Petrificus Totalus! Guide to the UK for Harry Potter Lovers

by Published

Time to step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress: adventure. If you’re a muggle who is confused as to why you didn’t get your Hogwarts acceptance letter when you were 11, now is your chance to discover the wizarding world. Study abroad in the UK and you can have the full Harry Potter experience.

Hogwarts crest at the entrance to the Great Hall
Welcome home, Potterheads!

Check out these cool spots and you can have a Harry Potter UK tour to experience life outside the pages of your favorite books. Whether you’re participating in organized Harry Potter tours in England, or heading off the beaten path, you’re sure to experience all the magic and wonder.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

It’s an obvious first stop on your UK Harry Potter tour also known as your “semester abroad.” Just outside of the London city centre is Leavesden Studios where Warner Brothers has turned the main filming location into a museum of sorts for Potterheads near and far. Visitors will board a special bus and be taken directly to the studio where the tour will begin at the doors to the Great Hall. From there, visitors can walk freely to each set and department. See the model of Hogwarts used for aerial shots, count each stitch and tear on the costumes, and learn about the animatronics of Buckbeak. There is even an opportunity to ride on a “flying” broomstick.

Platform 9 and ¾ typical tourist shot at Kings Cross Station, UK.
You don’t want to miss the Hogwarts Express.

Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station

You have to get to know the tube and regional trains while you study abroad in the UK anyway, so you might as well get the full Harry Potter experience and become VERY well acquainted with King’s Cross. Because of construction in and around Kings Cross Station, the luggage trolley stuck halfway between the wizarding and muggle worlds has been moved several times. Now, it is permanently placed in the New Western Departures Concourse according to an updated map of the station. While the books are set in Kings Cross, the filming was actually done at Waterloo Station across the river near the King’s College London, Strand Campus. All true Potterheads need at least one of those ridiculous tourist photos with platform nine-and-three-quarters.  

The Elephant House

No UK Harry Potter tour is complete without a trip to the spot where it all began. The Elephant House is a tea and coffee shop in Edinburgh, Scotland where J.K. Rowling spent much of her time writing “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” The original idea was made while riding a train, but much of her inspiration for the look of Hogwarts was from looking at Edinburgh Castle outside the window of the cafe.

Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford

The Bodleian Library is a worthwhile tour for any bibliophile or lover of 15th and 16th century art and architecture. However, for Potterheads, it is even more special. The tour begins in a main hall that hosted the hospital wing and was also used for ballroom dancing lessons in “Goblet of Fire.” Further into the tour, visitors will recognize the large and dusty bookshelves from the restricted section scene in the first film. It’s a full Harry Potter experience! This area is actually even semi-restricted to students as some of the books are chained to the walls for safety and security reasons. 

Train through the Scottish countryside, the Hogwarts Express
Live all the magic of the books and movies with a Harry Potter experience abroad.

The Jacobite through West Coast Railways

This is truly the chance to go to Hogwarts and a must-do for any Potterhead when they study abroad in the UK. The Jacobite, a steam train that travels through the Scottish highlands, has the look and feel of the real Hogwarts Express— it was even used for aerial shots in the films; Carriage D was used for interior shots. So hop aboard on your Harry Potter UK tour to see the countryside and experience the magic of the wizarding world.

The train goes from Fort William to Mallaig and makes a few short stops along the way. The biggest mile marker on the trip is over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a 21 arch bridge that was featured in most of the films but especially in “The Chamber of Secrets” when Harry and Ron follow the train in the flying car.

Glen Coe, Scotland

Glen Coe, along with many areas of the Scottish Highlands, was used for the location of Hagrid’s hut, the crooked bridge, and the ruins on the hill overlooking Hagrid’s hut of “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” Surrounding locations were used in “The Half-blood Prince” as well. There is a landrover safari available to visitors who would like to see most of the land. Glen Coe was also a filming location for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the James Bond movie, “Skyfall.” So British movie buffs and Potterheads alike can enjoy this particular Harry Potter UK tour.

Scottish countryside
Create your own Harry Potter tour when you study abroad in the UK.

While the actual studying part of studying abroad in the UK is important, let’s not ignore the literature that shaped us. You can explore Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy and Dickens in class, and walk the streets they walked, but Potterheads know their love of reading came from the adventures of the Golden Trio. Take the time to go on – or build your own – UK Harry Potter tour during your time abroad. It’s sure to be a special experience and only contribute to the magic of your semester abroad.

Find your Harry Potter experience with programs on MyGoAbroad.