Home » Living the Magic of Harry Potter With Kids in Edinburgh, Scotland: Self-Guided Tour

Living the Magic of Harry Potter With Kids in Edinburgh, Scotland: Self-Guided Tour

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Embarrassing as it is to admit this, when we arrived in Scotland, I didn’t even know there was Harry Potter inspo there! We’ve enjoyed seeing the Lello Library in Porto, Portugal, famed for helping inspire Hogwarts, explored several HP spots in London, and traveled to Universal Studios to immerse ourselves in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So when I learned that Edinburgh has tons of Harry Potter-related sights to explore, I immediately highjacked our plans to head out on a self-guided Happy Potter-themed tour. JK Rowling was living in Edinburgh for most of her time writing the Harry Potter books, so it makes sense that the area offers a lot of Harry Potter inspiration.

Throughout our exploration, Edinburgh quickly climbed up our list of favorite cities. It’s so charming, easy to navigate, and small enough to hit all the sites on foot and in just a little bit of time. The national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn; how cool is that? It’s rumored you can spot unicorns around the city at sunset, and we may even have spotted one!

There are plenty of guided tours as well, some of which I’ll share below. However, in case you are like me and and are only now finding this information out without enough time to plan ahead and book a guided tour (or, also like me, your partner hates guided tours), here’s a breakdown on how to do a tour yourself!

Embarking on a self-guided Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh can be a magical experience for fans of the series. The city is full of inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s books and places that played a role in the creation of the wizarding world.

Catching the sunset at Downtown Edinburgh

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Opinions shared are my own, and I only endorse products I support. By clicking on any of the links below, I may get a small commission if you purchase at absolutely no additional charge to you. I appreciate your support.*

How To Do a Self-Guided Harry Potter Tour With Kids

Research and Planning

  • Familiarize yourself with the key Harry Potter locations and their connections to the series. You can find detailed guides and information online.
  • I like to flag the locations on Google Maps by making a saved list. This is key when you are out walking around. Kids hate extra walking, so even a few minutes of planning goes a long way!
  • Plot the locations on a map, and roughly decide on your path around the city.

Starting Point

  • Consider starting your tour at The Elephant House, a café where J.K. Rowling spent time writing the early books. It’s often referred to as the “birthplace” of Harry Potter.
    • Note: This is currently closed due to a fire in 2021. Bummer! All you can currently see is a closed-up shop. I imagine it will re-open eventually, as it was hugely popular.
  • An alternate starting point can be Victoria Street, the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It still very much feels like the Diagon Alley of the books and films!

Harry Potter Walking Tour Ideas

Here are some of the notable Harry Potter-related spots to include in your self-guided tour:

  • The Elephant House: Enjoy a cup of coffee where Rowling wrote parts of the second and third books (when it re-opens).
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard: Find tombstones with names that inspired some of the characters. You’ll find gravestones with familiar names like McGonnagal, Potter, Moodie, Scrymgeour, Black, Cruikshank, and Tom Riddle!
Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard where many names also show up in the books, such as McGonagall, Pettigrew, and more
  • Victoria Street: This colorful street is believed to have influenced the design of Diagon Alley.
    • Museum Context is the most famous Harry Potter Shop in Edinburgh and can be found at 40 Victoria Street. Be prepared to wait in line to get in!
  • George Heriot’s School: This impressive school is said to have inspired Hogwarts. While you can’t enter, you can view it from the outside. It started as an orphanage and charitable school in 1628, and it is now a VERY expensive boarding school. It also happens to have four houses, four towers, and some inspiring architecture.
  • Arm Chair Books: One of the best bookstores in Edinburgh and served as inspiration for the library at Hogwarts – if you love books, it’s a must.
The Museum Context, a famous Harry Potter memorabilia store on Victoria Street
  • Potterow Point: This is said to be where JK got the inspiration for the namesake of Harry Potter.
  • Balmoral Hotel: J.K. Rowling finished writing the final book here. You can view the suite where she stayed.
  • Potter Trail: Join a guided tour or use their map for a well-organized journey through Harry Potter locations.
  • Grassmarket and Old Town: Stroll through these historic areas, imagining them as magical settings.
We scored some butterbeer in a bottle on Victoria Street
  • Grab some Butterbeer at the Dog House: Please note that Butterbeer in Edinburgh is alcoholic, though you can ask for non-alcoholic versions if you’re traveling with kids.
  • See JK Rowlings Handprints: Set into the road just off the Royal Mile near the Edinburgh City Chambers.
  • Department of Magic: A small tavern offering potions classes, escape room puzzles, and lots of Harry Potter theming. Book a visit in advance.
  • Afternoon Wizarding Tea: The Cauldron’s Bar offers an interactive magical experience with kids brewing tea.
Of course, wand shopping in Diagon Alley

Harry Potter Souvenirs

  • Along the way, you’ll find numerous gift shops offering Harry Potter merchandise and memorabilia. Pick up a few souvenirs to remember your magical adventure. You’ll find wands, key chains, and more. I bought the Marauders Map!
  • We found the best souvenirs on Victoria Street at a shop across the street from Museum Context.

Photography and Imagination

  • Take plenty of photos to capture the magic of the places you visit.
  • Allow your imagination to run wild as you explore Edinburgh. Let the streets, buildings, and landmarks transport you to the world of wizards and witches.
  • Even better, come in your best Harry Potter costumes!

Food and Refreshments On Your Harry Potter Tour

  • Incorporate stops for meals or snacks at local cafés or restaurants. You might even find some that offer Potter-themed treats.
Exploring around Edinburgh Castle, which has a very Hogwarts kind of vibe

Timing of Your Harry Potter Tour With Kids

  • Plan your tour at a comfortable pace, allowing time for exploring, taking photos, and enjoying each location.

Respect Local Rules

  • Remember that some of these locations are public areas or functioning businesses, so respect the people and surroundings.

Enjoy the Journey

  • The most important aspect of your self-guided tour is to have fun and immerse yourself in the magic of the Harry Potter universe.

Guided Harry Potter Tour Options

There are several options for guided Harry Potter Tours in Edinburgh. With a bit of planning ahead, you can pick which one suits you best.

  • Opt for a free option (donations welcome) with Potter Trail, a walking tour exploring all the most important spots!
  • Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour unfolds the city where the world of Harry Potter originated. Itinerary points include Greyfriars Kirkyard, Potterrow, Victoria Street, Grassmarket, and Grassmarket.
  • Want to see the original Hogwarts School? Book this Harry Potter Walking Tour, and learn more of the stories and secrets behind Harry Potter.
Tom Riddle’s Grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard

Other Fun Harry Potter Trivia

  • You can book the JK Rowling suite at the Balmoral Hotel (room 552). The final Harry Potter book was finished here, as J.K. needed to find a quiet space to finish writing. Apparently, J.K. wrote in black pen on a marble statue, “J.K woz ‘ere.'” Rates are steep at over $1700 a night!
  • Portugal has lots of HP history, as J.K. taught English at a university in Porto. She married a Portuguese journalist, the father of her daughter Jessica, but that relationship ended in divorce, and she was left alone (wrong move, dude!!). This was a dark period in her life that inspired some real-life dementors.
  • J.K. Rowling wrote most of the books in cafes in Edinburgh, because she enjoyed working there while her daughter napped. She is said to have rocked her with one hand while writing.
  • Inspiration for Harry himself is said to have come on a delayed train ride from Manchester to London in 1990. J.K. didn’t have a pen and had to keep Harry building in her imagination, which she now credits to helping build out his character and the story.
  • Rowling still resides in Edinburgh when she isn’t at one of her many other properties. Locals know where she lives, roughly, and her favorite grocery store.
Grace brushing up on Harry Potter history during our tour

Where To Stay in Edinburgh With Kids

Indeed, there is a lot to see in Edinburg! Thus, you can find yourself worn out from roaming the whole day. Wrap up your day and take a good night’s rest at these top-rated hotels:

  • Market Street Hotel is a family-friendly hotel that is 29 minutes away from the airport and 7 minutes away from Edinburgh Castle.
  • Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian is located near a train station. Some of the notable landmarks nearby are the Edinburgh Castle and Royal Mile. Going with kids? The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions and Murrayfield Ice Rink are worth visiting!
  • Dakota Edinburgh has great family-friendly offerings. It is located in South Queensferry. Edinburgh Zoo is something you shouldn’t miss if you check in here.

Traveling to Edinburgh was an enjoyable experience that my young heart and kids enjoyed (definitely because of Harry Potter). Make the best out of your trip and share your experiences!



Plan your trip to Edinburgh and get some budget-friendly tickets from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a hotel in Edinburgh from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of Edinburgh while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while in Edinburgh? Book a professional photographer from flytographer.

Capture your best travel memories in Edinburgh as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

What to Know When Visiting Athens, Greece With Kids

Tips For Visiting Harry Potter World, Orlando

Enotel Lido: An All-Inclusive Family Resort in Madeira, Portugal


  1. Pingback: Amazing 5-Day Scotland Itinerary for Families - 7 Wayfinders

  2. Pingback: Discovering Madeira as a Family - 7 Wayfinders

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *