The Big Picture
- Many of the iconic Hogwarts filming locations in the Harry Potter movies are real places in the United Kingdom, such as Alnwick Castle and the Great Hall at Christ Church College.
- Fans can visit these locations, like Alnwick Castle in England and the Highlands of Scotland, to experience the magic of Harry Potter and even take free broomstick flying lessons.
- Other notable locations include Livraria Lello in Portugal, which inspired the design of the Hogwarts library, and King’s Cross Station in London, where the Hogwarts Express departs from Platform 9 3/4.
The authenticity of the Harry Potter movies comes from the many historical filming locations from around the United Kingdom. The large number of exterior shots we see of Hogwarts were actually filmed at places you can visit. From the University of Oxford to the Highlands of Scotland – here are a few real life locations accessible to Muggles that both inspired the look of Hogwarts, and became the film locations for the Harry Potter films.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
An orphaned boy enrolls in a school of wizardry, where he learns the truth about himself, his family and the terrible evil that haunts the magical world.
- Release Date
- November 16, 2001
- Chris Columbus
- Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Saunders Triplets, Daniel Radcliffe, Fiona Shaw
Alnwick Castle, England
Alnwick Castle is located in the northern part of England. The exteriors of the 950-year-old structure became the Hogwarts set for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). The Alnwick Castle is seen when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends move from class to class, and also when they make their way to see Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). But most famously, the Alnwick Castle grounds became the backdrop for when Harry first rides a broomstick and when he learns about Quidditch from his friend, Oliver Wood (Sean Biggerstaff). The Alnwick Castle staff help indulge the many Potter fans who come to visit by providing free broomstick flying lessons.
The Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford University
In the Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts Great Hall is a man-made set, but its mystical and ancient design was inspired by the Great Hall in Christ Church College at Oxford University. The similarities between the real Great Hall and the magical Great Hall are uncanny; the high ceiling, the long dining tables, the large mullioned windows, and the teacher’s table at the head of the hall. Christ Church College’s Great Hall also features large ornate portrait frames dotted all over its old walls, not unlike the moving portraits you see adorning the Hogwarts passageways. Furthermore, there is a staircase in Christ Church College itself that was made famous by the scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where young Harry and the other first-years meet Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) for the first time.
The Highlands of Scotland
In the wizarding world, the Hogwarts school exists somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, and the reason it’s never been found is because it’s invisible to Muggles. But Potter fans can edge close to its boundaries, beginning with a place called Loch Arkaig which is located a few miles from Hogwarts, and became the resting place for Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). You can also see Loch Arkaig in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) during the scene where Harry Potter, Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), Viktor Krum (Stanislav Yanevski) and Fluer Delacour (Clémence Poésy) are about to dive into the depths of the Great Lake. Another Potter filming location in the Scottish Highlands is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, AKA the large bridge that the Hogwarts Express crosses as it makes its way to Hogwarts. And of course, “It’s not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid,” which is why it’s a must for Potter fans to pay a visit to the Clachaig Inn at Glencoe where the exteriors for Hagrid’s hut were filmed. You can run down the grassy hills like Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) did in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) towards Hagrid’s home and soak in the beauty of the Scottish highland landscape.
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Another beautiful part of the Hogwarts castle is the library. Although its peaceful interiors have inspired “dark academia” Pinterest boards everywhere, the Hogwarts library is only seen briefly throughout the films (despite Hermione spending 80% of her time there during the course of the books). But the library’s magical and alluring design has wedged itself in the imaginations of many Potter fans. Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal is a bookstore contoured by a neo-gothic aesthetic and was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the look of the Hogwarts library.
New College, Oxford University
The 1000-year-old charm of Oxford University is perhaps the closest that Potter fans can get towards living out their Hogwarts fantasies in the flesh. Oxford’s New College draws Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) fans from all over the world because the courtyard at New College plays host to the tree that Draco drops out of in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately, the exception to tree climbing was only permitted to Draco, but you can still get photos up close to its hefty trunk and shady branches.
Goathland Station, England
It is known as Hogsmeade Station to witches and wizards, but muggles know it as Goathland Station. You don’t have to run into any brick walls between platforms nine and ten to be able to ride the North Yorkshire Moors Railway that will journey you through the scenic English countryside, before pulling into Goathland Station – made famous by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Gloucester Cathedral, England
You can explore more neo-gothic architecture through the hallways of the Gloucester Cathedral that watched Harry and Ron grow from first-years to sixth-years. The Gloucester Cathedral was first seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Harry and the other recently appointed Gryffindors make their way down a Gloucester corridor towards the Gryffindor common room. The high-ceilinged and intricately detailed hallways are also seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) when Harry, Ron and Hermione learn that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), an older Harry and Ron dawdle in one of the ancient corridors before Mrs McGongall shoos them away, but we also see Snape (Alan Rickman) and Draco argue in the shadows of one of Gloucester’s corridors.
The Millennium Footbridge is located in the center of London. This bridge is featured at the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) Death Eaters are wreaking havoc all over London. The Death Eaters use magic to break the bridge’s steel suspensions and we glimpse the bridge collapsing. The Muggle pedestrians who are walking on the bridge scream in terror. The bridge is collapsing but the Muggles have no idea why, because they cannot see the Death Eaters. However, in real life, the Millennium Bridge is in perfectly good condition and Harry Potter fans can happily walk over it.
King’s Cross Station
King’s Cross Station is a must-see for Harry Potter fans visiting London. The Hogwarts Express leaves from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross every year on September 1st. Although Muggles do not have access to Platform 9 3/4, they can visit the Platform 9 3/4 shop at King’s Cross, which is full of official Harry Potter merchandise. You can also see the exterior shots of the famous train station which are seen in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron decide to drive Arthur Weasley’s (Mark Williams) Ford Anglia to school, behind them you can see the elegant architecture of St Pancras Hotel, which is located right beside King’s Cross Station.
Claremont Square, London
Claremont Square – located in Islington, London, is better known to Harry Potter fans as 12 Grimmauld Place. Although creepy and shadowy inside, on the outside the Black family home is identical to its neighboring three-story town houses. Harry Potter fans will be pleased to know that the real life 12 Grimmauld Place looks exactly the same as it does in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
St Paul’s Cathedral
That cool circular staircase we first see in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which acts as the pathway to Professor Trelawney’s (Emma Thompson) Divination classroom is actually a real staircase located in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This staircase is known as the Divination Stairwell. Although the Divination Stairwell doesn’t move like the other ones do at Hogwarts, it is still as majestic and alluring and you can visit it by asking a St Paul’s Cathedral staff member for access.
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