Twenty years ago J.K. Rowling’s first book, The Philosopher's Stone, about a boy wizard hit shelves. In the years since 6 books and 8 films have followed and the world has gone Potter mad. Visit Harry Potter locations and reconnect with the wizarding world. From the actual castle where Harry Potter was filmed to the Gringotts Bank, here are 13 of the best Harry Potter movie locations for you to explore.
1. Platform 9 ¾ a.k.a King Cross Station (and St. Pancras)
Where is it? Kings Cross Station, London
The magic of the Harry Potter novels really starts when an eleven-year-old Harry heads to the station to board the Hogwarts express. So, it's only fitting that we too begin our list in the same spot, Platform 9 ¾. The beautiful Victorian-Gothic styled exterior of St. Pancras station stands in for that of King’s Cross simply because it's prettier. But, head across the street to the actual King’s Cross Station for a look at the platform wall that divides the muggle world from the wizarding world. A luggage trolley, Hedwig's cage, and a Gryffindor scarf will clue you in as to which is the right platform. As tempting as it may be, try not to run through the wall. Take it from us; it doesn’t work.
2. Diagon Alley a.k.a Leadenhall Market
Where is it? Gracechurch Street, London
This charming covered market located on Gracechurch street in England’s capital, London, was one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley. For those who need a quick reminder, this is where Harry shops for all his wizarding school supplies before his first year at Hogwarts. Now, while you most certainly can’t pick yourself up a magic wand here, there’s plenty of other stuff you can pick up. Built in 1881, this beautiful Victorian structure houses a labyrinth of shops and arcades that you can get lost exploring. Also, head to the back of the market and keep your eyes peeled for a blue corner door decorated with Victorian glass work. When you find it, congratulations. This is the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter films!
3. Hogwarts Express a.k.a. Glenfinnan Viaduct (and the Jacobite Steam Train)
Where is it? West Highlands of Scotland
Before you visit the castle where Harry Potter was filmed, you have to see how he got there first.
Who could forget that first ever train ride? When, as the Hogwarts Express chugged through gorgeous countryside, Harry met Ron and Hermione for the first time, and a beautiful friendship was born. No one. It's a seminal moment in the Harry Potter series. Most don’t think they can visit Harry Potter locations like this, but guess what? You can.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct and the train, also known as the Jacobite Steam Train, that cuts across it are both real and both very available to check out. You’ll be spellbound by the beauty of this structure, which dates back to the late 1890s, and the surrounding countryside. Climb aboard the Jacobite Steam Train, which operates as a tourist experience, and travel the 41 miles between Fort William and Mallaig, passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct along the way.
4. Hogwarts a.k.a Alnwick Castle
Where is it? Alnwick, Northumberland
Fans of the Potterverse will surely recognize this ancient castle as it was the actual castle where Harry Potter was filmed. That’s right the exteriors of Alnwick served to represent the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To visit Harry Potter locations like this is a real treat that mixes in the magic of history too. Set in the parklands designed by Lancelot Brown, this castle, once the ancestral home to the Duke of Northumberland, has not really changed since the 14th century. The interiors are an incredibly extravagant affair with sumptuous staterooms, dining rooms, and libraries. But, for many, it will be the gardens that hold the most interest. This is where Harry, Ron, and Hermione first learned to fly their broomsticks! Of course, Alnwick caters to its wizarding past and offers up Harry Potter studio tours too.
5. Greyfriars Kirkyard
Where is it? Edinburgh, Scotland
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the cemetery of Greyfriars Kirk (Church). Why visit Harry Potter locations like this, you’re wondering? Well, because this cemetery plays a pretty integral role in the books. You see, it is believed that J.K. Rowling sourced many of the names that are in wizarding books from the tombstones at this cemetery. Specifically that of the dark arts master, Lord Voldemort, whose name may originate from the tomb of one Thomas Riddell Esquire. This young man served as a Captain in the army and died in Trinidad at the age of 26. Two other characters names may also originate from this graveyard. That of Professor McGonagall, from the real-life William McGonagall, a Scottish poet, and weaver. And, Professor Mad-Eye Moody, from Mrs. Moodie, wife of James Barid, the deputy King’s Remembrancer of Exchequer.
6. Gringotts Bank a.k.a Australia House
Where is it? Strand, London
Looking to make a withdrawal, then make your way over to Gringotts Bank. Gringotts first featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone. But, has also featured heavily in the subsequent Potter movies. So, if you’re after a look at the place where gold ingots and coins are stacked sky high and minded by the most diligent bunch of goblins you’ll ever meet, head to Australia House on the Strand in London. Sadly, you’re not going to get to experience the wonders of a magical bank and what actually sits here is the Australian Embassy. But, this building which dates back to 1913, with its striking marble exterior and statues is pretty incredible nonetheless.
7. Hogwarts’ Great Hall a.k.a Christ Church College
Where is it? Oxford, Oxfordshire
Okay, now while Oxford University’s Christ Church College’s Great Hall wasn’t actually used as Hogwarts’ Great Hall, it did directly inspire it. That being said, if you want to visit Harry Potter locations, Oxford and Christ Church college are still the places to be. Potterheads can find here the grand staircase that features in both the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets as well as the cloister. Head up the road to the Bodleian Library, which houses the second largest collection of books in the country. The vaulted interiors of its Divinity school feature in four of the Harry Potter movies and is also the oldest extant teaching room in the world!
8. Millennium Bridge
Where is it? Thames Embankment, London
Who could forget when Death Eater wreaked havoc on the Millennium Bridge, and it came crashing down in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Built in 2000, this formidable structure is a steel, pedestrian bridge that connects two of London’s most iconic sites, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern. Both are well worth a visit.
9. More Diagon Alley a.k.a The Shambles
Where is it? The Shambles, York
For another slice of Diagon Alley, head North, past Leeds to York. Up here, in this charming little medieval town exists The Shambles. This street, with its lopsided, wooden homes that look like they are moments from toppling didn’t feature in the films as Diagon Alley, but certainly helped inspire its look. Here, on the cobblestone streets, there are two Harry Potter shops, including one, called, The Shop Which Must Not Be Named,” where Potterheads can pick up Potter themed memorabilia.
10. The Ministry of Magic a.k.a Scotland Yard and Scotland Place
Where is it? City of Westminster, London
In the movies, Harry and Mr. Weasley climb into a red phone booth before they are whisked away into the Ministry of Magic. Sadly, there isn’t one at this location. But, outside Scotland Yard is where the scene was filmed, and it’s well worth a visit. The building is awfully grand.
11. Harry’s Parseltongue a.k.a London Zoo
Where is it? Regents Park, London
Remember when Harry Potter first spoke Parseltongue? You know where that was filmed? At the London Zoo. Now, while the scene is pretty brief, London Zoo is a great place to head to for a visit. The reptiles section is pretty comprehensive, and Zoo boasts some other fantastic enclosures too. Our only piece of advice is, don’t try and talk to the snakes or you’ll draw some funny looks.
12. The Elephant House
Where is it? Edinburgh, Scotland
People don’t visit Harry Potter locations like this, because, well it’s not really a Harry Potter location. And, yet, it is the most important Harry Potter location of all. Here, on the George IV Bridge in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, sits the small cafe The Elephant House. What’s the relevance we can hear you wondering? Well, this is where, all those years ago, J.K. Rowling sat down, with pen and paper and wrote the earliest forms of what would become the smash-hit Harry Potter series. It is incredible to think that just over 20 years ago, this is where it all began. So, grab yourself a coffee and a pastry of some sort and sit in quiet contemplation. Or, if you’re a budding writer try and get a couple of pages down. Hey, the place was magic for one author.
13. Harry Potter Studios
Where is it? Leavesden, Watford
The best place to visit Harry Potter locations though is, without a doubt, on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, you can take a behind the scenes tour of all the Harry Potter movie locations. You can see, first-hand, the sets, costumes and props that were all used in the actual movies. Remember the Great Hall, the one that wasn’t filmed at Christ Church college in Oxford? That’s here, along with Dumbledore’s office and Hagrid's Hut. Perhaps best of all though, is you can finally sample some of that famous butterbeer.
There you have it. Thirteen of the best Harry Potter movie locations spread across the UK. What are you waiting for? Jump on your broom and get exploring!