The Ultimate Harry Potter Travel Bucket List
You’re probably well aware by now that JK Rowling’s magical world is both ever expanding and never ending for a book series that ended almost ten-years-ago. In keeping with tradition, 2016 marked the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the script for the play that’s currently being performed on London’s West End. And with the flick of a wand, fans were back into JK’s elaborate world (albeit a few decades later) like they’d never left.
So with Harry Potter on the brain again (let’s be real, did it ever leave?) we decided to round up a bunch of very cool, very real places where Harry Potter magic exists, and simultaneously give thanks to our mighty HP overlord, Joanna Rowling. Wands ready?
#1 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t just a great nod to JK successful series – it’s an extension of her creative psyche. With real-life adaptions of Hogsmede and Diagon Alley, visitors can see Harry Potter staples come to life: head to Ollivanders for all your wand needs, the Three Broomsticks for a pint of butterbeer and spend your afternoon digging through the shelves at Fred and George’s joke shop Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Oh and did I mention there’s rides? Make a beeline for Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey – it’s just as sick as it sounds.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter currently occupies space at Universal Studios parks in Japan and Hollywood, California – but the best has got to be the OG at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. Apart from being two huge theme parks in one (there’s Hogsmeade on one side, and Diagon Alley on the other) there’s also a full scale working replica of the Hogwarts Express to take you between the two lands. It’s everything you could have ever imagined and more.
Check out our profile on the brand new Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in Los Angeles here.
#2 The Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London
If you thought The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the real deal, then get ready for the actual real deal at London’s Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Sitting adjacent to the film studios where Dan Rad and co. created (un)real magic everyday, the Warner Bros. Studio tour lets visitors explore two sound-stages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creations and special effects. There’s the Hogwarts Express to check out, as well as the Dursley’s house at Privet Drive. Potterheads can also view some of the original props and artefacts used in the eight Harry Potter films, attempt to ride a broomstick and sample some butterbeer.
#3 Livraria Lello, Portugal
Look strangely familiar? Yep, Harry Potter mastermind JK Rowling spent a good chunk of time in the ’90s teaching English in Portugal’s beautiful second city, Porto. It’s here, at the Livraria Lello bookstore, that JK found inspiration for Hogwarts’ library. With books stacked tall, spiral staircases and an impressively gothic feel, it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine Hermione settling in with a textbook in one of the building’s darkened alcoves.
#4 Félix Felicis & Co., Argentina
Félix Felicis & Co. is located in the hip neighbourhood of Palermo in Buenos Aires, and although you won’t be seeing wands, robes or pints of butterbeer around here, there is an inherent Harry Potter feel about it all (like the name? Get it?) There’s subtle nods to the books and subsequent films all over the place. The cafe’s logo is an owl, they’ve been known to make Sorting Hat froth art in your coffee and there’s even a Room of Requirement out back. But the best part of it all is actually in the bathroom – there’s a toilet decal that reads “Ministry of Magic This Way” with an arrow pointing down the bowl. Genius.
#5 Georgian House Hotel, London
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like waking up in the Gryffindor common room or in the deep dark dungeons of Slytherin house, then imagine no more. Georgian House Hotel in London have created their very own Wizard’s Chambers, complete with four-poster beds, potion bottles, cauldrons and a seriously gothic feel. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into Hogwarts thanks to the hotel’s arched walkways, surplus of dated luggage, and even a few freaky looking gourds and potion bottles scattered about. Make sure you bring your wand, quills, SPEW badge, and remembrall for a truly authentic feel.
#6 Elephant House, Scotland
Little known fact: when writing the first and second books of the series, struggling single mum JK Rowling found it cheaper to buy a cup of coffee and write in a cafe all day than pay for her heating bill at home. The cafe she frequented the most? Scotland’s own Elephant House. JK would sit on the third floor and stare out the window onto the Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery and the gothic towers of George Heriot’s School, which one can assume was a huge inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There’s even a plaque outside the cafe that describes it as the ‘place of inspiration’ for writers like Rowling, and another large sign in the window that reads “Birthplace of Harry Potter.”
#7 Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
And on the other end of the spectrum, you can visit the beautiful Balmoral Hotel in Scotland, where JK finished writing the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A far cry from the cosy cafe where she started penning the series, JK occupied the grand suite of the hotel to write. As a little nod to the author, the door knocker of the grand suite is an owl in her honour.
#8 The Jacobite, Scotland
Nice view, hey? Well this is the Jacobite, a steam train that runs from Fort William in Scotland to the west coast town of Mallaig. You might also recognise it as the same path that the Hogwarts Express runs through, across rolling Scottish hills and steaming through some gorgeously picturesque landscapes. Now all you need is a flying car to really get the scope of the land.
#9 Black Park, England
While the Forbidden Forest is off limits to students, you lucky Muggles are exempt from that rule. Black Park, a country park in Wexham, Buckinghamshire is where the Forbidden Forest came to life in the Harry Potter films. While it’s quite pleasant during the day, as you would expect, at night it can get a little dicey. Just make sure you’ve got a centaur called Firenze and a dog named Fang by your side to keep you safe (though I hear Fang’s a bloody coward).
#10 Lockhart, Toronto
Named after the boisterous – and downright idiotic – Gilderoy Lockhart, this Toronto bar is a subtle homage to the book series – right down to its final three words, illuminated on the wall in neon lights. While there’s not a wand or dress robe in sight, Lockhart have decided to subtly bring in some of the best morsels from the wizarding world – there’s a hidden deathly hallows symbol, a bar area that looks like an ancient apocathery and a few other hidden goodies. Keep an eye out for the bar menu, where “potions and elixirs” have been named after famed HP characters like the Shacklebolt, the Befuddlement draft and Ludo’s Debt.
#11 Wynott’s Wands, Salem, Massachusetts
You’ll find this innocuous little store in the historic town of Salem – which, considering the subject matter, is a little fitting. Wynott’s Wands is Massachusetts’ very own version of Ollivanders, with a huge collection of wands to try out and purchase. But remember: the wand chooses the wizard, Mr Potter.
#12 London Zoo Reptile House
A location that brought us the unsung hero of the Harry Potter series – a polite Burmese python.
Just kidding, everyone knows the unsung hero of the series is Neville Longbottom.
#12 Oxford, England
Don your robes, put on your brightest smiles and wander down the hallowed halls of the University of Oxford for some top notch Harry Potter feels. You can visit the Bodleian Library to see where some of the library scenes were shot, and also venture into the Christ Church Great Hall, where some of the films’ own Great Hall scenes played out. Step outside to Oxford’s impressive grounds and gaze upon the castle’s exterior to catch a glimpse of Hogwarts.
#13 Kings Cross, London
This list just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to ol’ Platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross for a little bit of wishful thinking. Place your hands on the trolley and proceed to push yourself through the barrier towards the platform which magically conceals the Hogwarts Express. You can do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous.
And if you don’t make it through, that’s OK. It just means Dobby’s trying to keep you safe.