From Little Whinging to Hogwarts, the world of Harry Potter is a place rich with wonder and magic. Diving into J. K Rowling’s books, it’s easy to begin seeing the world through Harry’s glasses. And while reading a book is a great escape, nothing beats experiencing the reality that is Harry Potter’s England.
To help you find those bits of Harry Potter magic we Muggles can see, the Geek & Sundry travel team has put together this handy-dandy travel guide. The locations in the guide can be visited in as little as three days, but we totally encourage you to go forth and build upon these ideas, creating your very own unique trip. Or, you know, just be all touristy and do the WB Studio Tour instead. Nah… that’d be lame. Here’s the good stuff:
Stop 1: Privet Drive. Touching down at Heathrow, you might be surprised to learn that you’re closer to the Dursley homestead than you are to London. If you’d like to experience the hum-drum of Privet Drive, head over to the town of Bracknell, Berkshire. Here, on a quiet street named Picket Post Close, you can find the real life Number 4 Privet Drive (used in the films). Grab a room at a local Bed and Breakfast (B&B) and soak in the quiet. Tomorrow’s gonna be a big day.
Stop 2: Reptile house, London Zoo. Making your way from Privet Drive to London, it’s only logical that your first stop be the London Zoo’s reptile house, where Harry learned he could speak Parseltongue (though he didn’t know the term at the time). Of course, now that you’re here you might as well visit the rest of the captive critters too.
Stop 3: Platform 9 3/4. From the London Zoo, visiting King’s Cross station is only a short ride on the Underground. Hop on the Northern line and you’ll be posing beside Harry’s luggage trolley in no time. King’s Cross is a massive place, so be sure not to get lost during your search for the wall between platforms 9 and 10.
Stop 4: Millennium Bridge. We Muggles only ever saw this bridge swaying violently to and fro, but witches and wizards everywhere know that it was once destroyed by Death Eaters. To get here from King’s Cross, hop back on the Northern line and disembark at the Bank station. From there, it’s a short walk to the bridge.
Pro tip: Need a pit stop? There’s a charming cafe in the crypt of the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Stop 5: The Leaky Cauldron. While there are a few pubs closer to our eventual destination of Diagon Alley, most of the closest ones are of a highly average nature. If you really want a magical-feeling pub, where wizards and witches might still stop by for a pint, check out either Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese or The Blackfriar. Both are a short walk to the west of the Millennium bridge. If you opt for the Cheese, make a point to find the nearby statue of Hodge, animagus and friend to Muggle (and meme-tastic) writer Samuel Johnson.
Stop 6: Diagon Alley. Chances are, by now dusk is beginning to descend. That means it’s the perfect time to head over to Cecil Court, London’s very real basis for Diagon Alley. Various antiques and curiosities are on offer in this odd alley’s windows. You might even find a few relics of the wizarding world, accidentally left in Muggle hands.
Stop 7: Knockturn Alley. Practically straight across St. Martin’s Lane from Cecil Court is a tiny medieval street named Goodwin’s Court. At night, this easily-missed alley is lit by gas lamps. If you visit, be sure to speak in hushed tones, as there are no shops here visible to Muggle eyes and the local residents are just as retreating as the witches and wizards that frequent the doorways of Knockturn Alley.
Stop 8: Scotland Place. Now that you’ve got your wands, familiars, and size 2 cauldrons, it’s time to visit the Ministry of Magic. Well, when I say “visit,” what I really mean is “stare at the place it should be.” What with a couple of very good new Aurors and a new face in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Ministry is now entirely unassailable by Muggles. Even the phone booth that provides guests entrance is invisible to our eyes. To see where it once was, visit the space beneath the arch on Scotland Place, between Great Scotland Yard and Whitehall Place.
Stop 9: Piccadilly Circus. If you’ve actually hit all of these London sights in a single day, it’s probably good and dark by now. Time to catch a bit of the vibrant nightlife that London has on offer. Head on over to the nearby Piccadilly Circus, where Hermione apperated herself, Harry and Ron after Bill and Fleur’s ill-fated wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. Have fun for the rest of the night, because we’re headed back out of town tomorrow.
Stop 9: Christ Church College. Now that we’ve had our fun in the big city, it’s time to make our way to Hogwarts. In the Muggle world, that means a trip to Oxford. The colleges here not only evoke the feeling of Hogwarts, they were both the inspiration for and filming locations of the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry. The inspiration for the Great Hall is located in Christ Church College. If you’ve got a very keen eye, you might even recognize a few famous witches and wizards in the pictures on the walls. Also here is a staircase that was used in the first two films.
Pro Tip: You can actually stay overnight in the Oxford Colleges. Accommodation is usually only available at times when students aren’t around, so plan your trip accordingly if you want to eat your breakfast the Hogwarts way.
Stop 10: New College South Cloisters. The New College plays home to some of the grounds of Hogwarts. The tree under which Malfoy was turned into a ferret resides here, as well as the halls we saw at numerous other times throughout Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Stop 11: Bodleian Library. A number of Hogwarts locations can be found here. The Infirmary, for instance is actually the Divinity School, and Duke Humphey’s library is the library from the films.
Oxford is crazy old, so there’s plenty of other stuff to do in town. You can visit J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis’ favorite pub The Eagle and Child, for instance—but that’s part of a different trip.
Also while you’re in the area, maybe check out some of these Sherlock Holmes related spots.
Did we miss your favorite real life Harry Potter destination? Let us know in the comments!