Wizarding World Map: 15 Real-Life Harry Potter Spots
The events of the Harry Potter series are ostensibly limited to London, Hogwarts, and the magical railroad connecting them, but it turns out their real-world counterparts are farther flung than J.K. Rowling’s attempts at retcon. Some of them are even realer than you could ever imagine. Suck it, Universal Studios!
King’s Cross Station
From all the amenities offered to Harry Potter fans, you’d have no idea their primary business is, you know, transportation. It’s not just the sculpture of a trolley stuck halfway into the wall at Platform 9¾, which must be annoying for real wizards -- they’ve got a professional photographer on hand 12 hours a day to take your picture in the gang-affiliated scarf of your choice. There’s even an entire Harry Potter shop.
West Coast Railways
Yes, the Hogwarts Express is real. The actual train is kept at Warner Bros. Studios London, but you can ride a similar one from the company that provided it with carriages used in the movies over the same route, including that stilty bridge, which is called the Glenfinnan Viaduct. You could get a much better view by helicopter or something, but dammit, this is more magical!
Lacock, Wiltshire, England
The old-timey village of Lacock stood in for several locations in Godric’s Hollow, particularly Lily and James’s house; Budleigh Babberton, particularly Slughorn’s hideout; and parts of Hogwarts in both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises. Hee. Lacock.
Those Universal Studios replicas have nothing on Leadenhall Market, the real Diagon Alley. You can even tap your wand on the brick wall that serves as the district’s magical entrance (actually an optician’s shop) if you don’t mind people quietly sighing at you.
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We know what you’re thinking: “Next you’re gonna tell me that Hogsmeade is real, right? Right?” Nope! That was all movie magic, sucker! But Hogsmeade Station is real, and it does have a “charming village” nearby, so stop being so picky.
12 Grimmauld Place is a moody mansion hidden on a dark street, perfect for Order of the Phoenix HQ, but walk another block in either direction and you’ll find yourself in the middle of London. You don’t need magic to see it, either -- it’s right there between 11 and 13.
Malfoy fangirls will probably be disappointed by the similarly alliterative stand-in for Malfoy Manor, Hardwick Hall, which is perfectly bright and cheerful in the real world, covered in flowers and even in possession of a restaurant and gift shop. If it helps, it was built in the 16th century by the richest woman in England besides the queen and philosopher Thomas Hobbes died there, so there’s definitely some snobby ghosts hanging around.
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4 Privet Drive
It was recreated on a studio lot for subsequent installments, but in the first two Harry Potter movies, scenes at 4 Privet Drive (actually 12 Picket Post Close) were filmed in a real house with a real cupboard under the stairs and everything. It went up for sale in 2016, and not even for that much (about $620,000 American), so if you’ve got house-buying money, maybe check on that.
Gringotts Bank is actually London’s oldest diplomatic mission, Australia House. It was also seen in 2017’s Wonder Woman and Muppets Most Wanted, so have fun connecting those universes.
The intersection of Scotland Place and Great Scotland Yard -- you know, the place where actual government happens -- was also the entrance to the wizarding government offices. In fact, the Deathly Hallows scene where the Golden Trio kidnap and magically steal the identities of three Ministry of Magic employees was filmed, rather poetically, at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. There wasn’t a real phone booth there, so try your luck with the toilets.
Half-Blood Prince opens with Death Eaters manipulating the wind around London’s Millennium Bridge until it collapses, which couldn’t have been much comfort to the pedestrians who had already nicknamed it the “Wobbly Bridge.” Technically, though, the Millennium Bridge hadn’t been built yet in the year the movie takes place, so it’s a fictional real-life bridge.
Scotland’s Loch Shiel stood in for the Great Lake where the Triwizard Champions’ loved ones were temporarily drowned in Goblet of Fire, though you’d never know it from photos, which just look like a nice day at the beach. Be wary, though -- it’s still Scotland, a magical place of whiskey and unicorns. There very well could be asshole mermaids down there.
The Balmoral Hotel
Probably the most historically significant Harry Potter landmark didn’t appear in the movies at all. It’s the Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling finished writing the series and marked the occasion by signing a bust of Hermes in a room that’s since been commemorated to its tackiest extreme, complete with owl door knocker.
George Heriot’s School and Greyfriars Kirkyard
Also not seen in the movies but extremely thoroughly seen in the movies is George Heriot’s School and the graveyard behind it, where Rowling walked around during her breaks from writing the first book at her brother-in-law’s cafe. The school is divided into four houses that sound suspiciously like Hogwarts’s, and the graveyard’s headstones bear names that obviously inspired Rowling. There’s even a Thomas Riddell.
More of a State of Mind
Hogwarts is obviously the most iconic location of the wizarding world, but it turns out it wasn’t one location. The exterior shots are of Alnwick Castle, but much of the interior was filmed at the University of Oxford, with various cloisters, corridors, and classrooms at Durham and Gloucester Cathedrals and Lacock Abbey (hee). Much like a world where the Harry Potter universe hasn’t been tainted by Rowling’s weird Twitter activity, Hogwarts is a state of mind.
Top image: Warner Bros.