Are You a Potterhead? Here Are 7 Filming Locations You Can Visit

Restricted libraries. Hogwarts. Platform 9 ¾. Visit all the places that helped shape the story of the Boy Who Lived.

It’s hard to think of another literary franchise that has had as much of an impact on modern pop culture as Harry Potter has. At more than 500 million copies sold, it’s the best-selling book series of all time. The seven novels that comprise Harry Potter eventually became eight wildly successful movies (the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was split into two films) that raked in a total of $7.7 billion in ticket sales.

But if there’s anything more magical than the actual story line of the series, it’s the filming locations that helped bring Harry’s fictional, fantasy-tinged version of the United Kingdom and Ireland to life. From the Warner Bros. Studio lot in London to the halls of Oxford, here are seven filming locations featured in the Harry Potter films that you can visit.

Much of <i>Harry Potter</i> came to life on sets—many are on view at Warner Bros. Studio London.

Much of Harry Potter came to life on sets—many are on view at Warner Bros. Studio London.

Photo by chettarin/Shutterstock

1. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Location: Leavesden, Watford, England

For the 10 years that the Harry Potter film series was in production, it was lensed at a studio in Watford, a small town northwest of London. At this Warner Bros. Studio, visitors can see iconic sets like the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts’ Great Hall, and Diagon Alley. There are also numerous props to see, including 950 potion jars from Professor McGonagall’s potion classroom, 900 memory vials from Dumbledore’s office (each with a hand-designed label), and cat portraits that once hung in Dolores Umbridge’s office. The Hogwarts locomotive that transported thousands of students to and from Hogwarts is also on display. After fans are done perusing all the exhibits, there are no less than three different souvenir shops to pick up things like replica wands, Harry Potter–themed candy, and stuffed toy owls. Tickets start at $55 per person.

A cloister of Durham Cathedral

In addition to being a Harry Potter filming location, Durham Cathedral is also an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Tanasut Chindasuthi/Shutterstock

2. Durham Cathedral

Location: Durham, England

You may recognize Durham Cathedral from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in the film series. In between classes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione walk through Hogwarts’ halls—in real life, those halls were actually the elegant cloisters of Durham Cathedral, constructed during the 11th and early 12th centuries to house the bones of Saint Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede. A set recreation of Durham Cathedral was built for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and used in the scene where Harry frees Dobby the house elf with a sock. The chapter house (a building used in cathedrals to hold official meetings) was also used in the first two movies to represent Professor McGonagall’s office.

Durham Cathedral is more than a Harry Potter filming location: It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered the best and biggest example of Norman architecture in England. Additionally, it’s the oldest surviving building with a large-scale, stone-vaulted ceiling. Entry to the cathedral is free, though visitors are encouraged to leave a $5 donation to support the church and its grounds.

Interior of Bodleian Old Library in Oxford

Duke Humfrey’s Library stood in for the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library.

Photo by Aeypix/Shutterstock

3. Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries

Location: Oxford, England

Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries are among the most famous in the world because of their collection of books (more than 12 million printed items, including rare manuscripts and classical papyri) and storied buildings, some in continuous use since the Middle Ages. And with its severe architecture, the Bodleian Old Library seems like an obvious choice to represent the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library. When Harry wears his invisibility cloak to enter the Restricted Section in Sorcerer’s Stone (in the hopes of finding information on the mysterious Nicolas Flamel), he’s really skulking through Duke Humfrey’s Library, a reading room within the Bodleian Old Library. Travelers must purchase a ticket to the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera tour (which start at $11 a person) to visit the premises.

The grass-covered grounds of Alnwick Castle

The scenes where Harry first learns to fly were filmed on the grounds of Alnwick Castle.

Photo by Kraft_Stoff/Shutterstock

4. Alnwick Castle

Location: Alnwick, Northumberland, England

In the first two Harry Potter films, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland stood in for exterior shots of Hogwarts Castle. You might recognize the outer bailey as the place where Harry first learned to fly, and the inner bailey as the spot where he and Ron crash landed the Weasley’s flying car. In reality, Alnwick is more than 950 years old and is the second largest inhabited castle in the U.K. Since its construction in 1309, the building has also served as a temporary shelter, a military outpost, and a teaching college. Alnwick Castle is currently temporarily closed but is set to reopen again on March 31. Tickets start at $21 per person.

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

At Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station, Harry Potter fans can find a trolley that’s partially embedded in the wall.

Photo by Anna Mente/Shutterstock

5. King’s Cross Station

Location: London, England

Remember that magical moment in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry watches Ron disappear through a wall at Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross station? That scene really occurred at the busy train station, and fans can visit the site where filming took place. A luggage trolley is embedded in the wall where Platform 9 ¾ should be so that visitors can pose with it. Nearby, fans can find the Harry Potter Shop, which sells things like recreations of Ollivander’s wands, time turners, and Hogwarts robes.

Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct in Scotland with the Jacobite steam train passing over

In real life, the dreamy Hogwarts Express is the Jacobite steam train.

Photo by Nick Fox/Shutterstock

6. The Jacobite steam train

Location: Tom-na-Faire Station, Scotland

Sure there are soul-sucking demons, screaming mandrakes, and devices that enable people to time travel in the Harry Potter universe, but is there anything more magical in the entire series than the train ride Harry and his friends take from King’s Cross Station to their school? In real life, the Hogwarts Express is the Jacobite steam train, owned by West Coast Railways. The 84-mile round trip takes travelers through some of Scotland’s most scenic landscapes, including Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch in Europe; Fort William, the largest town in the Scottish Highlands; and the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter films.

Ireland's Cliffs of Moher during a storm

The place where Dumbledore and Harry search for Slytherin’s Locket is actually Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher.

Photo by JadeCross/Shutterstock

7. Cliffs of Moher

Location: Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland

In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (the sixth installment of the franchise), Harry and Dumbledore travel to a remote cave located on a rocky coast—hinted to be the shore of Germany—in search of Slytherin’s locket, one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. In reality, the craggy coastline and caves featured in the movie are actually Ireland’s legendary Cliffs of Moher, which are known for their dramatic vertical profile. This filming location was also featured in The Princess Bride and Leap Year. The easiest way to see the Cliffs is to travel to Liscannor village in Ireland where admission can be purchased for $7 (tickets are available online as well).

Mae Hamilton is a former associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.
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