Lonely Planet Writer

Travel to the real-life world behind Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The latest film in the Harry Potter universe will bring travellers back in time and into a world of magic. However, it won’t require a wand to check out the real-life counterparts of locations featured in the film.

The film premieres 16 November.
The film premieres 16 November. Image by Warner Bros. Studio

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premiered in New York on 10 November and will be released worldwide on 18 November. The screenplay was written by JK Rowling, author of the world-famous Harry Potter series, and takes place in the same universe, though in a different time and place. The story follows the magizoologist Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, as he travels to New York in 1926.

The film premieres 16 November.
The film premieres 16 November. Image by Warner Bros. Studio

And while the film may capture the incredible look of 1920’s New York, it wasn’t actually filmed there. But, fans of the Harry Potter franchise can catch a glimpse of the closest counterparts to the magical world of wizardry. Much of the film was shot in the Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden, UK. And while a movie studio may not seem like the most exciting location to visit, the former airfield and factory was actually used in the production of the Harry Potter series, and is a popular place for travellers due to its huge attraction, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – the Making of Harry Potter, which takes visitors behind the scenes of beloved franchise.

via GIPHY 

Naturally, there were some real-life buildings used for filming Fantastic Beasts – but they aren’t located in New York. Liverpool was actually used to recreate the look of New York in the 1920’s, and local landmarks like St George’s Hall, made it into the film. The hall, which was built as law courts and a concert hall, is a Grade I-listed neoclassical building that was completed in 1854. Modern visitors can stop by to check out the courtroom and Britain’s third-largest organ, or see a concert. Another spot that can be glimpsed in the film is the Cunard Building, which is built in the style of an Italian palazzo, and once served as the headquarters to the Cunard Steamship Line. Martin’s Bank also featured, and local newspaper the Liverpool Echo has reported that there are plans to turn the building into the city’s first five-star hotel.

Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, Downtown New York City, which is used as MACUSA headquarters in the film.
Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, Downtown New York City, which is used as MACUSA headquarters in the film. Image by Tony Shi Photography/Getty Images

But New York is still the star of the show, whether it’s rendered through a bit of movie magic or not. To mark the film’s release, On Location Tours has launched a tour centred on the real and fictional spots in the film. The Fantastic New York City Tour brings travellers to “Chinatown, the Bowery, SoHo, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Times Square, as well as many historic New York City landmarks. We’ll take you back to an era when flappers danced the Charleston in gilded skyscrapers, gangsters stole through shadows in dark alleyways, and jazz played all night long”.

via GIPHY 

The tour takes visitors to the Woolworth Building, one of New York’s oldest, which is recreated in the film to serve as the headquarters for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). Tour-goers will also stop to see the Tenement Museum, which was used an inspiration for the character Jacob Kowalski’s apartment, visit a bar similar to the film’s wizard speakeasy the Blind Pig, and see a brownstone like the one occupied by Tina and Queenie Goldstein in the film.

The film premieres 16 November.
The film premieres 16 November. Image by Warner Bros. Studio

But, if neither New York nor Liverpool are on your upcoming travel itinerary, Google set up a map where visitors can check out the wizarding world’s locations in New York. On the site, users can see places like MACUSA, or the Blind Pig, which is described on the site as an “underground speakeasy open to witches & wizards (if they know the secret knock). No-Maj? No Entry”.