The Real World of Harry Potter – Edinburgh Edition
In honor of the opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood’s Universal Studios, I thought I’d share The Real World of Harry Potter in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). I’d also like to point out that while I enjoy Harry Potter, I'm not a Harry Potter enthusiast. I just happen to see these “Harry Potter” inspired spots quite a bit as an expat in Scotland.
Spoon Cafe (formerly Nicolson’s Cafe)6A Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH It is said that Rowling wrote the books in many cafes because she couldn’t afford heat in her flat, but Rowling denied this in an interview stating that she wrote wherever she could get her baby to sleep. Apparently, it was at this cafe pictured above. It was previously Nicolson's Cafe and then a Chinese buffet restaurant, but now it's become Spoon Cafe. Spoon Cafe is located on the first floor of a building (which in U.S. language is the second floor!). I guess it helps that her brother-in-law owned it cause I don’t know if a single mom would want to bring a stroller (or “pram” as they say here in Scotland) up all those stairs to the cafe. I liked all the open space available. It was a nice spot to read, study, and work. We ordered the peach cake and an elderflower and a lime soda. The peach cake was good, but a little heavy and dense for me. They also serve soups, sandwiches, and coffee. Since this spot is not as popular as The Elephant Cafe, it's definitely a much calmer option if you're wanting the JK Rowling experience.
21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN
This is the coffeeshop that claims to be the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” even though I would imagine that she probably wrote more at Nicolson’s (now Spoon Cafe) since her brother-in-law was the owner and all that. J.K. Rowling did an interview here. In my opinion, this coffeeshop is probably the most famous Harry Potter/JK Rowling site. It’s a cute little spot with views overlooking Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriar’s Cemetery, and George Heriot’s School in the back room. There's nothing really “Harry Potter” about this coffeeshop. It really is an elephant-inspired cafe with lots of elephants on the walls and even an elephant chair. I guess a lot of Chinese tourists also flock here as even the signs and menus are in Chinese. Personally, I don’t think there is anything particularly special about the food or coffee, but this is where she wrote parts of the book. I ordered the mint hot chocolate which was very nice. It was light and not too sweet, but I didn't taste much chocolate. I also got this Malteser Cake (basically a caramel tart with malted chocolates on top) that was sweet and yummy. There is no complimentary wifi so it's not the best place to study or work, but I guess it'd be nice to meet up with a friend here. Due to the tourists, you'll probably queue for 5-10 minutes to order. It is also very important to visit the women’s restroom here. It's basically a shrine to Harry Potter. interview with Oprah. Sometimes, the harpist plays the Harry Potter theme song during afternoon tea in the Palm Court. Even the animal mascot for the hotel is an owl, inspired by Hedwick, a snowy owl. When kids visit, they can receive an owl as amenity for turndown service. The hotel itself is a 188-room 5-star luxury hotel with 3 restaurants (one is a Michelin-star restaurant and another is an afternoon tearoom), two bars (one is a whiskey bar), and a spa with a pool. You can also see the Edinburgh Castle from some of the rooms of the hotel. Most people don't realize that JK Rowling's room actually doesn't face the castle. I totally get why Ms. Rowling didn't mind writing in this grand hotel.