If you are not familiar with Edinburgh, one particular street that you must visit is Victoria Street. It is no exaggeration to say that Victoria Street is one of those places that has a charm all of its own. Victoria Street connects the Grassmarket with George VI Bridge which in turn leads to the Royal Mile.
Victoria Street was constructed in the 1820-30s to replace its predecessor the West Bow. The West Bow was a very steep zig-zag lane from the Grassmarket to Castlehill and the top of the Royal Mile. This was not a route for the faint of heart particularly if you were trying to negotiate a heavily laden cart or wagon up the steep hill. But as the population of the Old Town and more importantly, the vehicular traffic grew, so the West Bow became an inconvenient obstacle. Carts, carriages and wagons simply struggled to negotiate this tricky route.
1827 Improvement Act
It is no wonder as part of the city’s 1827 Improvement Act that Johnston Terrace was constructed as a matter of priority. Johnston Terrace is much further west of the Grassmarket. In fact it originates at the south western edge of the base of the Castle. This road enabled traffic to make its way to the top of the Royal Mile from the west. Carts and wagons were able to avoid the busy Grassmarket and precarious West Bow.
However, Thomas Hamilton who was responsible for Johnston Terrace was also tasked with replacing the West Bow with a more accessible route. Thus, he created Bow Street which was renamed Victoria Street when Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837.
Presently, it is one of the most visited streets in Edinburgh. Its array of vibrantly coloured shop fronts, arches and cobblestones easily entice the visitor to come and take a look. The street itself is topped off with an additional terrace above with yet more shops and restaurants. For photographers, you can pick your vantage point anywhere on the street and capture that perfect photo.
Take a look at our 1-Minute Snapshot of Victoria Street to see why it is so popular.
For photographs, stand by the novelty/joke shop and you will snap that perfect shot as the street curves round to the right. Alternatively, walk three quarters of the way up the street and stop by the Walker Slater Menswear shop for a view back down the street. And for that aerial shot, walk up the street past the Cuttea Sark shop. Then take the first left up some steps leading onto Victoria Terrace. From here you can take a great photo looking down onto the street from above.
Shopper’s Paradise – Diagon Alley
One of the unique features of Victoria Street is that it arguably has more independent shops per square foot than any other part of the city. For the shopaholic this has to be as good a reason as any to visit Victoria Street. The small independent traders of this street will be grateful for any footfall here after the impact of COVID-19 on trade.
The range of shops include the Old Town Bookshop, a tea shop, a cheese shop, a tweed shop, a novelty and fancy-dress shop and a number of restaurants. However, all of these take second place to one particular shop…..that is, if you are a Harry Potter fan.
No.40, about a third of the way up the street, was previously a city institution known as Robert Cresser’s Brush Shop. It had been in existence from as far back as 1873. It is only in the last few years that it has changed its role to that of the ‘go-to’ place for all things Harry Potter. The sign on the front says Museum Context but it is more commonly referred to as Diagon House. This is because it is alleged that Victoria Street was J K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley.
It is normally a busy little street with visitors, workers and cars making their way up from the Grassmarket to George IV Bridge. The great news is that with effect from July 2020, Victoria Street is now completely pedestrianised during the hours of 10.30am – 06.00am. Edinburgh Cab Tours include Victoria Street on both of our vehicle and walking tours. For further information visit our TOURS page.
So, whether you are a “Potterhead,” a shopaholic, or someone who loves to admire the architecture, then you must put Victoria Street on your list of ‘things-to-do.” And if at the end of your shopping, you are in need of liquid refreshment, then make your way to the Bow Bar. This is one of Edinburgh’s few remaining traditional pubs.