I fell in love with Harry Potter aged 3 when my mum, read the philosopher’s stone to my brother and I for the first time. Since then I’ve escaped on adventures with Harry and his friends via the books and films countless times… visited Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter four times (in one holiday) and been to the WB studio tour at least four times (and already planning to go back!)
One of my prized possessions growing up was Harry Potter on Location (Standard Edition) which has now expanded, to include filming locations for Fantastic Beasts and where to find them film franchise. It wasn’t just the opportunity to feel close to the magic, but the chance to explore the film industry up close and discover what goes on behind the scenes that I relished.
It seems my love for Harry Potter is endless and a passion I hope to pass onto my future children one day…. But for now, here’s to escaping reality for a while and embracing the magic. Read on to discover the top 3 must see places for Harry Potter fans.
1. Warner Brothers Studio Tours, London
Levesden Studios in Watford acted as the filming home for cast and crew working on the Harry Potter films for ten years. Following the end of the film franchise Warner Brothers decided to keep hanger J and K (see what they did there?) as the permanent place for key sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter universe. Which is why I’ve placed the Warner Brothers Studio Tours, as the number one must see sight for Harry Potter fans.
Constantly under redevelopment the studio tour, has changed drastically since I first visited in 2012, with a large retail outlet, several themed restaurants and new set additions every couple of years. The reason you must visit this this studio tour is the exceptional attention to detail, each set and prop has been meticulously crafted to bring the magic that we see on our screens to life. Regardless of whether you are a Harry Potter enthusiast or just a film buff you can easily spend a whole day here learning everything from how prosthetics for the goblins in Gringotts were created to how Quidditch matches were created.
Elle’s top tip: A day here is exceptional value for money (if you stay away from the gift shop that is). But make sure you book a later time slot in the day when the main crowds have died away then you can wonder around without the sets being so cramped with tourists. Look out for special themed events and new sets to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the magic.
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
There is a certain charm about the golden era of steam railway travel, and what could any Harry Potter fan wish more for then to go to Hogwarts? As we all grow older, we realise the dreams of our childhood birthday wishes just aren’t going to come true and we won’t ever be going through platform 9 ¾ to ride on the Hogwarts Express. So instead why not settle for the next best thing? Take the Jacobite Steam train from Fort William to Malliag,and across the famous Glenfinnan viaduct. Resist the urge to order everything from the trolley (sadly only a small sweet collection exists in one of the carriages) and admire the stunning scenery that was used in many iconic scenes from the Harry Potter films.
World famous for Ron and Harry’s flying Anglia scene, the Glenginnan viaduct carries the Jacobite steam train across a 1,000ft span and 100ft above the ground. Just be careful here when you try to get a photo of the viaduct as there will be many enthusiastic Harry Potter fans here eager for a view. One lady was so keen she elbowed me in the eye to get me out the way! Unfortunately when I visited this was in the days before mobile phones and digital cameras (everyone remember those disposable cameras?) so I’ve had to use some stock photos here for you instead!
Elle’s top tip: Book your tickets several months in advance of your visit as Glenfinnan attracts thousands of visitors from around the world every year – especially in Summer.
3. Universal World of Harry Potter, Orlando
For a fully immersive Harry Potter experience, nowhere in the world compares to the Universal Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. If the Studio Tour is the perfect place to learn about the film industry, the theme park in Orlando is the ideal location to step into the pages of your favourite book and film and live out all your childhood dreams. Simply put the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal is the Harry Potter version of Disneyland as the attention to detail is remarkable.
During our holiday to Orlando, I came here four times and if I was younger, I probably would have gone a gap year and worked here for a year I loved it so much. Set across the main Universal Studio park and the Island of Adventure the focus here is on thrilling rides, 4D experiences and themed restaurants and souvenir shops. Younger guests (or those young at heart) can enjoy a visit to Olivanders where the wand chooses the wizard or indulge their sweet tooth with a myriad of wizarding treats. The attention to detail here is incredible from the snow on the rooftops in Hogsmeade to the characters walking round in costume and visually immersive theme park rides. You can even exchange your dollars for wizarding currency and purchase everything in that part of the park using it – including butterbeer!
Elle’s top tip: Buy fast express tickets if you are visiting in peak season when the queues are likely to be long and head for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ rides.
One thing is for certain, I’m sure I’ll be going back to all of these must see Harry Potter sights at least another two times. Why? – because life is short – so why not fill it with the things that bring you pleasure?
Have you been to any of the sights above or visited a Harry Potter sight that I haven’t mentioned? Head over to the comments below and let me know your thoughts.