Join the magic of Harry Potter
On a train from Manchester to London King’s Cross station, the idea for the Harry Potter series came to J.K. Rowling and she immediately started writing. The plots were outlined over the course of five years, and the first of seven books was published in June 1997.
These seven international bestsellers have spawned eight movies that broke box office records as the most successful film franchise of all time. For Harry Potter fans in Europe, the filming locations are only a plane ride away.
Here are some of the must-see sites to excite your inner wizard:
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter
At the Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden, visitors get a glimpse of sets from the beloved film franchise. The tour includes a look at the Great Hall, Harry’s home on Privet Drive, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Castle, costumes, technology, models and many other awesome things. Halfway through the tour, there is a café where guests can try the delicious butterbeer that Harry and his friends drank in Hogsmeade. At the end of the tour, you can buy all types of souvenirs and candy from Honeydukes, the magical candy shop. Choose from a wide variety of treats, including Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and the famous chocolate frogs.
Platform 9 ¾
King’s Cross Station, London
It was standing at Platform 9 ¾ where Harry, Ron, Hermione and many other wizards first boarded the Hogwarts Express to take them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry. Unfortunately, the magical platform doesn’t really exist (at least not for us non-magical folk!) but there is a silver plaque to commemorate where Platform 9 ¾ would have stood, as well as a pushcart sticking halfway out of the wall — a great place for photo ops. There is also a Harry Potter shop next door with souvenirs and sweets.
London Zoo, London
In the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Harry takes a trip to the London Zoo with the Dursleys, his adoptive family. It is in the Reptile House that he first discovers his power to talk to snakes. He also gets back at his cousin, Dudley, by trapping him inside the glass with the snakes. Tickets are pricey, but you get to see other attractions at the London Zoo as well including tons of shows and feedings.
Leadenhall Market, London
The Leadenhall Market stood in as the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron, a wizard’s pub in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” In the pub, witches and wizards lined up to meet Harry Potter, the boy who survived Voldemort’s attack with only a scar on his forehead. This was where Harry first met Professor Quirinus Quirrell, a major character in the first book. The actual entrance to The Leaky Cauldron was the storefront of an optical shop at 42 Bull’s Head Passage. Leadenhall Market many places to shop, grab a bite to eat, or sip on the beverage of your choice.
Hogwarts’ Great Hall
Christ Church College, Oxford
Hogwarts’ Great Hall was replicated in the studios in Leavesden, but it was inspired by Christ Church’s Great Hall. In addition, the scene where Professor McGonagall greets the first-year students was filmed on the staircase right outside Christ Church’s Great Hall. It was on those stairs that Harry first encountered Draco Malfoy and his henchmen, Crabbe and Goyle. Christ Church is also the filming location for the scenes where Harry is shown trophies his father won as a seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
London Millennium Footbridge
In “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” the Death Eaters, Voldemort’s loyal followers, swarmed the London Millennium Footbridge, tearing it apart as terrified Londoners tried to cross as quickly as possible. Today, the bridge is a fully functional passage across the River Thames. And as a bonus, from the bridge, you can see the tops of the Houses of Parliament. You might remember those Gothic spires from “Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix,“ when Harry and other members of Dumbledore’s Army flew past them on broomsticks.
This viaduct is featured in one of the most iconic scenes in the Harry Potter franchise. In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” the students on board the Hogwarts Express cross it on their journey to Hogwarts. It is also featured in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” when the dementors stall the train to torture Harry. On the Jacobite Steam Train, you can ride over the Glenfinnan Viaduct too and overlook Loch Shiel, the deepest seawater loch in Europe. It is 84 miles round trip and has been called one of the greatest train journeys in the entire world. You will see Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, River Morar, the shortest river in Britain, and the beautiful villages of Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar, and Maillaig, the train’s final destination.
The landscape of Hogwarts was filmed in this Scottish village in the highlands. At Glen Nevis, you can see the Steall Falls from the Tri-Wizard Tournament in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” In addition, Hagrid’s hut was in Glencoe and Quidditch matches were filmed with Glen Nevis in the background.
The Elephant House, Edinburgh
This café takes hardcore fans back to where it all began. It was in the back corner of this coffee shop that J.K. Rowling sat and wrote “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as well as many of her other early novels as she overlooked the Edinburgh Castle. The Elephant House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and boasts a large selection of teas, coffees, wines and beers as well as reasonably priced pastries.
While the entire United Kingdom has filming locations dotted all throughout, these are some of the most iconic. Even though Harry Potter is sadly fiction, a trip to any of these sites allows for a real-life encounter with “The Boy Who Lived!”
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