The books have long been published and it’s been nearly a year since the last movie was released, but you still can’t get enough of all things Harry Potter, right? London is the Harry Potter hotspot this summer, with the March opening of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. An insider look at movie sets, props and costumes, the tour is a must-do for anyone who claims to be a Harry Potter fan. If you can’t make it to London, never fear – there are Potter-themed attractions and sites elsewhere, from England and Scotland to Orlando.
Whether you arrive in London by broomstick or British Airways 747, the first item on your itinerary must be the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – the Making of Harry Potter. On this behind-the-scenes tour of the studio where all eight movies were filmed, you can stand in the Great Hall of Hogwarts; visit the Weasley’s kitchen and Hagrid’s hut; see the Sword of Gryffindor in Dumbledore’s office; and hang out in the Gryffindor common room, just like Harry, Ron and Hermione did year after year.
Then see real filming locations in the city on the Harry Potter Black Taxi Private Tour of London. You and your fellow muggles will start off at Diagon Alley, which is actually Leadenhall Market, a grand Victorian arcade that has been a place of trade for about 700 years.
Visit the Leaky Cauldron, snap a photo of Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station, enter the phone box that descends to the Ministry of Magic and see the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Alternatively, the Harry Potter Walking Tour is a less expensive but just as exciting tour that covers most of the same Potter-related sites.
Outside London: Oxford, Lacock, Gloucester, Alnwick
Away from bustling London, you can follow in more of Harry’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s footsteps. Oxford is a good place to start, and there are several day trips from London that include a visit to this historic university town. On campus, wannabe wizards and witches head straight to the university’s Christ Church Hall, the inspiration for the Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Then stroll over to the Bodleian Library and the Divinity School, which you’ll recognize as Hogwarts’ library and hospital wing.
Or visit Lacock, an incredibly preserved, picture-perfect English village that inspired Godric’s Hollow and was a filming location in both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. From London, a day trip to Stonehenge includes a visit to this unspoiled town. Make sure to visit the town’s abbey, which you’ll recognize from many Potter scenes.
In the city of Gloucester, visit Gloucester Cathedral, a Gothic church that stood in for Hogwarts’ medieval corridors in three of the Potter movies. Or head to Alnwick Castle in the town of the same name to see where many exterior shots of Hogwarts were filmed, including the first film’s flying lesson.
Make your way north of London to Edinburgh for a breathtaking ride on the Hogwarts Express! The 3-Day Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands Tour includes a thrilling trip on the Jacobite Express, the real-life steam train that follows Scotland’s scenic West Highland Railway Line – also known as Hogwart’s Express. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a section of the railway that was featured in the films, capturing Harry and his friends as they made the trip each year from London to Hogwarts through the beautiful, rolling green landscape.
Outside Edinburgh, visit Glencoe and the Scottish Highlands. This incredibly scenic area provided some Hogwarts-area backdrops, including Quidditch matches and the Tri-Wizard tournament.
Harry Potter fans in Orlando know to make a beeline to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, one of the park’s themed areas. Enter a recreated Hogwarts on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a ride that takes you through some of Hogwarts’ famous rooms, including the Room of Requirement and the Defense against the Dark Arts room. Other rides include the Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff roller coasters.
– Leah Still