12 Magical Harry Potter Experiences in England and Beyond

A model of the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Lauren Morgan

J.K. Rowling finished her manuscript Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1995. Initially submitted to 12 Publishing Houses, the book was rejected by each one. Today, from the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando (pictured) to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, Harry Potter is a true global phenomenon, and Rowling, whose net worth is estimated at $1 billion, has thousands of fans worldwide. Harry Potter's mysterious world has enchanted readers and smashed literary and box office records. But where does it all take place? Here's where you can experience some of the magic.


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Alnwick Castle Laura Hulnik
Harry Potter fans will be delighted at this medieval castle, which serves as the exterior of Hogwarts. Alnwick, the second largest inhabited castle in England, dates from 1096, and the grounds were restored by famed landscape gardener Capability Brown. You can visit the inner courtyard where Harry first learned to fly on a broom and play his first game of Quidditch. There's also a child-themed Knights Quest, Dragon's Quest and Grand Cascade waterfall with a "Poison Garden."

Details: Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1NQ; www.alnwickcastle.com

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Durham Cathedral in Durham , England. Neil Beer
Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO heritage site, provided the setting for some interior and exterior scenes of Hogwarts. If some Potter fans think something's out of place, it's because the film-makers had a spire digitally attached atop the famous towers, where Harry's owl, Hedwig, circled before heading off with a message. In the grounds, you'll see where Harry and his friends had whispered conversations on the lawn; where Professor McGonagall's transfiguration lesson was taught in the Cathedral's Chapter House; and where Qudditch practise was held.

Details: The Chapter Office, the College, Durham DH1 3EH; www.durhamcathedral.co.uk

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Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucester, England was used as a set in three of the Harry Potter films. Frommers.com Community
A century before Harry Potter, visitors came to this original Benedictine abbey because Beatrix Potter set The Tailor of Gloucester here. Now it's Harry's turn and fans can see the fan-vaulted cloisters that played Hogwart's corridors, where, most dramatically, mysterious graffiti written in blood warned that the Chamber of Secrets had been opened. Moaning Myrtle's toilet flooded here, and Harry and Ron hid from a troll in the cathedral's lavatorium, where monks once washed.

Details: 12 College Green, Gloucester GL1 2LX; www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk

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Lacock Abbey in Lacock, England. Neil Beer
The site of a 13th century nunnery east of Bath on the River Avon, Lacock Abbey is now known for things the sisters could never have imagined. Harry was selected for Gryffindor's high-flying Quidditch team in the hallways and Professor Snape's potions classroom can be found here in the Sacristy. Also look in the Warming Room (it was Hogwarts classroom), where a large three-legged black cauldron has sat since the 1500s. In the Chapter House Harry discovered the Mirror of Erised, the mysterious object that lets your desires comes to life.

Details: Lacock, Wiltshire, SN15 2LG. www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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The dining room at Christ Church College in Oxford, England dicktay2000
It's perhaps fitting that Britain's most famous university should have a direct connection with the Wizarding world's most famous school. Head straight to Christ Church College's dining hall, which served as the Great Hall at Hogwarts early in the film series, before a duplicate set was constructed. Author J.K. Rowling did not attend Oxford, but one of her influences, C.S. Lewis, did. Another famous British fantasy novelist, J.R.R. Tolkien, attended as well.
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The Jacobite Steam Train in Glenfinnan, Scotland. Thornton Cohen
While you can't actually catch the Hogwarts Express train from London's Kings Cross Station, Platform 9¾, you can take a ride on the famous train. The Jacobite's summer service runs between Fort William and Mallaig in northwest Scotland. For Potter fans the highlight is crossing the 21-arched single-track Glanfinnan viaduct. The memorable route, known as The Iron Road to the Isles, started in 1901 and carriages were selected from the railway's rolling stock in the movies, so you'll be travelling in coaches similar to the ones that carried Harry and his classmates.

Details: www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/Jacobite_Details.html

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The Reptile House at the London Zoo in London, England. terrywillard
The historic Reptile House at London Zoo opened in 1927 and the front is covered in animal carvings. Inside, you'll see lizards, crocodiles, tortoises and snakes. But don't look for the Burmese python that chatted up Harry Potter in the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or, as it's called in the U.S., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone).
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Ron and Harry's early costumes at "The Making of Harry Potter" at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios in England. revstan

One of London's most popular family attractions is The Making of Harry Potter, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London (or rather about 20 miles north of London in Leavesden, Hertfordshire). This is where the iconic films began and visitors get a chance to go behind-the-scenes to see the detailed sets, mesmerizing costumes, props, and some things the cameras never even showed. You can even try Butterbeer—the recipe was approved by J.K. Rowling herself.

Details: www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

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Hogsmeade Village at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Lauren Morgan
Universal Orlando Resort re-imagines the Harry Potter movies here in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, themed to the village of Hogsmeade and created in consultation with J.K. Rowling. Walk through the castle gates of Hogwarts, ride the Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff, and grab something to eat at the Three Broomsticks or Hog's Head. Finish with a few magic spells on a visit to some of the familiar shops in Hogsmeade.


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Harry Potter fans can visit Platform 9 3/4 at the Kings Cross Railway Station in London, England. bispham2

All aboard for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! At King's Cross station in London, Hagrid gives Harry a train ticket on a pedestrian sky bridge over the tracks after which Harry heads for platform 9¾. At the real King's Cross you'll see a fun re-creation to acknowledge its part in the mythology with a half trolley lodged into the wall, under a sign close to the real platform 9. Muggles can only use platforms 9 and 10. Kings Cross is also the title of chapter 35 in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Details:  http://www.harrypotterplatform934.com

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Steall Falls in Glen Nevis, Fort William, Scotland. benoit_d
When Harry battles with a dragon for the Triwizard Tournament in film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire you're seeing Steall Falls, a waterfall at the base of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain. In the Highlands, you can also see a desolate hillside with Hagrid's stone hut in Glencoe, which was the principal location for exterior shots in Azkaban. If you like skipping stones across the water, why not try the same lake on which Hagrid played? Loch Eilt, west of Fort William.

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The Market Porter Pub in London, England. junnn
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry takes a hair-raising ride through London's streets on a purple three-decker bus, which drops him at a pub, The Leaky Cauldron. If you want to discover the real street, head to London's Borough Market (just next to London Bridge) where you can get a pint (or lemonade) at The Market Porter pub next to Stoney Street, where the exterior scenes where shot—it was The Third Hand bookstore. Bonus: Unlike most pubs, it's open in the morning. That's to serve the vendors at Borough Market, but you can join in.

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