Edinburgh is a beautiful city full of history, Harry Potter, kilts, and great food. There’s many top things to do to fill any persons itinerary. Edinburgh is multicultural and easy to walk around, and well worth a stop on any Scottish Itinerary or road trip. Here’s some of my picks for the top things to do in Edinburgh.
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The Royal Mile
The royal mile stretches from Holyrod House (where the Queen lives when in Edinburgh), to Edinburgh Castle. It’s lined with hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops selling tartan everything and Harry Potter memorabilia. It’s great for a wander and makes it easier to orientate yourself in the city. There’s usually a busker or two rocking the bagpipes and adding to an authentic Scottish experience.
Victoria Street - Diagon Alley
My trip to Scotland was a Harry Potter pilgrimage, something my husband didn’t realise until I shared our Itinerary with him the day before we left. Edinburgh is a hotbed for Harry Potter filming locations, inspiration, and cafes that JK Rowling either wrote in or probably wrote in. I knew I wanted to visit Victoria street after seeing it in photos, and after visiting I can say it’s definitely one of the top attractions in Edinburgh. It’s picturesque, with colourful old buildings crowned by the more gothic century-old stone of the upper city. Apparently, it is the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and you can find a bright red Harry Potter shop taking advantage of this new fame. It’s just off the Royal Mile at the Castle end. Follow the signs and you can’t miss it. You can also sit at a restaurant or bar above Victoria Street and watch it all go by.
Elephant Cafe - That Harry Potter Cafe
One of the top things to do for any adventurer or Harry Potter fan is Elephant Cafe. This red cafe is just around the corner from Victoria Street, and just off the Royal Mile. It looks bright and cozy and is where JK Rowling would escape to drink coffee and write her little novel, Harry Potter. There’s Harry Potter grafiti on the bathroom walls left by fans of the books and photos of the films and JK Rowling in the actual cafe area. Get there early if you don’t want to wait, as it gets busy.
Fancy a bit of idyllic country life in the middle of a bustling city? Head to Dean Village in the centre of Edinburgh for the sound of birds and bubbling brooks. The sleepy cobbled streets are a world away from the chaos of the Edinburgh Royal Mile and Princes Street. Dean Village was once a separate village before it was swallowed by Edinburgh, but has luckily been able to retain its picturesque character. The Water of Leith runs through the old stone cottages and mills. There is a path beside the water and you can follow this and stop on the bridges for the many photo opportunities.
If you want sunset/sunrise views over the city and don’t want to hike up to Arthur’s Seat then Carlton Hill is a great alternative. It’s about a twenty minute walk from the Edinburgh Castle and if you’re lucky with the weather it’s a beautiful spot to watch the sun set. People bring drinks and picnic stuff and then just sit on the grass enjoying the view. It is a hot spot for photographers at sunset, so bring your patience, as you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the person next to you on some of the vantage points. There’s also a strange Pantheon copy and a few interesting land marks to explore if you turn up early.