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Harry Potter Things to Do in Edinburgh

The Must Sees for Potterheads

Edinburgh, the city where J.K. Rowling herself began writing the world famous seven books that rocked an entire generation, including myself. Walking around that city, seeing what she saw while she thought of the magical world, created a feeling within me unlike any other. If you're a Potterhead and have a chance to visit this incredible city, here are the things you just have to see!

The Elephant House

J.K. Rowling started writing the first book in a different cafe in Edinburgh, but that was purchased by another company a few years ago. As such, The Elephant House titles themselves "the birthplace of Harry Potter" and you can understand why.

At the back of the cafe, Rowling wrote most of the second book. You can actually walk to the very table where she sat. There, in the corner, actual magic was created.

The food is alright, I would particularly recommend the cakes, but the place isn't about the food. It's about the atmosphere, and the cafe really delivers there!

There are shirts, buttons, and bags for sale. Plus, loads of Harry Potter drawings and pictures on the wall. Sitting there, knowing that most of the people inside the building share an obsession with you, is intoxicating.

The Bathroom

While in The Elephant House, be sure to enter the bathroom. Inside, both the men's and women's, you will see hundreds of pieces of Harry Potter graffiti. From quotes, to messages, to names, you can feel the community surrounding you.

I went with my grandpa, and he was shocked to see all the messages surrounding the room. There's pen on the walls, the ceiling, the mirror, the hand dryer, basically everywhere you can think of.

Make sure to bring your own sharpie to add your own piece to the room! Leaving your mark is like leaving a piece of yourself. Also, see if you can spot the mark that I left. It's right above the toilet, it's my favorite Hermione quote.

The Balmoral Hotel

Rowling wanted to end the series where she started it, so she returned to Edinburgh to write the final book. However, she was a bit too famous at that point to write in a cafe, so she booked a room at The Balmoral Hotel.

The room where she stayed has a purple door, and there is even a busk inside that she signed before she checked out. You can actually stay in the room, if you have a thousand pounds to spare.

I, obviously, do not have that kind of money, so I asked the front desk if I could go and see the door. Unfortunately, someone was checked into the room, and the hotel didn't want me to disturb them (understandably). But, they did tell me that if the room is empty, people are free to go and take a picture of the door, as long as they ask.

However, I was quite content to stand in the lobby, and soak in some of the aura. Just being in that building felt quite final, as if something ended there.

Edinburgh Castle

The fact that Hogwarts is a castle is no accident, especially considering how imposing Edinburgh Castle is. You can't be anywhere in the city without the building leaning over you.

Rowling definitely gathered inspiration from the city, and the castle is no exception. The grand building is impressive enough, and while walking around it, it does kind of feel like magic. From the huge wall to the massive towers, it's the closest to Hogwarts you can get in this world.

If you picture Rowling strolling along those cobblestones streets, it's unsurprising that she made Hogwarts a castle. It's hard not to want to live in a castle after seeing one like that.

Victoria Street

Many streets could have inspired Diagon Alley, especially since Europe is full of small, windy roads, but none resemble it more than Victoria Street. 

Standing at one end of the street, you literally cannot see the other side, which almost makes entering it seem like you're entering another world. Perhaps through a brick wall?

Nevertheless, the street itself is pretty incredible, with Harry Potter stores lining either side. The atmosphere of this area is electric and I would highly recommend taking a stroll.

The Jacobite Train

Source: Great Rail

I did not have the pleasure of riding the Jacobite Train, as my stay in Edinburgh was quite short, but this train is a main inspiration for the Hogwarts Express.

When you ride it, a trolley even travels down the aisle, filled to the brim with Harry Potter candy. Quite the experience, so I'm told.


The city is incredible in itself. With a wonderful atmosphere, loads of cafes and shops, and a lovely group of locals. I highly recommend going to Edinburgh, no matter if you love Harry Potter or not. 

However, if you are a fan of the franchise and wish to see where all the magic started, the city is a must-see. It truly feels like the fictional world when you're there, and it's an incredible experience.

To see my photos from Edinburgh and the rest of my trip, follow me in Instagram @harri.smith.photos

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