Harry Potter really doesn’t need an intro. It’s the best series ever written (there’s no point arguing me), and JK Rowling is an absolute genius. And while we’re finished with the books and movies, you can still keep the spark alive with these magical Harry Potter experiences…
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Los Angeles, California
After the roaring success of the OG Harry Potter resort in Florida, Cali opened its own Wizarding World. And JK Rowling approved everything, right down to the selection of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
The park is set up like Hogsmeade village. Start by sending a letter from the Owl Post, and then ride the Flight of the Hippogriff, a rollercoaster that takes you past Hagrid’s hut. Pop into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and make your way to Ollivander’s Wand Shop to see the wand choose the wizard… The shop is always packed to the rafters, and only one person gets the special treatment, so don’t be too disappointed if old mate Olli picks a kid! Peckish? Settle into the Three Broomsticks (pro tip: it has the best food in the park). Need to pee? You’re not imagining things: that’s Moaning Myrtle wailing through the walls. The attention to detail is insane!
Warner Brothers Studio Tour, London, England
This is where the magic happened. The WB studio runs a wildly popular tour about the Making of Harry Potter. You can step into the gorgeous Great Hall, check out Diagon Alley, and peek at Privet Drive. You can also traipse through the Forbidden Forest (ignoring Dumbledore’s orders, you rebel), and snap photos with magical creatures. The sets are beautiful, and you can only imagine how many hours went into creating them. The studio stores the famous props and costumes from the movies, and hosts cool seasonal events like Hogwarts in the Snow (17 November 2018-27 January 2019), where the Great Hall’s transformed into a winter wonderland like it was for the Yule Ball. If you know, you know.
Where’s the real Privet Drive? Mr and Mrs Dursley were perfectly normal, thank you very much, and lived at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. The façade was filmed at 12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell, Berkshire, about 65km away from London.
The hit list of Harry Potter sights in London
Besides the studio, the crew shot scenes all over London town. Many of the sights look the same (because, tourism). These are the best:
- Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station. Harry and co plunged into the brick wall to board the Hogwarts Express, and you can try doing the same. Or you can stuff yourself silly with chocolate frogs at the Harry Potter Shop next door.
- London Zoo’s Reptile House. Remember when Harry started talking in tongues at the zoo, and (accidentally) told the snakes to trap Dudley behind the glass? That went down at London Zoo.
- Millennium Bridge. You’ll remember this bridge from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Dementors tried to destroy it, but luckily, all you’ll get when you cross is a stunning view of the city.
- The Leaky Cauldron at Leadenhall Market. Smack-bang in the middle of London, this Victorian market has stalls selling flowers and fresh produce, plus pubs and restaurants. The Diagon Alley scenes in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were filmed here before the set was built.
Where to stay. Stick to the theme and stay at the Georgian House Hotel. The B&B has converted some of its rooms into Wizard Chambers. Hidden behind a bookcase, they’re decked out with four-poster beds, trunks, cauldrons, and fireplaces.
Oxford University, Oxford, England
Since you’re already in England, you may as well take a day trip to Oxford. The town is dripping in old-world charm, and tons of castle scenes were filmed there. First stop? Oxford University. The Hogwarts Library – aka every booklover’s dream – was shot at the uni’s main library. And the Forbidden Section was filmed in the famous Bodleian Library, where you’ll recognise the moody lighting and wooden shelves stacked to the ceiling with books. Oxford also has Christ Church College. You’ll spot the grand staircase from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, and its Great Hall actually inspired the Great Hall in the movies. Then, there’s the medieval-style Cloisters of New College, where Mad-Eye Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret in The Goblet of Fire.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England
In the first two movies, Alnwick Castle starred as Hogwarts. Sign up for the Behind the Scenes Tour, and it’ll take you through the shooting locations inside and outside the castle. If you’re a true Potterhead, you prob won’t even need the guide: you’ll recognise the spot where Malfoy threw Neville’s Remembrall into the air. You’ll recognise the place where Ron crashed his family’s flying car into the Whomping Willow, and where Harry played Quidditch for the first time. HP stuff aside, the grounds are beautiful. Alnwick was a medieval market town, and the cobbled streets, narrow alleys and stone buildings are still there today.
Elephant House, Edinburgh, Scotland
Want to write your own bestseller one day? Get the creative juices flowin’ at Edinburgh’s Elephant House – the cafe where JK Rowling penned the early HP books. Yep, it’s the birthplace of Harry Potter, and the coffee ain’t bad, either. While you’re in Scotland, check into the Balmoral Hotel. Rowling stayed there to finish the last few novels, when she was rather recognisable. You can even book the exact room she stayed in. Sit at the same desk! Inside, there’s a marble statue that says: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th Jan 2007.” That’ll rack up the likes.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glenfinnan, Scotland
To complete your HP fantasy, you have to ride the Hogwarts Express – and you can do that in Scotland. The Jacobite Steam Train was the inspo for the train, and it was painted red for the movies. It goes on a 135-km round trip across the country, and you’ll want to grab a seat on the left side of the train. Before long, you’ll be choo-chooing across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the bridge that Harry and Ron fly over in the Ford Anglia. Along the way, you’ll be treated to lovely, lush Scottish scenery. The service runs through summer (May to October), so keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic
This exhibition has been travelling the world since 2009. Now in New York, it displays rare books, manuscripts and props from all eight HP movies. And it has a few of JK Rowling’s original drafts, which is amazing.
POLL. Do you think you can be a true Harry Potter fan if you haven’t read the books? Comment below (and read ‘Why Harry Potter Is The Best Series Ever Written‘)!
No.1 HP fan, Katia Iervasi.