If you have found yourself here then you already know that Harry Potter is awesome. Whether you have read the books, seen the movies or both (yes, it’s ok if you didn’t read the books) you are a Harry Potter fan. Harry and his friends are magical “literally” and figuratively and their magic has carried on for many years. There are not many pieces of literature or film that can capture an audience like they have, that is still going strong 20+ years later.
Harry Potter has taken over the world and the fandom appears to be growing bigger and bigger still. There are now so many Harry Potter experiences around the world that I needed some help from my blogger friends to put this ultimate guide together. From where are the coolest settings, backdrops, and filming locations that you can still see today to where are the most magical Harry Potter themed bars, tours, theme park attractions and more. Here is my guide to the best Harry Potter experiences around the world.
The best Harry Potter experiences around the world
The Best Harry Potter Food & Drink
The Lockhart Cocktail Bar Toronto
If you ask, the Lockhart Cocktail Bar in Toronto, is a “magic themed bar”. But we all know it’s a legal-drinking-age Harry Potter lovers dream. With drink names like Shacklebot and Better Beer, “All Was Well” in neon lights on the wall, and the whomping willow by the bathrooms, it is a very cool place to have a Harry Potter geek out. Also serving brunch and hosting trivia nights it is a must visit for any HP fan while in Toronto. If you are visiting with friends I definitely recommend getting a shared Befuddlement served in a stags head and lit on fire. (They also have Montreal location.)
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Cutter & Squidge Afternoon Tea London
Themed afternoon teas have been growing in popularity in London and it was only a matter of time before Harry Potter inspired some Wizardy afternoon teas. With magic in mind Cutter and Squidge created The Potion Room where spell classes and afternoon tea are combined.
Before you enter the classroom you’ll be given a cloak to put on and then led to your school desk to await the Potion Master. During your two hour experience you will be whisking up drinkable potions in beakers and learning magical spells from your Potion Master. All while enjoying a delicious afternoon tea inspired by classic British flavours.
The Potion Room is a fun and interactive afternoon tea that is suitable for the whole family ages eight and older. Also under 18’s must be attending with an adult. They can also cater for dietary requirements including vegans, vegetarians and wheat free diets as long as they are given advance warning.
Image credit Kim Jane Photography
Vertic Alley Rooftop Bar at the Bourke Street Imperial Hotel, Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia is never one to be left out of a good thing and so when the Cursed Child theatre production arrived, they took all things Harry Potter and made it their own.
One of the best examples of this is the transformation of the Bourke Street’s Imperial Hotel rooftop. Climb the quoted stairs to “Vertic Alley” with its six magical stores – The Owlery, Spring St Spell Books book shop, Impossible Feats of Trickery toy shop, Bourke St Wands wand store, Wills and Burke antique store and WIZPAC Bank, a wizarding bank.
Whichever store you choose to sit in, you’ll enjoy the very best rooftop views of Melbourne city with any number of potions at your fingertips. Try a spell binding Buttah Beer and a Gillyweed taco. Or if perhaps you prefer the darker side of things try the cursed wings (extra spicy chilli fried chicken wings with sticky sesame).
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Fishy Green Ale, Butterbeer, Chocolate frogs and more at Universal
The Universal theme parks (see more about them below) have some of the BEST Harry Potter foods that you will find anywhere in the world. The most popular item of course being the Butterbeer. This is JK Rowling approved Butterbeer. A lot of people don’t know this but you can actually get six different Butterbeer tasting foods at Universal. From regular Butter Beer to frozen Butterbeer to hot Butter Beer in the winter months. You can also get Butterbeer flavoured ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s, Butterbeer fudge and even Butterbeer potted cream.
Some of the lesser known Harry Potter foods at Universal include Fishy Green Ale. This “interesting” drink might not be for everyone. It tastes of mint and cinnamon (like red cinnamon hearts) and has blueberry pearls, similar to boba balls, at the bottom. You can also get chocolate frogs and many other HP themed candy from the Honeydukes sweet shop. Be sure to also try Bertie Bott’s every flavour jelly beans for a fun or disgusting surprise with each bite.
For the adults in the group you can also find some Harry Potter inspired beers on draught. Either visit the Hogshead pub or Hopping Pot and enjoy a pint of Wizard’s Brew, a sweet American stout, Dragon Scale lager or Hog’s Head Brew Scottish Ale. The perfect drinks to wash down a Cornish pasty or other tasty British pub food at the Three Broomsticks.
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The Cauldron Bar London
Harry Potter Filming Locations and Inspirations
image by Oneika the Traveller
Livraria Lello Bookstore Porto, Portugal
The Livraria Lello bookshop (aka Lello & Irmão) in Porto, Portugal is known to be one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. This famous Portuguese bookshop also served as inspiration for J. K. Rowling.
The author of Harry Potter lived in Porto for two years, and during that time she used to frequent the Lello bookshop. It is said that the stunning staircase in the middle of Lello bookshop inspired her when creating the grand staircases at Hogwarts. In the books, the grand staircases in Hogwarts castle allow students to access the different floors of the castle and had the magic power of moving in various directions.
The Lello bookshop was built in 1906 by the Lello brothers, who were dedicated to the commerce and edition of books. Besides the staircase, the most beautiful feature, the bookshop also has a majestic ceiling in stained glass. The Art Nouveau style is simply breathtaking.
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image credit Migrating Miss
The Elephant House Cafe, Edinburgh
Nicholson Cafe, Edinburgh
The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
J K Rowling may have started writing much of the early Harry Potter novels in Edinburgh, but she also finished writing there. In the early days she would frequent cafes to write, with her young daughter as a way to get out of the house because the walk and fresh air would put the baby to sleep. However, by the time she finished writing the series in 2007 she was in a very different place in life and location. The five star Balmoral Hotel next to Waverley Station in fact.
It was in room 552 at the Balmoral Hotel that she finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is confirmed by a signature and note she wrote on a golden bust of Hermes that was part of the room decoration. It reads: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”. It is possible to stay in the room if you visit. That is of course if you have £1000 or so to spare!
Contributed by Migrating Miss
The Glenfinnan Viaduct and Jacobite Steam Train
Have you ever wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express? Well, the good news is, you can! It’s actually a real train up in Scotland called the Jacobite Steam Train. If you want to book your own journey on the train, it runs yearly from April to October. The route is 82 miles roundtrip (though you can book it one-way if you’d like), and runs between Fort William and Mallaig. It is recommend booking well in advance though, because it is a popular attraction for summer tourists in Scotland.
Even if you don’t get a chance to ride the train, you can follow it for photo ops along its track. The most famous spot to photograph the train is at the Glenfinnan Viaduct. You’ll recognize this location from the films, like when Harry and Ron flew over the Hogwarts Express in the flying Ford Anglia. For the best viewpoint, hike up one of the hills around the viaduct and just wait for the train to come around the bend. It is easily one of the most iconic photo spots in all of Scotland.
If you’re lucky enough to be on the train, head to the back and find an open window for the best view of the whole train turning as it goes over the viaduct. Beyond being famous for Harry Potter, the Jacobite Steam Train is well worth the journey just for the views you’ll see while you are onboard. It will be easy to see why it is frequently rated one of the most scenic train journeys in the world!
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image credit Waldomiguez Adobe stock
The city of Oxford in England
The city of Oxford looks like it could have been built as a Harry Potter set, but in reality it’s about 800 years older! While some of the movies were indeed filmed there, Oxford also provided inspiration for the books and films. The Hogwarts Great Hall was allegedly designed with the Christchurch College Dining Hall in mind. This is one of the most popular Harry Potter spots for visitors to Oxford and costs £7 to enter. This fee will also allow you to see a second filming location: the sweeping staircase where Professor McGonagall greeted Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Philosopher’s Stone.
Oxford’s Duke Humfrey’s Library was also used as a Harry Potter filming location, as well as the shaded cloisters (stone outdoor walkways) of New College. Tour these spots and see how many you recognize!
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Cliffs of Moher
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Alnwick Castle, Scotland
Millennium Bridge, London
Goathland Railway Station, North Yorkshire, England
Goathland Railway Station appeared in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as Hogsmeade Station. It is seen near the beginning of the film briefly as the children arrive at Hogwarts and in the final scene of the movie as Hagrid waves goodbye to the children.
Tucked away, high on the moors of North Yorkshire it is like a step back in time. You can get to Goathland by car from Whitby or Pickering. Or you can arrive by steam train on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. This is the easier option, no winding roads and no need to find parking. It is free to explore the station at any time although it gets busy with passengers and train spotters when a steam train is due. Avoiding the summer holidays and half terms also makes exploring easier.
The station has a deep red metal footbridge over the train tracks and the bench that said “Hogsmeade” in the film. You can easily envision the Hogwarts Express rolling through the station as the trains come and go. There is also a small Harry Potter shop for a little fix of treats.
Goodwin’s Court, London
Goodwin’s Court is one of the lesser-known Harry Potter sights in London. It was the inspiration for the set of Knockturn Alley – that haunt of Dark Wizards. Harry accidentally ends up there when he mispronounces “Diagon Alley” for “diagonally” while attempting to travel by the Floo Network for the first time.
The only reason that the Knockturn Alley scenes weren’t filmed in Goodwin’s Court itself is because it was too narrow for the film crew to fit all their equipment inside. Instead, they built an exact replica of Goodwin’s Court at Warner Bros. Studios London. The large bay windows that jut out from the terrace houses, making the narrow passage even narrower, are instantly recognizable.
Without all the Dark Arts shops, though, Goodwin’s Court seems much less sinister. In fact, it is a very peaceful place and is incredibly quiet considering that it’s in such a busy area in London’s West End. Stepping into this forgotten passage is much like stepping back in time.
The charming row houses were built in the 17th century, and if you come here at night you’ll see that even the original gas lamps are still in working order. It’s easy to see why this place was chosen to represent the wizarding world.
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The exact location where Ron and Harry destroy Slytherin’s Locket in part one of The Deathly Hallows
Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire, England
Burnham Beeches is something of a cameo location in the Potter universe compared to the most famous like Alnwick Castle, Glenfinnan Viaduct and various spots in London but it is still highly significant on two separate occasions. For it is here that Harry and Luna first got a close encounter of the Thestral kind in Order of the Phoenix. It is also where Ron and Harry destroy Slytherin’s Locket in part one of The Deathly Hallows.
Conveniently located close to Pinewood Studios, it is no surprise that the woodland nature reserve of Burnham Beeches and Stoke Common has on so many occasions attracted the directors of many a film and TV show to this well-heeled corner of South Buckinghamshire. The acres of woodland has provided an ideal setting for many other film and TV shows. Most notably doubling up for Sherwood Forest in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
An important conservation area rich in biodiversity, one of the most interesting sights are the rows of pollard beech trees. These clipped only to a certain height suitable for grazing among cattle. Burnham Beeches, managed by the City of London corporation despite its
location outside the boundaries of Greater London, is one of the most perfect locations for nature exploration any time of year. There is little doubt however that Autumn is THE best time to visit. This is when it really does feel like stepping into a Harry Potter inspired
world. Golden foliage glowing high above and around on the ground. The woodland feels more like a forest now and and Autumn wonderland!
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Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest and location of Hagrid’s Hut
Also not too far away by little more than 4 miles is Black Park Country Park. Located almost literally next door to Pinewood Studios in the village of Iver Heath. Another peaceful woodland characterized by giant trees circling a great lake. A lake where at certain times of year, Mandarin Ducks have been known to visit and swim along. And yes, another
memorable filming location too, this time the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid’s Hut in the first two films. In fact, with these two areas of Specific Scientific Interest located not too far away from each other, this would make an ideal trail on a clear summer’s day. A circuit of the beginning and end of the Harry Potter series.
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Lacock, Wiltshire, England
Lacock is a lovely village in Wiltshire, England about 100 miles west of London. Its few streets are lined with picturesque stone and timber-frame houses and cottages dating to as far back as the 14th century. Harry Potter film fans though will know Lacock as Godrick’s Hollow. Lacock Abbey, a 13th-century monastery that is now a museum, was the site of several interior shots. For the first movie, Professor Snape’s Potions class, Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration lessons and Professor Quirrell’s Defense against the Dark Arts classes were all filmed here. As were the scenes involving the mirror of Erised. The beautifully-preserved cloister at the abbey also provided a backdrop for some scenes.
Other Harry Potter-related sights in little Lacock village include the Sign of the Angel Inn, which posed as the Babberton Arms in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You can find Harry Potter’s childhood home in Lacock, as well as Horace Slughorn’s house. The village church, St. Cyriac, appears as Godric’s Hollow Parish Church, along with, of course, its cemetery.
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Platform 9 & 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, London
Freshwater West in Wales and the Shell Cottage
Freshwater West Beach in Wales is part of the Pembrokeshire National Park and is probably the best place to surf in all of Wales. It is also home to the original location of the Shell Cottage, which was created for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films.
The Shell Cottage was owned by the Weasley’s family and was home to Bill and Fleur after they were married. In the film it was also used as a hideout and was unfortunately where Dobby the house elf was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry dug Dobby’s grave and buried him there in the garden where they had a small funeral for him.
The exterior of the house was only built for the film and sadly after they finished filming it was taken down. While you now can no longer visit and see the Shell Cottage, Freshwater West Beach is still a great destination to be seen.
Aside from being a great spot to surf, it is a really stunning place for hikes and camping. While there you can visit the amazing Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Pembroke castle. Freshwater West in Wale’s really comes alive in summer and is a sweet tourist destination that you need to see.
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Universal Theme Parks
Three of the four Universal theme parks around the world feature the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These parks have the most amazing and immersive Harry Potter experiences that you will find anywhere. There is so much attention to detail, that you can even hear Moaning Myrtle in the women’s bathrooms. They have literally thought of everything.
Universal Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka, Japan are all home to Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts School of Witch Craft and Wizardry. All three are quite similar to each other with a few small differences. (In Osaka you will find Hogwart’s Black Lake as well as live Owls.) At Universal Orlando however you will also find Diagon Alley, a bit of London, the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts Express train. In Orlando you can actually ride between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Inside the Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade
In Hogsmeade you will find the Three Broomsticks, where you can enjoy some delicious British pub food. You can also visit the Hogshead Pub or one of the carts outside for a delicious Butterbeer. Here you will also find Olivander’s where you can buy your very own interactive wand that lets you do magic around Hogsmeade. Or you can head to Honeydukes for a chocolate frog or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Thrillseekers can also ride the Flight of the Hipogriff Rollercoaster in Hogsmeade. For even more adventure head inside Hogwarts to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 4K 3D ride that twists you up down and all around.
In Hogsmeade there are also performances put on by the Hogwarts students. (Performed in Japanese in Osaka.) These performances vary by the season as do the decorations throughout the park and the light shows projected off of Hogwarts each night. Speaking of seasonalities winter time is also the only time hot Butterbeer is available.
Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando
At the Universal Orlando Resort Hogsmeade is in the Islands of Adventure park and Diagon Alley is in the Universal Studios park. To get between each you can walk or take the highly recommended Hogwarts Express. Note that you do need a park-to-park pass to do so. The Hogwarts Express is quite the experience in itself, not to give it away but it looks like you are actually on the train with Harry and friends, and maybe even some dementors. The experience is different in each direction, however many prefer the experience headed from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade the most. When headed in that direction you also get to pass through the wall at platform 9 & 3/4s.
To enter in to Diagon Alley you walk along the streets of London pass the Knight bus. Look inside the windows of the homes as you go and you might just see a House Elf. Head through the secret passageway and you will find the magical Diagon Alley. There are a few places to eat and drink here as well including Florean Fortescue’s Ice-cream Parlour. You can also explore the creepy Nocturne Alley and experience the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. Try some magic with your wand and be sure to also enjoy a show by Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees.
Throughout all parks you will find various shops where the Harry Potter merch is endless. You can buy almost anything like an itchy wool sweater with a H or R on it like the one Mrs. Weasley made for Harry and Ron. Or you can pick up a scarf in your house colors, get your very own Hedwig, a gold snitch, mugs, a Marauder’s map, Christmas ornaments, notebooks, and even your own student robes.
image credit Universal Orlando Resort
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
In June 2019 Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a new ride, will be opening the the Universal Orlando Resort. On this new ride you will join a real-life Care of Magical Creatures class and board a version of Hagrid’s beloved motorbike. From there, you’ll be whisked off on an adventure through the Forbidden Forest. On your journey you can find various creatures from the magical world. You will see Hagrid’s three-headed-dog Fluffy, Cornish Pixies, a Blast-Ended Skrewt, a centuar and more.
Harry Potter Studios and Walking Tours
Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
Located just north of London is the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio where much of the films were made. Today the WB Studios now hold a permanent exhibit in studios J & K offering fans a behind the scenes look into all things Harry Potter. The visit begins with a guided tour, and after a short movie clip, the first thing you do is walk into the Great Hall. From there, you can wander through the exhibits on your own and visit places such as Harry’s dorm room, Hogwarts schoolrooms, Dumbledore’s office, and the Weasley’s house. You even head outside to see the Dursely’s House, at number 4 Privet Drive. (The real original location for the house is at 12, Picket Post Close in Bracknell.)
There are sets for just about every scene you would like to see. Being behind the scenes, the exhibits tell and show you how all of the magic is created in the films. You learn everything from how the animals were trained to how they film the broomstick flying scenes. You can also try Butterbeer and shop for your favorite Harry Potter souvenirs. A visit to the studio will take a minimum of three hours. Be sure to buy your tickets far in advance as they sell out quick.
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Getting sorted by the sorting hat along with the wardrobe from the teachers of Hogwarts
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
The Harry Potter films are produced by Warner Brothers and for the majority were filmed in the UK. Although not in the UK Warner Bros. Studios in California also has a few Harry Potter attractions you don’t want to miss. One of the most exciting things that you can do is sit under the sorting hat and be told which house you belong in. They even have one of the 16 original Ford Anglias used in the films. Guests can also learn some green screen magic and get actual video of them flying on a broomstick (for an extra fee). Another part of the tour features an exhibit with original wardrobe from the films, along with various props like the original Triwizard-Cup.
Niffler, Demiguise, Occamy and Erumpent baked goods by Jacob Kowalski
Continuing on with the Harry Potter series and all things JK Rowling the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Hollywood also has a pretty exciting new exhibit. You can now see an expanded exhibit on the Fantastic Beasts and where to find them AND Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Get close up with various pastries made by Jacob Kowalski, and see Newt Scamander’s wardrobe and classic blue jacket. They even have the wardrobe worn by young Dumbledore aka Jude Law.
Last but not least don’t forget to exit through the giftshop. Not only can you find classic Harry Potter souvenirs here from wands to robes and t-shirts but you can also find awesome Fantastic Beasts souvenirs. You can even buy your very own Niffler!
Walking Tour Edinburgh
As mentioned before the city of Edinburgh is where JK Rowling got a lot of her inspirations for writing Harry Potter. Take a walking tour with the Potter Trail and learn a lot of incredible insight into how many of the books and films came to be. From the cafes she wrote in that were mentioned previously above, to the cemetery where she found the names of some of her characters. You can also visit the real life Diagon Alley. The tours last 90minutes and take place year round. The tours are free with a suggested donation/tip to the guide at the end of the tour.
If you can’t get enough of Harry Potter walking tours in Edinburgh then also check out the tour by New Europe Tours. Their Edinburgh Harry Potter tour costs £ 12, learn more HERE. In London be sure to also check out the Tours For Muggles walking tour.
Tour the House of MinaLima in London
Harry Potter themed Hotels
The Georgian House Hotel is a 5 star boutique hotel in London with a little secret in the basement. Hidden behind a bookcase is where you will find it’s “Wizard Themed” chambers. There is a family sized room with two single beds and a double bed and the Enchanted Chambers with a double sized bed. The rooms are dark with a gothic feel and stone walls almost as if you were staying in Hogwarts itself. There are trunks, cauldrons, candles, working fire places, four-poster beds with velvet curtains and Gryffindor like tapestries.
The hotel also offers a Wizard Cocktail experience where guests can concoct their own magic potions. Non-alcoholic versions are available as well. All guests that stay in the wizard chambers also have the option of a magical breakfast to complete your magical journey. Book now HERE.
image credit North Shire
Sleep Like Hagrid at the North Shire
Recently opened you can now book a stay and sleep like Hagrid in the Ground’s Keeper Cottage. Located at the North Shire Holiday retreat in England’s North York Moors National Park. The cottage sleeps 6 (4 adults and 2 kids) and comes with all of the comforts of Hagrid’s home. Located on a family farm near the ocean upon acres of forests. The peacefulness of this place is magical enough. For Lord of the Rings fans you can also stay in a Shire home here as well, just like in Hobbiton.
See Harry Potter at the Theater
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the Play
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child brings the Harry Potter series to life in a completely different way! This might possibly be one of the best Harry Potter experiences around the world. The stage show is currently running around the world in London, New York, San Francisco, Melbourne, Australia and Hamburg, Germany. The story is set where the movies and books left off, when Harry’s children are students at Hogwarts.
The show is split into two parts, with each part around 2 and half hours long. Theatergoers can choose to either see both Part 1 and Part 2 on the same day, or separately. It is recommended by fans to see them in one go so the cast is the same for each. Book your tickets far in advance as they sell out quick and can be very expensive but worth every penny. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is unlike anything else and even better than what you probably assume. The effects are very impressive and are really magical! The plays script is also available online HERE if you are unable to attend in person.
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