All around the world, J.K. Rowling's boy wizard is known and loved. Harry Potter books and films have transcended cultural and language barriers to inspire and entertain people of all walks of life, in all corners of the globe.
But if it's wizards and castles you're searching for in real life (or, as close to real life as you can get), you'll have to go to the United Kingdom to find them.
Those who want to get a glimpse of the inspiration for Hogwarts should visit Christ Church College at Oxford University. The dining hall of this college, lined with portraits and filled with long tables, looks very familiar to Harry Potter fans – because this hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts' Great Hall in both the
books and films.
It was here in Scotland's capital that J.K. Rowling used to live, work and write. The city itself is well worth a visit, but there are a few places Harry Potter fans won't want to miss. Wander around Greyfriar's cemetery and see if you can spot any wizardy names on
the headstones there. Then head over to the Elephant House cafe for a tea and pastry. Try to get a table near the windows – it was in one of these seats that J.K. Rowling wrote many of Harry's adventures while overlooking Edinburgh Castle. And before you leave the cafe, make sure you visit the toilets. I know
that sounds like a strange suggestion, but the walls in the restrooms are covered in Harry Potter fan graffiti.
Both in the books and movies, Hogwarts students depart for school from London's King's Cross Station. The platform witches and wizards use (Platform 9 ¾) won't be visible to Muggles like us, but the station has made up for it. Today, visitors to King's Cross
can pose with a luggage trolley that looks like it's disappearing into a wall – and you can even dress up in a Hogwarts house scarf. The station now hires actors and a professional photographer to help you get the perfect shot, which you can either take yourself or purchase from the Harry Potter souvenir shop
right in the station.
Located in Northumberland in the northeastern corner of England, Alnwick Castle has multiple ties to Harry Potter. It is said that J.K. Rowling took inspiration from this castle when creating Hogwarts castle in the books. And, when it came time to make the movies, many exterior and interior scenes were
filmed at Alnwick.
The moody lochs and glens in the Scottish Highlands provided the perfect dramatic backdrops for many scenes in the Harry Potter films. Simply driving through the Highlands will remind you of Harry's magical world. But if you want a true fan experience, book a trip on
the Jacobite steam train. Not only will this scenic train ride take you through some of the most awe-inspiring parts of the Highlands, but the Jacobite was actually used in the movies – it starred as the Hogwarts Express in scenes where the train was seen chugging over viaducts and through the countryside.
Lastly, Harry Potter fans should check out the Warner Bros. “Making of Harry Potter” Studio Tour in the old Leavesden Studios just outside of London. The Harry Potter movies were all filmed in this location, and now many of the sets, costumes, and props are on display here. The first
part of the museum recreates everything from Dumbledore's office to the Gryffindor common room to Snape's Potions classroom. Outside you can grab a butterbeer and step onto Privet Drive and the Knight Bus. The last part of the studio tour takes you behind the scenes of making the films, from the makeup
and masks to the special effects. This is the perfect way to end any Harry Potter-themed tour of the UK.
If you're a Harry Potter fan, which location would
YOU most want to see in person?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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