Looking for an attraction that will scratch your sight-seeing itch and satisfy your aching Potter nostalgia? You'll be giddier than a Muggle with a new wand after you go through this list. After all, what better way to indulge your Potter fantasies than by witnessing some of the actual places made famous by the films?
Many have credited the series as a fundamental element of their childhood, and fans, actors, and J.K. Rowling herself have shed many tears at this parting of ways. But the most successful children’s book series of all-time is not fading into the history books just yet. This beloved, familiar world can be conjured up in a second’s notice from the moment you turn over the first dog-eared page—thanks to the bounty of sites that have materialized for Potter fans. Although we were crushed when J.K. Rowling revealed that the series is indeed over, it will always live on in our hearts.
Your long-waited-for letter from Hogwarts may never actually come, but a visit to each of these destinations will get Potter fans pretty close. Check out these magical spots and start planning your epic Harry Potter adventure today!
1. Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you want to plan a Harry Potter-themed vacation, but don’t want to leave the continent, live out all of your wizard fantasies at Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Submerse yourself in magic, myth, and lore, or take a spin on the Potter-themed amusement park ride. Now open in both Orlando and LA, these amusement parks recreate J.K. Rowling's texts with impeccable attention to detail. Pick out a wand at Olivanders, peer into a Pensieve in Dumbledore's office, and overthrow a fire-breathing dragon — all with an ice-cold butterbeer in hand.
2. Harry Potter — The Exhibition
If you want to take your Harry Potter fandom to the next level, you should check out the nomadic Harry Potter exhibition that is currently making its way around the globe. Upon entering this traveling exhibition, visitors are separated into houses by the Sorting Hat to check out authentic Harry Potter props and costumes that went into the making of the movies. They also offer an audio guide featuring interviews with the craftsmen and women who helped bring this magical realm to life.
3. Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England
Alnwick Castle is the location used for Hogwarts Castle in the first two Harry Potter films. You'll recognize Alnwick in familiar scenes such as Harry's first broomstick flying lesson in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or Ron's legendary car crash in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The medieval castle is a lovely place for an evening stroll and even offers wizardry and broomstick “flight” training — if you’re so inclined.
4. Great Hall in Christ Church, Oxford University
When it comes to Harry Potter, few sights are as iconic as Hogwarts's Great Hall. Luckily, this significant phenomenon is actually open to the public and can be seen on college visits. In the films, it’s where young witches and wizards from each house congregate for meals and ceremonial events — much like the students at Christ Church, an actual college at Oxford University. Visitors can get an inside peek at the real thing during a visit to the college — provided there is no educational event going on, of course.
5. Glenfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber, Scotland
Every year, Harry and his chums eagerly make their way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland is the prominent bridge and train line the Hogwarts Express treks along to get them there. The surrounding countryside makes for some magnificent hiking opportunities, and you can even take a ride on the “Jacobite” — the real steam train Potter used that runs along the western coast of Scotland. It gives travelers a gorgeous view of the Scottish countryside and makes you feel like you're riding the Hogwarts Express in real life.
6. Leadenhall Market in London, England
Leadenhall Market is an enclosed market in London with an extensive history. It shows up in the Harry Potter films as the exterior for Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron. In reality, the market is still a fantastic place to grab a bite to eat and do a bit of light shopping. Spend a few hours here soaking in the magical vibe and you just might feel like you're school shopping for your own enchanted year.
7. King’s Cross Station
Perhaps one of the best known Harry Potter attractions, King's Cross Station has wholly embraced its literary significance, even adding a Platform 9 3/4 sign and a trolley half-pushed through the wall. Wizards-to-be, of course, ran through a barrier in London’s King's Cross Station to this platform, where they caught the Hogwarts Express to school. Muggles can’t do that (unless they want to end up with a massive headache), but they can take the perfect photo-op and shop in the nearby Potter store, which holds fun exclusives such as time turner necklaces and Hogwarts paraphernalia.
8. The London Zoo
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry communicates with a Burmese python in the Reptile House, later revealed to be due to his ability to speak parseltongue, which becomes a fairly significant plot throughout the series. Now you can visit the reptile enclave at the London Zoo to see where it all began. While the snakes and reptiles that live there now might not be up for a chat as they were in the film, you can still enjoy this spectacular collection of things that slither and crawl while you’re in London.
9. Millenium Bridge in London
If you're traveling to London, a stop by the Millennium Bridge is an obligatory pit stop for all Potter fans. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the bridge is torn to shreds by Death Eaters sent by Voldemort. In reality, the bridge still stands today as a monumental icon and the perfect suspension pathway from St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern.
10. Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London
The London's Warner Brothers Studio is a must-see for Potter fans and film buffs in general. No Harry Potter pilgrimage worth its weight in galleons would be complete without it; tickets grant access to props, costumes, and sets including Diagon Alley, the Gryffindor common room, and Dumbledore's office. Visitors will also learn about the CGI effects that helped the filmmakers recreate iconic scenes in the films.
11. Glencoe, Scotland
Glencoe is the illustrious glen in Scotland that was featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Hagrid’s Hut and several other film sets were set to this striking landscape, which offered up a spectacular backdrop to the adventures taking place onscreen. You can also trek 30 minutes further down to find Glen Nevis, a similar mountain valley. You’ll know it for being where Harry battles a Hungarian Horntail during the Triwizard Tournament and as the setting for Quidditch matches throughout the series.
12. Black Park Country Park
Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies can witness Harry Potter's Forbidden Forest spring to life at the Black Park in Iver, England. Steeped in history, full of character and jewelled with green spaces, the forested corner has all the right ingredients for a short break — whether you're looking to embrace the great outdoors, soak up some Potter heritage, or revel in its mysterious atmosphere. We just hope the spiders won't come in larger-than-life form.
13. Seven Sisters Country Park
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry and his crew take the Portkey to the Quidditch World Cup where they land on a cliff right near the stadium grounds. If you’re interesting in seeing the chalk rock face in the real world, head to Seven Sisters Country Park in Seaford, just a two-hour train ride from London. Although a magical transporting shoe might not be there, majestic views and an outstanding photoshoot are sure to follow.
14. Piccadilly Circus in London
When Hermione apparates the trio away from danger after the wedding in the Deathly Hallows film, they land in the hubbub of Piccadilly Circus (and almost get run over by a bus in the process). After you get your fill of the Times Sqaure-esque buildings, stop by the Criterion Theater to watch some performances or pop into Waterstones book store to find your next favorite literary series.
15. Black Lake/Loch Shiel
Several bodies of water stand in for the Black Lake surrounding Hogwarts, but one of the most significant is Loch Shiel in Scotland. Flanked by thick boreal forest and whitewater rivers, the lake is quintessential. There’s plenty to explore in the crystal-clear shallows, including wildlife (trout and salmon), and underwater moss meadows. You can even take a cruise along the water to recreate the Durmstrang's arrival to the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but be sure not to disturb the merfolk in the murky depths below.