Today is my birthday (I have a reason for sharing this little factoid). People who know me well will tell you that I’m basically a huge Harry Potter nerd. I try to contain myself in non-Potter nerd company and appear to be normal, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I’ve read the books a million times, I’ve listened to the audio books, and I’ve seen the movies countless times. Like I said, huge nerd here. Anyway, I couldn’t really continue writing this blog without doing a post about Harry Potter travel destinations. Also, since it’s my birthday AND today is the long-awaited release of the new wizarding world movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, today is the day I post this entry that I’ve been working on for quite a while! This one took me a lot of research, so I hope you find it enjoyable and informative. Do let me know if I’m missing any good places that should be added to the list!
Me, being a nerd with my husband:
In the United Kingdom:
Since Harry Potter is from the UK, there are a lot of really great places you can visit while you’re there. Here is the rundown:
Harry Potter tour of Oxford and Lacock: This tour will take you around the Oxford and Lacock locations where Harry Potter was filmed. It also just happens to be some of the most scenic countryside and beautiful historical places in England. This tour will take you on a guided walking tour around the area, so make sure you’re reasonably fit to be on your feet a lot before booking this tour. In addition to touring sites both used in the movies and which inspired locations in the stories, you will discuss the stories, learn trivia, and of course take a lot of pictures. They also offer a tour called the Harry Potter Walking Tour of Oxford.
The Bodleian Library in Oxford: The Bodleian was used in the films as the Infirmary and also was used as the place where Professor McGonnagal taught the students how to dance. Also, Duke Humpfreys Library was used as the Hogwarts library.
Christ Church in Oxford: This is where you can view the actual Great Hall, or at least the place where the film producers were inspired by for creating the Great Hall in their studio.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden, England (just outside of London): For more than ten years, the Harry Potter film series studio was located in Leavesden. The production crew made a lot of really beautiful and iconic sets while they were there, as well as props and costumes, which they saved in case they would be needed in later films. Once they wrapped filming on the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, they realized they were sitting on a treasure trove of beautiful and unique Harry Potter artifacts. Usually these kinds of things are discarded at the end of a production, but they wanted to preserve and showcase this treasure trove, and so the studio tour was born. Set right next to the working film studios where the films were made, this studio tour offers visitors the opportunity to explore and discover all of these beautiful artifacts from the films.
London Zoo Reptile House: You may remember the scent from the first book/movie where Harry accidentally sets a snake loose at the London Zoo Reptile House. Well, the reptile house is a real place, and you can go there and fantasize about letting snakes loose yourself!
Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross, London: Perhaps one of my favorite additions to the London landscape after the release of the Harry Potter films is Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross station. It is a great place for a photo opportunity and actor Warwick Davis, who played Professor Flitwick and Griphook in the films, even opened a Harry Potter themed shop in the station. This is definitely a must-do when in London.
Millennium Bridge in London: This is a pedestrian bridge over the River Thames. I’ve actually walked over it myself long before it was featured in The Half Blood Prince, being destroyed. It’s also just a great bridge, so definitely take a stroll across it when you are in the area.
The Georgian House in London: The Georgian House is actually a hotel where you can stay in their special Harry Potter themed room. Perfect home base for checking out all the London area Harry Potter attractions!
Leadenhall Market, London: This market was inspiration for Diagon Alley. It is a bustling center, and you’ll be able to find the front of the Leaky Cauldron which is used the films here.
London Muggle Tours: If you’re looking for a guided tour experience to fully immerse you in the world of Harry Potter while you’re in London, you might want to check out London Muggle Tours. Follow in the footsteps of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as you explore film locations and places that inspired J.K. Rowling when she was writing the books. You can also learn some trivia and behind the scenes information on that happened in these places during the filming of the Harry Potter movies.
Black Park Country Park: This is the filming location for the Forbidden Forest! However, the real forest doesn’t actually contain unicorns, centaurs, or giant spiders (but I could be wrong?). I put this entry under ‘London’ because it’s a short day trip from London to visit the park
Harrow Hall, London: This is a real boarding school in London, but it is also the film location of the charms classroom at Hogwarts!
Elsewhere in England
Go on a search for 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey: I’ll leave this one to your adventurers who have some time on your hands for a bit of a hunt.
Goathland Station, England: Welcome to Hogsmeade! This station in North Yorkshire, England, was used as Hogsmeade station in the films and makes for a great photo opportunity. For the full Hogwarts Express effect, though, you’ll have to climb aboard the Jacobite steam train in Scotland (more on that soon).
Lacock Abbey, England: This abbey, which was founded in the early 13th century, is a filming location from scenes in both the Chamber of Secrets and The Half Blood Prince.
Alnwick Castle, England: Welcome to Hogwarts! This castle was used for filming as Hogwarts castle in many scenes and the castle actually and offers wizardry and broomstick “flight” training, if you’re interested (I am!). Harry learns to fly a broomstick for the first time on the grass of the Hogwarts grounds. This was filmed inside the walls of Alnwich Castle, which is located about 30 miles away from Newcastle. This is also where the Weasley’s car crashes into the Whomping Willow.
The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland: This is a gourmet tea and coffee house as well as a restaurant. What makes this place so special is that J.K. Rowling herself sat in this coffee shop as she wrote the first ideas and inspiration for the Harry Potter series. This is literally where the magic began! Visit this lovely little shop and have a nice cup of tea or coffee before you head out to explore the rest of Edinburgh.
Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland: This little church in Scotland has a graveyard, and in the graveyard is a headstone reading Thomas Riddell, who died in 1806 at the age of 72. Many believe this grave may have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Voldemort, and many people leave little gifts and messages at the grave site.
George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, Scotland: This school was the inspiration for Hogwarts. It is, however, a real school with real children, so it’s not open to the public most of the time. They do have occasional days where they are open to the public, however.
Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Scotland: This is a narrow street with pointed roofs and served as inspiration for J.K. Rowling when she was creating Diagon Alley in the books.
Harry Potter Tour in Edinburgh, Scotland: This tour will take you around sites where J.K. Rowling wrote and got inspiration for the books. It will also take you on day trips to Alnwick castle just over the border in England. It will also take you to the highlands to several film locations: Glencoe, where Hagrid’s Hut is located, to Glen Nevis to see the waterfall which was also a quidditch scene in the Goblet of Fire, and the tour will also take the steam train North to cross over the Glennfinnan Viaduct where the Weasley’s flying car flew overhead. This train journey is known as one of the most beautiful in the world, so it’s definitely not to miss!
The Jacobite, Scotland: Ride the Hogwarts Express! The real Hogwarts Express! Yes, you can ride the actual train in Scotland.
In addition to the above, check out this website for additional information on filming locations around the UK with maps.
In the United States
Universal Studios Hollywood: Squeeeeee!!!!!!! That is the sound I made when I first found out that Universal Studios Hollywood was opening their own Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and now it’s open! As a Californian, this makes the Wizarding World very, very accessible to me (actually one of my aunts works there!) so you can imagine how difficult it is for me to contain my excitement about this one. I haven’t actually visited yet because it just opened and the crowds are something to be feared, but I’ll be there soon, mark my words!
Whimsic Alley: Before The Wizarding World opened, we California nerds had to contain ourselves by having outings to Whimsic Alley, a Los Angeles store and event hall that is styled like Hogwarts and sells Wizarding world memorabilia. It’s still pretty cool to behold, and definitely worth checking out if you’re in town.
Update: Whimsic Alley is now closed, sadly.
Universal Studios Orlando: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley: Orlando’s Wizarding World actually spans two parks, which is great because there is more Wizarding World to explore, but bad because you have to buy two theme park tickets to see it all.
Elsewhere in the U.S.
Wynott’s Wands, Massachusetts: In the town of Salem, Massachusetts, there is a little gem of a wand shop called Wynott’s Wands. Since Salem is known for being a witchy town anyway, it’s a great spot for such a shop.
*Note: I suspect with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film coming out today, the U.S. is about to get a whole lot more in the way of Wizarding World hot spots, especially in New York (seeing as though it’s based in the U.S.). Bring it on! I’ll have to write another post later to cover all these new treasures which I anxiously await.
Elsewhere in the World
The College of Wizardry in Czocha, Poland: Hogwarts exists! But it’s actually in Poland. This is a four day larping event where attendees can act out their dreams of being a Hogwarts student in an actual castle in Poland. While surrounded by like-minded people, attendees will attend classes in the magical arts, be selected to represent one of the five houses of the castle, explore the castle and meet magical creatures, make new friends, and play games! I’m a big enough nerd to want to do this, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince my husband…
The Quidditch World Cup (various locations): Quidditch has become a real sport and they have a real Quidditch World Cup. The location of the World Cup varies each time. The most recent one was held in Frankfurt, Germany. For more on real world Quidditch, I recommend watching the documentary Mudbloods.
The Harry Potter Traveling Exhibition: This traveling exhibition gives visitors an up close and personal look at the props and costumes from the Harry Potter films. As it’s a traveling exhibition, check their website for details on where it’s headed next.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Japan: Japan has their very own Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, like Florida and California, so if you’re going to be in that part of the world, definitely check it out!