What I love about living in the UK is the fact we have so many amazing cities to discover, so much culture to absorb and so many communities to feel part of; for a small island we have a huge amount of stay-cation opportunities, but many of us forget what’s practically on our doorstep in favour of more tropical destinations. Over the last couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to visit more places across my homeland, and top of that list was Edinburgh. It’s been recommended to me so many times, not only because of its history, but because of it’s undeniable connection with Harry Potter. I may have traveled half way across the world to visit the Wizarding World in Universal Studios Florida, taken no less than eight trips to the Warner Bros Studio Tour and spent endless sleepy Sunday afternoons discovering the nooks of London that feature in the films, but I’d never been to where it all began. If you love the Boy Wizard as much as me, or are simply captivated by the world created by J.K. Rowling, then these are the ultimate things to do and see in Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan.
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to go all out, then I can thoroughly recommend the Potter-themed Canongate Luxury Apartment we stayed in. Located in the ‘old’ town and a few steps from shops, coffee stops, restaurants, bars and attractions, it’s the ultimate hideaway for anyone who wants to either immerse themselves in the Wizarding World or simply feed their obsession just that little bit more. As soon as you step through the door it’s like you’re transported off to Hogwarts: the main bedroom features a four-poster bed and has been decorated to remind you of Harry’s own dorm, the second bedroom is reminiscent of a carriage on the Hogwarts Express, while the living room has been styled to make you feel like you’re in the Gryffindor common room.
Even the kitchen and bathroom are filled with Potter accessories and memorabilia, while the hallway has a sprinkling of Kings Cross station. Everywhere you look you discover new things to enjoy, as well as there being all number of Harry Potter books, games and DVDs to occupy your time; every detail has been taken care of to transport you to another world and I guarantee you’ll have a permanent smile on your face for the duration of your stay.
The apartment itself is all you need for a few days discovering the city, featuring all the mod-cons (heated flooring, hello!) to make your stay incredibly comfortable. The apartment unsurprisingly gets booked up far in advance, so you do need to plan – I booked our stay about seven months prior and managed to get one of the only free weekends left in the year! I could’ve quite happily spent the entire weekend wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fire watching films 1-8, but we did tear ourselves away to enjoy the rest of the city… Because there are so many things to do and see in Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan.
WHERE TO SHOP
All over Edinburgh there are Potter themed stores, with the main chain being The Boy Wizard; it features all the official memorabilia you could possibly want, alongside some unexpected wizard-inspired treats, so it’s no surprise that there are a handful scattered around the old town. Also worth a visit is Museum Context, which is predominantly HP themed and features incredible displays and decor (including a giant basilisk head and ‘blood’ writing on the wall) that will get you in the wizarding spirit; they also have lots of unique and slightly different nik naks for you to enjoy, so this is best if you’ve already got half of the official memorabilia at home. Diagon House is located on the street that’s said to have inspired Diagon Alley and is the newest addition, with again tonnes of Potter memorabilia and decor that’s been inspired by the books. Even if you don’t buy anything, these stores will fill you with joy and leave you feeling just a touch more magical than when you first stepped through the door.
WHAT TO DO
There’s so much packed into a relatively small city, but if you’re a Potterhead there are a few things you absolutely need to tick off your list. Visiting Edinburgh Castle, or even looking upon it from the park grounds below, will make you feel like you’re transported Hogwarts – it’s undeniable where the inspiration came from, as the castle grounds are on top of an ancient volcano. It’s absolutely worth taking a walk down Victoria Street, which is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley, and popping into the quirky shops it hosts; there’s even a joke shop which may or may not have inspired the Weasley brothers venture!
After all that walking you’ll want to stop off for a coffee at either The Elephant House or Spoon, both of which are known to have been J.K. Rowling’s favourite places to spend the day writing; she wrote the first book in her brother-in-law’s cafe Spoon, before moving over to The Elephant House (until she was so often harassed by fans and journalists that she stopped writing in public places!) The latter definitely makes the most of it and has become a bit of a tourist spot, but it’s worth popping in for a cup of something hot and to rest your feet.
If you’re feeling a bit swanky though, you can visit The Balmoral Hotel for afternoon tea and perhaps even a peek at the J.K. Rowling suite where she completed the final Potter book and graffitied the room to celebrate! My main recommendation though is to take yourself off on a Harry Potter tour of the city, so you’ll be able to catch all the intricate details and locations you may overlook if discovering Edinburgh alone. We went on The Potter Trail, which is the original tour, lasting around two hours and was absolutely the highlight of our visit; the guides will also be able to give you more top tips on things to do and see in Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan!
WHAT TO SEE
There are so many places and things that undoubtedly inspired the Wizarding World, but some of my favourites were those we discovered thanks to a super helpful and knowledgeable guide. Starting off in Greyfriars Kirkyard (said to be the most haunted place in the UK!) you can see the grave of a certain Mr McGonagall, Mrs Moody and even Tom Riddell; Rowling herself has admitted borrowing the names of people buried in the graveyard, so it’s no surprise that Lord Voldemort’s grave has become somewhat of a shrine for Potterheads!
It’s also worth checking out the boarding school that inspired Hogwarts (and Rowling’s own children attended after she sold her books) next door, as well as the bank that looks rather familiar to Gringotts. There’s also Potterrow (part of the University grounds) which hides an underpass that feels incredibly reminiscent of where Harry was attacked by Dementors, and the streets Jo Rowling would’ve walked when trying to find inspiration for this new world. Everywhere you go there’s something new to discover or a name you’ll link to something in the books – so it’s well worth taking a few hours to wander around and see what you can spot.
All in all Edinburgh is such an incredible place to visit, whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not. With so many amazing restaurants, shops and beautiful streets to discover, you’ll have no problem at all occupying yourself for a long weekend. If you do love everything wizard related though, you’ll be in for a real treat – for Edinburgh fully embraces its place within Potter history and celebrates the fact their city was the starting place of so much joy, now and in the years to come.
There are so many things to do and see in Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan, so I can’t wait to go back and discover even more that this amazing city has to offer.
Have you visited Edinburgh? What other locations or activities are worth investigating?
We booked, organised and paid for everything in Edinburgh ourselves.