The Best Music Festivals in Paris And in the Ile-de-France

In Paris, summer season goes hand in hand with festivals! French and international music stars arrange to meet during the summer in our beautiful French capital to entertain both young and old! But also, film festivals are organized during the summer. For you, we have concocted a list of the biggest festivals taking place in Paris this summer!

In Paris, summer season goes hand in hand with festivals! French and international music stars arrange to meet during the summer in our beautiful French capital to entertain both young and old! But also, film festivals are organized during the summer. For you, we have concocted a list of the biggest festivals taking place in Paris this summer!

La Plage de Glazart

Dates: June-September

Address: Glaz’Art, 7-15, Avenue de la Porte de la Villette – 75019 Paris

Access via public transport: Porte de la Villette (M7)

Price: Free entrance

Music Style: Clubbing

The musical event of La Plage de Glazart takes place over the course of approximately 4 months and is famous for its numerous open-air concerts and its white sand… 50 tons of fine sand, boules, a good atmosphere, friends, free concerts and outdoor clubbing make up the magic formula of this festival! And we are pleased to see this vegetated place filled with deckchairs and greenery! On stage, you can find your favourite artists, in particular, Ocelot, Patara or Cardamohm!

Download Festival Paris 2017

Dates: Early June

Address: Base aérienne 217 de Brétigny-sur-Orge / Le Plessis-Pâté

Access via public transport: Gare de Bretigny (RER C)

Price: 3-day pass for 165€

Music Style: Rock, metal, heavy, hard

For all lovers of metal, rock, heavy and hard, Download Festival Paris opens its doors to you in June, about thirty minutes away from Paris! Newly arrived from the United Kingdom in 2016 and counting on rock programming, you will be ensured to have a blast with your friends, your partner or your family!

To purchase your tickets in advance, visit the official website of the event!

Festival Jazz Musette des Puces 2017

Dates: Early June

Address: Puces de Saint-Ouen, Avenue de la Porte Clignancourt – 75020 Paris

Access via public transport: Porte de Clignancourt (M4)

Price: Free entrance

Music Style: Jazz

For several days, the Festival Jazz Musette des Puces offers you the opportunity to attend free jazz concerts to the Saint-Ouen flea market. For the program in 2017: Richard Galliano, Thomas Dutronc, and many other artists will be there! The talents of the French scene will know how to make you vibrate under the tempo of their instruments. Since the atmosphere is guaranteed, do not hesitate anymore and pop over to the 20th district!

Festival de Paris 2017

Dates: June

Address: 5 places in Paris: Eiffel Tower, Mairie du IVème, Musée de la Vie Romantique, Petit Palais et Eglise Saint-Eustache

Access via public transport:

  • Eiffel Tower: Bir-Hakeim (M6), Trocadéro (M6-M9), Ecole Militaire (M8), Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel (RER C)
  • Mairie du IVème: Saint-Paul (M1), Hôtel de Ville (M1 et M11)
  • Musée de la Vie Romantique: Pigalle (M2 et M12), Saint-Georges (M12), Blanche (M2), Liège (M13)
  • Petit Palais: Champs-Elysées – Clémenceau (M1 et M13)
  • Eglise Saint-Eustache: Châtelet (M1, M4, M7, M11, M14, RER A, B et D)

Price: From 25€

Music Style: Classical music

Classical music floods the capital in June! This festival invites the fanatics of classical music or the curious guys to gather in 5 highly symbolic places of Paris. Patricia Petibon, David Fray, Regula Mühlemann and many others will be there and the sound of their sumptuous musical instruments will soothe you in the key places of the capital, such as the Eiffel Tower, the City Hall of the IVè, the Museum of the Romantic Life, The Petit Palais and the Church Saint Eustache. For the out-and-out fans of classical music, it is the place to be. Do not miss out!

Visit the host site of the event to purchase your tickets in advance.


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Dates: End of June

Address: Hippodrome de Longchamp

Access via public transports: Boulogne Jean Jaurès (M10) 2,5km from the festival or Porte Maillot (M1, RER C) and then take the bus 244 (exit N°6 from the metro line number 1).

Price: Between 15€ and 59€. For further information about prices, please refer to this website address.

Music Styles: Electro, rap, hip-hop, pop rock, heavy metal, reggae/ragga, jazz/blues, French pop music

Solidays is a united festival since it combats AIDS, thanks to hundreds of concerts spread across the capital. The programme is varied and eclectic! Numerous tops of the bill but also favorite artists are to be planned. Thanks to its varied selection of artists, we can assure you that this will be an unforgettable moment! And for a good cause!

Paris Hip Hop Closing

Dates: July

Address: 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris

Access via public transport: Porte de la Villette (M7, T3b)

Price: 29€ for a day. For more details about prices, check the official website of the event.

Music Style: Rap

French rap is spotlighted for two days at a stretch thanks to the festival of Paris Hip Hop Closing! Launched in 2005, this festival always knew how to make a unique experience in an urban frame live. With a French and international programme, this festival is undoubtedly not to be missed for hip-hop lovers. The 2017 edition invites very big artists in their categories such as The Underachievers, Sofiane, Kool G Rap, Myth Syzer, Roméo Elvis & Le Motel, Josman and many others! In addition to its music, this festival suggests you learn or reveal your talents during dance and tag activities! The choice is yours!

Fête de la Musique

Date: June 21 st

Address: Across the capital

Price: Free

Music Style: Every kind of music

Every year since 1982, the night of June 21 st is devoted to music! Everyone is invited to play their favorite musical instrument on the stage or to listen to the sweet or rhythmic melodies of the artists! Well-known and young artists take the scene of all the places of the capital: streets, museums, gardens, bars, restaurants, churches … and offer to the spectators a very wide choice in terms of music.

Peacock Society festival

Dates: Early July
Address: Parc Floral 75012 PARIS
Access via public transport: Château de Vincennes (M1)
Price: 2-night pass for 69€. For further details about prices, please check the official website of the event.
Music Style: Electronic

Peacock Society Festival is an event that gathers up to 15,000 persons in the atypical and unusual places of Paris. It stands among the unmissable festivals of electronic music. Spread over two days, it suggests you come to live its musical-visual arts and artistic influences. The scene of this festival welcomes the biggest in their categories. Among them, for the program in 2017: Nina Kraviz, Dixon, Marcel Dettmann, Moodyman, Levon Vincent and many more are ready to set the public alight and to vibrate your eardrums!

Paris Jazz Festival

Dates: From June to July
Address: Jardin Botanique de Paris Esplanade du château de Vincennes – Route de la Pyramide 75012 Paris
Access via public transport: Château de Vincennes (M1, RER A)
Price: between 11€ and 22€
Music Style: Jazz

Paris Jazz Festival makes its big long-awaited return in the Parc Floral during June and July! A real sanctuary for the artists of jazz, Paris Jazz Festival puts on a great spread every year! In 2017, count on Erik Truffaz’s presence but also Trilok Gurtu, Jacques Schwartz-Bart, Les Amazones d’Afrique, Lisa Simone, Anne Pacéo and many others who invite you to come to share their passion for jazz music with outdoor concerts, both day and night, for low prices and in the wonderful surroundings of the Parc Floral in Paris … What more can you ask for?

FNAC live

Dates: Early July
Address: Hôtel de Ville – Place de l’Hôtel de ville – 75004 Paris
Access via public transport: Hôtel de Ville (M1, M11)
Price: Free
Music Style: Popular

At the beginning of July, the FNAC moves in the esplanade of the town hall of Paris for unforgettable and 100% free outdoor evening concerts! Around thirty concerts will take place and the public can take advantage of this magical moment to discover its new favorite artist or to move to the rhythm of its favorite artists. The headlines of the previous years are Louise Attaque, Feu Chatterton or still Lilly Wood, and The Prick! There will be something for absolutely everyone!

Festival Classique au vert

Dates: Early August – Mid September
Address: Parc Floral de Paris, Bois de Vincennes, Route de la Pyramide, 75012 Paris
Access via public transport: Château de Vincennes (M1)
Price: Price of the entrance parc (between 3 and 6€)
Music Style: Classical

If you are a bashful lover of classical music, it is this year’s event not to be missed! Situated ” at the heart of the green bower of the Floral Park of Paris, ” each year, this festival attracts more than 80,000 spectators that come from all corners of the world to admire artists playing strings or piano keys and to waltz accompanied with the music of their lullabies! Situated right in the heart of the Floral Park of Paris in the Vincennes Woods for more than one month, this event is the ideal opportunity to gather family or friends in front of a more than grandiose show! Activities, exhibitions and meetings will also be “at the Rendezvous”!

Rock en Seine

Date: August

Address: Domaine National de Saint-Cloud – Paris

Access via public transport: Boulogne – Pont de St-Cloud (M10)

Price: 1 full fare ticket for a day: 49€. For more details about prices, please visit the official website of the event.

Music Style: Rock

For about fifteen years, the Festival Rock en Seine has not stopped increasing and being known as one of the best festivals of the year. This fame has been achieved thanks to artist presences like Muse, Radiohead, Calvin Harris, Justice, Lilly Wood and The Prick, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Lykke Li, Passion Pit, Skip the Use, Major Lazer and many others! As every year, this festival proposes the best of rock, of pop and of electro music and knows how to gather the generations, the musical styles, and the nationalities! It is the rock event of the year that is impossible to miss!

Book your ticket now on the official website of Rock en Seine!


Date: July
Address: Hippodrome de Longchamp – Paris
Access via public transport: Porte d’Auteuil (M10) and then take the shuttle to the racecourse on Saturdays, Sundays and during national holidays.
Price: 1-day pass for 79€. Further information concerning prices can be found on this website.
Music Style: Current music

Lollapalooza is an internationally known American festival and it makes its first appearance in France in 2017: great news for the music lovers because the participants can count on the presence of artists such as The Weeknd, Imagine Dragons, London Grammar, and Martin Solveig. This festival joins the big league among those of its category and is going to create a sensation during its arrival in France! 50 groups and 120,000 festival-goers are expected. Please book your places now …

Book your places now on the official website of the event!

The Festival for the film-lovers

Champs-Elysées Film Festival

Date: June

Address: 60 rue Pierre Charron, 75008 Paris

Access via public transport: Franklin D. Roosevelt (M1, M9)
Price: The regular fare is about 12€ per person. For further details about prices, check the official website of the event.

For its new edition widely awaited in June, Champs-Elysées Film Festival will be rich in terms of new movies! Situated on the most beautiful avenue of the world, this festival dedicates itself not to the 6th art of the music but to the 7th of the French and American cinema! This movie fan meeting aims to defend, promote and put the spotlight on the diversity of the American and French cinemas.

The awarded prizes during the festival are:

  • People’s Award and the Jury Prize – American Independent Full-Length Movie
  • People’s Award and the Jury Prize – French Independent Full-Length Movie
  • People’s Award and the Jury Prize – American short film
  • People’s Award and the Jury Prize – French short film
  • Prix France Télévisions – French short film
  • Prix Web Universciné – French and American short film

The 2016 edition attracted more than 23,500 spectators. Thus, Champs-Elysées Film Festival is the first Parisian film festival in terms of attendance levels.
As its name suggests, movies are shown in cinemas on or close to the Champs-Elysées Avenue: UGC Georges V, Le Balzac, Lincoln, Publicis Cinémas, Gaumont Ambassade, Club de l’Etoile.

Mona knows Paris like the back of her hand. Its bars, its restaurants and above all, its hotels, whether you want to sleep, eat, party or just take a walk in Paris, Mona knows them (nearly) all. Follow her lead, she will gladly give you all her good tips!

How Paris Has Changed Me; Moments and Memories in Photos – Greenheart Travel

I must admit, a single tear may or may not have silently slid down my cheek as I wrote this. Just how corny is it to say that Paris really does have a certain, “je ne sais quoi” about it? Here are my favorite moments from my language camp in France.

I must admit, a single tear may or may not have silently slid down my cheek as I wrote this. Just how corny is it to say that Paris really does have a certain, ” je ne sais quoi ” about it?

My time in Paris as a Greenheart Travel French language student was unparalleled to anything I believe I will ever experience, and reflecting on it actually reawakened the overwhelming, beautiful, surreal rush that I experienced daily while immersed in the French culture.

I miss it often and frequently catch myself replaying moments in my mind. Walking through Paris sometimes evokes confusing emotions. This shouldn’t be taken negatively. The streets are bustling and lively, yet with a quiet, whispered undertone, as if the city wants you to lean in to hear its secret. The first time strolling through it feels dreamy, like warm viscous honey, then calculated and crisp, sophisticated.

Parisians somehow appear understated yet bold, leisurely and rushed. The sun doesn’t go down until around 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m., as if the city is letting you hold onto the day a bit longer.

Favorite Memories and Moments from Paris

When I think of my favorite memories, my brain flashes to the smaller moments.

    An accordion and tuba player on the metro

    A fervent tap dancer a couple hundred feet from the arc

  • Stopping to watch a man place pigeons on a little girl bubbling with laughter
  • The abundance of alley cats roaming Bondoufle

I recollect hilariously awkward incidents, such as having a complete mental block and greeting someone with merci instead of bonjour, agonizing over how to pronounce yogurt or yaourt when ordering gelato for the first time in French, or having to use Google translate to understand a certain phrase my wonderful host mother said.

I think of the short lived tradition of going to le supermarchet with two fellow Greenheart Travel girls after dinner every night in our host town of Bondoufle, France. How we’d peruse the aisles for French chocolates yet leave with Very Bad Kids (the French version of Sour Patch Kids), and pamplemousse juice.

Gratitude for Teachers and a Glimpse into the Parisian Daily Life

My mind then ricochets to Lysiane, aka “wonderwoman.” She was our teacher, tour guide, friend, and total boss. Her petite frame was not to be underestimated. With a wave of her hat barely visible above the crowd she was off. Masterfully leading us from excursion to excursion, zipping up the stairs while the rest of us supposedly young and fresh, energizer bunny teenagers having to stop for the escalator because our feet hurt.

Her love for her job was evident. The moments we had to breathe in between trying to keep up with Lysiane were often on the metro, the veins of France. Although typically crowded and musty, on those striped, sweaty seats I felt the most connected to the city. It let my inquiring mind have a glimpse inside a true Parisian’s daily life, if not only for seconds at a time.

It made me feel both connected and clueless. Looking out the window, miles of French architecture and art were on display. A backdrop not taken for granted.

Inspired by France’s Art and Architecture

Graffiti paints the town and I marveled at the art found virtually everywhere. Much of France’s architecture has unpredictable tendencies that are a bit off kilter in a uniquely beautiful way not as prevalent in the United States. The old and new elements mesh together almost asking to clash, yet are somehow in perfect harmony.

The many forms of art in Paris, of course, included museums, and visiting the Louvre was most definitely a highlight for me. The pristine, intricate interior was art in itself, so looking up to see the world famous ceiling paintings was unreal.

My absolute favorite memory was entering the Eiffel Tower. Nothing represents France quite like the Eiffel, so to be standing on the renowned wrought iron, gazing up at the structure’s steel bolts disappearing into the sky, and walking down the steps surrounded by latticework like the inner workings of a spider’s web, was definitely a “pinch me” moment.

Some of my other favorite moments include:

    Marveling at Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (even if the 284 steps made me realize I should start doing cardio).
    Watching the Eiffel Tower come to life in the evening.
    Seeing the fireworks of Bastille Day, and visiting the MundoLingua, the Museum of Languages, which both made me feel like I had entered Hogwarts and reminded me that there is so much left of the world to explore. This is only the beginning.

Incorporating the French Way of Life Now that I’m Back Home

Cultural experiences I would love to bring back to my life in the States are the French’s celebration of love and its independent nature. In France, couples aren’t shy, and a basic greeting is a kiss on each cheek. Passion is evident and showing affection is not gawked at or regarded with distaste. I was inspired by this and would love to see it translated as a greater respect between genders in the states.

I noticed and admired as well that there is a very independent, capable, fast-paced air in restaurants and through the streets. Their culture doesn’t entail a waiter breathing down your neck. It is your responsibility to flag them down or ask for the check. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind bringing the “baguettes and dessert with every meal” part of French culture back with me to the States.

Special Connections with Fellow French Language Students

I also must say that my entire experience with the Greenheart Travel group of teens was one huge favorite moment. From the moment the group met, we clicked and by approximately day three it was like we had known each other for years. It was truly special and made my Paris language camp experience even greater.

It was awesome to learn about Belgium and Ecuador from girls who live there, and to meet other kids from all over the States. I will forever cherish our times together in class, dancing in the parking lot, exploring the Latin Quarter, and helping each other order. Thank you.

My time abroad has taught me how to engage and connect with people who live an ocean away and the joy and knowledge that comes from it. Traveling internationally is no longer this daunting, unattainable exploration for me. I’ve never felt so confident or excited to learn a new language and meet new people.

This trip has fostered in me an electric curiosity and the traveling bug has most definitely bit me. I can’t thank Greenheart Travel enough for making this trip even a possibility for me. I have no doubt that I will travel much more and visit Paris again. It is a city drenched in light and enveloped in creativity, leaving you starry eyed in it’s wake. For now, back to reminiscing wistfully. Au revoir!

About the Author: Angelique Ayoade is 17-years-old, from Asheville, North Carolina and is a Greenheart Travel Global Explorer Scholarship winner for our Teen Summer Language Camp in France! Angelique believes “interacting with people of a different culture and learning is a step towards raising up unity, empathy and love for people globally.” Follow her adventures here!

The Top Places to Visit in Edinburgh for Harry Potter Fans

Sprinkled with an enchanting essence, Edinburgh, a dreamy destination for Hogwarts fans, is sacred ground to Harry Potter enthusiasts. Between the higgledy piggledy cobbled streets, dramatic medieval architecture and age-old charm, J.K. Rowling landed on a goldmine of inspiration as spellbinding as the contents of Gringotts, when she moved to Scotland in the ’90s. Revel in the magic found woven throughout the cultural and historical fabric of Edinburgh and explore the best Potterhead spots.

Victoria Street

Adored by tourists and locals alike, Victoria Street is one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful streets. Lined with independent shops, each as colourful as the next, this curving cobbled street was built between 1829 and 1834. It also happens to be the main inspiration for Diagon Alley. Overflowing with character and stand-out quirks, even muggles can spot the similarities. Aha Ha Ha joke shop and Diagon House should not be passed up. Adding to the excitement, the Wizard of the West Bow once resided here many moons ago.

Victoria St, Edinburgh, Scotland

A newcomer to Edinburgh’s magic scene, Diagon House is a one-stop shop for all Potter-related needs and desires, minus all the commercial cheese common to many retailers. This atmospheric emporium is perched halfway down Victoria Street, a street famed as Rowling’s said inspiration for Diagon Alley. Adorned with a wealth of official HP merchandise and collectibles from local artisans, the meticulously picked curiosities span all price points. With decades of broom-making heritage written into its history, Diagon House is as charming as it is alluring.

Famed for its direct link with the story of Greyfriars Bobby, Greyfriars Kirkyard is deemed one of the world’s most haunted places. It was also a space of calm for Rowling while she gathered her thoughts and walked. Tucked away amid the age-old headstones is the grave of a Thomas Riddell Esquire, the very name (albeit a different spelling) given to Lord Voldemort. The kirkyard also houses the graves of Elizabeth Moodie and William McGonagall, which likely inspired the names of Mad-Eye Moody and Professor McGonagall. Fans flock from far and wide to leave letters and other forms of fan mail at ‘Voldemort’s grave’, despite the fact that the Edinburgh City Council remove them out of respect for the dead.

Cafe, Restaurant, Coffee Shop, British, Tea , $$$

A known hotspot for Scottish writers such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith, The Elephant House served as a home away from home for Rowling while she wrote the Harry Potter series, hence its unofficial title as ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter ‘.

Speculations state that Spoon, formerly called Nicolson’s Café, was the hangout of choice while she conjured up the first book. The café provided a prime working environment and the chance to save on her home heating bill.

An architectural masterpiece lined with turrets and towers, the resemblance between George Heriot’s School and Hogwarts is uncanny. This private co-educational school also uses the House system to sort students, just as Hogwarts has Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Almost as mesmerising as the magical edifice it inspired, Rowling’s children attended Heriot’s.

The Balmoral Hotel is both a staple in Princes Street’s skyline and a legendary institution. Praised for its high-end furnishings, central location, Michelin-starred restaurant and glamorous guests, Potter fans can embrace the magic and stay in room 552 or the J.K. Rowling Suite. Free from distractions and cloaked in luxury, this swanky suite was frequented by Rowling while she wrote The Deathly Hallows. The room features a brass owl door knocker, a signed marble bust of Hermes and the very writing desk where she put pen to paper.

A little slice of Hollywood in Scotland, the Edinburgh City Chambers is a popular stomping ground for any hardcore HP fans in the know. A bronze impression of Rowling’s hands is showcased on a flagstone in the quadrangle. These precious hands, which appeared in 2008 when the author received the Edinburgh Award, are placed next to those of Ian Rankin OBE, Sir Chris Hoy and Tom Gilzean.

Complete Guide to Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh Scotland plus Map & Tips

Edinburgh has a deep connection with the wizarding world of Harry Potter and there are several Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh that fans can visit. Most notably, it was the home of J.K. Rowling when she wrote the majority of the Harry Potter books.

Rowling has acknowledged her connection to the city stating that “…Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafés.”

Want to sit and sip coffee in the same café that J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books? See turreted buildings that may have been the inspiration for Hogwarts? See graves and streets that may have influenced the names of Harry Potter characters? Drink a pint of butterbeer in a local pub? We’ll provide all you need to know to find these places on your own or visit them on a fun walking tour.

However, as we dug into the evidence we found that some of the places and sights associated with J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter seem to be based more on fiction than reality. We’ll provide not only a list of the top Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh and how to visit them, but we’ll also try to separate fact from fiction in their relationship to Harry Potter and his famous inventor.

We also provide a walking map of all the Harry Potter spots in Edinburgh to help you explore on your own, a graveyard map to the famous Tom Riddle grave and others, and a list of tour companies that offer guided Harry Potter tours.

J.K. Rowling grew up in England but it is interesting to note that she is 1/4 Scottish on her mother’s side, and her parents actually met on a train ride to Scotland. Fateful train rides seem to run in the family as Rowling would first have the idea for Harry Potter on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. Rowling would come to Edinburgh in 1993 to be nearer her sister and although she had already started work on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, much of the writing of the seven Harry Potter novels would take place in Edinburgh.

Despite the connection between Edinburgh and the Harry Potter series, none of the filming for the movies took place in Edinburgh but part of the Harry Potter films were shot elsewhere in Scotland, including many of the famous Hogwarts Express train scenes.

But fans will still find many places to visit that were real-life places in J.K. Rowling’s life and places around the city that may have inspired Harry Potter characters and places. The great thing about these sites is that most of them are very close together and are easy to walk to from central Edinburgh.

Ready to learn about the top things to do in Edinburgh for Harry Potter fans? Grab your broomsticks and wands and let’s get started as we explore the top Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh!

Here is a comprehensive list of the top Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. We’ve visited them all, most of them several times, so do let us know if you have any questions. These are listed in no particular order although see map towards end of post about where they are each located in Edinburgh:

1. Nicolson’s Cafe (now Spoon)

: 6a Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DH

Harry Potter Connection

Nicolson’s Café was the place where J. K. Rowling as a newly divorced single mother wrote parts of her first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She had already started writing the novel before her arrival in Edinburgh, but she would finish the manuscript in Edinburgh, writing in her spare time while taking care of her young daughter Jessica.

Rowling had very little money in her early years living in Edinburgh and she would often go to write in the city’s cafés where she could write for the price of a cup of coffee.

One of the reasons that Rowling spent so much time at the cafe was that at the time it was co-owned by Rowling’s brother-in-law Roger Moore. Nicolson’s Café was a first floor restaurant (second floor for Americans) on the corner of Nicolson and Drummond Street.

Tips for Visiting

Nicolson’s Café has long since closed. The location was then turned into a Chinese buffet restaurant but has more recently been turned into a cafe/restaurant named Spoon. You’ll also find a plaque on the corner of Drummond Street saying that “J.K. Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter in the rooms on the first floor of this building”.

Stop into Spoon for lunch or dinner or for coffee and a dessert! This place is generally much less busy than The Elephant House so go here if looking for a quieter place to sip coffee in a former haunt of J. K. Rowling.

You may see the cafe’s name and address incorrectly spelled across the Internet by people who have simply copied and pasted the wrong name and address from others (there are hundreds of people who appear to have done this!). The street is Nicolson Street not Nicholson street and the cafe was called Nicolson’s Cafe not Nicholson’s Cafe.

This one is fact and it has a plaque to prove it. J. K. Rowling has talked about how she had very little money when she moved to Edinburgh and that she spent a lot of time writing in cafés. Rowling said this when asked about the best place to write in an Urbanette interview: “It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think. The best writing café is crowded enough to allow you blend in, but not too crowded that you have to share a table with someone else.”

In a Her baby daughter Jessica would often sleep next to her while she wrote. She wrote BBC TV interview special in December 2001, she noted: “I went out and wrote in cafes because the way to make Jessica fall asleep was to keep her moving-in the pushchair. So I used to take her out, tie her out, put her in the pushchair, walk her along-the moment she fall asleep, into the nearest café and write.” Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in long-hand and then later would type it out on a typewriter at home.

She said in the 2001 BBC Interview that Nicolson’s Cafe was where she wrote huge sections of her first Harry Potter book. She noted, “This was a really great place to write, because there were so many tables around here that I didn’t feel too guilty about taking a table up too long and that was my favorite table. I always wanted to try and get that one because it was out of the way in the corner. It was just great to look up when you were writing and stop and think about things and be able to look out on the street which was quite busy.”

That said, the actual cafe she visited (Nicolson’s Cafe) is long gone but the building is still there and you can still get coffee here.

Address: 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN

Harry Potter Connection

The Elephant House, which has a sign proclaiming itself as the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, was where J.K. Rowling penned later Potter novels and is probably the best known of the Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh. The café was also once frequented by a number of other now famous writers such as Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith.

Tips for Visiting

The cafe owes much of its current popularity to J. K. Rowling, and this is the busiest of all the Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. On our last walk by the cafe, there was a note on the door saying that the cafe has instituted a policy where you need to either order food or a drink or pay a small fee for photographs if you want to come inside.

The Elephant House is typically open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so stop by for a meal anytime or just a cup of coffee and pastry. You’ll be asked to wait and then place an order at the counter before being seated. This place is a popular tourist spot and can be a zoo so best to come early or late to avoid waiting in a long line for a seat.

However, despite the loads of tourists the lunch we had there recently was reasonably priced and portions were generous. Ask for a seat near the window (if you can) for views of nearby Greyfriar’s kirkyard and the more distant Edinburgh Castle. The decor here is mostly elephant related, but there are some Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling associated photos on the wall. Perhaps the greatest homage to Harry Potter here lives in the bathrooms so be sure to visit the toilets during your visit.

Fact or Fiction?

Fact with a dash of fiction. It is definitely a fact that Rowling wrote here and there are photos and interview materials to prove that Rowling spent some time writing here. However its claim to be the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” has little basis as Rowling has stated that she conceived the idea of Harry Potter on a train ride from Manchester to London in 1990 and had already started writing her first novel prior to her arrival in Edinburgh in 1993. In fact she has stated that she wrote part of it while in Portugal. She continued working on the novel after moving to Edinburgh in 1993, finishing the first manuscript in 1995.

The Elephant House opened in 1995. So while she may have not started Harry Potter here and most likely did not write any of the first novel here, she definitely spent some time writing here when working on subsequent books. There is a good video interview of J. K. Rowling in The Elephant House on the coffeehouse’s homepage, at the time of the interview Rowling had just sold her second Harry Potter book and was working on a third.

3. Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh. EH1 2QQ

Harry Potter Connection

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriar’s Kirk (church), and it was a place close to both of the mentioned coffee houses frequented by J. K. Rowling. It has been said that some of the gravestones here may have given Rowling inspiration for some of her famous Harry Potter characters. The most famous is the grave of Thomas Riddell which may have inspired the name for the fictional evil Lord Voldemort (birth name: Tom Marvolo Riddle).

A gravestone for Voldemort’s father is mentioned in the books and depicted in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with the fictional movie gravestone bearing the names of Thomas Riddle (Voldemort’s paternal grandfather), Mary Riddle (grandmother), and Tom Riddle Snr. (the character’s father).

In Edinburgh there is the gravestone of the real-life deceased Thomas Riddell Esquire, of Befsborough in Berwick, who died at the age of 72 on November 24, 1806. The gravestone also commemorates other Riddell family members, including his son Thomas Riddell Esquire who served as a Captain of the 14th Regiment and died at Trinidad in the West Indies in September 12, 1802 at the young age of 26.

There are several others graveyard names that have been thought to perhaps be tied to Harry Potter characters, and one could spend forever trying to find similarly named people in the graveyard. In fact there are graves that have the first or second names of many characters in the books. However, there are two other ones that seem to regularly attract Harry Potter fans.

The first is the gravestone of William McGonagall, who shares a last name with fictional Harry Potter character Professor Minerva McGonagall played in the films by the revered Dame Maggie Smith. The real-life William McGonagall was a Scottish poet and weaver, and is actually rather well-known (at least in Scotland) for being a notoriously bad poet. He died in September 29, 1902 at age 77.

Finally there is the grave of Mrs. Elizabeth Moodie which some think may have inspired the name of the fictional Harry Potter character Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. The real-life Ms. Moodie was wife of James Barid, the Deputy King’s Remembrancer of Exchequer.

Tips for Visiting

The graveyard is almost always open to visitors so it is an easy place to visit although finding the graves is more difficult, but if you go behind the church and stick to your right, most of the graves of interest to Harry Potter fans are in this back section behind remains of the old Flodden wall.

Look for an entrance and then follow the well-trodden path or a fellow tourist and you’ll likely find them pretty quickly. Harry Potter fans should remember that this is an active church and graveyard and to be respectful when making a visit here. I’ve included a helpful Harry Potter graveyard map which includes Voldemort’s grave and other Harry Potter graves below in case you need it:

In addition to the Harry Potter connection, the church and graveyard are an interesting place to visit in Edinburgh. Greyfriars Kirk (Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk) is a parish church of the Church of Scotland. The church was built between c. 1602 and 1620 and it is most notable for being the site of the signing of the National Covenant in 1638. It is still an active church as well as a concert and event venue, and there is a small museum in the church that contains an original copy of the National Covenant document.

The church is normally open to the public during the busy tourism months (Monday-Saturday from April to October) as well as being open to guests for worship services year round. The kirkyard is famous for being the burial site of many prominent Scottish people, the site of the Covenanter’s prison (can only be visited on tours), and perhaps most famously for being the burial site for Greyfriars Bobby (and his owner John Gray), the loyal Skye terrier who is said to have sat next to his master’s grave for 14 years.

A lot of fiction and a bit of fact. This one is harder to confirm but Rowling has never stated (to my knowledge) ever having directly used any names from the tombstones at Greyfriars Kirkyard in her Harry Potter books. However, she has noted she draws names from all kinds of places and has mentioned gravestones as a good source of information and Greyfriars Kirkyard is a short walk from The Elephant House.

For instance an Edinburgh News article in 2013 reported: “JK Rowling has previously said that the tombstone of Thomas Riddell Esquire in the famous Kirkyard may have subconsciously been the inspiration for nasally challenged Voldemort’s true name, since she often took strolls through the spot, which is overlooked by the Elephant House cafe, where she wrote several of the books.” So this connection seems weak at best. She has stated when asked about Harry Potter character names that “some of them are invented; Voldemort is an invented name” and it is French for “flight of death” or “theft of death” so we do know the origins of that part of his name.

I could find no information from J.K. Rowling or elsewhere that showed any connection between the gravestone or name of Elizabeth Moodie and the naming of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. Although I could also find no information on where she got this name. This one seems to have no basis in any facts.

J. K. Rowling has confirmed a connection between the name of Professor McGonagall and the Scottish poet (whose grave is at Greyfriars), stating when asked about how she came up with the name for the character in the 1999 radio interview with Christopher Lydon: “yeah, McGonagall, old erm – very, very, very bad Scottish poet, McGonagall is – I just loved the name.”

So Rowling may have indeed saw the name on the tombstone, although it is also likely that Rowling as a British person with Scottish ties would have known the poet’s name without having seen it on a tombstone. Out of the three, this one actually seems to have the most merit.

4. George Heriot’s School

Address: Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9EQ

Harry Potter Connection

George Heriot’s School was built in 1628 and first opened as an orphanage and charitable school (hospital) for boys, and is today a co-ed prestigious primary and secondary school. This notable turreted Scottish Renaissance school with its four buildings is believed by many to have served as the inspiration for Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tips for Visiting

George Heriot’s School is still an active school and therefore not open to the general public, but you can still admire the building through the gate or from different spots in the city. You can see it from a several places, including from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh Castle esplanade, and the Geroge IV Bridge.

Fact or Fiction?

Unsubstantiated. I could find no evidence for it being true. I could not find any information on JK Rowling ever saying what building or buildings inspired her description of Hogwarts. She has said that Hogwarts is located in Scotland. However, given the fact that George Heriot’s School is a co-ed secondary school with four houses, four towers and the 17th century architecture, it is easy to see how many people have assumed that there may have been a connection between this school and Hogwarts. Especially since the George Heriot’s School is located in central Edinburgh and right next to the cafés that Rowling frequented regularly.

However, the UK is full of historical schools and university buildings with turrets and interesting architectural features so a number of places could have served as inspiration. In Edinburgh alone you have George Heriot’s School, Fettes College, Stewart’s Melville College, or Donaldson’s School. It could also have just have easily come mainly from her imagination or from another writer’s depiction of a school.

From listening to Rowling’s interviews, I have learned that she very much likes to protect the identity of any real living people in her books, and I wonder if she has intentionally not revealed the exact inspiration (or likely multiple inspirations) for Hogwarts for this same reason? If for instance it was an active school like George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, I could see Rowling not wanting to name it for fear that overzealous fans may overstep their boundaries in order to try to visit.

Address: 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

Harry Potter Connection

The Balmoral Hotel is a 5-star 19th century hotel in central Edinburgh, and it was here that Rowling finished her final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is also here that she famously wrote on a marble bust of the god Hermes in the expensive suite, scribbling the following on the bust: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”.

Tips for Visiting

Fact or Fiction?

This is definitely a fact and has been confirmed by statements by J. K. Rowling and Balmoral Hotel staff. Rowling stated that she was having a hard time finishing the novel at home and wanted to get away from distractions for a while and decided to head to the Balmoral.

Apparently very few people knew she was staying here and it was kept quiet until after she finished her book (ah, the days before everyone was on social media). It is pretty amazing how Rowling wrote her first book while living on welfare and working in cafés and was able to finish her book in one of the most expensive hotels in Edinburgh. Note that some new articles and blogs report the wrong hotel room number, but it is definitely 552 based on my research.

6. Victoria Street & the Grassmarket Area

Address: Victoria St., Edinburgh EH1 2HE

Harry Potter Connection

Victoria Street is a narrow curved street in central Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area and is believed by some to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley (a cobblestone shopping street with stores selling wizardly supplies) in the Harry Potter books.

Victoria Street is a colorful old street with many brightly painted shops and buildings, some with pointed roofs, which many fans say are similar to the shops described along Diagon Alley.

More generally, some believe that many of the streets (like West Bow and Candlemaker Row) and buildings in the Grassmarket area may have served as inspiration for Rowling.

Tips for Visiting

The Grassmarket area is a great place to wander around if you are visiting Edinburgh for the first time. Victoria Street is a pretty street and not far from The Elephant House or the location for the weekly Grassmarket market (every Saturday). The Grassmarket area is a popular place for tourists to eat, drink, shop, and take photos. You can even find a novelties shop that sells magic items called AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties at 99 West Bow as well as the Museum Context store on Victoria Street (see more below).

There was a sign with Diagon Alley alongside a nice mural on the Lackdhu (recent name change from Maple Arts Framing) building on Candlemaker Row that read: “No setting could be more perfect for a magical school of witchcraft & wizardly than the majestic Gothic grandeur of this old toon. So it is no surprise that J.K. Rowling selected Scotland as the home of Hogwarts, or that several sites lie nearby this Diagon Alley.”

**Update April 2017: The sign and mural are now gone from Lackdhu building, hopefully these will return soon! The owners told us that the are hoping to have a new Harry Potter themed mural up at some point in 2018.**

Fact or Fiction?

Unsubstantiated. I could find no evidence that J. K. Rowling has made any statements that Victoria Street or Candlemaker Row (or any other street) inspired her description of Diagon Alley. However, given that Rowling would have certainly have walked along these streets during the time she was writing Harry Potter and they were so close to some of the cafés she visited, it is indeed possible that Victoria Street and other parts of the Grassmarket area did provide some inspiration.

7. Museum Context, a.k.a. Diagon House

Address: 40 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH12JW

Harry Potter Connection

Museum Context (aka Diagon House) is a shop selling all things related to Harry Potter from wands to broomsticks to stuffed Hedwigs and Harry Potter T-shirts as well as a variety of other stuff. The shop rebranded over the summer festival season of 2017 as Diagon House (not its real name) as a marketing ploy to cash in on Harry Potter fans.

The marketing ploy worked as there were lines out the door for a couple of weeks and the place is often crowded year-round. They have also recently set up a desk with a wizard hat on the top floor that customers can put on for a Harry Potteresque selfie on the top floor. But the store has long sold a collection of officially licensed Harry Potter items along with an eclectic collection of gifts and home accessories. Museum Context also have a second location on 42-44 Cockburn Street which also sells Harry Potter items.

There are actually several shops in Edinburgh that have a collection of Harry Potter merchandise. The newest is The Boy Wizard on Victoria Street. Our current favorite is Galaxy which is more easy to navigate than the crowded Museum Context and has more staff available for questions. Here is a list of other places to stop for Harry Potter souvenirs (both Blackwell’s & Galaxy are a minute walk from Spoon):

Tips for Visiting

If you are looking for Harry Potter souvenirs in Edinburgh, Museum Context is a good place to find them. In addition to Harry Potter stuff, it sells some other interesting gifts and items. I am a fan of their vintage style gifts and items, especially the globes. But there are also other options in the city now that also sell Harry Potter books, gifts, and souvenirs.

Fact or Fiction?

This is just a store selling Harry Potter items, and J.K. Rowling has no known relationship to any of these stores in which we are aware.

8. Former Rowling Residences

Addresses: All over the city

Harry Potter Connection

Edinburgh is often referred to as the birthplace of Harry Potter. Rowling has lived in several places in Edinburgh since 1993 and still resides here although she also now owns properties elsewhere in the UK and abroad.

According to a book by Joanne Soroka, Rowling first stayed with her sister in a flat on Marchmont Road, before moving to Gardner’s Crescent, then South Lorne Place, and Hazelbank Terrace. She then lived in a Merchiston area mansion at Abbotsford Park with her family until 2009. Rowling and her family now live behind high hedges in the Edinburgh area of Branton.

Tips for Visiting

There is not much to visit other than the outsides of buildings and some peeks of houses through gates, but a stroll through these areas may give Harry Potter fans a sense of the neighborhood in which Rowling has lived and how her circumstances have changed from a woman living on welfare to a best-selling author worth millions. It may also introduce visitors to some new Edinburgh neighborhoods that are well off the well-beaten tourist path.

Just note that J. K. Rowling and her family enjoy their privacy as do the people who live in her former residences, and you are wise to respect this. I decided not to publish any of the actual addresses (or photos) of her former or current residences out of both respect for those who live in them and for the fact that none are open to the public so there isn’t much to see at any of the locations.

Fact or Fiction?

Fact. Rowling has indeed lived in Edinburgh since 1993, and there is little doubt that she wrote a substantial amount of the books while in the city although she did begin writing the series prior to her arrival in the city.

Address: Potterrow Street, Edinburgh EH8 9BL

Harry Potter Connection

There is a street in central Edinburgh called Potterrow Street that some say it may have given J. K. Rowling inspiration for her famous hero’s last name.

Tips for Visiting

Along Potterrow Street, you’ll find University of Edinburgh buildings, students housing, and a few student geared eateries. Potterrow Port is a pedestrian underpass tunnel under Potterrow Street. There is not much to see here for Potter fans other than the signs.

Fiction. This particular association seems to have no evidence to stand on from what I can find other than the assumption that Rowling likely walked or drove along this street during the time she was in Edinburgh. In fact, there is substantial evidence against the street name having influenced Rowling in naming Harry Potter.

In a 1999 Barnes & Noble online chat (the first she ever did in America), Rowling was specifically asked where she came up with the name Harry Potter. Here is what she said: “Because Harry is one of my favorite boy’s names. But he had several different surnames before I chose Potter. Potter was the name of a brother and sister who I played with when I was very young. We were part of the same gang and I always liked that surname.”

Later in a 2000 Scholastic interview she reiterates this and goes on to say that if her first child had been a boy, she would have named him Harry and chosen a different name for her boy hero.

10. JK Rowling’s Handprints

Address: 253 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1YJ

Harry Potter Connection

J.K. Rowling’s handprints were reproduced on flagstone in front of the Edinburgh City Chambers after J.K. Rowling was awarded the Edinburgh Award in 2008 for her contributions to the capital city. This was soon after she had finished the final book in the Harry Potter series.

Tips for Visiting

You can find the golden handprints on a flagstone just off the Royal Mile, in front of the Edinburgh City Chambers. You can also find the handprints of others who have won the award (established in 2007), including writer Ian Rankin and athlete Sir Chris Hoy.

Fact. J. K. Rowling did indeed receive the Edinburgh Award. She said the following when accepting the Edinburgh Award in September 2008 (as reported by The Telegraph on September 20th): “It is an absolute honour to receive this award, as Edinburgh is very much home for me and is the place where Harry evolved over seven books and many, many hours of writing in its cafés.”

Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

Harry Potter Connection

Edinburgh Castle, the most recognizable landmark in the city, is a fortress castle with existing buildings dating back to the 12th century. Some say it was an inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books.

Tips for Visiting

Edinburgh Castle is the most recognizable landmark in the city and one of the main tourist attractions in Edinburgh. Whether or not it has any connection with Harry Potter, I would definitely recommend a visit for any visitor. Located at one end of the Royal Mile, you’ll see it from multiple viewpoints from around the city and it is easy to visit.

It is very popular so I’d recommend trying to visit when it first opens or nearer to closing time to avoid large crowds. A popular (but busy) time to be at the castle is for the firing of the gun, which takes place nearly every day of the year to mark 1pm. You can read more about the castle in an earlier post where we highlight 21 top attractions in Edinburgh.

Fact or Fiction?

Unsubstantiated. As noted for George Heriot’s School, J.K. Rowling has not named any locations as being an inspiration for Hogwarts, just that Hogwarts is located in Scotland in the books. of course Rowling would have seen the castle regularly as someone living in Edinburgh as it is visible from many locations and in fact you can see it from the windows of The Elephant House.

J. K. Rowling when asked to visualize Hogwarts in the 2000 Scholastic interview, said that she imagines it as “A huge, rambling, quite scary-looking castle, with a jumble of towers and battlements. Like the Weasley’s house, it isn’t a building that Muggles could build, because it is supported by magic.”

This does suggest that Hogwarts may be based on a castle. However, given that the UK and Europe have thousands of castles, there is no data to suggest it was based on Edinburgh Castle (or even a real castle at all) other than the fact that it was near to the place she wrote the books.

12. Edinburgh International Book Festival (August Only)

Address: Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4HQ

Harry Potter Connection

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the world’s largest celebration of books and is an annual 2-week event that has included J.K. Rowling. It was one of the first places Rowling gave a reading from her first Harry Potter novel in 1997. She also attended in 2004 and 2014.

Tips for Visiting

If you are in Edinburgh in August and enjoy books, you should definitely plan a stop at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Unlike most of the other August Edinburgh festivals (check out our planning guide), this one takes place almost entirely in one location at Charlotte Square gardens in a series of large tents.

Anyone can attend the festival for free and peruse the book stores, read a book in the square, go to book signings, and take part in the free programming. However, you do need to book a ticket if you want to attend most of the author talks and readings. Authors range from the famous (e.g., J.K. Rowling, Philippa Gregory, Ian Rankin) to the relatively unknown.

If the weather is good, you could spend a few pleasant hours reading a book in the square and enjoying a cup of coffee (there is an on-site café).

Fact or Fiction?

Fact. J.K. Rowling has read and talked at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and to my knowledge she has attended at least three times. In fact, way back in 1997 when no one reading this post had probably ever heard of Harry Potter, an unknown new author listed as Joanne Rowling read to a group of about 20 children from her first book.

Fast forward to 2004, and a special tent had to be erected to contain a crowd of 600 Harry Potter fans (chosen via lottery given the enormous demand) and special security employed as J.K. Rowling returned to the book festival.

In 2014, J. K. Rowling made a surprise appearance at the Book Festival to introduce Malala Yousafzai. It is very possible she may do so again in the future.

Address: 18-24 Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9HX

Harry Potter Connection

Of the many Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, The Dog House is a fairly new one to be associated with Harry Potter. This association is due to the fact that it has started selling butterbeer. In the Harry Potter books, butterbeer was sold at a number of wizardly pubs, notably The Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head.

Tips for Visiting

The pub is mostly known for being dog friendly (and its resident English bull dog Hero) and for its chicken wings. It is also an oddly decorated pub with all sorts of things hanging on the walls and from the ceiling, including a teddy bear graveyard. Recently it seems to have introduced butterbeer in hopes of drawing in more Potter fans. You can buy butterbeer by the pint of half-pint, which is made by using a syrup (that the pub buys) mixing it with Foster’s beer.

I honestly expected it to taste horrible but it tasted like buttered popcorn and beer, and we found it very easy to drink. A pint of butter beer (£4 during our visit) at The Dog House is a great way to end a day of exploring in Edinburgh.

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Well, butterbeer is a fictional drink and the drink served here was not an inspiration for Rowling and as far as we know Rowling was not involved in its development. However, the pub does indeed serve butter beer and the drink is based on the one described in the Harry Potter books. It is a relatively recent addition to the pub’s drink list (we think it was first sold in 2015).

J.K. Rowling did not base butterbeer on a real drink (although there were historical drinks called buttered beer or ale), she simply made it up for the books. When Rowling was asked by Bon Appétit magazine in 2002 what it tastes like, she said: “I made it up. I imagine it to taste a bit like less sickly butterscotch.”

For many Harry Potter fans, they want to learn as much information as possible on Harry Potter connections and see all the Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh with a group of fellow Potterheads. These fun guided tours are designed for fans and will take you to all the main Potter sites, including The Elephant House, Victoria Street, the Grassmarket, and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. You might also consider choosing a more general Edinburgh literary tour or booking a guided day tour or multi-day trip from Edinburgh to see some of the Harry Potter filming sites.

Harry Potter Walking Tours in Edinburgh

Here are some of the main options for Harry Potter tours in Edinburgh:

Harry Potter Walking Tour

This 2 walking tour of Harry Potter sights in the city runs most days, and visits the locations that inspired JK Rowling when she was writing the novels. This is one of the longer and more comprehensive Potter tours in the city.

The Potter Trail

Another popular option is The Potter Trail walking tour which is a 1 hour 15 minute to 1.5 hour walking tour. It is free but tips for the guide are strongly recommended (and generally expected). You don’t need to book The Potter Trail tours in advance, just be at the meeting spot (normally at Greyfriar’s Bobby statue but check the website) before the tour time to join.

Context Trail Family Literary & Harry Potter Tour

For families traveling with children, we can highly recommend this private tour for families, run by Context Travel. Laurence and I took this tour to see what it was like and even though it is geared towards kids, there is still plenty of information for the parents as well.

The first part of the tour focuses on Scottish writers more broadly and helps kids learn about some of Scotland’s most famous writers like Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson through exhibits and hand-on activities. Then the second half is focused on J.K. Rowling and takes families to visit all the main Harry Potter related sites.

Note that if you book this tour or any other tour with Context Travel, using the link above should get you 10% off any Context Travel tour (whether in Edinburgh or anywhere else in the world!).

General Edinburgh Literary Tours

As a UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh has a rich literary history and if you are interested in other Scottish writers, there are other tours that may suit. This private tour focuses on J.K. Rowling, Sir Walter Scott, Ian Rankin, and other famous writers and poets.

Should I take a Harry Potter tour?

I think that if you are a big fan of Harry Potter, the tours are well worth taking and you’ll likely be able to meet some like-minded travelers. However, I will say that the line between fact and fiction is blurred during some of these tours, but if that doesn’t bother you, I’d recommend looking into taking them.

The other option of course is to explore the sites on your own.

Plan your Own Self-Guided Harry Potter Walking Tour with our Map

If you’d prefer to do it on your own, the sites are all fairly easy to find and you can use this guide and map below to help plan your own walking tour of all the Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh. Just click on the map link or double click on the image below to open in Google Maps:

Below are a few tours that depart from Edinburgh, but you can also see a longer list of tours for more options.

If you are also headed to London, you can check out our Harry Potter London guide.

There are so many noteworthy places to visit in Edinburgh, and for first time visitors to Edinburgh, I’d recommend starting with this list of the 21 highlights of Edinburgh. For second time visitors or those looking for some lesser known attractions, I’d also check out this guide to loads of lesser known attractions in Edinburgh. Walking up and down the Royal Mile and around the Old Town reminds many visitors of the world of Harry Potter with its cobbled streets, narrow alleys, and historical stone buildings.

Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature and there are a lot of great literary places to learn more about the writers and poets of Scotland, including The Writers’ Museum (free) and the Scottish Storytelling Centre (free). Outside of The Writers’ Museum, the Makars’ Court includes quotes from a number of important British writers and poets on the flagstones.

Learn more about the city and its people at the Museum of Edinburgh (free) and The People’s Story Museum (free), and explore the full history of Scotland and its culture via the National Museum of Scotland (free). The Lewis chessmen, some of which are on display at the National Museum of Scotland, were the inspiration for the chessman of Wizard’s Chess in the Harry Potter films.

For some childhood fun, consider the Museum of Childhood (free) or the Camera Obscura and House of Illusions (entry fee), both contain some illusions that Harry Potter may have appreciated. The great thing about many of Edinburgh’s museums is that they are free to enter (although donations are greatly appreciated!).

For Harry Potter fans, I would also recommend searching to see if there are any Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling events happening during your visit. For instance, a couple of months ago a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that was illustrated by J.K. Rowling went on public display at The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh. Other Harry Potter and/or J.K. Rowling events and exhibitions are not uncommon in the city.

If you are planning to spend the night in Edinburgh, you have a lot of options for places to stay in the city from hotels and apartments to B&B’s and hostels. If you are looking for a central location for Harry Potter sites we’d suggest looking for places near Victoria Street and the Grassmarket area. Also anything near the Royal Mile or Waverley train station is central.

There are hundreds of options, but we’ll share some places we recommend for Harry Potter fans. These accommodation options were selected because they are within a short walking distance of the main Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh, have an interesting Harry Potteresque decor or setting, and/or have a direct Harry Potter or JK Rowling connection.

We’ve chosen some for all travel styles and budgets, whether you are a room service queen or a light-walleted backpacker. All are centrally located within Edinburgh.

Budget Lodging for Harry Potter Fans

Mid-Range Accommodation for Harry Potter Fans

  • The Grassmarket Hotel – This 3-star hotel is located within the Grassmarket area and just a couple of minutes walk to Victoria Street and The Elephant House. Hotel has a quirky and colorful modern decor.
  • Canongate Luxury Apartment – This 2-bedroom apartment is decorated with a witchery and Harry Potter theme, and has a number of Harry Potter related details and vintage items. Located just off the Royal Mile.
  • Holiday Inn Express – This 3-star hotel offers well-prices rooms in the Old Town. Located near the Royal Mile, it is a 5 minute walk from Spoon and about a 10 minute walk from Victoria Street.

Luxury Hotels for Harry Potter Fans

  • The Witchery – This popular boutique luxury hotel & restaurant named after the witches who were burned at Castlehill in the 16th and 17th centuries. The hotel has 9 different themed suites which are lavishly decorated with Gothic touches, large 4-poster oak beds, antiques, and flamboyant decorations. If there is one place that will transport you to another place and time, this is it! Located in a 17th century building, this hotel sits just below Edinburgh Castle along the Royal Mile. A 5 minute walk to Edinburgh Castle or a 2 minute walk to Victoria Street.
  • Radisson Collection Hotel – This 5-star luxury hotel is perfectly located for Harry Potter fans just around the corner from Victoria Street in the Old Town and a 2 minute walk from The Elephant House. Rooms and suites have a modern decor.
  • The Principal Edinburgh – This 5-star hotel consists of seven inter-connecting townhouses and sits in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town. A beautifully decorated hotel with a mix of modern decor and vintage travel touches. Across from Charlotte Square where the Edinburgh Book Festival takes place in August, and is about a 17 minute walk from The Elephant House.

There you have it, our guide to the top Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh! We hope that you have found this useful and helpful in planning your trip to Edinburgh!

Which of these would you want to visit? Have you been to any of these Harry Potter sites? Feel free to let us know if you have any updates on information about the sites or know of any additional J.K. Rowling or Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh you think should be added to this list. As always, we love your comments and feel free to ask us any questions about Harry Potter sites in Edinburgh or any other question you may have about visiting the city or Scotland in general!

16 Fairytale Castles in Scotland

They may not be as well-known as some of Scotland’s famous fortresses, but these fairytale castles are nothing short of enchanting.

From wonderfully preserved medieval strongholds to romantic clifftop ruins, from turreted fairy-tale châteaux to haunted tower houses, Scotland is bursting with spellbinding castles that will leave you breathless. Steeped in legend and architectural grandeur, uncover the unique stories behind these marvellous monuments. Get off the beaten track and uncover these lesser-known gems of Scotland.

1. Dunrobin Castle

On the northern coast near Dornoch, architecture lovers can marvel at the stunning French design of Dunrobin Castle. The most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, Dunrobin is the largest castle in the northern Highlands with 189 rooms. It dates back to the early 1300s, and is home to the Earls, later known as the Dukes, of Sutherland. Its interiors were designed by Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer while its magnificent architecture and fairy-tale spires were added by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed London’s Houses of Parliament.

2. Floors Castle

Situated in Kelso in the heart of the Scottish Borders and overlooking the River Tweed and Cheviot Hills, Floors Castle is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh and their family. Filled to the brim with fine works of art, including timeless tapestries and priceless antiques, Floors Castle boasts a truly splendid interior. In its imposing grounds you can see the holly tree that is said to mark the spot where King James II was killed in a seige in 1460.

3. Fyvie Castle

Once a royal stronghold, Fyvie Castle near Turrif in Aberdeenshire began as a simple castle in the 13th century. It passed through the hands of five powerful families, each of whom added significantly to its splendour by adding a tower to this magnificent Scottish Baronial fortress. Inside, admire period furnishings and rich interiors that still look as glorious as when they were installed; the magnificent sweeping staircase is probably the most dramatic architectural feature while many treasures are also on display.

4. Culzean Castle and Country Park

With its dramatic clifftop setting, captivating history, striking surroundings and Robert Adam architecture in his trademark neo-classical Georgian style, it’s easy to see why Culzean Castle is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions. Situated near Maybole on the Ayrshire coast, and surrounded by over 600 acres of Culzean Country Park, which encompasses lush woodland, landscaped gardens and rugged coastline, this 18th century Scottish castle couldn’t be better placed for a great day out.

5. Drummond Castle Gardens

There’s no doubt that Drummond Castle Gardens’ boasts one of Europe’s finest gardens. The gardens have made appearances in the film Rob Roy (1995) and TV series Outlander. Located near Crieff in Perthshire, the 15th century castle is not open to the public but its formal terraced gardens can be explored, and are one of the largest in Scotland. The dominant feature of the horticultural design is a St Andrew’s Cross with the multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre, and the gardens offer marvellous views of the castle and surrounding countryside.

6. Kilchurn Castle

There are few more scenic castles in Scotland than Kilchurn near Dalmally in Argyll. Built on a small, rocky isthmus joined to the shore at the tip of Loch Awe, it’s one of numerous castles erected by the powerful Campbell clan, who exercised control of much of western Scotland in the late medieval period. Don’t miss the view from the top – stand on the tower house’s battlements and gaze out over Loch Awe, with the peak of Ben Cruachan in the backdrop. It’s easily one of the most photographed castles in Scotland!

7. Brodie Castle

Dating from the 16th century, Brodie Castle, set in Morayshire parkland near Forres, has unusual plaster ceilings, a major art collection and tells the fascinating story of the Brodie family. In springtime, the grounds are carpeted with many varieties of daffodils for which Brodie Castle is rightly famous.

8. Dirleton Castle

Many of Scotland’s castles impress because of their gloomy grandeur and violent history, but the charming and romantic 12th century Dirleton Castle, which is set on a natural rocky outcrop near North Berwick in East Lothian, is best known for its splendid gardens which include a Victorian garden and the Arts and Crafts herbaceous border. Did you know that the herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest?

9. Kelburn Castle and Country Centre

Next on the list is Kelburn Castle near Largs in Ayrshire. Loved by all those who see it, the castle’s exterior walls feature a mural depicting interwoven cartoons. Quite unusual, isn’t it? It’s been named as one of the best examples of urban art in the world. The inside of Kelburn Castle is in stark contrast to its exterior – lush and sophisticated – and in its grounds you’ll find a secret forest with a Chinese garden, waterfalls and a gingerbread house – perfect for an amazing day out.

10. Castle Fraser

Movie buffs might recognize Castle Fraser from The Queen (2006), starring Helen Mirren (it appeared as a backdrop), but this baronial five-storey tower house in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, is one of the grandest, most romantic-looking castles in the country. Venture through the castle and up to the round tower and admire panoramic views of the gardens and estate beyond. Legend has it that a princess was murdered in the Green Room, that she still walks the castle at night, and unexplained ghostly piano music has been heard. Do you still dare to visit?

11. Caerlaverock Castle

Imagine a castle in the shape of a triangle, with imposing sandstone walls and a tower or two at each corner. Along with its atmospheric green moat and setting within a nature reserve, these features rank the spellbinding Caerlaverock Castle near Glencaple in Dumfries & Galloway among the most powerful-looking castles in the world and give it a story-book quality. There’s simply no other castle in the world like it!

12. The Black Watch Castle & Museum

Treasures from Scotland’s oldest Highland regiment, the Black Watch, are housed in the grandiose Balhousie Castle in Perth. Uniforms, paintings, medals, photographs, weaponary and equipment bring this glorious regiment’s past vibrantly to life.

13. Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle near Linlithgow in West Lothian was built in the 15th century by one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons. Its unusual nautical shape has earned it the nickname of ‘the ship that never sailed’. From the castle you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Firth of Forth and Fife.

14. Duart Castle

Perched upon a hill overlooking the Sound of Mull, Duart Castle passed to a Scottish chief as part of the dowry his bride brought to the marriage back in the mid 14th century, and for the last 400 years it has been considered the ancestral home of the Maclean clan. Ruined in the late 18th century, it was restored in 1911. Walk through the dungeons and admire the castle’s strategic position at the end of a peninsula of the Isle of Mull.

15. St Andrews Castle

One of the most scenic castles in Scotland, let alone Fife, St Andrews Castle stands on a high clifftop site, defended by sheer coastal cliffs and by rock-cut ditches facing inland. The castle saw its fair share of important visitors, including James I, who was educated here, and James III, who was born here. Interesting features include the siege tunnels that were dug in 1546 and the ‘bottle dungeon’, one of the most infamous castle prisons in medieval Britain.

16. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens

Built in a beautiful loch-side setting on the Isle of Skye, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years. Admire the many fine oil paintings on display, delight in the beauty of its formal garden, or why not take a boat trip to Loch Dunvegan?

Many of our beautiful castles are shrouded in mystery. Discover the most intriguing stories, fairytales and legends from around Scotland inside our Ghosts, Myths & Legends eBook.

Castles in the Highlands – 4 Day Itinerary

A tour of the Highlands is probably one of the most magical journeys you could make – for many, it really is the trip of a lifetime. Outstanding landscapes, rugged coastline, spectacular wildlife… and the icing on the cake? Why, the many historic castles of course!

A tour of the Highlands is probably one of the most magical journeys you could make – for many, it really is the trip of a lifetime. Outstanding landscapes, rugged coastline, spectacular wildlife… and the icing on the cake? Why, the many historic castles of course!

The easiest way to see all of the castles is by car. You can hire a car at several locations in Inverness, including the airport.

Squeeze in three inspiring castles in and around the most northerly city in Scotland, Inverness. Start the day on the banks of Loch Ness to see one of the country’s most iconic ruins, before travellingeastwards to discover more history and then driving back to Inverness for the night.

Start your day with a visit to the magnificent Urquhart Castle, located on the banks of the famous Loch Ness. Stand and soak in a thousand years of history – it has witnessed some of the most dramatic chapters in Scotland’s past. St Columba is said to have worked miracles here in the sixth century, and clan rivalries saw bloody raids carried out in the 15th and 16th centuries. You might even witness an historic event yourself, should you spot the elusive Nessie, Loch Ness’s most famous resident.

Travelling eastwards from Inverness, Cawdor Castle is full of history, mystery and legend. If you like your castles to have a literary connection, this is for you – it’s the 14th century home of the Thanes of Cawdor (recognise the name from Shakespeare’s Macbeth?). Delve into the old kitchen, which dates from the 19th century, and has original features such as a roasting spit, ice box and butter-churn.

From there, take a short drive through Nairn to Brodie Castle, the ancient seat of Clan Brodie. Shakespeare seemed to really love the idea of Highland castles – Brodie Castle also has literary connections to the playwright’s work and is said to be near the hill known as ‘Macbeth’s Hillock’ where Macbeth is said to have encountered the Weird Sisters. Inside, it is filled with countless antiques and lavish furnishings – you might be quite tempted to move in!

If you take away anything from your first day, it’ll be the knowledge that no two castles are alike! Explore a castle which looks like it popped out of a fairy tale and visit a historic garrison with strong links to the Jacobite Risings.

An important garrison in the area’s history, Fort George will have you envisioning billowing smoke from cannon fire and the sound of regimented marching of hundreds of soldiers.

Lying on the road to Inverness, it’s the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain. Built in 1746 as the ultimate defence against Jacobite uprising, Fort George is an impressive site, bristling with cannons, muskets, pikes, swords and ammunition. Explore the battlements and gain a fascinating insight into 18th century military life. It’s also home to one of only two dog cemeteries in Scotland where loyal regimental mascots and officers’ dogs were laid to rest.

You might have to rub your eyes in disbelief – Dunrobin is the sort of castle you’d almost expect to see a pumpkin coach pulling up to. It has a whopping 189 rooms, making it one of the biggest homes in the country.

Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, and was home to the Earls and, later, the Dukes of Sutherland. Interestingly enough, the castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War, and then as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972. AND – it’s even said to have a ghost!! Wooooooo!

Explore the many rooms and then venture into the ornate gardens. You might even see the ancient art of falconry being demonstrated in the grounds.

There are plenty of other castles to be explored on the west side of the Highlands, so drive from Inverness across to the Isle of Skye, stopping at one of our most recognisable castles along the way, Eilean Donan Castle. Stay in the lively little town of Portree and get to know the locals.

Drive to the majestic Eilean Donan Castle. A true icon of the Scottish landscape, it’s distinguished by its long arched bridge and lochside setting. This location is pretty special – strategically it is set on its own little island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and it overlooks the Isle of Skye. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most photographed places in the country.

Inside, see period furniture, Jacobean artefacts, displays of weapons and fine art, and learn about the tough battles the castle endured during one of Scotland’s most violent eras.

Portree is a lovely place to stay while you’re on Skye. It’s one of the island’s most thriving spots, with plenty of accommodation options and places to eat and drink. Remember to book accommodation in advance, especially in the summer!

Finally, venture to two castles on the Isle of Skye and discover clan legends, myths and fascinating stories from centuries gone by. Both of these castles will leave a lasting impression and teach you a little bit more about Skye’s past. Spend more time on this island if you can, and admire its iconic other-worldly geology with plenty of walks and outdoor activities on offer.

This castle is set on a spectacular location on a rocky perch beside a loch, surrounded by verdant woodland. And its history is bound to impress too – it’s the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and it’s been the ancestral home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

As you’d probably expect, inside it’s filled with all kinds of clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag, a sacred banner which comes with its own legend. Outside, explore the grounds and get a seal-eye view of the castle as you enjoy a boat trip on Loch Dunvegan.

Make your way to Armadale Castle and Gardens, located near Ardvasar on the most southerly point of Skye. Built on the ancient lands of Clan Donald, the castle is very much a ruin, but it’s surrounded by some wonderful restored historic gardens and woodland walks.

Delve into the history of one of the country’s most famous clans – you might even find you’ve got some ancestral connections of your own.

Do you still want to see more castles? Drive to the region of Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire and follow Scotland’s Castle Trail, or keep on driving with more amazing road trips across Scotland.

From Zagreb with love

The moment I arrive in the Croatian capital Zagreb, and take in my surroundings, I know I’m going to love this city.

Zagreb often goes unnoticed among travelers, considered a transit city on their way to the Adriatic coastlines for which Croatia is famous for.

The city is definitely underrated. It may not be as popular as Paris or London among tourists, but that’s their loss.

I was immediately charmed not just by its rich culture and history but also the capital’s soul.

In many corners of Zagreb, the intoxicating cafe culture – people chatting with friends, reading or simply people gazing while lounging on open-air terraces outside cafes or restaurants – washes over me, sending out the feeling how life slowing down and letting me know it’s time to relax and put life on pause.

Zagreb was, in its own calming charm, for me, like a breath of fresh air – slightly smaller than Jakarta and it is home to much fewer people at just 800,000, compared to over 10 million back home. And it’s free of traffic jams.

Fresh offerings: Different kinds of produce are for sale at the Dolac in Zagreb. (JP/Stevie Emilia)

Keeping an open mind, with 30 hours to spend in the city, I decide not to pressure myself to religiously follow the “best things to do” and “10 places to see” tips I read on my way there. I just embrace the moment.

In the first few hours, I get trapped into the first-time visitor habit of doing touristy things while following our guide Damjan Beusan on a walking tour.

The tour starts from the Hotel Dubrovnik, where we’re staying, located just steps away from Zagreb’s heart and soul – the Ban Josip Jelačić Square, one of its iconic symbols that has not only stood witness to history, but also serves as a favorite meeting place among locals and visitors alike.

At its center, a statue of the country’s military hero sits proudly on horseback wielding his sword, as trams clatter around. It was easy to get lost among the crowds walking leisurely to work, to shop or to meet up with friends.

“There’s no need to worry getting lost here because everything, and everyone, eventually leads back to the square,” Beusan says.

I learn later in my free time that Zagreb is perfectly viewed from the 360-degree observation deck located in the square.

Zest for life: The Well of Life, located in front of the National Theatre, is one of Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic’s most popular works. (Shutterstock/File)

Its cityscape, unlike most European cities, is a captivating combination of the Austro-Hungarian and socialist architectural styles.

Along its cobbled streets, most of Zagreb’s famous landmarks are within a walking distance from the square: from St. Mark’s Church, which patterned tile roof depicts the Croatian and Zagreb coats of arms, to the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which neo-Gothic grandeur and towering twin spires are hard to miss.

Other must-visit places nearby is the Dolac open air market where traders – under the shade of red umbrellas that lend a postcard-perfect view from afar – offer fresh produce, from fruits to vegetables, and from fish to olive oil and quick bites, earning it nickname as “the Belly of Zagreb.”

“The market is not just a place where people shop, but, just like the square, it’s a meeting place, where friends meet and, after finishing shopping, have coffee in nearby cafes or restaurants,” Beusan says.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Shutterstock/File)

Croatia is probably famous for its wine, but coffee, the fragrant dark beverage, is its lifeblood.

Rows of cafe terraces are filled with people enjoying their coffee day and night, with no popular coffee chain around.

A coffee lover myself, I was in my element.

Beusan says Croats enjoy many kinds of coffee, from Italian to Turkish, but for them, coffee is all about socializing, connecting with people, whether catching up with friends or closing a business deal.

Croatia is probably famous for its wine, but coffee, the fragrant dark beverage, is its lifeblood. (JP/Stevie Emilia)

Coffee, and not a bottle of wine as is customary elsewhere, is the perfect gift when visiting someone’s home.

“People have coffee everywhere here, so when someone orders tea, it’s so shocking that he’d be asked if he was sick,” Beusan said before bursting into laughter.

After all the walking, I think I’ve earned myself a break. Taking a seat and gazing at the people strolling around while waiting for my coffee, I realize that of all the places I’ve visited, Zagreb is the city that I’d love to revisit, even linger in for longer, to explore all its nooks and crannies and beyond.

Motorist Observation Reports – What’s the Point?

When a motorist calls a safety hotline reporting service, they usually call because they’re emotionally upset by what they’ve witnessed.

However, that statement doesn’t mean that the commercial driver ” did something wrong” OR that the motorist ” was just trying to get someone in trouble “. Unfortunately, these assumptions lead to blame setting instead of no-fault coaching designed to reduce risk.

For instance, a motorist travelling in the middle lane (of three) is passed by a large commercial vehicle in the left lane. The motorist looks at his or her speedometer and realizes they’re already five MPH above the posted limit of 65 (operating at 70 while being passed.) The motorist is concerned since the commercial vehicle then begins to weave through traffic ahead of them without using signals.

  1. The call is made and the interview concludes with an estimate of the commercial vehicle’s speed being around 80 since they passed the motorist so quickly. In reality, the speed of the passing vehicle would be difficult to estimate, but since the motorist did check their own speedometer (at 70 MPH) it’s reasonable to estimate a speed in the 75-80 range.
  2. In the process of making the report, the motorist is asked where this incident took place, and they cite a mile marker that they’ve just passed (even though the incident took place behind them, perhaps as much as 2-3 miles behind).
  3. Finally, the motorist is asked to leave a contact number and their name in case the safety manager would like to give them a call. Having just seen a movie the night before about stalkers and such, the motorist is unwilling to give their name for fear that a driver might somehow get their information and harass them.

The report is filed with the motor carrier electronically, within an hour of the phone call.

  1. The motor carrier checks GPS records for the time of the incident and confirms that the vehicle was withing five to ten miles of the approximate location mentioned by the motorist; however,
  2. all of the trucks in that fleet are “governed” to a maximum speed of 70 MPH.
  3. The manager sees that the report was filed anonymously.

Critical decision time – is the point of the report to:

  1. set blame and initiate discipline for breach of a safety policy?
  2. offer “no-fault” coaching on safety practices to raise safety awareness, record the report in case subsequent reports are received on this same driver for similar situations?

If the goal is to set blame, then the report is a poor mechanism in this instance since there is an apparent conflict with the report of the speed and the “governor” settings (the manager could investigate to see if the settings have been altered), and the manager doesn’t like to deal with anonymous reports since he/she feels that there is a lack of credibility associated with the report.

However, if the goal is coaching/re-training, then the manager can:

  • have a face to face meeting about safety. Even if the conversation is something as simple as: ” tire blowouts are caused by under-inflation and high speed operation which heats the sidewalls, tire blow outs are a primary contributor to truck rollovers, & truck rollovers are a key crash type that ends in fatalities not just simple injuries; therefore, you should be very careful to always check tire pressure and stay at or under the posted limit while not impeding traffic. Additionally, signaling and proper passing technique is important to avoid side swipes and merge/pass collisions. For CDL holders improper passing is also a disqualifying offense because it is such a serious safety issue” This conversation would, naturally cover any specific company policies related to pre-trips, speeding and time management (not rushing due to poor planning, etc.)
  • schedule online refresher modules. Many online programs are available that highlight risk-taking such as speeding, weaving in traffic, etc. Our programs are focused on the possible consequences of such behavior which doesn’t focus on blame setting, just awareness by asking for a renewed commitment to drive professionally. Our programs are also kept to 5 to 7 minutes out of respect for your driver and the need to be productive, too.
  • keep the report on file in case of subsequent reports for similar situations in the future. Maintaining a file doesn’t have to imply punitive action against the driver, but without records, we’d never know if the driver may be slipping into a repeated pattern of habits.
  • connect this report with the affected driver’s history of violations and past collisions. This report may be another piece of a complex puzzle indicating a need for management’s compassionate intervention.

To ignore the report or delete the report shows the least care and concern for the professional driver – it says that we don’t care enough to offer safety coaching to help minimize the chances of becoming involved in a collision – preferring to wait for a violation (affecting their personal insurance rates, out of pocket fines, etc.) or waiting for an actual crash event to recognize the need to intervene.

The National Transportation Safety Board has previously issued written recommendations over this issue of deleting all anonymous reports. The NTSB offered their opinion that while the individual report credibility may be called suspect, if subsequent reports of similar nature (anonymous or not) were later received about this same driver for the same (or similar) described habits, then there’s ample justification to provide “no fault” re-training in order to preserve the highest regard and practice of safety awareness within the professional driver population.

Other food for thought from very recent client case studies (past two years)…..

  • One of our clients operates 12,000 trucks. They installed GPS. They ignored the GPS alerts about speeding for the first year. During the second year, all speed alerts (driving more than 80 MPH) came to us to be processed as MOR – none could be deleted, all must end up with coaching offered to the driver. By the end of the second year, they had decreased GPS speed alerts by 600% (From 1700 down to 174). This was by “no-fault” coaching instead of discipline and termination.
  • Another client with 450 tractor trailers (over the road trucking) has GPS. They got 470 reports in the first year on the program (more than one per tractor!) – out of these only five were ‘inaccurate” based on GPS readings for location/speed at time of report – that’s 1% considered inaccurate and all remaining reports were used for coaching.Their accident frequency has not changed, but severity per claim is “significantly lower” than the prior year and they believe it’s due to the drivers being aware of their surroundings and using the training we’ve provided to modify their habits. Further, the number of reports per month is dropping steadily as drivers modify their habits to be less aggressive as they maintain their productivity through careful route planning and time management.

These are just some of the tips and techniques that we provide to our clients, and the examples above are highly abbreviated versions of what we actually share.

So how about you? Do you see a Motorist’s Observation as a chance to help a driver be safe or merely a punitive exercise? We think that it’s akin to a “near miss” report that’s actionable from a prevention standpoint that helps the driver avoid collisions and stay productive. This is based on a dozen+ studies conducted by both fleet managers and insurers who provide the hotline (and monitor the reporting over the shoulder of the enrolled fleet). Those studies showed 20-35% reductions in frequency and larger savings from severity reductions. When coupled with automated MVR profiling, GPS alerts and Online Training, the improvements increase.