Deep in the Scottish Highlands it is rumored there exists a mysterious school for young witches and wizards. But you needn’t go traipsing into the Scottish wilds to experience a bit of the magic for yourself.
Across the world there are a plethora of spell-binding attractions and experiences aimed at bringing the wonderful world of Harry Potter to life. So have your broomstick at the ready, prime your Floo powder or practice your Apparition skills to check out these top 10 Harry Potter experiences around the world.
Jump aboard the Hogwarts Express
Few motifs get Harry Potter fans’ hearts a-fluttering like the crimson-red Hogwarts Express steaming across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. If you’re yet to receive your Hogwarts letter, don’t worry, you can still make this iconic journey with a return trip on Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train – the same company that provided the actual steam engine and carriages used in the films.
Setting off from Fort William, this 84-mile round trip will whisk you through familiar filmic landscapes from the viaduct itself to Loch Shiel which featured as Hogwarts’ eery Blake Lake.
Go behind the scenes of the movies
The Warner Brothers Studio Tour, located 20-miles outside London, is the ultimate experience for any Harry Potter fan. Incredible special effects, surprise reveals, huge chunks of set and thousands of props and costumes tell the story of how a visionary team brought the movies to life. Poke your nose into the Gryffindor common room, wander the foggy Forbidden Forest or marvel at the splendor of Gringotts Bank, before grabbing yourself a bubbling butterbeer and hitting the gift shops for an astounding array of Harry Potter merch. Visit during the holidays for themed events and to see "Hogwarts in the Snow." Tickets must be booked in advance.
Browse a Diagon Alley boutique
Step foot inside Porto’s Livraria Lello bookshop and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported straight into a Diagon Alley boutique. The neo-Gothic interior (stacked floor-to-ceiling with glossily-bound books) is an impressive illusion: what appears as intricately-carved wood is actually painted plaster, dappled by a magical light from the magnificent stained-glass ceiling. The pièce de résistance has to be the scarlet staircase that winds like a two-headed snake to the store’s mezzanine level.
As you browse the bookshelves – avoiding the restricted section, of course – it’s easy to see how J.K. Rowling was inspired by this interior when she worked in Porto as an English teacher between 1991 and 1993. There is a $5 entry fee which can be redeemed when you buy a book.
Witness the magic live on stage
The magic of the eighth Harry Potter story comes to life in the world-renowned stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, playing in theaters in London, Hamburg, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco and Toronto. Jumping between past and present, the story follows Harry’s youngest son Albus as he wrestles with the burden of his family’s legacy. Performed in two parts, the play enchants with special effects and a cast of familiar characters.
Tickets sell out fast, sometimes nearly a year in advance, but subscribe to the mailing list for release dates and returns or apply for the Friday Forty, a weekly scheme which releases 40 top-billed tickets at £40/$40 every Friday.
Spend a night in magical surrounds
Ever dreamt of spending a night in a Hogwarts dorm room? Now you can, with a stay at London’s Georgian House Hotel. The outside may look unassumingly muggle, but inside, concealed behind a bookcase down a portrait-lined passageway, you’ll find the spell-binding Wizard Chambers. Faux-Medieval tapestries and stained-glass windows create a gothic-castle feel, while trunks, cauldrons and curious artifacts – as well as a Gryffindor-esque four poster bed – bring the magic to life.
While in London, stop by Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station or book onto a walking tour to visit the city sights that starred in the films. If you’ve yet to perfect your Apparition skills, Harry Potter-themed accommodations are popping up all over the world. Airbnb is a great place to start with some stunning options like the spectacularly-designed Wizarding Room in Melbourne, Australia.
Adventure through the wizarding world
With four locations in Los Angeles, Orlando and Osaka, Japan, you’ll need a Time-Turner to fit in everything at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Explore your favorite facets of Hogwarts and beyond on rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure before wand shopping at Ollivanders and dinner at the Leaky Cauldron.
There’s an extra touch of magic at Orlando where the two parks – which separate Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Florida) from Hogwarts and Hogsmeade (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) – are connected by a working replica of the Hogwarts Express. To access both parks and the Hogwarts Express, you’ll need a Park-to-Park admission ticket or Annual Pass.
Sign up for flying lessons
The battlements and archways of the 14th-century Alnwick Castle are an impressive sight to behold; not least because the castle is Hollywood royalty. For fifty years, Alnwick has been used in blockbuster hits like Star Trek, Transformers and Downton Abbey as well as several of the Harry Potter films.
You’ll recognize the Inner Bailey from when Ron and Harry crash-landed the flying Ford Anglia, the Lion Arch from jaunts to Hagrid’s cabin and, most iconic of all, the Outer Bailey as the location of Harry’s first flying lesson with Madam Mooch. Today, visitors can enjoy daily broomstick training sessions in the very same spot as well as a plethora of Potter-inspired events.
Enroll in wizarding school
Though not technically Harry Potter-themed, the College of Wizardry at Czocha Castle in Poland is about as close as you can get to roaming the halls of Hogwarts. This epic live action role play has you spend three nights at the 14th-century castle under the guise of your pre-assigned wizarding character.
After being sorted into one of five houses – Faust, Molin, Sendivogius, Durentius and Libussa (die-hard Gryffindor’s will have to concede on this one) – spend your days attending alchemy lessons, meeting magical creatures, exploring the castle's hidden passageways or dancing the night away at the Witchard’s Ball. Tickets are steep, but include all meals, robes and a school handbook. Attendees must be 18 or over.
Learn to make spell-binding sweet treats
If you’ve ever found yourself salivating at the mere thought of those Hogwarts house tables groaning under the weight of evermore enticing dishes, then you’ll love this Harry Potter-inspired cookery class. Under the tutelage of the Belfast Cookery School, who’ve kitted out their kitchen to resemble the Great Hall, you’ll master the magical skills needed to perfect treats like Pumpkin Pasties and Harry’s favorite dessert of treacle tart with vanilla ice cream. Ideal for Harry Potter fans of all ages, book onto the next class or plan your own private event with the school.
Hang out with Hedwig and friends
From Buckbeak to Aragog and Norbert the baby dragon, J.K. Rowling’s magical creatures often stole the show; none more so than Harry’s beloved owl, Hedwig. Get an up-close encounter with these captivating winged creatures at the Herring Green Farm Falconry Centre in Bedford, England. Their annual "Harry Potter tea with owls" events give visitors the chance to fly, handle and interact with the birds – including the spectacular snowy owl – before enjoying a scrumptious Potter-themed spread of tea and cake. Tickets grant you access to explore the rest of the centre as well as the the other "Harry Potter weekend" events.
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