What would three young Gryffindors, such as yourselves, be doing inside on a day like this? Some people might think that you ought to be outside, chasing locations any true Harry Potter nerd dreams of visiting. The most charming spots for Potterheads to visit are, unsurprisingly, in the UK, so I thought I’d concoct a list of UK locations, which, if you pay them a visit, will have you as chuffed as Dobby with a pair of mismatched socks. You’d better get Rowling if you want to see them all! (Sorry, was that a tad too on the nose?)
1. Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station, London
Now I know its clichéd, but there really is no better way to start a Harry Potter exploration than the same place Harry does, at Platform 9 ¾. For those Muggles who don’t know, this is the legendary boundary to the magical world which Harry first crosses to catch the train to Hogwarts. If you want to check it out, it’s (unsurprisingly) beside Platform 9 at King’s Cross (Railway Station not the Tube). Once you’re in the right spot you’ll know, as it’s packed with Muggles of course. If you’re happy to wait in a queue as long as Dumbledore’s beard you’ll be able to pose for a photo with the baggage trolley. A wand and house scarf of your choice is provided, but if you pick Slytherin feel free to adhere to Mrs Weasley’s advice, when you try to go through the platform, that ‘it’s best to do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous’. Next-door to the platform is a souvenir shop with a hefty supply of souvenir merchandise for you to spend your galleons in.
2. Leadenhall Market, London
If you’re already in London, its worth your while to swing by the Leadenhall Market. This elegant Victorian market, with its soaring glass ceilings and bright storefronts, was used for several Diagon Alley scenes, as well as the storefront of the Leaky Cauldron in the Goblet of Fire. On a side note, if you’re interested in paying a visit to the streets thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, you can also check out Cecil Court and Goodwin’s Court (both located within close proximity to Leicester Square Station). The former is lined with bookstores and curiosity shops selling a variety of magical curios, and the latter has the same higgledy-piggledy, twisted appearance of everyone’s favourite magical street.
3. Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Leavesden
The Warner Bros Studio Tour provides a behind-the-scenes tour of the making of the Harry Potter films. It features many of the sets, props and costumes actually used in the making of the films. I defy any true Potter fan to remain unemotional walking along the streets of Diagon Alley or peering into Harry’s cupboard under the stairs at No. 4, Privet Drive (I actually welled up looking into the Mirror of Erised, although upon reflection I hope that isn’t saying something about what I most desire). The café sells delectable butterbeer, and there’s a chance even Hermione’s beaded bag might be filled with the substantial number of wizarding mementos one can purchase from the store at the end of the tour. For the full wizarding experience, stay over in a Wizard Chamber at the Georgian House Hotel in London. Pass down a candle-lit, portrait-lined passageway and enter your room through bookshelf door as you experience what it is like to sleep as a wizard.
4. Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire
This magnificent, medieval abbey contains cloisters used in many famous corridor scenes (think Alan Rickman stalking along the corridor, robes billowing majestically out behind him), and the interior was used as Quirrell and Snape’s and classrooms in the early films where we learnt how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even… put a stopper… in death.
5. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
This 11th century castle might look familiar to you as exterior shots of Hogwarts during Harry’s flying lessons and Quidditch matches. If you’ve always wanted to learn to fly a broomstick but didn’t want to wing it, there’s no need to fly off the handle, you can take a flying lesson in the same part of the Hogwarts grounds that Harry did, happily surrounded by other Potter fiends who aren’t going to judge you if you fly like Neville.
6. Bodleian Library and Christ Church College, Oxford
It should come as no surprise that the hallowed halls of Oxford featured heavily in Harry Potter. The Great Hall at Hogwarts was inspired by Christ Church’s own, and the college’s staircase is the same as that upon which Professor McGonagall first met Harry, Ron, and Hermione upon their arrival at Hogwarts. The resplendent Bodleian library was also used to shoot the hospital wing and library scenes, including the restricted section (although this section- the Duke Humfrey’s Library- is likewise off limits unless you book a private tour or pull a Harry and don an invisibility cloak).
7. The Elephant House, Edinburgh
While many Edinburgh cafes claim to have seated JK Rowling, The Elephant House has proof in the form of photos and quotes from Queen JK herself that she used to frequent the back room overlooking Edinburgh castle to write her beloved series. Many writers, dreamers, and fans have travelled to the nondescript coffee shop in order to gain inspiration. If you decide to follow their footsteps, be sure to pay a visit to the toilets (yes, it sounds odd to me too but the walls, ceiling and windows have been graffitied with messages from thousands of adoring fans, which the café owner has long since given up trying to remove). Once you’ve found your creative inspiration inside this little cafe, hire a car in Edinburgh and venture to some of the most magical landscapes around Scotland which feature throughout the movies.
8. Gloucester Cathedral
This Cathedral was built in the 11th century; about the same time that Salazar Slytherin was building the Chamber of Secrets, which is apposite for the hallway in which the bloody words ‘the chamber of secrets has been opened” were written in the second film (thanks Ginny). Watch out for the ghosties and ghoulies when you pay the cloisters a visit, as if you hear odd noises, chances are it’s a sobbing Moaning Myrtle or a troll loose in the bathroom.
9. The Jacobite, Scotland
For a befitting end to the tour, catch the Muggle-world equivalent of the Hogwarts express- the Jacobite steam train. This runs along the West Highland line, and is the train used in the movies. The line begins near the highest mountain in Britain- Ben Nevis- and concludes near to the deepest seawater loch in Europe- Loch Nevis. It has been described as the greatest railway journey in the world, and I’d have to agree for the flying car scene over the sweeping vistas of the Glenfinnan Viaduct alone.
10. Livraria Lello, Porto
There are many more enchanting Potter destinations one could visit, both in the UK and out, but I couldn’t resist including this last bookshop on this list. The bewitching Livraria Lello is in located in Porto, where Rowling lived and taught English in the early 90s, and apparently is the inspiration for much Hogwarts architecture. One can see why the neo-Gothic Art Deco blend captivated Rowling with its curved, grandiose stairs, striking mouldings, and stained glass illuminating a plethora of books. It’s easy to see how this beautiful, whimsical store of knowledge could provide inspiration for such rooms as Dumbledore’s office.
Do you have any other Harry Potter inspired locations to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!