One of the great things about the Harry Potter series is that Harry’s magical world is hidden within the ordinary muggle world.
You can find hints of that magic all over the UK, but only if you know where to look! In this Harry Potter tour of Britain you’ll find a list of filming locations, activities, tours and places that inspired JK Rowling, starting from London and then heading north to Scotland.
This list should serve as a broad range of places which are relatively easy to recognise, fairly accessible and most of all: magical!
London is a great place to visit and the set for a few of Harry adventures when he wasn’t at Hogwarts. Here you’ll find a few of the iconic filming locations as well as a few other activities that the UK’s capital has to offer.
The Leaky Cauldron
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid takes Harry to the popular wizard pub, which serves as a gateway between the muggle world and Diagon Alley. You can go to visit this shop entrance today at 42 Bull’s Head Passage, Leadenhall Market. At the time of filming it was just an empty shop, now it is an optician’s called ‘The Glass House’.
In Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, Stoney Street at the edge of Borough Street Market was used to film the entrance instead. You can find it just by the Market Porter pub.
Flitwick’s Charms Classroom
Get your wands out for this visit, but watch you have the correct pronunciation in this lesson. This room in the Old Schools at Harrow School in Middlesex was used to film the iconic ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ Charms class in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. “It’s LeviOsa, not LevioSA!”
Platform 9 and 3/4
Of course, visiting King’s Cross Station to find the magical barrier to the secret wizard platform is a must for any Potter fan. There is now a sign between platforms nine and ten, with a trolley sticking out of the wall so tourists can take pictures.
Over the years it has become a popular tourist attraction in the station and can get busy, so you may have to queue if you want to get your photo taken. Attendants even provide a Gryffindor scarf and will hold it up behind you so it really looks like you’re running through the wall and are on your way to Hogwarts.
The Reptile House, London Zoo
Sitting at the edge of Regent’s Park, in London Zoo you’ll find The Reptile House which features in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Harry accidentally releases a burmese python during his cousin Dudley’s birthday outing. Not as magical as some of London’s other filming locations, as only one scene took place there, but a good place to spot if you are at the zoo.
12 Grimmauld Place
You can visit the inspiration for the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix at Claremont Square, Islington. There is a large park close by, which used to be a reservoir – this is why the buildings are so tall.
The Millennium Bridge
This featured in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Voldemort’s Death Eaters were wreaking havoc in muggle London, and destroyed this bridge. This is a great tourist attraction in itself and is well worth a stroll. Bring a jacket though as it can get a bit breezy!
For those who want extra information about the locations in the films and books or don’t think they’ll be able to find all the wizarding sights on their own, never fear, for Muggle Tours offers walking tours around London.
This is the only Harry Potter walking tour in London and it’s a great opportunity to see the city and meet some like-minded Harry Potter fans. Tours last 2.5 hours and cost £12 for adults.
An ‘Escape the Room’ activity, Enigma Quests invites the daring the complete various challenges before the time runs out. The twist? They have created a ‘School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ quest for those who want to go to Hogwarts and prove that they are a true witch or wizard.
At £78 per person, this is on the more expensive side of Harry Potter sightseeing, but it is definitely for those who want to truly immerse themselves in JK Rowling’s magical world, even if it is just for an hour.
The Wizard Chambers at The Georgian House Hotel
After a day of wizarding, why not spend the night at Hogwarts? Completely unofficial and unaffiliated with JK Rowling or Warner Bros., The Georgian House Hotel in London has created two dorms – ‘The Wizard Chambers’ and ‘The Enchanted Chambers’ which have been designed to feel like you are sleeping at the famous wizarding school. The owners have certainly put in a lot of effort, from potion bottles, a cauldron and a medieval archway to name a few, everything has been designed to make you forget that you are in central London – you even have to go through the cupboard under the stairs to get the room. From £209 a night, you’d certainly want your money’s worth, but I think for superfans, it will probably be worth it.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
This is the big one, the one fans from all over come to visit. Warner Bros. Studios is where the filming of all eight films took place. You can walk around the sets, examine the various props and costumes and learn all the secrets behind the filmmaking process. You can also try Butterbeer and pretend to ride a broomstick and fly around Hogwarts. This is one of the most expensive Harry Potter activities, but it will guarantee to dazzle and entertain fans for several hours.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
This isn’t exactly a ‘site’ and hasn’t even opened yet, but I had to include it! This West-End play is a new original and official Harry Potter story and takes place nineteen years after Harry defeats Voldemort: he works for the Ministry of Magic while his elder children are attending Hogwarts.
Fans will get to find out exactly what Harry, Ron and Hermione’s lives post-Hogwarts are like and get to experience the magic in a new medium. This is SUPER exciting – with the world premiere taking place on the 30th July, we don’t have long to wait until we get to get to find out more about Harry’s story.
Oxford is a beautiful city, home to the prestigious University of Oxford and host of several filming locations of several of the Harry Potter films. The medieval architecture and historic buildings are landmarks in themselves; the whole city has a completely different feel to London and you can easily see why it inspired the filmmakers and why it starred as Hogwarts.
The Hogwarts Library
You won’t find any spellbooks here! The beautiful Duke Humfrey’s Library is where Harry, Ron and Hermione research Nicholas Flamel in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and where Harry and Hermione discuss Professor Slughorn’s Christmas party in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
However the library is only accessible to the public as part of an organised tour. Booking in advance is strongly recommended.
The Hogwarts Hospital Wing
Despite being the Hospital Wing in the films, in reality it is the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, as featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Access the Divinity School is available through most tours. Just picture hospital beds instead of benches and you’ll be expecting Madam Pomfrey to walk through the doors with a bottle of Skele-gro.
The Hogwarts Cloisters
If you head to the New College cloisters, you’ll recognise it as the Hogwarts Quad from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where Harry encounters students wearing ‘Potter Stinks’ badges.
If you look at the big oak tree, you’ll recognise it as the place where Mad-Eye Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret. Unless you’re a New College student, you’ll have to pay an admission fee of £3 to have a look around.
The Hogwarts Steps and Great Hall
You’ll feel the nostalgia when you climb this stone staircase at Christ Church College, as it’s seen at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Harry and the other students arrive at Hogwarts for the first time; and in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron arrive late after crashing into the Whomping Willow.
These steps also lead to the college’s dining hall, was used as inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall. If you step inside you’ll be able to see the long tables and benches where students university faculty eat. Be careful as the dining hall is only open at certain times of day, so check the opening hours in advance before you go!
As well as Oxford and London, there were several places around England which were used for filming. Many of these were outdoor shots, but there are several iconic locations which were used for Hogwarts interior scenes which are definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.
No. 4 Privet Drive
In the first film, a real street in Bracknell (12 Picket Post Close) was used for the outdoor set for the Dursley family home. However for the later films they built a Privet Drive set at Leavesden Studios, which you can visit today.
Taking the role of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is Alnwick Castle, which you can see during Harry’s first flying lesson. The Castle also makes a brief appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron arrive in the Ford Anglia.
The Castle is open to the public, and there is even a corner where you can pose for a photo with a broomstick or even try broomstick training with the resident wizarding professors. Alnwick Castle is no stranger to fame: it also features in Downton Abbey’s 2014 and 2015 Christmas specials!
Hogwarts Interiors at Locock Abbey
Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire is home to several Hogwarts classrooms and corridors. You can find Professor Quirrell’s classroom from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the Warming Room. Potions lessons may have taken place in the Hogwarts dungeons, but in reality you can also find this classroom here.
Chapter House was also used as McGonagall’s classroom in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and as the room where Harry first discovers the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Hogwarts Interiors at Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral was also used to film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. You might recognise it as corridors leading to the Gryffindor common room and corridor where the ominous message ‘The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir… beware.’
Fans will recognise Goathland Train Station in Yorkshire from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Harry and the rest of the first years arrive at Hogwarts for the first time, and when Hagrid waves them off at the end of the film.
Scotland was used for many of the outdoor shots of Hogwarts and its grounds, however the city of Edinburgh has a few Harry Potter sights of its own, including places used and visited by JK Rowling herself when she was writing the books.
The Elephant House and Spoon Cafe Bistro
These two cafes in Edinburgh are delightful spots for coffee and a bite to eat, but they were also places where JK Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books.
The Elephant House proudly markets itself as ‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’ and has become something of a tourist attraction on its own. Inside you can sit at a table and gaze at Edinburgh Castle through the windows, or go into the toilets and see all the graffiti on the walls, which is along the lines of ‘RIP Dobby’ and ‘Long live the DA!’.
The Spoon Cafe Bistro, or Nicolson’s Cafe as it was once known, has no visible markers as a Harry Potter tourist spot, but is said by locals to be one of the cafes where JK Rowling would come to write. Come here for a nice relaxing lunch and view of the nearby Edinburgh university’s old college.
The Potter Trail
Much like London’s Muggle Tours, Edinburgh has it’s own Harry Potter walking tour. The Potter Trail offers fans the chance to explore Edinburgh’s Old Town and visit the places of inspiration for the characters and settings, such as George Heriot’s School and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (home to the real Tom Riddle’s grave). Tours are free but patrons are encouraged to a tip at the end of the tour.
The Balmoral Hotel
Room 552 at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh was where JK Rowling finished the final book in the Harry Potter series. To mark the occasion, she scribbled a notice on a marble bust of the Greek God Hermes: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this rooms (552) on 11th Jan 2007.”
The room has now been named the JK Rowling Suite and even has a brass owl instead of a door knocker. You can even see the bust with JK Rowling’s message, which now sits in a protective glass case. However, you’ll have to pay £965 to stay for the night if you want to experience this magic!
The Hogwarts Express
Outside of Edinburgh and further north, you can climb aboard the Hogwarts Express! The Jacobite steam train was used as the Hogwarts Express is still going today. This 84 mile trip will give you can excellent tour of the Scottish countryside and it even passes over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which features in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron are in the flying Ford Anglia.
One of the many filming locations in Scotland, Glencoe features in several of the Potter films. For Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Torren Lochan in Clachaig Gully was used to film scenes at Hagrid’s hut. Glencoe was also used for exterior scenes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
There are many lochs and areas of the Scottish highlands which were used to film the later films, but there are just too many to include here! Hopefully this has given you a taster of all the magical locations fans can discover from all over the UK, and you never know, you may come across a real life wizard or even JK Rowling herself the next time you are on your travels.
Do you love Harry Potter as well? Where else would you go on your Harry Potter tour of Britain? Let us know in the comments below!