Harry Potter Filming Locations
The Harry Potter universe is one that’s wildly beloved – ever since J.K. Rowling’s first novel was published in 1997, the fandom for Harry Potter has grown exponentially, resulting in a series of seven novels, eight movies (about Harry Potter himself), and 3 more novels, and 2 more movies (set in the magical world), along with a theme park, video games, a spin-off play, and so much more. J.K. Rowling’s world has grown beyond print and the big screen, and the Wizarding World attractions in Florida’s Universal Studios is a beloved theme park that garnered thousands of visitors every day. Apart from its success as popular culture, Harry Potter has also entered academic spaces, with classes teaching rules of fantasy in the literature using the Harry Potter books as their base text. Classes are taught that are solely devoted to the magical universe built in the Harry Potter novels, and the entire wizarding world is discussed, from story tropes to narrative world-building.
For those who haven’t gotten the chance to pick up the books (or watch the movies or play the video games), the Harry Potter series of novels is about a young boy, named Harry Potter, who discovers that he is a wizard at the age of 11. This results in him attending Hogwarts, supposedly the best school for witches and wizards, and discovering a whole wizarding world that coexists alongside the normal (or un-magical, or ‘Muggle’) world. The series follows Harry Potter’s (played by Daniel Radcliffe in the films) adventures in school, his coming of age to a young, influential adult, and his battles with Lord Voldemort, a Dark Lord who’s hell-bent on taking over the world and on destroying Harry Potter, his fated enemy.
The adaptations from the Harry Potter novels have been wildly successful, resulting in spin-offs and theme parks galore. Fans of the films (and of the franchise in general) have plenty of places to visit to relive their favourite moments on-screen. With many filming locations scattered across England and Scotland, some of these spots are noteworthy not just for their significance in the films, but because of the natural beauty that they offer.
King’s Cross Station
King’s Cross Station is an iconic place – the entrance to the magical train station – to the Hogwarts Express – is at King’s Cross, and Harry has his first dose of wizarding life with his fellow peers when he reaches King’s Cross Station. The station is where he meets Ron Weasley (played by Rupert Grint), and forms a friendship that lasts an entire lifetime. Of course, Harry is initially confused as his train ticket tells him to get to ‘Platform 9 and ¾. He then discovers the trick to reach this secret, magical platform (thanks to the Weasley family). The trick is to run into the wall between platforms 9 and 10 – the wall working as a type of camouflage to prevent Muggles from finding out about the wizarding world. The train station is also where Harry sees the Hogwarts Express for the first time and realizes where he’s going – to a school, surrounded by his peers, who are able to do magic. It’s a beautiful moment on-screen.
The success of these films has resulted in a special sign saying ‘Platform 9 and ¾’ being mounted on the wall, between platforms 9and 10. This scene is complete with half a luggage cart disappearing into the wall and is a great place to click some photos. Next to this ‘platform’ is a gift shop, complete with merchandise from the books and the films.
Gringotts Wizarding Bank is a famous bank in Diagon Alley – and the only wizarding bank, known for its safety features. The motto for the bank is Forto Quo Fidelius, which is Latin for the phrase ‘strength through loyalty’. According to Hagrid, Gringotts is the safest place in the wizarding world, apart from Hogwarts of course. Harry Potter ends up forming a special relationship with the bank and with those who ran it. Harry’s first visit to Gringotts is a grand entrance, a rich place that displays the wealth and grandeur that the ancient wizarding world enjoys, and it’s where Harry gets his first glimpse at a life beyond his adopted parents, beyond being a ‘mere Muggle’.
For the exterior and the interior of the bank, the Australia House was chosen, for its rich décor and grand, imposing entrance. The Australia House itself has a rich history, being the oldest Australian diplomatic mission, and was built from 1913 to 1918, and officially opened by King George V in London. The Australia House is not just known for being the place where the scenes of Gringotts bank were filmed; the building also played a role in the film Wonder Woman, in 2017. Though the building is not open to the public, the grand entrance can be viewed from the outside. Enthusiastic guests can always visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour for a more in-depth experience behind the scenes, and Australia House is a great stop to walk by and click some photos by the entrance.
No list of Harry Potter-themed locations is complete without Hogwarts, the best school for witches and wizards in the wizarding world (or so Harry would argue). Hogwarts became Harry Potter’s home, the place where he formed lifelong bonds of love and friendship, where he matured from a boy into a young man ready to step into the role fate had designed for him.
In reality, shooting the scenes that took place in Hogwarts happened over a variety of different locations – broomstick riding was shot in one place, while classroom scenes were shot in another, with Hogwarts’ grand library taking up yet another location. To accommodate the vibrant, diverse, massive castle described in the novels, several locations were required. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is another way for guests to walk Hogwarts’ hallowed halls, but for those who are looking to check out authentic filming locations, check out the shortlist of Hogwarts-specific places below:
The biggest sport in the wizarding world – and the only sport played in Hogwarts – is Quidditch. The sport involves broomsticks, a Quaffle (the ball used to score points), two Bludgers (fast-paced balls designed to strike the players and deter them from playing) and the small golden Snitch (the flying ball that earns the Seeker 150 points and ends the game). Fans will know of Quidditch – the game is the forefront of Harry’s life, one of his greatest joys, and plays a pivotal role in the wizarding world (as any major sport would).
For the films Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the scenes for the Quidditch games were filmed in the Scottish Highlands, the natural landscape providing the perfect backdrop for these scenes. The scenes were filmed in Glen Nevis in particular, in Lochaber Highland. The glen is bordered by the Mamore range in the south, and by the highest mountains in the British Isles in the North. The glen is also home to one of the three highest waterfalls in Scotland. Fans will be delighted to know that visiting Glen Nevis is relatively easy, and there is a hotel and a campsite at the bottom of the glen, near Fort William. There is also a public road that runs about 10 kilometres up the Glen, making it possible for guests to walk in and admire one of Scotland’s most scenic places. If you choose to visit over the summer, Glen Nevis is also home to the annual Glen Nevis river race, a 2-mile race down the river. The race first started in 1973 and can take anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the flow of the water.
Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration Classroom
The subject of Transfiguration was one of the most important (and complex) subjects taught to students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The subject taught the art of changing the form and appearance of an object or person, of transforming an object from one to the other. Professor McGonagall, Transfiguration professor, head of the Gryffindor House, and Deputy Headmistress (and later Headmistress) at Hogwarts is one of the most beloved and powerful characters in the wizarding world.
The scenes that were taken for McGonagall’s classroom were actually shot in Durham Cathedral’s Chapter House. The chapter house in a cathedral is where the daily business of a monastery would be carried out – for the Durham Cathedral, a chapter from the Rule of St Benedict would be read out by the monastic community. The name also led to a governing body of the cathedral being known as ‘the Chapter’. The Durham Cathedral was used for other scenes in the movie as well – the cloisters of the cathedral were featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, being the point when Harry first set Hedwig off on a flight; that same spot is also featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Ron’s magic backfires and he ends up cursing himself with a slug-vomiting curse (yes, it is as disgusting as that sounds).
The famous trio – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger (played by Emma Watson) often relied upon the Hogwarts library for classes, and for figuring out clues and hints to help them with their journey. Of course, it goes without mentioning that the massive Hogwarts library is also Hermione’s favourite place in the castle. From exploring the Restricted section of the library in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to learning about Horcruxes from the library in their seventh year, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the library serves as a focal point for the group to gather resources and learn as much as they can about their upcoming challenges.
It’s no surprise to know that Oxford University’s Bodleian Library was used to film the scenes of Hogwarts’ Library. The Bodleian Library dates back to 1602 and is the main research library for the University of Oxford, and one of the oldest libraries in Europe. In fact, the Bodleian Library is the second largest library in Britain, after the British Library. An interesting fact is that the Divinity School next to the Bodleian Library serves as the setting for the Hogwarts medical wing, a space that Harry spends an inordinate amount of time in, considering how dangerous his school life was.
Professor Snape’s Potions Classroom
Potions was another core subject taught at Hogwarts, teaching the art of mixing potions – substances that can be brewed to create magical effects that can range from providing extra strength, to changing one’s appearance, to ensuring that the drinker becomes comatose. Over the years, Harry and his friends learn a variety of potions, the most fascinating one – for me – being Felix Felicis, or the potion of luck. The class was primarily taught by Professor Snape, a professor that Harry loathed for most of his school life, before realizing that Snape was truly on his side, at the very end.
Lacock Abbey, in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire, in England, is an old abbey, founded in the early 13th century as a nunnery. The abbey served as a location for a variety of scenes in the Harry Potter films, a few notable sequences were those of the Potions classes were filmed in the abbey’s sacristy – a room for keeping church furnishings, sacred vessels, and parish records. The abbey’s warming house – which contains a large cauldron – was surprisingly not used for scenes for the potions classes, but for Defence Against the Dark Arts classes in Harry’s first year, taught by Professor Quirrell. A fascinating piece of history, outside of the Harry Potter universe, is that the abbey’s South Gallery includes the spot where William Henry Fox Talbot took the world’s first photograph.
The Leaky Cauldron
The Leaky Cauldron is a popular wizarding pub and inn in London – and serves as the entrance to Diagon Alley. The pub was said to be established in the early 1500s by Daisy Dodderidge, as a way to provide a barrier between the non-wizarding world, and Diagon Alley. The Leaky Cauldron is where Hagrid takes Harry after he picks him up from the Dursleys, where Harry sees magic for the first time, and when he realizes that he isn’t an ordinary orphan. The Leaky Cauldron serves as a safe space for Harry, a place to hide in, and where he meets the Minister of Magic for the first time, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
In reality, the wizard pub was set in Leadenhall Market, a covered market in Gracechurch Street, in London. This market is one of the oldest markets in the world – it’s said to have started in the 14th century, and is located in the City of London financial district. The space that was used as a setting for the pub is now an optician’s shop, but guests can still visit the Leadenhall Market and enjoy a taste of history and trade, while also enjoying a more in-depth look at Leaky Cauldron in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
Who can forget Harry’s first dance with magic – the first time he realizes that his life isn’t as simple, or as ordinary as it seems. The books (and films) have their first introduction to magic here at this moment; Harry is an 11-year old boy visiting the London Zoo with his adopted family, and accidentally releases a Burmese python (after talking to it) onto the public, by vanishing the glass. Of course, chaos ensues, and no one believes the young boy who said the glass simply disappeared. This foreshadows Harry’s power as a wizard, and his skills as a Parseltongue, one who can speak to snakes.
The shot was filmed in the London Zoo, though the snake used wasn’t a Burmese python, but a black mamba. Of course, the London Zoo should be on anyone’s list if they are visiting the UK – it’s the world’s oldest scientific zoo, dating back to 1828. The zoo offers a wide range of animal experiences, from the reptile house to a range of big cats in their ‘Land of the Lions’ section.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is in Leavesden, in southeastern England. This studio tour is not a theme park – it’s not similar to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter of Universal Studios, but is a permanent exhibit of the props and settings required to construct the wizarding world, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Harry Potter films. The studio tour is filled with iconic sets, props, and costumes that were needed for the films and then saved, either for later films or for posterity. Once filming wrapped up in 2010, the team behind the Warner Bros. Studio Tour decided to collect these props and costumes to create an iconic exhibit for fans of Harry Potter, and of the wizarding world. The studio also contains a large prop of the Hogwarts castle – and it is this prop that’s used to film exterior shots of the historic school. The studio tour is filled with iconic sets – including Dumbledore’s office, a platform 9 and ¾, the Weasley’s home, and costumes, items, and props that were used on the set while the films were made.
The sheer size of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden, along with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Theme Parks, shows the extent to which the books and films have captured hearts around the world, and how they continue to remain a cultural icon. It’s safe to say that a generation has been raised on these novels and these films. The studio tour is worth a visit for anyone who’s ever been a fan of the wizarding world, and the other sites mention are worth a visit to soak in some English history while revelling in the fact that Harry Potter once stood here.
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