5 Real-Life Harry Potter Experiences for True Potterheads

No muggles allowed. | By NGT Staff  
Hogwarts Orlando Florida Hogsmeade Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando has recreated the village of Hogsmeade. Photo: Kayla Kandzorra/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Happy birthday, Harry Potter! It’s our favourite boy wizard’s birthday and we’re celebrating by listing places that you can visit to experience the magic of the books and movies. Though many parts of the wildly successful film franchise were created on computers, several locations across England were used to bring J. K. Rowling’s fantabulous world to life.

Enter the Wizarding World

Meander through the bustling streets of Diagon Alley, savour a frothy butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron, and take a thrill ride across the guarded vaults of Gringotts at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the U.S. The Wizarding World is spread across two theme parks at Universal Orlando:  a re-creation of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, and Hogwarts castle and the pleasant village of Hogsmeade at Universal’s Island of Adventure.

True to the book, Diagon Alley is hidden. Masked by a jumble of buildings that enhance the downtown vibe of London, visitors are challenged when searching for the one entrance that leads the right way. This confusing layout is deliberate and is meant to create a buzzing atmosphere as muggles crisscross the cobbled streets. Don’t forget to take a break in between to satisfy your hunger. Unwind at a pub, or indulge in traditional British foods offered at a variety of local eateries. Then, enter the goblin-run bank of Gringotts, embark on a rollercoaster ride and steer away from a fire-breathing dragon! Hitch a ride via the Hogwarts Express train to the older Hogsmeade theme park at Universal’s Island of Adventure for more amusement. Buy a package so you don’t miss any of the magic on display.

The Hogwarts Experience

Gloucester Cathedral Orlando Durham Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral’s beautiful Cloisters feature in several Potter movies. Photo: Nigel’s Europe & beyond/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

To get a real taste of the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you will have to head to a couple of different locations in the U.K. Several buildings including the beautiful Gloucester Cathedral and Durham Cathedral were used to show Hogwarts Castle. The Cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral feature in many movies: In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this is where the troll walks to the girl’s lavatory. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny Weasley scrawls a terrifying message from Slytherin’s heir on one of the Cloisters’ walls. The scene where Professor McGonagall taught students to turn animals into goblets was filmed in Durham Cathedral’s Chapter House.

The massive Hogwarts Hall was recreated in Oxford’s Christ Church College, and the same college also served as the backdrop for the scene in which Professor McGonagall greets Harry and his classmates as newbies at Hogwarts.

The Divinity School in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, doubled up as the Hogwarts Infirmary and one of the college’s reading rooms, Duke Humfrey’s Library, was used as Hogwarts’ library.

Remember the first time Harry tried riding a broom in school? That took place at the Outer Bailey of Alnwick Castle, a favourite location of many production units.

For an immersive experience, Warner Bros. has a studio tour of the Harry Potter sets in Leavesden, an hour’s drive outside London. Visitors can ride a broomstick, eat butterbeer ice cream, and view sets, props and costumes from the eight films.

Platform 9¾ and the Hogwarts Express

Pass through this wall (left) if you can, to get to the Hogwarts Express, but serious quidditch players (right) can get together for the World Cup every year. This photo is for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Laura Bittner/Flickr/Creative Commons (wall) John Morgan/Flickr/Creative Commons (quidditch) (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Pass through this wall (left) if you can, to get to the Hogwarts Express, but serious quidditch players (right) can get together for the World Cup every year. This photo is for illustrative purposes only. Photos: Laura Bittner/Flickr/Creative Commons (wall) John Morgan/Flickr/Creative Commons (quidditch) (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Leave the muggles behind as you make your way to Platform 9¾ at London’s Kings Cross Station. Non-magical folks will have to make do with a photo-op under a sign marking the way to the platform, and a trolley half-disappearing into a wall. Readers of the books will know that Kings Cross plays a big role in the last book, because this is where Harry, in his mind, has a crucial discussion with his former headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

To continue the magic, hop aboard the Hogwarts Express when you ride the Jacobite Steam Train. Sadly, it won’t take you to Hogwarts. The train chugs over Scotland’s Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is where Ron Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia lands in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

You can pretend you're on your way to Hogwarts with a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train. Photo: Christoph Strässler/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

You can pretend you’re on your way to Hogwarts with a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train. Photo: Christoph Strässler/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

If you can’t get yourself to these Harry Potter filming locations, fret not. The travelling exhibit takes the movies’ props and costumes around the world, displayed in exhibits that resemble the Gryffindor Common Room and Hagrid’s Hut.

BONUS

Quidditch World Cup

It isn’t uncommon to travel for football or cricket world cups, so why not quidditch? US Quidditch, a non-profit dedicated to governing the sport in America, hosts the World Cup every year. The tournament features the top 80 teams from the US league as they battle it out for top honours. You may not be able to participate in the games, but there’s no denying the thrill you get from attending a match!

With inputs from Anuja Kapoor.

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