The magic of Harry Potter may be fiction, but we're living in a Harry Potter world. We have everything from HP-themed bars to award-winning plays on Broadway and beyond, as well as immersive theme parks, all designed to give fans a taste of Hogwarts. But for real Harry Potter fans, there's nothing better than seeing the real-life locations and areas where Harry Potter was set and filmed, and imagining (just for a second) that maybe it's real. Maybe there really are wizards hiding behind enchanted brick walls in London, ready to buy their wands.
Even if we know it's all fantasy, the joy and happiness, along with an insane sense of community, is something that is absolutely tangible in the Harry Potter universe.
When I first set eyes on the recreation of Diagon Alley at Florida's Wizarding World in Universal Studios, I cried. It's overwhelming to see something you so often think of and dream of, come to life before your eyes. So imagine the feeling you'll get when you see some of these real-life Harry Potter locations. On this list, we explore everything you need to visit on the ultimate Harry Potter London tour, from the inspiration for some of the most iconic scenes, to intricate movie sets and details. Get ready, because your Harry Potter bucket list is about to get longer.
20 (It's Real!) #4 Privet Drive - Visit Picket Post Close, Berkshire
The best place to start a Harry Potter tour is at #4 Privet Drive, where the story began. Or perhaps I should say 12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell, Berkshire, England, the address of the real house used in filming Harry and the Dursley's home in all eight Potter films. Book fans remember Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall discussing baby Harry's fate in the first chapter. Movie fans remember the infuriating scene where Harry grasps, hopelessly, into the air in an attempt to catch one of the many letters whizzing by only to be thwarted by his Uncle, Vernon Dursley (why not just get one from the ground and run?). Either way, Privet Drive, or Picket Post Close in reality, is an incredibly pivotal point where magic and Muggles collide. It represents to all us fans that great things can happen in seemingly ordinary corners.
The house, which filled fictional Harry with dread each year, offers fans delight as they pose before the home for pictures. But watch out, there's a family living in there, so you won't be able to visit the cupboard under the stairs.
19 The Burrow (Filmed in a Studio)
While Harry Potter called 4 Privet Drive home for most of the films, his best friend Ron and the rest of the Weasley's called the Burrow home. In the books, the Burrow was a topsy-turvy house, filled with magical paraphernalia and several stories high, leaning this way and that. The house, of course, was only held upright by magic, and that's what gives all the Harry Potter shops and banks their fun whimsical look.
Of course, other than the leaning tower of Pisa, you won't find buildings constructed by muggles on the verge of falling over. So it would have been impossible to find a home, or building, that could live up to the Burrow's unique specifications. For that reason, the house, and its interior were filmed entirely in the studio.
18 (It's Real!) Reptile House - Visit London Zoo
It may have been a quick scene, but important nonetheless. Harry Potter and the Dursley's visited Reptile House, where Harry unwillingly causes the glass of one of the exhibits to vanish, setting a snake loose. The best place to recreate the magic of that moment is at London Zoo, in the reptile exhibit.
Today, the Zoo pays tribute to that iconic scene with a sign, notifying fans of the exhibit's significance. Adding a stop to the zoo on your Harry Potter tour is a fun way to recreate the magic of Harry's early years.
17 Ministry of Magic (Filmed in a Studio)
Some of the film's most elaborate and spectacular settings were created and filmed in a studio, because of all the details that were just impossible to replicate with anything but a green screen or intricate in-studio sets. The Ministry of Magic is one of them.
The Ministry plays an important role in the later films, where Dumbledore and Voldemort faced off in film 5, and where the trio (Harry, Ron and Hermione) used polyjuice potions to break in and try and steal a horcrux from around Umbridge's neck.
The last scene filmed for the Harry Potter franchise was in a studio, in front of a green screen, with the three escaping from the Ministry of Magic.
16 (It's Real!) Gringotts - Visit Australia House
Everyone's favourite part of Universal Studios in Florida is Gringotts at the end of Diagon Alley, with an escaped dragon regularly spitting fire from the roof. But if you want to see the real Gringotts, where several scenes were filmed and where the building got its inspiration, you'll need to visit Australia House in London.
The hundred-year-old building was used for interior and exterior shots, but you'll be limited to snapping photos from the street, because access into the building is denied for anyone without an Australian visa.
15 The Great Hall (Filmed in a Studio)
One of the most popular settings in the entire Harry Potter franchise is the great hall, where Harry and his classmates first tried the sorting hat, where they eat their regular meals, where they receive the owl post, and of course where they hear Dumbledore's odd and ominous speeches at the start of each year.
The film set, with the bewitched ceiling and floating candles, needed to be created and designed in the studio to really capture the magic. However, J.K. Rowling got inspiration for the hall from Christ Church, Oxford University, which has those same long, inspiring tables.
If you want to visit the "real" great hall, I recommend you book a studio tour at Warner Brothers in London. You'll be able to walk through the incredible Great Hall set, and feel like you're stepping into the real Hogwarts.
14 (It's Real!) Diagon Alley - Visit Leadenhall Market
Like the Great Hall, Rowling was inspired to create Diagon Alley after visiting Leadenhall Market in London. If you want the authentic Harry Potter aesthetic, Leadenhall may not give you that burst of HP magic, but it's exciting nonetheless to see things through Rowling's eyes and imagine how a seemingly normal road could lead to something far more magical.
13 Diagon Alley Shops (Filmed in a Studio)
Seeing Diagon Alley, with crooked buildings and all, is one of the most overwhelming and satisfying experiences a Harry Potter fan can have. It's a perfect parallel to Harry's magical moment when the brick wall opened up to him and he saw, for the first time, what the wizarding world looked like.
All the storefronts and interior store settings were created especially for the films, so you'll have to visit them in one of two places. Firstly, you can visit the theme park in Florida, where they have a recreation of Diagon Alley with several stores accessible to visit and shop in. It's definitely worth a visit! Secondly, you can see the actual set used in the film by visiting the Warner Brothers tour in London.
12 (It's Real!) - Platform 9 3/4 - Visit King's Cross
King's Cross is one of the few places in the book and movie series that remains the same. In the story, Harry and his friends needed to go to the very real and muggle-filled train station to get to the enchanted Hogwarts Express hidden between platforms 9 and 10.
In honour of the franchise, a vanishing trolley has been added, where fans can line up and take a photo under the Platform 9 3/4 sign.
Like London Zoo, which also pays homage to the films at the reptile exhibit, King's Cross and the HP decor erected is a must see for all Harry Potter fans in London!
11 Chamber of Secrets (Filmed in a Studio)
This is a given, but one of the most exciting and mysterious sets of the film franchise was created entirely in a studio: The Chamber of Secrets in film two.
There aren't many real-life locations that would be suitable for a hundred foot snake to live, so the set had to be created especially for the films. It makes a reappearance in the final films where Ron and Hermione share their first kiss (finally!). Even if things played out differently in the books, it was fun to see this iconic set again.
10 (It's Real!) Hogwarts Express - Ride The Jacobite
One of the most exciting parts of going to Hogwarts (not that I would know, but a girl can dream) is the Hogwarts Express. I was excited to learn that the train is real! All shots of the Hogwarts Express were actually footage of The Jacobite, which runs from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland. As Hogwarts is meant to be hidden away from Muggle view somewhere in the Scottish highlands, it makes sense that the Jacobite (aka Hogwarts Express) would take them there.
The train runs daily for tourists and travellers alike. It's the perfect way to feel like a Hogwarts student, and enjoy the scenic views of Scotland's countryside. It's a definite for all Potterhead bucket lists.
9 Dumbledore's Office (Filmed in a Studio)
One of my favourite settings is Dumbledore's office. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling in books and there are innumerable gizmos and gadgets adorning his shelves and desk, not to mention all the old paintings of previous headmasters.
Dumbledore's office was created in a studio, as were the rest of the professors' offices, like Lupin, Umbridge, McGonagall, etc. If you want to visit the office of Dumbledore or any other professor, you can see costumes, sets and props in London, at the studio tour, or there's a recreation in Florida with a hologram of Dumbledore himself.
8 (It's Real!) Hogsmeade Station - Visit Goathland in North Yorkshire
Your imagination doesn't need to stretch too far to see Goathland station in North Yorkshire transform into Hogsmeade station. This is where Harry and the rest of the students first arrive at Hogwarts, before either getting in boats and rowing across the lake or riding with Thestrals to the school.
The steam train, the brick walls, the red benches, it all screams Harry Potter even though this is a real train station visited by countless people every day. For the films, there wasn't much changed or added, the location was already picture perfect.
7 Hogsmeade (Filmed in a Studio)
Hogsmeade station is just a teaser, the real excitement comes when you visit Hogsmeade. Unfortunately, there's no real Hogsmeade and no real town that was used for filming. Instead, the film crew repurposed the Diagon Alley set, and it became Hogsmeade, where Harry and his friends first visit in year 3.
Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have the same aesthetic, the crooked buildings, joke shops, sweet shops, and most famously, Butterbeer! You can visit the Hogsmeade set either in London, in the studio tour, or walk through the recreation in one of the two Florida Wizarding World parks.
6 (It's Real!) Hogwarts courtyard - Visit Alnwick Castle
Every Potterhead dreams of visiting the real Hogwarts, but the closest you'll get in real life is visiting Alnwick Castle in the English county of Northumberland. It may not have the overall Hogwarts effect, but the distressed stone walls were featured repeatedly in the films, whenever Harry was outside, practicing his flying lessons or Quidditch with Oliver Wood.
Bring along a screenshot from the film and watch how the nearly 1000-year-old castle transforms magically into the Hogwarts courtyard before your eyes.
5 Hogwarts (Filmed in a Studio)
The most iconic of all locations in the whole franchise is the Hogwarts castle. Alnwick is fun, but it's not Hogwarts. If you want to see what they really used for all those panoramic shots, you need to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in London. The massive Hogwarts model is one of the highlights of the tour. Of course, it's just a model, so you won't be able to walk inside and explore, but it's the real school that was filmed and photographed year after year, so it's just as satisfying.
4 (They're Real!) Hogwarts halls - Visit Lacock Abbey
If walking and exploring is what you really want to do, visit Lacock Abbey in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire, England. The outside looks nothing like the school, but inside, those aged stone walls look oddly familiar.
Lacock Abbey was featured in the first two films, with Harry and the gang walking the halls and getting confronted by Snape who felt they were, "up to something." Plus, some of the Abbey's rooms were transformed into classrooms, like the Potions class, but most notably, Lacock Abbey was used when Harry discovered the Mirror of Erised, one of my favourite scenes in the first film.
3 Hogwarts classrooms (Filmed in a Studio)
The various Hogwarts classes were mainly created in the studio, because of the intricacies of the rooms and the spells being cast in those classes. It would have been too difficult to create without the magic of a lot of film editing. While visiting the London studio tour, you'll see countless props and costumes from Harry's classes, as well as sets.
One set you won't see is Professor Flitwick's charms classroom. His class was actually filmed in an all-boys boarding school in Harrow, London. The room used for filming wasn't a classroom at all but a study hall. Unfortunately, the room, which is still very much in use for students, isn't open to the general public. But no matter, there are lots of other in-studio sets to visit and be awed by in London.
2 (It's Real!) 12 Grimmauld Place - Visit Claremont Square
12 Grimmauld Place may have been invisible to muggles, but the building where the films were set is very much accessible to fans. Claremont Square is the name of the street standing in for Grimmauld Place, and sadly the addresses increase in perfect increments, and don't skip from 11 to 13 as they do in the books.
Grimmauld Place is where Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, grew up. It was featured prominently in the fifth film, and housed the trio in the final films while they were on the hunt for Horcruxes. You won't be able to look around inside, but no matter, because only the exterior of Claremont Square was used for filming.
1 Quidditch Pitch (Filmed in a Studio)
No overview of Harry Potter sets and scenes is complete without the Quidditch Pitch! There was no use finding a set or location to film when most of the magic of Quidditch happened in front of a green screen since all the actors were "flying" on brooms.
Some of the most exhilarating scenes of the first few films happened on the Quidditch pitch. Whether it was Harry catching his first snitch in his mouth, Lockhart trying to fix Harry's arm after the bludger attack, or the Dementor attack in year 3. You may not be able to fly or visit the Quidditch set, but you can definitely check out props and memorabilia in London during the studio tour.
So get your map, plot out the best route to see all the real-life locations used for filming, and then finish off our tour with a visit to the studios, where you'll see all the Harry Potter magic come to life before your eyes. Because “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”