You could call me a *bit* of a Harry Potter fan.
I went to midnight book release parties wearing home-made HP t-shirts in high school. I went to midnight screenings of the movies in college. I went through a post-HP depression upon finishing the 7th and final book in the series. I may own a replica of Dumbledore's wand.
It's true that my love of all things Harry Potter pales in comparison to my Lord of the Rings obsession. But it's definitely strong enough to have made me really, really excited to visit the UK, home of the famous boy wizard himself.
Whenever I find myself in a new part of the UK, I make it my mission to seek out as many Harry Potter-related sites as possible. Here are some of my favorite ones that I've found.
Harry Potter sites to visit in the UK
Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross
No self-respecting Harry Potter fan can visit London without making the requisite pilgrimage to King's Cross station to pose at Platform 9 3/4. The “platform” used to be a little more magical since it would often move around the station (I had to ask where to find it when I first visited, because it wasn't in between platforms 9 and 10 like in the books/movies!), but these days it's a full-blown tourist attraction so you can't miss it.
Platform 9 3/4 is now in a prominent position in King's Cross Station, with ropes to help you form a line, and someone to help you don a house scarf and take your photo as you pretend to magic your way through the platform wall.
Millennium Bridge in London
This footbridge over the river Thames in central London starred in the beginning of the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” film. In the opening sequence of the movie, some of Voldemort's nasty Death Eaters twist and snap the cables on the bridge, causing it to wobble violently and eventually plunge into the river.
Don't worry, though — I didn't spy any Death Eaters around when I was walking across it.
You can also check out this Harry Potter London walking tour to see even more sites.
Oxford (Christchurch College)
If you're interested in some of the places author J.K. Rowling took inspiration from when she was writing the Harry Potter books, you absolutely MUST visit Christchurch College at Oxford. Hogwarts' Great Hall was based on the dining hall of this college.
Walking beside the long tables here, you really do expect to look up and see Dumbledore at the head table. (I also wouldn't be surprised if Hogwarts' talking paintings weren't somewhat inspired by this room, too!)
If Oxford is making it onto your itinerary, check out this Harry Potter walking tour of Oxford.
London studio tour
Lastly, the ultimate Harry Potter destination in England has to be the “Making of Harry Potter” museum/experience just outside of London. Here, at the former Leavesden Studios, fans have the chance to walk through real HP sets and see authentic props and costumes from the films. Visiting really gives you a feel for the detail that went into making the films, and allows you an unprecedented look behind the scenes.
(And for my complete review of the experience, click here!)
Want to bundle a Warner Bro. Studios tour with a day trip to Oxford from London? This tour will cover all the Harry Potter goodness!
The Elephant House in Edinburgh
This location is somewhat less well-known than the others listed above, but it was still one I was excited to stumble upon. It's a cafe in Edinburgh, and is supposedly where J.K. Rowling wrote a good portion of the Harry Potter books.
It's always super crowded these days, but it's worth it to wait for a table. The cafe serves good coffee and tea, and also has delicious desserts. Before you leave, be sure to check out all the messages to JK left on the walls in the restroom!
Also consider booking a Harry Potter walking tour in Edinburgh to see other sites that inspired characters and scenes from the books.
Located in the Scottish Highlands, this lake is best known for doubling as the Black Lake near Hogwarts in a few of the Harry Potter films. In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Harry soars over this particular loch on the back of Buckbeak the hippogriff. The lake and surrounding scenery are gorgeous and well worth a visit, even if you aren't an HP fan.
Not far from Loch Shiel lies the Glenfinnan Viaduct (you can see them from one another), an impressive 21-arch railway viaduct that dates back to the late 1800s. The viaduct appeared in three of the Harry Potter films, when the scarlet Hogwarts Express could be seen chugging along it.
There's a short hike you can do opposite Loch Shiel that takes you to an outcropping that offers up great views of both the loch and the viaduct (which is where all my photos were shot from).
Ride the Jacobite (AKA the Hogwarts Express)
Speaking of the famous steam engine, you can actually ride the real train that was featured in the films! It's called the Jacobite Steam Train, and operates between Mallaig and Fort William during the summer months. Not only will the two-hour train ride make you feel like you're on your way to Hogwarts, but it also gives you the chance to see some of the best landscapes in the Scottish Highlands.
There are undoubtedly many more Harry Potter-related sites all over the UK considering the books are based here and the movies were filmed here. These were simply my personal highlights.
If you're interested in finding even more Harry Potter sites, check out these guides:
Which of these HP sites would YOU most want to visit?