With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opening this week, I thought this was good time to look back at one of the birthplaces of Harry Potter, The Elephant House.
J.K. Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter novels in various café’s in Edinburgh, Scotland, but The Elephant House is probably the best remembered and the most publicized. I came across it in a student travel book and decided to stop by early one morning for breakfast.
Even in the morning a number of tourists were outside taking pictures in front of the café, especially the sign declaring it the ‘birthplace of Harry Potter.’ They would take their pictures and quickly move on, not even thinking of going inside.
Upon entering it seems like a normal café. I quickly placed my order and wandered to the back room, where the café transformed into a writers paradise. The back walls were covered with large windows, offering views of Edinburgh below. The walls then had Elephant prints and each table and chair had their own personalities. While I didn’t go up, the café had two more floors above that I am sure had the same feel and offered even better views of the city.
It was also quiet, with only a few other patrons on the ground floor. The only thing Harry Potter I could find inside was a tribute board with newspaper clippings about J.K. Rowling. This café could have easily capitalized on Harry Potter, but seemed mostly unaffected, which is actually nice since it remains a cozy café where other writers can come for inspiration.
The food was also very good. They had pancakes (which are actually hard to find in Great Britain) and I sat there for over an hour enjoying a pot of tea and a good book.
Because of the pot of tea and having a lot of places to visit I decided to stop by the bathroom before leaving, which turned out to be a fantastic choice (a sentence I never imagined writing). The bathroom is a fan tribute to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling.
Over the years fans have taken sharpies and pens to the walls writing quotes or thanking J.K. for writing the books.
The walls are almost completely covered and it is fortunate the café hasn’t painted over them, though they apparently tried in the beginning and still occasionally do, only for new writings to appear as if by magic. It is definitely a random place, but here fans can show appreciation and become part of this arguably historic place.
Apparently other patrons have complained about the graffiti, but I found it added that something special and shows how much Harry Potter means to so many people and how books can really have positive effects on people.