Sprinkled with an enchanting essence, Edinburgh, a dreamy destination for Hogwarts fans, is sacred ground to Harry Potter enthusiasts. Between the higgledy piggledy cobbled streets, dramatic medieval architecture and age-old charm, J.K. Rowling landed on a goldmine of inspiration as spellbinding as the contents of Gringotts, when she moved to Scotland in the ’90s. Revel in the magic found woven throughout the cultural and historical fabric of Edinburgh and explore the best Potterhead spots.
Adored by tourists and locals alike, Victoria Street is one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful streets. Lined with independent shops, each as colourful as the next, this curving cobbled street was built between 1829 and 1834. It also happens to be the main inspiration for Diagon Alley. Overflowing with character and stand-out quirks, even muggles can spot the similarities. Aha Ha Ha joke shop and Diagon House should not be passed up. Adding to the excitement, the Wizard of the West Bow once resided here many moons ago.
A newcomer to Edinburgh’s magic scene, Diagon House is a one-stop shop for all Potter-related needs and desires, minus all the commercial cheese common to many retailers. This atmospheric emporium is perched halfway down Victoria Street, a street famed as Rowling’s said inspiration for Diagon Alley. Adorned with a wealth of official HP merchandise and collectibles from local artisans, the meticulously picked curiosities span all price points. With decades of broom-making heritage written into its history, Diagon House is as charming as it is alluring.
Famed for its direct link with the story of Greyfriars Bobby, Greyfriars Kirkyard is deemed one of the world’s most haunted places. It was also a space of calm for Rowling while she gathered her thoughts and walked. Tucked away amid the age-old headstones is the grave of a Thomas Riddell Esquire, the very name (albeit a different spelling) given to Lord Voldemort. The kirkyard also houses the graves of Elizabeth Moodie and William McGonagall, which likely inspired the names of Mad-Eye Moody and Professor McGonagall. Fans flock from far and wide to leave letters and other forms of fan mail at ‘Voldemort’s grave’, despite the fact that the Edinburgh City Council remove them out of respect for the dead.
A known hotspot for Scottish writers such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith, The Elephant House served as a home away from home for Rowling while she wrote the Harry Potter series, hence its unofficial title as ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’.
Speculations state that Spoon, formerly called Nicolson’s Café, was the hangout of choice while she conjured up the first book. The café provided a prime working environment and the chance to save on her home heating bill.
An architectural masterpiece lined with turrets and towers, the resemblance between George Heriot’s School and Hogwarts is uncanny. This private co-educational school also uses the House system to sort students, just as Hogwarts has Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Almost as mesmerising as the magical edifice it inspired, Rowling’s children attended Heriot’s.
The Balmoral Hotel is both a staple in Princes Street’s skyline and a legendary institution. Praised for its high-end furnishings, central location, Michelin-starred restaurant and glamorous guests, Potter fans can embrace the magic and stay in room 552 or the J.K. Rowling Suite. Free from distractions and cloaked in luxury, this swanky suite was frequented by Rowling while she wrote The Deathly Hallows. The room features a brass owl door knocker, a signed marble bust of Hermes and the very writing desk where she put pen to paper.
A little slice of Hollywood in Scotland, the Edinburgh City Chambers is a popular stomping ground for any hardcore HP fans in the know. A bronze impression of Rowling’s hands is showcased on a flagstone in the quadrangle. These precious hands, which appeared in 2008 when the author received the Edinburgh Award, are placed next to those of Ian Rankin OBE, Sir Chris Hoy and Tom Gilzean.