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9 and ¾ Magical Real-Life Places That Inspired Harry Potter

Hop on your hippogriff or grab hold of your Portkey for a spellbinding trip across Europe to locations that inspired the “Harry Potter” books and films.

Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal
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Rebecca’s first visit to Italy was a coup de foudre and her affection for Il Bel Paese has only grown over almost 30 years of living here, during which time she has mastered the art of navigating the sampietrini cobblestones in heels but has yet to come away from a plate of bucatini all’amatriciana with an unsullied blouse. She covers Italy travel, culture, and cuisine for a number of print and online publications.

The tale of the world’s most famous boy wizard is set in a fantastical reimagining of Britain, where enchanted cars streak through the London airspace and Animagi wander the streets disguised as cats. However, many of the magical places featured in the beloved Harry Potter books and films are based on real-life locations across the UK and Europe, from balmy Portugal to the Scottish Highlands. Here are some of the best.

1. The Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford University

Interior view of the Great Hal at Christ Church College.
The Great Hall at Christ Church College inspired Hogwarts' Great Hall.Photo Credit: Eo naya / Shutterstock

Oxford, England

Perhaps one of the most iconic locations in both the Harry Potter books and movies is the Great Hall where students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry gather for meals, announcements, and—most importantly—to be divided into houses by the Sorting Hat. This soaring hall is inspired by the Tudor Great Hall at Christ Church College at Oxford University, which fans (and architect buffs) can visit as part of a guided tour.

2. Livraria Lello

Interior of the Livraria Lello in Porto.
Porto's Livraria Lello is a must for Potterheads in Portugal.Photo Credit: Nido Huebl / Shutterstock

Porto, Portugal

J.K. Rowling lived in Porto in the 1990s and was reportedly a frequent customer at the city’s most dazzling landmark bookstore. A jewel of neo-Gothic architecture, Livraria Lello is believed to have inspired the author’s vision of the magical Flourish and Blotts bookshop on Diagon Alley where Hogwarts students stock up on textbooks and supplies at the beginning of each school year. Today, the real bookshop is one of Porto's busiest tourist attractions and requires an entry ticket. The official Livraria Lello website has ticket options to buy in advance.

3. Victoria Street

A view of Victoria Street in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh's streets were said to have inspired Diagon Alley.Photo Credit: PhotoFires / Shutterstock

Edinburgh, Scotland

Diagon Alley is another theatrical setting in the series of books and movies, which many believe was inspired by winding, shop-lined Victoria Street in the British city of Edinburgh. Visit on a Harry Potter–themed walking tour, or stop by some of the other Muggle high streets which were said to have influenced Diagon Alley—York’s The Shambles and Exeter’s Gandy Street. However, what is certain is that many scenes set along Diagon Alley in the movies were filmed in London’s Leadenhall Market.

Related article: The Marauder's Map of Harry Potter Filming Locations in the UK

4. King's Cross Station

A view of King's Cross Station in London.
King's Cross features in the "Harry Potter" films.Photo Credit: cowardlion / Shutterstock

London, England

The invisible Platform 9 and ¾ where the Hogwarts Express departs at 11am sharp to take new and returning students to Hogsmeade each September is located in London’s 19th-century King’s Cross Station. Platform 9 and ¾ doesn’t exist in real life—or does it?—but the station has half a baggage trolley sticking out of the brick wall, which makes for a great photo op.

5. Jacobite Steam Train

The Jacobite Steam Train travels through Scotland.
The Jacobite Steam Train chugs across Glenfinnan Viaduct.Photo Credit: Christopher Chambers / Shutterstock

Scotland

Though the Hogwarts Express was beset by the chilling Dementors in the Harry Potter series, in real life this vintage rail line stuns passengers with its spectacular views. Known as The Jacobite, Scotland’s most scenic steam train runs between Fort William and Mallaig, passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct that’s also featured in the movies. Potterheads will definitely want to hop aboard for a magical ride through the lochs and glens of the Scottish Highlands.

6. Australia House

Exterior of the Australia House in London.
Australia House is closed to the public, but you can still admire the exterior.Photo Credit: David Burrows / Shutterstock

London, England

Looming over Diagon Alley, Gringotts Wizarding Bank is stronghold to magical fortunes, treasures, and the odd Horcrux. Scenes in this goblin-run bank were filmed in Australia House, the home of the Australian High Commission in London. Since it’s a diplomatic mission, the building is not open to the public (unless, of course, you’re a citizen of Australia) but many Harry Potter tours of London make a brief stop so you can admire the landmark building’s exteriors.

7. Loch Shiel

A bird's eye view of the Loch Shiel in Scotland.
Loch Shiel stood in for the Hogwarts lake in the "Harry Potter" films.Photo Credit: Egor Baliasov / Shutterstock

Scotland

Harry’s first flight on Buckbeak is one of the most unforgettable scenes of all eight movies, and the lake the hippogriff majestically skims is Scotland’s Loch Shiel, a stand-in for Hogwarts’ Great Lake. Located near the famed Glenfinnan Viaduct, this deep loch is considered one of the most beautiful in the Scottish Highlands and was also the background of the final shot of Harry and Hermione gazing across the landscape from the astronomy tower at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

8. Durham Castle

Exterior of Durham Castle in England.
Durham Castle and Cathedral inspired Hogwarts.Photo Credit: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Durham, England

Harry Potter fans dream of being able to visit the real setting for Hogwarts, but the magical school was based on a number of different historic castles and cathedrals. One of the major inspirations was Durham Castle—an 11th-century architectural gem, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and part of Durham University. Take a self-led audio tour of the city and visit castle highlights, including the Great Hall, 17th-century Black Staircase, and Bishop’s Rooms.

9. Alnwick Castle

Exterior of Alnwick Castle in England.
Alnwick Castle served as the backdrop for Harry's first flying lesson.Photo Credit: Kraft_Stoff / Shutterstock

Alnwick, England

Sections of the 11th-century Norman Alnwick Castle were also used as a setting for Hogwarts, especially outdoor scenes in the first two movies when Harry and his classmates learn to fly broomsticks and Harry makes his Quidditch debut. Home to the Duke of Northumberland (it’s the second largest inhabited castle in England), Alnwick castle is open to the public in the summer and is an easy day trip from Edinburgh.

9. Gloucester Cathedral

Interior of Gloucester Cathedral in England.
Gloucester Cathedral was used to film some interior Hogwarts scenes.Photo Credit: Gav Smith / Shutterstock

Gloucester, England

Another architectural inspiration for Hogwarts, Gloucester’s historic cathedral cloisters were transformed into the school corridors in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Potter stans will also recognize the Lavatorium where Harry and Ron hid from the troll, the West Slype door used as the entrance to the Gryffindor common room, and the red Dark Entry doorway that played the girls’ lavatory door in the movies.

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