Potter Graveyard
- Harry Potter Things to Do in Edinburgh
- Harry Potter Walking Tour of Edinburgh
- Visit Hogwarts Filming Location at Alnwick on a Day Trip from Edinburgh
Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh
From places in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling penned the story of the Boy Who Lived to sources of inspiration for the places, events and characters, Potterheads don’t want to miss these Harry Potter sites during your visit to Edinburgh.
J.K. Rowling Writing Locations
Rowling moved to Edinburgh in 1993 to be closer to her sister and spent her time writing in various cafes and locations around the city. Not all of the places she wrote at are common knowledge, but you visit these J.K. Rowling writing locations.
Elephant House is the most famous Rowling writing location in Edinburgh. In the 90s and early 2000s, this writer-friendly cafe saw the likes not only of Rowling, but also famous Scottish authors like Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. Today, fans from all over flock to experience the Harry Potter connection this cafe offers.
The cafe misleads a bit with the sign out front labeling Elephant House as “the Birthplace of Harry Potter.” In truth, Rowling has confirmed many times that she thought of the idea for Harry Potter on a train ride from Manchester to London. By the time she arrived to Edinburgh in 1993, she had already started work on the first book. Plus, Elephant House did not open its doors until 1995.
However, Rowling did spend a good deal of time writing in the Elephant House. A few pictures around the cafe itself show her hard at work, scribbling away at the words that have inspired millions around the world. It’s believed she wrote large parts of Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban within these walls.
Tips for Visiting Elephant House
As one of the most popular Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, it is also the busiest on this list. Fans from all over the world line up, sometimes out the door, to get a look inside. I recommend coming earlier or later in the day to avoid standing in a long line (and get a better pick of where to sit). Avoid lunch here at all costs.
If possible, ask for a seat by the window in the back to get a look at Greyfriars Kirkyard and Edinburgh Castle. Do not leave the cafe without getting a look inside the Elephant House bathroom. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a lovely shrine of Harry Potter love.
Also, some of the tables within the cafe are stuffed with letters from fans of the series. If you’re lucky enough to get one of those tables, be sure to take a look in the drawer!
To visit the Elephant House you must either purchase food or drink or pay a fee to take photos inside. Given its fame, the cafe prices food on the menu quite reasonably and delivers on decent portions and taste.
Address: 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN, UK
Hours: Monday to Thursday 8:00am-10:00pm; Friday 8:00am-11:00pm; Saturday 9:00am-11:00pm; Sunday 9:00am-10:00pm
When Rowling first moved to Edinburgh, she spent a good deal of time writing the first Harry Potter book in her brother-in-law’s cafe called Nicolson’s Cafe. In fact, an official plaque on the corner of the building marks the first floor of this building as one of J.K. Rowling’s writing locations in Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, Nicolson’s Cafe shut down years ago and the charming Spoon cafe has now taken its place. Though not far from the Elephant House, very few Potter fans actually make their way down to the Spoon, making it a much more relaxing Harry Potter site to visit in Edinburgh.
The cafe sells a delicious selection of soups, sandwiches and cakes. On the weekends it also cooks up a pretty tasty brunch. Either way, this former J.K. Rowling writing location is a good place to relax and recharge during a long day of sightseeing.
Address: 6A Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH, UK
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm; Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm
Traverse Bar Cafe
Not only did J.K. Rowling spend time writing the Harry Potter series in this theater cafe, but she also met Cursed Child director John Tiffany there in the 1990s. Tiffany worked at the theater about the same time that Rowling used to set up shop at one of the tables with her notebook and stroller in tow.
The Traverse Theater has been the center of new Scottish theater since the 1960s and the basement cafe/bar a gathering place for writers, actors, directors and other theater people.
Like Spoon, very few Harry Potter fans make their way to the Traverse Bar Cafe so it makes for a much more relaxed space to take in the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter in its walls.
Address: 10 Cambridge St, Edinburgh EH1 2ED, UK
Hours: Monday to Friday 4:00pm-late; Saturday 12:00pm-late; Sunday – Closed
J.K. Rowling finished writing the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at the Balmoral, a 19th Century historic hotel. Feeling distracted and unable to write at home, Rowling booked herself into a suite at this 5-star luxury hotel to pen the final words of the series.
When she finished, she “vandalized” a marble bust writing the words “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.” That bust now sits within a glass case within the very same suite.
You can actually book the J.K. Rowling Suite for about £1000 per night. An owl knocker marks the entrance to Room 552 and subtle symbols of the Harry Potter series have been incorporated into the room’s design. A set of Harry Potter books can always be found in the room as well.
Since the £1000 price tag/night is pretty hefty, most of us probably won’t be able to book in there (though it is now a bucket list item for me). With rooms typically starting around £200/night, you can book a room in the Balmoral for much cheaper or visit the hotel for afternoon tea.
Address: 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ, UK
Harry Potter Graveyard
Quite a few of the graves within the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard contributed to J.K. Rowling’s selection of Harry Potter while she was writing the novels. Close to many of her writing haunts (no pun intended), Rowling would stroll through the graveyard from time to time to stave off writer’s block and gather ideas.
Of the Harry Potter graves in Greyfriars Kirkyard the most popular to visit are Thomas Riddell (oh hey, Lord Voldemort) and William McGonagall (Professor Minverva McGonagall). Below you’ll find more info on each of the Harry Potter character names within the historic cemetery and how to find the graves.
Lord Voldemort – Thomas Riddell’s Grave
Located in a once little noticed corner along the Flodden Wall the inspiration for the name for one of the most infamous wizards of all time lurks waiting. That’s right, the grave of Tom Riddle, the grave of Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named himself, sits in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard.
In the muggle world, Thomas Riddell died at the young age of 26 years old. He served as a Captain in the 14th Regiment, dying in service in the West Indies in 1802. Like Lord Voldemort, Thomas Riddell’s name came from his father who was also named Thomas Riddell. Riddell senior outlived his son, dying at the ripe age of 71 in 1806. He hailed from the county of Berwickshire in England, which is near to another major Harry Potter sight at Alnwick Castle.
How to find Thomas Riddell’s Grave
If you don’t know where to look, it can take a bit of wandering to find Thomas Riddell’s grave. After entering Greyfriars Kirkyard, make your way to the section of the cemetery beyond the Flodden Wall.
Once you pass through the archway, you’ll immediately turn right and follow the path down until it forks. At the fork, hang right then hang right again. From there a plank leads up to the Riddell gravestone.
Professor Minerva McGonagall – William McGonagall’s Grave
The grave of William McGonagall – Scotland’s worst poet – inspired J.K. Rowling when coming up for the surname of everyone’s beloved Scottish transfiguration professor. Her namesake, William McGonagall, was well-known for his awful poetry. A weaver, poet and actor, McGonagall continued to produce and perform his little appreciated poetry with little regard to the criticism that he received for it.
The poet subscribed to the idea that poetry only needed to rhyme, everything else was gravy. One of his popular poems read “On yonder hill there stood a cow/if it’s not there, it’s away now.”
How to find William McGonagall’s Grave
Like Thomas Riddell’s grave, you’ll also find McGonagall’s Grave in the Flodden Wall section of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Instead of turning right once you pass under the archway, you’ll continue to straight to the end of the walkway where the gate looks out onto Heriot School (more on that later). To your left, you’ll see a small little square plaque that marks William McGonagall’s grave.
Mad Eye Moody – Elizabeth Moodie’s Grave
Who would have thought the naming inspiration for one of the darkest wizards in the world and one of the best aurors (dark wizard catchers) in the world would come from the same graveyard? But yet, it did. Elizabeth Moodie’s grave helped to inspire Alaster “Mad Eye” Moody’s name in the Harry Potter Series. Unfortunately little is known of Moody’s muggle counterpart, but we can all be thankful her name lives on with Mad Eye.
How to find Elizabeth Moodie’s Grave
Elizabeth Moodie, inspiration for Mad Eye Moody’s name can also be found behind the Flodden Wall in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Turn right when you come through the arch and on the first set of graves carved into the Flodden Wall you’ll find Elizabeth Moodie’s grave. On this section of the wall, Moodie’s grave is the left-most grave.
Sirius Black and the Black Family – Frances and Charles Black’s Grave
Hidden on the Flodden Wall a grave exists that inspired another famous wizard’s last name – the Black family. While it’s easy to think that Sirius Black’s last name came from the color of his shaggy fur, it’s more likely it came from Rowling’s walks around Greyfriars. There’s little known about the original claimants of the Black name, France and Charles.
How to find the Black Family’s Grave
Frances and Charles Black’s grave marker is located in the same section as the other gravestones in the section beyond the Flodden Wall. To protect the grave and the others around it, though, the Black family has requested the grave be blocked off so you can’t get up close and personal with the marker as you can with the others on this list. You can still see it from the main pathway, though.
When you enter the Flodden Wall section, turn right past Elizabeth Moodie’s grave and continue to where the wall starts to curve back in a diagonal fashion. The Black stone is carved into the diagonal portion of the Flodden Wall. It’s the long rectangular stone in the center of this wall section.
Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour – Mary Turner Scrymgeour’s Grave
Though Rowling changed the spelling of the name slightly when adopting the Scrymgeour last name for the Harry Potter series, the original idea Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour’s name came from Mary’s grave. If your memory of wizard prime ministers is hazy, Rufus Scrimgeour became prime minister after Fudge stepped down at the end of Harry Potter’s fifth year of school.
How to find Mary Turner Scrymgeour’s Grave
Unlike the other graves, Scrymgeour’s gravestone stands on its own and is not engraved in the walls of the cemetery. The top of the grave celebrates Captain James Smith and the Scrimgeour sits towards the bottom of the tombstone.
Like the other graves on this list, the Scrymgeour gravestone can also be found in the Flodden Wall section of Greyfriars Kirkyard. Turn right when you pass under the archway and continue along the path past the Moodie grave.
Greyfriars Kirkyard Harry Potter Map
You’ll find all of the graves that inspired J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series in the section of the graveyard situated behind the Flodden Wall. If you’re entering from near Greyfriars Bobby, head straight back past the church and you’ll see the entrance to this area of the graveyard.
If you’re entering from Candlemaker Row, hang a right upon entering, turn left at the fork and then continue straight up until the Flodden Wall archway appears to your right.
Hogwarts in Edinburgh
You may not find the real Hogwarts in Edinburgh, but Rowling found influence for many aspects of the wizarding school within the city.
George Heriot’s School
A centuries old school with four houses and a select audience of pupils. Sound familiar? George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh inspired many of the key elements that make up Hogwarts.
The most striking resemblance between the two, of course, is the sorting of students into four different houses. Hogwarts has Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. George Heriot’s School has Raeburn, Greyfriars, Castle and Lauriston.
While George Heriot’s School doesn’t sort based on a young pupil’s personality traits, the story behind the school’s houses mirror the houses of Hogwarts.
- Raeburn called so in honor of Sir Henry Raeburn, a former pupil whose courage pushed him to become a famous portrait painter.
- Greyfriars named for Greyfriars Kirk, which stands adjacent east to the school, pure and white like the stripes on the back of the Hufflepuff badger.
- Castle for Edinburgh Castle and the Saltire cross that flies proud on the castle’s flag, blue just like the House of Ravenclaw.
- Lauriston like the road to the south of the school, bordered by lush meadows like the green of Slytherin.
Both schools also historically provided a haven for orphans. Founded in 1628, George Heriot’s School is named for (you guessed it) George Heriot, wealthy goldsmith to James IV and Queen Anne whose donation led to the school’s founding. Heriot had a passion for educated those of lesser means and left the bulk of his wealth to the city of Edinburgh to create a school for children without fathers. Hogwarts, too, made a home for two famous orphans – Harry Potter and Tom Riddle.
Today, the school is less a place for children of lesser means than for those who come from wealthy Edinburgh families. In fact, Rowling’s children spent some time at George Heriot’s School.
How to See George Heriot’s School
Since George Heriot’s School still functions as a school, public visits are not possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t admire the impressive Romanesque architecture of the school from the outside.
Here are the best places to catch a glimpse of this real-life Hogwarts in Edinburgh (funnily enough, they are all also related to houses of George Heriot’s School):
- Greyfriars Kirkyard: Head straight to the back of the graveyard past the Flodden Wall (where you can also see all of the Harry Potter gravestones mentioned above). Walk straight until you come to a locked gate that marks the entrance to George Heriot’s School.
- Lauriston Place: Lauriston Place (namesake to the school house) borders the school to the south and marks one of the main entrances to the school. You can’t enter the gate, but you can get a pretty good view of the school looking down the stone-paved lane.
- Edinburgh Castle Esplanade: The esplanade spreads out ahead of the entrance to the inspiration to the Castle house of George Heriot’s School, Edinburgh Castle. Overlooking the city, you get an amazing aerial view of the school.
The most recognizable landmark in the city, Edinburgh Castle’s historical charm may have also inspired the architecture of Hogwarts for J.K. Rowling when writing. Though unconfirmed, it’s clear that while she was writing the novel and strolling through the Old Town it would have been impossible to ignore the imposing fortress that looks over the city.
Visually, similarities exist between the two castles. Built upon the remains of an old volcano, Edinburgh Castle seems to mold into the natural surrounding so that volcano and castle seem one, just like a certain castle we all know and still dream of getting letters from. When you see photos of Hogwarts, the stones at the base of the castle blend with that of the mountain the school is built into so that mountain and castle also appear as one.
Additionally, in a 2001 Scholastic interview Rowling described Hogwarts as “a huge, rambling, quite scary-looking castle, with a jumble of towers and battlements.” If you’ve ever laid your eyes on Edinburgh Castle, you wouldn’t exactly express the way you feel as warm and fuzzy by its dark, imposing exterior. Beautiful, yes, but there’s an element of eerie and foreboding that the blackened stones evoke.
How to See Edinburgh Castle
Given its prominent position throughout the city, you won’t find much difficulty in seeing this Edinburgh inspiration for Hogwarts. The trick is finding the best places to get a view of Edinburgh Castle.
Here are some of the best vantage points to see Edinburgh Castle:
- Edinburgh Castle Esplanade: The most obvious place to take in the majesty of the castle is from the esplanade that leads up to the entrance of it. You also get sweeping views of the city and the other Edinburgh influence for Hogwarts – George Heriot’s School.
- The Vennel: A staircase leading up to George Heriot’s School just to the left of Grassmarket, the Vennel provides one of the best vantage points to view Edinburgh Castle.
- Grassmarket: At the very end of the Grassmarket, where the pedestrian walkway meets up with King’s Stables Road, a staircase leads up to the base of the castle. From the bottom of this walkway you’ll get pretty amazing views of Edinburgh Castle.
- Princes Street: With the large meadow expanse of Princes Street Gardens bordering the northern base of the castle, the view from Princes Street allows for views of Edinburgh Castle without any buildings to block it.
- Car Park at Edinburgh Castle Terrace: I know, it sounds strange, but this parking lot at the base of the castle provides one of the best viewpoints of Edinburgh Castle. The parking lot is open at the top so no cement barriers will obstruct the view.
Other Harry Potter Inspiration in Edinburgh
Victoria Street as Diagon Alley
Given its bright colors, cobblestoned paved road, magical feeling and proximity to J.K. Rowling’s old writing hubs, many believe that Victoria Street influenced parts of Diagon Alley.
Its collection of independent, somewhat eclectic, shops definitely mirrors that of Diagon Alley. Aha Ha Ha Joke Shop, with its bright red front and pair of joke nose and glasses calls on memories of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
Harry Potter Shops on Victoria Street
There’s also two Harry Potter themed shops on Victoria Street: The Boy Wizard and Museum Context.
I’ve been to A LOT of Harry Potter shops and Museum Context is far and away my favorite of them all. Also commonly known as Diagon House, this store literally feels as though you’ve stepped into a shop from Diagon Alley.
The shop interior dates back to the 1860s when the shop was the unique Robert Cresser’s Brush Shop. It shelves stock not just Harry Potter merchandise, but other unique goods. There’s little easter eggs for Potter fans scattered throughout the shop, including a basilisk and a chance to take a photo in Hogwarts robes.
Address: 40 Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2JW, UK
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00am-7:00pm
The Boy Wizard
The Boy Wizard, part of an independent chain of Harry Potter stores, carries the usual run of the mill fan products, including Hogwarts gear, wands, and other Harry Potter merchandise. There’s another outpost of the store on the Royal Mile, but I’ve typically found the Victoria Street location to be less crowded.
Address: 1 Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2HE, UK
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:00am-6:30pm; Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm
Lewis Chessmen at the National Museum of Scotland
One look at the pieces of the Lewis Chessmen and you’ll probably be able to guess the inspiration these ornately carved pieces provided. Like the wizard’s chess Set in Sorcerer’s Stone, these chess pieces are realistically carved to look like the people their pieces are meant to represent. Unlike wizard’s chess, though, these pieces do not move on command.
These particular chess pieces are one of the most famous Scottish archaeological finds. Carved from walrus tusk some time in the 12th Century, these pieces were found mostly in tact on a beach in Lewis (hence their name of the Lewis Chessmen).
Where to Find the Lewis Chessmen
You can see a few of the pieces of Lewis Chess Set in the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is located on Chambers Street, just a few minutes walk from Greyfriars Kirk or Elephant House. The pieces on display can be found in the Kingdom of the Scots exhibit on level 1. A full replica set is typically on display in the museum gift shops as well.
Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm
No, Rowling did not get the surname Potter from this street, so beware if a guide tries to sell that tale during a Harry Potter walking tour in Edinburgh.
Instead, the Boy Who Lived’s last name owes itself to a pair of siblings who lived a few doors down from Rowling when she was growing up in England. Ian and Vicki Potter used to play games with Rowling and her sister during their childhood in Winterbourne. Rowling always liked the name and it stuck out to her as she started writing the series.
Even so, Harry Potter fans still love to flock to this street for a photo opportunity with the underpass etched with the sign “Potterrow Port.” The street is located near the University of Edinburgh. It does feel a bit like a place where you’ll find a dementor, so keep those thoughts happy and wands ready.
Harry Potter Things to Do in Edinburgh
In addition to visiting places that inspired J.K. Rowling in writing the books, there’s a number of activities you can do to live out your Harry Potter dreams while in Edinburgh.
Create your Own Potions at Department of Magic
Brew up your own magical potion cocktails at the Department of Magic Tavern. You can make up to two different potions, having your pick from love potions, liquid luck, and concoctions that bubble and smoke.
You’ll want to make a reservation, especially if you’re going during the summer. You can also hang around the tavern before or after the class and sample the local wizard drinks on offer.
Website and Booking: https://www.departmentofmysteries.com/potions.html
Address: 9 Blair St, Edinburgh EH1 1QR, UK
Hours: Monday to Friday 11:00am-10:00pm
Put your Magical Knowledge to the Test with a Harry Potter Escape Room
Ravenclaws, get excited. Navigate your way through the Department of Mysteries by uncovering the mental puzzles behind prophecies stored in the dark depths of the Department of Magic. Run by the same company behind the Magic Tavern Potions Class, these brain teasers will put your magical knowledge to work. Like the Potions Class, you’ll want to make sure to reserve this ahead of time to make sure you get a spot.
Website and Booking: https://www.departmentofmysteries.com/booking-form.html
Address: 9 Blair St, Edinburgh EH1 1QR, UK
Hours: Monday to Friday 11:00am-10:00pm
Drink Butterbeer at The Dog House
For just £4 you can sip on a pint of butterbeer. Unlike the sweet beverage you’ll find at Warner Brother Studios or the Universal Wizarding World, this concoction’s base is actually a pale ale beer mixed with a caramel sauce and a bit of foam. Even so, the taste is still sweet and reminded me a bit of caramel popcorn.
Address: 18-24 Clerk St, Edinburgh EH8 9HX, UK
Hours: Monday to Friday 1:00pm-1:00am
If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic version of butterbeer, both Museum Context and The Boy Wizard on Victoria Street sell bottles of The Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. Pro-tip: mix whipped cream and butterscotch sauce together and layer it on top of the cooled butterscotch beer to create the delicious foam that makes the butterbeer at Warner Brothers and Universal so darn good.
Hold Hands with J.K. Rowling’s Handprints
Just off the Royal Mile gold imprints of J.K. Rowlings handprints immortalize the author and her contribution to children’s literature on the sidewalk of the Edinburgh City Chambers’ courtyard. Rowling’s place here, like the other handprints that make up the courtyard, was awarded as part of the Edinburgh Award that recognizes outstanding service to the capital city. Rowling received this honor in 2008 shortly after finishing the final Harry Potter novel.
Address: City Chambers, 253 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1YJ, UK
Open to the public at all hours
Harry Potter Walking Tour of Edinburgh
Whether you’re choosing to explore these Harry Potter sites on your own or join a tour, it’s easy to visit each of these places in a day by taking a Harry Potter walking tour of Edinburgh.
Self-Guided Edinburgh Harry Potter Walking Tour (with Map)
With all of the Harry Potter sites located conveniently within the center of Edinburgh, taking a self-guided Harry Potter walking tour can be very easy with the right itinerary and info.
The itinerary below will maximize your route, allowing you to take in all of the Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh stres-free, hassle-free and, if you get an early enough start, crowd-free. The details mentioned above in this article provide a lot of the context that you’d receive on the tours, as well as helpful tips on visiting each of the locations.
Self-Guided Harry Potter Edinburgh Walking Tour Map
Length of walk: 4.5+ hours depending on length of time at each stop
Self-Guided Harry Potter Edinburgh Walking Tour Itinerary and Directions
Stop 1: Elephant House
Start your day at the Elephant House. Coming here for breakfast will help to beat the crowds, get a prime table by the window overlooking Edinburgh Castle, and give you free roaming to explore the Harry Potter connections in the cafe.
Stop 2: Greyfriars Kirkyard
After exiting the Elephant House, turn right and follow George IV Bridge to the Greyfriars Bobby Statue that stands across from the entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard. Enter the graveyard and walk straight back to the section beyond the Flodden Wall to visit graves that inspired the names for Lord Voldemort, Professor McGonagall, Mad Eye Moody, Sirius Black and Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour.
Stop 3: George Heriot’s School
You’ll catch a glimpse of George Heriot’s School through the gate near William McGonagall’s grave in Greyfriars Kirk. For a better view, exit through the same way you entered the graveyard. Go back to George IV’s Bridge for a few steps before the road forks. You’ll want to walk along the right fork, which is Forrest Road.
After 5 minutes walking, the road will end and you’ll want to turn right onto Lauriston Place where George Heriot’s School will come into view. A look through the main entrance on the road will showcase the impressive architecture of this Edinburgh Hogwarts.
Stop 4: Edinburgh Castle
To get to two of the best views of Edinburgh Castle, another inspiration source for Hogwarts, continue past George Heriot’s School along Lauriston Place. You’ll want to take the first right onto a narrow road known as Heriot Place.
Continue straight along here for about 5 minutes and it will turn into the Vennel, a long staircase that boasts one of the best views of Edinburgh Castle. Walk down the stairs to Grassmarket to be rewarded with even more beautiful views of the towering fortress.
Stop 5: Victoria Street
Coming down the Vennel onto Grassmarket, you’ll turn right and walk the length of Grassmarket. You’ll come to the end of the road and have the choice between right and left. Go left to walk up the brightly colored Victoria Street that may have played inspiration to elements of Diagon Alley.
Be sure to check out The Boy Who Lived and Museum Context while strolling along this street. There’s also a number of other quirky and cute independent shops worth a wander.
Stop 6: Lewis Chess Set at the National Museum of Scotland
After thoroughly exploring Victoria Street, continue up the road until you come back to George IV Bridge. Turn right where you’ll once again pass by Elephant House on your way to Chambers Street. This is about a 3-5 minute walk. Chambers Street will appear on the left just before the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.
Use the entrance to the National Museum on the corner of Chambers Street. The chess set is found on the same floor you enter on in the section titled Kingdom of Scots. If you’re having trouble finding the pieces, one of the museum guides posted in the hall will be able to easily point you in the right direction.
Stop 7: Spoon/Nicholson’s Cafe
Exit the museum back onto Chambers Street and turn right walking down the street until you come to the light intersection at South Bridge. Turn right again and cross the street where possible, staying on South Bridge.
As you walk one block, South Bridge turns into Nicholson Street. On the corner of Nicholson and Drummond you’ll see the plaque marking the building as a J.K. Rowling writing location. A few doors down you’ll find the entrance to Spoon. Pop in for a quick bite or a cup of coffee if you fancy.
Stop 8: JK Rowling Handprints at City Chambers
Once you’ve finished at your second writing location pilgrimage, come back out onto Nicholson Street and return from the same direction you came from towards South Bridge. Continue along South Bridge for 5 minutes until you come to the High Street, otherwise known as the Royal Mile.
Turn left onto the High Street, crossing over to the other side of the street. Continue 2 minutes up the High Street until you see a series of arches that mark the entrance to the City Chambers located just before the Real Mary King’s Close. Rowling’s handprints are found on the left side of the courtyard near the entrance.
Stop 9: Balmoral Hotel
Coming out of the City Chambers, turn left and head back down the High Street until you come back to the intersection where you first turned onto the Royal Mile. Instead of turning right onto South Bridge, you’ll turn left onto North Bridge. Continue walking along the bridge for 5 minutes, crossing over the train station until you come to the grand Balmoral Hotel on the left-hand side of the bridge.
Pop in for an afternoon tea or just to explore the luxurious lobby of this hotel where J.K. Rowling finished the final Harry Potter book.
Stop 10: Traverse Bar Cafe
Cap off the Harry Potter walking tour with a drink at the cafe that marked the beginning of the next phase of the series – Cursed Child. To get to Traverse Theater from the Balmoral, walk along Princes Street for a little over 10 minutes until you come to the end of the park marked at the corner with aptly named Cornerstone Bookshop.
Turn left onto Lothian Road, continuing straight until Castle Terrace curves down to your left. Follow Castle Terrace for about 2 minutes staying on the right side of the street. Cambridge Street will appear as the first possible turn to the right. Take this and Traverse Theater will appear within seconds. Traverse Bar Cafe is located inside.
Edinburgh Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour
A number of tour companies provide Harry Potter walking tours in Edinburgh. Below are some of the best options to explore these Harry Potter sites with a guide:
Visit Hogwarts Filming Location at Alnwick on a Day Trip from Edinburgh
While no Harry Potter filming locations can be found in Edinburgh itself, you can take a day trip to the small town of Alnwick in the borderlands to visit one of the castles used to film Hogwarts. Alnwick Castle appears many times in the first two films, including its most famous appearance as the place where Harry and the rest of the first years learn to fly a broomstick. Walking in the footsteps of the actors, you can even take a broomstick lesson during your visit to Alnwick Castle.
Many Edinburgh tour agencies offer day trips to Alnwick Castle. However, it is pretty easy to make the trip down to the castle yourself for the day as well.
For more information on how to take a day trip to this Harry Potter filming location from Edinburgh, check out this Harry Potter Guide to Alnwick Castle.