When I mentioned that we were going to London to my then-tween, her eyes lit up as she asked if we could visit all of the Harry Potter filming locations in London and around the rest of the UK. Her first pick was Alnwick Castle, or Hogwarts as she called it.
What’s a family adventure without a challenge? But this was one we rose to enthusiastically. After all, we had all read the books and seen the movies. And some of those locations are quite stunning.
As it turned out, while many of the Harry Potter filming locations in London are still existing venues, many more are actually studio sets. The good news is that Warner Bros also rose to the challenge, creating a designated studio tour opportunity that will be remembered and talked about for years after the visit.
We had plenty of time as we allocated about six weeks in the UK and left the schedule open for an extended visit. Armed with a map (that turned out to have more errors than accuracies), we were ready to set out and hunt for the Harry Potter attractions in London and beyond.
Who is Harry Potter?
If you are asking this question, I have to wonder where you have been since 1997. Simply stop reading this page right now and instead watch at least the first of the Harry Potter complete collection. Or, even better, read the books, starting with the first one: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
In contrast, fans, read on …
Harry Potter filming locations in London, England and Scotland
There are plenty of Harry Potter filming locations around London and even more outside the city. We tried to visit them all.
However, if asked to shorten the list to the three top Harry Potter filming locations in the UK, I would pick:
- Warner Bros Harry Poter Studio Tour (to get behind the scenes and see the sets),
- Glenfinnan Viaduct as the Hogwart’s Expresses passed over,
- Alnwick Castle (Hogwarts)
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio tour
For die-hard fans, the studio is the end-all, the best of the Harry Potter filming location in London.
A mystical place full of hands-on and photo opportunities, it features three main areas – inside props, outside props, and special effects.
Perhaps it’s a hidden snitch (we found six), a chance for a selfie while donning one of the Hogwarts robes, or an opportunity to sit in the flying car; whatever attracts you, you can’t help but notice the magic.
For me, it was a chance to walk down Diagon Alley. While it was filmed in London in the first movie, the set above was used from the second film onwards. If you look towards the far end of Diagon Alley in the image, you can see Weasley’s wizard wheezes.
So many other studio sets are here too. Some we could walk through, like the dining room, others like the potions classroom, the boy’s dormitory, the headmaster’s office, and Hagrid’s hut, we could only view.
Possibly the most exciting part of the experience was being able to see the Hogwarts castle model (Alnwick Castle was also used). It fills a large room with viewing platforms all the way around it.
The studio is located just outside London and has plenty of car parking. However, if you don’t have a car in London, the best way to get there is by tour. Two of the most popular options are either one offering bus transit from London and self-guided viewing or a fully guided tour that includes train transport.
We have also toured the Warner Bros Studio in Los Angeles California, where the sorting hat now lives, and you can be sorted if you sit under it. Can you guess what it chose for me?
Hogwarts Express and the Glenfinnan Viaduct
If your kids are huge Harry Potter fans, don’t make the same mistake we did. Hogwarts Express travels through the Scottish Highlands in the summertime, and it books up well in advance.
The train runs from Fort Williams to the north and back, passing over one of the most memorable landscapes in the first movie, the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
We didn’t get a chance to ride the train as it was sold out the entire time we were in Scotland. However, we asked and were subsequently given directions to the train yard where our young fan could at least stand next to her train.
Pro Tip: Book early if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express as soon as you know your dates. We were there just outside of the high season, and it was booked over a month in advance. Reserve your Hogwarts Express tour from Edinburgh here.
Alnwick Castle – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
There are multiple Hogwarts. When looking at the entire structure in one overview, the model at the studio tour is used, there are various locations of the interior, but the courtyards (and many of the interior scenes) used Alnwick Castle.
It’s here that Harry and the others took broomstick flying lessons or had a Quidditch match.
And best of all, the castle tour options include the one we chose with a Harry Potter flair. As a result, we learned things like which castle rooms were used in which scenes and even some of the internal secrets.
In fact, our guide was in high school when they did some of the filming. Like her classmates and friends, she auditioned to be an extra. Unfortunately, she was not selected. And if you listen to her subtle bitterness, she might have you believe they selected every teenager except her.
The 11th-century Alnwick Castle sits on the east coast of England in Northumberland. This European fairytale castle has been the filming site for Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) and several other feature films and television shows.
Interestingly, the 150-room castle remains the current home and seat of the Duke of Northumberland, although the family steer clear of the public areas.
Lots of ways to tour Alnwick
More Harry Potter filming locations in London and the rest of the UK
Film locations outside of London
- Oxford University, Oxford, England
There are four key film locations at Oxford University: Divinity School building doubled as Hogwarts hospital in the infirmary scene; Christ Church was used as Hogwarts Great Hall; The medieval library was initially used before it moved to Alnwick, and the New College cloisters were used in several scenes.
- Cloister in Glouster Cathedral, Gloucester
This 1000-year-old cathedral doubles as the hallway a few times: when they were looking for Moaning Myrtle, when Harry and Ron hid from the trolls, and Nearly Headless Nick.
Harry Potter filming locations in London
- Kings Cross Station (Platform 9 3/4), London
Our first stop was Platform 9 3/4. It’s at the Kings Cross station in London. It’s easy to spot. Simply look for the sign on the wall or the long queue of people waiting for a turn to get onto the secret platform and take their photos. Pro Tip: Put something into the trolley (cart), and have your “student” simulate running for a more realistic image. The magic will do the rest.
- St Pancras International, London
Connected to Kings Cross Station is the facade of St Pancras, the Weasley’s car takes flight in the second movie.
- London Zoo, London
Who can forget when Harry first discovered he could talk to snakes while in the Reptile House at the London Zoo?
- Millennium Bridge, London
Of course, we walked across the Millenium Bridge leading from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, we found the better shot from the theatre side. You may know the Millenium Bridge as the Harry Potter Bridge.
- Leadenhall Market (Diagon Alley), London
Home to the original Diagon Alley and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, this Victorian mall is a stunning masterpiece in its own right.
- Australia House (Gringotts Wizarding Bank), London
The scenes filmed at the only bank in the Wizard’s world were actually shot in the lavish interior of Australia House on Strand in Central London.
Our adventure searching for the Leaky Caldron
One of our London adventures took us in search of the streets used around the Leaky Caldron.
It was marked by the two little martini glasses on a fairly useless map we had downloaded (I am not sharing it here, as it more often took us to the wrong spots than the correct ones.)
We thought we recognized one of the streets. As Sarah stopped to smile on a corner for a photo, a man approached her. It was obvious to us that he had tipped back a few, as he smelled like a pub, but he kept a safe distance.
He assured us we were close to the Leaky Caldron used in Harry Potter. In fact, according to him, we were just one building off…(he pointed at the building Sarah is standing in front of in the second shot.
He assured us that this boarded-up building was, in fact, used in the third movie. Do you remember it? We sure don’t.
(The actual Diagon Alley is located in the Warner Bros studio, although the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron pub, the gateway between the muggle world and Diagon Alley, is in Bull’s Head Passage in Leadenhall Market.)
See more of our adventures in London.
One final adventure in Edinburgh
Claiming to be the birthplace of Harry Potter (in a huge window display), The Elephant House is one of the places J.K. Rowling wrote the first book in the series of Harry Potter.
Of course, we couldn’t just walk by with a huge Harry Potter fan in the family. My daughter needed to sit in her seat, or at least in the one shaped like an elephant that she imagined J.K. Rowling used.
See all our tips for the UK and Ireland here.
We visited Alnwick as part of a drive through the British countryside that started in Oxford.
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Have you seen any of the Harry Potter film locations in London, the UK, or Scotland?
More from the UK you might like … First-timers start here: Travel Tips for the UK: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland