Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and iconic cities in the U.K. For centuries, the unique style of the city attracted authors like Robert Lewis Stevenson and J.M Barrie, who have written famous books like Treasure Island and Peter Pan. One of the most famous authors of our time, J.K. Rowling, crafted the incredible Harry Potter series while living in Edinburgh. All throughout the city, there are cafes, streets, castles, and even graveyards that contributed to the creation of this magical world.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular stops in Edinburgh that every Harry Potter fan needs to visit.
One of the first places fans will want to visit is the Elephant House Cafe. The first thing you will notice is the large sign plastered on the bright red storefront announcing “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”. This is a little misleading, while she wrote both the “The Chamber of Secrets” and the “Prisoner of Azkaban” here, it is not where Rowling wrote the first book.
However, this is where many of the Potter fans congregate, and anyone who is a fan of the series will want to stop in for a drink. Many of the tables are overflowing with handwritten notes to J.K. Rowling, as well as favorite characters from the series.
When visiting make sure to head into the bathrooms. The walls are full of graffiti with scribbled notes expressing heartfelt sentiments such as "Harry I love you" and “Harry Lives”.
As you can imagine, the cafe is packed with fans, and there is often a line of customers out the door. I recommend getting there early and grabbing a table that overlooks Edinburgh Castle.
Spoon, another café just a few streets over from the Elephant House, has no official affiliation with Harry Potter. However, it was the place where J.K Rowling wrote the first book. The café is under new ownership and today it serves as a big hangout for university students.
While it pays no tribute to the series, it is still a fantastic experience to sit in the room where Rowling put pen to pad and breathed life into one of the most beloved series of all time.
If you are familiar with the “Goblet of Fire” then you’ll remember the powerful graveyard scene at the end. Rowling was known to take walks in this graveyard often, and you will find that it eerily matches her description. Talking a stroll through Greyfriars Kirkyard is like walking into that chapter of the book.
Another reason for fans to visit are the famous graves. While on her walks she would read the gravestones to get character names. In this cemetery, there is a plaque to a McGonagall and even the grave of Tom Riddle himself.
After wandering Greyfriars, make sure to head to the back of the graveyard for a view of George Heriot’s School.
Staring at the architecture of the school with its stony walls, tall towers, and turreted roof, it is easy to imagine yourself standing in front of Hogwarts.
Rowling used this school as a model for Hogwarts along with three other landmarks around the city to come up with the idea of the four school houses. While it is not as big as Hogwarts, it is easy to see the comparison and is the closest you’ll get to a real-life Hogwarts.
Victoria Street, lying right off the Royal Mile, is a small stony street lined with colorful buildings. This street has long been thought of as the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Located on the street is a joke shop with a sign in the window warning visitors not to mistake it for Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
There is even an odd looking bank that is remarkably striking to Gringotts.
Sitting in downtown Edinburgh is the Balmoral Hotel. When J.K Rowling was finishing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” she checked into room 552 determined not to leave until it was complete.
When her work on the beloved series had come to a close, she scribbled on the bottom of a marble bust “ J.K. Rowling finished Harry Potter here”. The Balmoral has renamed room 552 to the J.K. Rowling Room. Today, if you have the money, you can stay in the suite which the hotel has left as she had it, including the marble bust with her signature.
Edinburgh played a crucial role in the Harry Potter series. After exploring the city, it is easy to see the mark it left on the books. If you are a Harry Potter fan, these are some of the first places you will want to visit, and since J.K Rowling still lives in Edinburgh, who knows, maybe you'll get a glimpse of her as well.
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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