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Okay, muggles, witches, and wizards of all houses. Did you know you can visit a real-life Diagon Alley in Edinburgh?
Yep, it’s called Victoria Street and it is so similar to the book description that it has become known as Edinburgh’s Harry Potter Street and draws in many fans every year.
It’s also one of the most photographed streets in the city as the vibrant shop boutiques provide a rainbow of colour within the old sandstone buildings.
Potterheads must fly their brooms over here while they are in the city as they can walk down the colourful cobbled street and shop for Wizarding supplies at the same time.
Here is a Harry Potter guide for Victoria Street Edinburgh and everything you can do on Edinburgh’s Harry Potter Street!
Victoria Street History
Victoria Street was designed by the architect Thomas Hamilton in the 19th-century as a way to improve access in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Previously, the route to Grassmarket and Lawnmarket was through the steep and narrow lane of West Bow.
The cramped housing in this area was home to a famous resident called Major Thomas Weir who was known as the ‘Wizard of the West’. He was tried and executed for witchcraft in 1670. His home was demolished as part of the renovations.
The housing here was rebuilt in the ‘Old Flemish’ style, similar to Heriot’s Hospital. Today, this is known as George Heriot’s School and many believe this was an inspiration for Hogwarts!
Once it was finished, the buildings were quickly rented by those wanting to set up businesses in the city centre. The most famous is Robert Cresser’s brush shop established in 1873.
It is thought to be the inspiration for Ollivander’s Wand Shop! It closed in 2004 and now this is home to a famous Harry Potter Shop called Museum Context.
Today, Victoria Street is known for a slightly more magical reason and that is due to the world of Harry Potter.
Many fans refer to this as ‘Edinburgh’s Harry Potter Street’ as it is a ‘real-life Diagon Alley’ that inspired the famous Wizard shopping street in the books!
Is Victoria Street a real-life Diagon Alley?
Okay, okay, I told a slight lie and I won’t need a Veritaserum to tell you the truth. It is just a fan theory that Victoria Street in Edinburgh is a real-life Diagon Alley. It’s never been officially verified.
There are many streets across the country that have a claim to being THE Harry Potter Street. The Shambles in York is a huge one and my personal favourite contender.
But, it’s so easy to see why Victoria Street could be a real-life Diagon Alley here in Edinburgh.
First off, J K Rowling wrote some of the very first chapters of Harry Potter in this city and so it is now known as the ‘birthplace of Harry Potter’. She also wrote the very last book of the Deathly Hallows here too in the Balmoral Hotel.
So, it stands to reason she would be inspired by many of Edinburgh’s historic streets for her Wizarding World.
Although in the books and movies, Diagon Alley lies behind the Leaky Cauldron which can be found on Charing Cross Road in London, the similarities to Victoria Street are uncanny.
In the books, Diagon Alley is described as cobbled and winding and Victoria Street is just like that. Also, this historic street is filled with colourful shopfronts in a rainbow of colours that are home to a variety of Independent boutiques!
What do you think? Does this street look like a real Diagon Alley to you?
Things to do in Edinburgh’s Harry Potter street!
So, what is there to do in Edinburgh’s Diagon Alley for Harry Potter fans?! Surprisingly, there is quite a lot!
You can find a Harry Potter shop to collect Wizarding supplies, take some incredible photos and find magical street art.
Here are all the spellbinding things to do on Victoria Street Edinburgh for Potterheads.
1. Take in the colourful buildings of Diagon Alley
The cobbled floors, old buildings, and rainbow of storefronts will instantly make you feel like you’ve been transported to Diagon Alley!
In the books, Diagon Alley is described as “A cobblestoned shopping area for the wizarding world, where Hogwarts students can purchase necessary supplies.” and Victoria Street is absolutely that.
You’ll find plenty of independent boutiques selling clothes, art, books, beauty products, candles, and jewellery.
Plus, there are even Harry Potter shops to be found here like Museum Context and The Enchanted Galaxy which has even more magic to uncover.
2. Go shopping in Museum Context
Museum Context is the most famous Harry Potter Shop in Edinburgh and can be found on 40 Victoria Street.
This building used to be home to Robert Cresser’s brush shop which was established in 1873. Today, many believe this was the inspiration for Ollivander’s Wand Shop!
It closed in 2004 and then became Diagon House. Later, it was renamed Museum Context and has three floors of mystical wares.
You’ll find oodles of Wizarding World merchandise like wands, robes, plush toys, books, and souvenirs in all the Hogwarts Houses. Plus, there are plenty of photo opportunities in store too.
3. Take in the views from Upper Bow
Victoria Street is one of the most photographed streets in the entire city and for good reason. It’s a riot of colour, old sandstone buildings, boutiques, and crowds!
If you wanted to capture this street without a lot of people in the way, one of the best viewpoints can be found from the Upper Bow.
If you head to the middle of Victoria Street, you’ll find a set of stairs leading upwards and here you’ll find a platform that provides one of the best photo opportunities!
While you’re here, you can check out some of the popular Scottish restaurants like Howie’s which has some outdoor seating if the weather is fine.
4. Visit Candlemaker Row
If you head to the bottom of Victoria Street towards Grassmarket and take a left, you’ll find the famous Candlemaker Row.
This is also known as Diagon Alley and you’ll find some great street art that says so! Although now it’s known as ‘Deviation Alley’.
There are some amazing colourful independent boutiques here so make sure to leave time for shopping.
Aspiring witches and wizards will love Black Moon Botanica which sells beeswax candles, herbs, oils, crystals, tarot readings, astrological charts, and even more magical offerings!
5. Visit the Harry Potter graveyard
Just beyond Candlemaker Row is the famous Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. This is one of my favourite graveyards in the world!
There is so much history to uncover here from Covenanter’s, grave robbers, poltergeist’s (yes, it’s haunted), and Scotland’s most famous loyal dog Greyfriar’s Bobby.
But, in recent years, a popular thing to do here for Harry Potter fans is to find Tom Riddle’s gravestone amongst other famous names from the books.
It’s now been coined as the ‘Harry Potter graveyard’. Make sure to take some time to explore but keep in mind to be respectful.
You’ll get a great view of George Heriot’s School aka Hogwarts School from the Flodden Wall!
6. Visit the Elephant House Café
Just beyond Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, you’ll find The Elephant House Café which is known as the ‘birthplace of Harry Potter’ as J K Rowling wrote some chapters of the very first book here!
Today, it sees droves of Harry Potter fans who want to take a seat and sip a coffee where the journey began.
You’ll find that the toilets here are filled with graffiti and notes from Potterheads and it’s almost become a bit of an institution.
If you did want to visit, I’d try to get here as early as you can. You can often see a huge line of patrons outside waiting for a seat!
Important Muggle Announcement: The Elephant House was tragically the victim of a freak fire recently! So, it’s temporarily closed for now. Fingers crossed it will reopen soon. If you wanted to visit another Harry Potter Café in Edinburgh, try ‘Black Medicine Coffee’ previously known as Spoon!
Where to eat on Victoria Street
Some of the best restaurants on Victoria Street can be found on the Upper Bow which is a platform above the lower ground row of shopping streets.
You’ll find lots of cafés serving brunch, and restaurants that serve food until late. A lot of them have some outdoor seating so you’ll get a great view of all the hustle and bustle below.
If you wanted to try some incredible Scottish cuisine, I would recommend booking a table at Howie’s. They serve up brunch, lunch, and dinner throughout the day. All food is locally sourced and seasonal!
Another Scottish eatery nearby is called The Grain Store. They open slightly earlier so are a great place to grab breakfast! You’ll sit in a vaulted alcove and be offered a locally sourced menu.
Just up the hill on Upper Bow, there is the popular Hideout Café situated in the old Quaker Meeting House. They serve up some great coffee to pair with a tasty menu of breakfast and lunch dishes.
How to visit Victoria Street Edinburgh
Victoria Street can be found in the Old Town of Edinburgh and is easily accessible from the Royal Mile near the Lawnmarket Crossroads.
You can also find this vibrant street from Grassmarket, Candlemaker Row, and the George IV Bridge.
Victoria Street is also open 24 hours a day and so I would get here as early as you can for photo opportunities. This street tends to pack out!
Victoria Street can be found in central Edinburgh and is easily accessible from the Royal Mile. Click here for a Google Pin!
Are you looking for more Harry Potter things to do in Edinburgh?
Although there are no filming locations in Edinburgh, this amazing city is known as the birthplace of Harry Potter. It’s the place that started it all and all these Dark Academia streets will make you feel like you’re strolling through Hogwarts!
I would recommend visiting one of the many cafés that J. K. Rowling wrote in while you’re here. The most famous are the Elephant House (temporarily closed) and Black Medicine Coffee (previously Spoon).
Nearby the Elephant House you’ll find Greyfriars Kirkyard, unofficially known to fans as the ‘Harry Potter Graveyard. Here, you can find Tom Riddle’s Grave and many other tombstones that have similar names to characters in the books.
Just beside the Kirkyard, you can catch a glimpse of George Heriot’s School which is thought to be a real-life Hogwarts.
In the Museum of Edinburgh, you can find the Lewis Chessman that inspired the pieces in Wizards Chess, lose yourself in Armchair Books or see J. K. Rowling’s Golden Handprints at the City Chambers.
Not to mention that there are plenty of Harry Potter experiences to be had like having a Butterbeer in The Dog House, cocktails at The Cauldron, The Department of Magic Escape Rooms, and many, many more!
Why not book a Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh?
I wouldn’t say it’s absolutely necessary but if you wanted to experience more of a guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh, I would recommend a walking tour.
There are plenty of these that run in the city and they are perfect for Potterheads who want some background to the sites they are seeing and how they connect to the stories.
This magical two-hour walking tour will take you to all the places where Harry Potter was ‘born’ and you’ll end your tour at Tom Riddle’s Grave. Plus, you can test your knowledge with their quiz and earn Hogwarts House points along the way!
Read more of my Edinburgh travel guides
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Harry Potter fans should look no further than checking into The Balmoral Hotel while in Edinburgh.
It’s actually a Harry Potter location in its own right as it’s a place where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Room 552.
The Balmoral Hotel has made that room an official ‘J. K. Rowling suite’ with its very own purple door and owl door knocker. The desk she used remains and you will find a signed marble bust and framed book cover on display inside.
Of course, you don’t have to stay in the suite, but their normal rooms are pure luxury! It’s not a cheap place to stay by any means but it really is one of the best hotels in the city centrally located on Princes Street.
If you didn’t have the money to splurge on a room but you did want to experience the hotel, I’d recommend booking an afternoon tea in their stunning Palm Court.
It is one of the best places to have afternoon tea in Edinburgh. You can read my complete review of this experience here.