Harry Potter Experience – Film Locations and Days Out
Still convinced your Hogwarts acceptance letter got lost in the post? Desperate to escape the dull Muggle life? Take a break from reality with a Harry Potter experience getaway!
For this article, we’ve rounded up a whole host of magical moments, from the most exciting historic and pastoral filming locations in the British Isles, to the glistening Hollywood magic of the Wizarding World in the USA. Get your dose of witchcraft and wizardry in castles, themed cafés and even theme parks! If your broomstick is still waiting on repairs, we’ve also got a few Escape Room suggestions that just might be in your area. Keep on reading to say accio to Potter magic…
All Potterheads are convinced that witches and wizards walk among us in our Muggle world. Indeed, the movies’ filming locations go to show that magic can be found in ordinary places too. The sweeping countryside and regal buildings of England and Scotland testify to this. You’ll just about believe that Dumbledore is coming round the corner! You can visit many sites with guided tours, and some even have free entry.
Scotland, with its jaw-dropping natural beauty, provided the ideal location for filming much of the Harry Potter movies. In particular, the exterior of Hogwarts and the bewitching surrounding grounds of the school were filmed here. Glencoe, a gorgeous valley home to Hagrid’s hut, is probably one of the best-known filming sites. Located in the Scottish, this area is perfect for hiking and is surrounded by mountains and breathtaking panoramic views.
Another absolute highlight in Scotland is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, over which the Hogwarts Express makes its yearly journey to the wizarding academy. Nowadays, the Jacobite Steam Train still chugs over the bridge. You can either buy a ticket directly and ride the “Hogwarts Express” or follow a charming hiking trail below the viaduct.
Loch Eilt was not only used for exterior shots of Hogwarts, but also for a very important scene. Dumbledore’s grave is located on a small nearby island of the lake, as in the book he wished to be buried close to the school.
If you want to walk the corridors of Hogwarts or learn to fly a broomstick, shooting locations in the Northeast of England will let you do just that! Both Alnwick Castle and Durham Cathedral were used for the shots of Hogwarts’ hallowed halls. Down South, north of Bristol, Gloucester Cathedral provides even more elegance and enchantment. These mighty buildings were transformed into the school with unbelievable dimensions, gregarious portraits and magical staircases through impressive special effects. They all possess the irresistible British charm that characterises the series and the fantasy school. What’s more – both cathedrals offer free entry!
Nature can be magical too – as proven by the spectacular chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters Country Park on the South Coast. In the films, this is where Harry discovers the Portkey on the cliffs in The Goblet of Fire. Who knows which unassuming object could transport you into a world of magic?
One of the most important filming locations in the movies is Goathland Train Station in North Yorkshire – this station is the final stop of the Hogwarts Express in the movies, where students herald the new school year.
Throughout the British capital, you’ll find various Harry Potter filming locations. The Millennium Bridge, built to celebrate the turn of the new millennium, can be seen in the sixth instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. With London under siege by Death Eaters, this bridge gets destroyed in the opening scene of the film – thankfully only with the magic of special effects, though! Nearby is Leadenhall Market – a Victorian-style shopping arcade that transformed into the mysterious Diagon Alley for the films.
The most famous and important place is of course King’s Cross Station. Though dozens of trains arrive and depart from here every day, you won’t find the Hogwarts Express listed on the boards. Go to Platform 9 ¾, where you will find a half a luggage cart peeking out the stone wall. Pose for a picture and treat yourself to some magical souvenirs in the adjoining gift shop. Once you’re out of this station, you may recognise St. Pancras International next door as the place Harry and Ron leave from in the car after missing the Hogwarts Express in the second film.
Elsewhere in London, you can try your hand – or rather your mouth – at Parseltongue, just like Harry at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park, north of Oxford Street. The visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic is also located at Great Scotland Yard. In the film, Mr. Weasley and Harry enter the Ministry with the help of a phone booth. Unfortunately, there isn’t actually a phone booth here, and we are yet to locate a backdoor into the Ministry…
One of the most dramatic scenes in The Half-Blood Prince came to life on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, using the stunning locations of Lemon Rock in Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher. In the action, Harry and Dumbledore look down from the cliffs before finding themselves in a cave, where they complete their mission of destroying another of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. There are multiple ways to visit these breathtakingly steep cliffs: either with a beautiful cliff walk or an adventurous boat ride that takes you close to the rugged land. But be warned – strong swells and the sometimes roaring sea can really make the boat rock, which doesn’t make for the most pleasant ride.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
A short train ride separates London from Warner Bros. Studios UK, where you can tour some of the exciting film sets. From London Euston, you’ll travel to Watford Junction, where you’ll take a shuttle bus to the studios. Expect to pay about £50 per ticket and book in advance! Though the studio not a budget experience, it is worth every penny and tours are often sold-out months in advance.
Here, you will step straight into Harry’s world and experience the films up close like never before. The sets are decorated for certain times of year, just like in the movies. Come at Halloween to see pumpkins hanging from the ceiling in the Great Hall! Along with the sets, the studio tour also offers countless props and costumes to marvel at, as well as souvenir shops. Order yourself a refreshing and comforting butterbeer or a hopping chocolate frog at one of the cafés and restaurants.
Bars, Cafés and More
Bars, cafés, and restaurants across the globe are also on the Harry hype. At The Cauldron, one of the most famous Harry Potter-themed establishments, you can brew your own potions – ahem, drinks. You can find branches in London, Edinburgh, and New York.
Want to visit an exquisitely-decorated Harry Potter establishment? Here is just a small overview of a few of the most beautiful, themed cafés and bars:
- Always Café in Hanoi, Vietnam
- The Lockhart Cocktail Bar in Toronto, Canada
- Nimbus Coffee in Los Angeles, USA
- Phoenix Book Café in Klagenfurt, Austria
- Platform 1094 in Singapore
- The Cursed Goblet in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Orlando Resort is home to two theme parks where you can immerse yourself in the Wizarding World: Universal Studios Florida & Universal’s Island of Adventure. Lose yourself in the wonder of wizardry with a drink at the Leaky Cauldron, or stock up on Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at Sugarplum’s Sweetshop. You’ll even be able to visit the spooky Diagon Alley and pick out a wand – or rather, let a wand pick out you – at Ollivander’s.
Experience all the thrills of being a real witch with a 3D rollercoaster ride swooping over the school, and becoming a star Quidditch player. Other rollercoasters like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure or The Escape from Gringotts will also get your adrenaline going!
The Hogwarts Express will take you from one park to another – stopping at King’s Cross Station and Hogsmeade, of course. Be aware that you will need to buy a separate ticket for both parks.
Universal Studios has two other Harry Potter-themed attractions, located further afield in Hollywood and in Japan.
Harry Potter Experience Escape Rooms
Want to experience a day in the Harry Potter universe with minimal travel? We recommend visiting an Escape Room. Race against the clock to solve tricky conundrums and escape the room in 60 minutes. There are several Harry Potter style rooms all over Europe.
Here is a quick selection of providers and rooms:
- Team X (Cologne): The Magic Library & The Magic Archive.
- Labyrintoom (Berlin): The Wizard’s Cabinet
- Questerland (Prague, Czech Republic): Escape Harry’s Magic Room
- CityPlay Valencia (Museros, Valencia, Spain): Escape Room Harry Potter
- No Way Out (Vienna, Austria): Escape Room Harry Potter
There’s no shortage of extraordinary Harry Potter experiences to be had, whether that is on a bumper tour of English and Scottish filming locations or flying through the skies at Universal’s Wizarding World. Just think of how many magical places there are, just waiting to be discovered! Even if you don’t want to travel too far, many Escape Rooms in Europe offer spellbinding Hogwarts adventures.