London is a wonderful destination to visit if you’re a Harry Potter fan. There are many, many places across the city which J.K. Rowling either used as inspiration for or mentioned in her celebrated book series, and/or which were used as locations for the subsequent films. Here are 17 of the best places to go if you’d like to explore the world of Harry Potter in London.
J. K. Rowling once worked for Amnesty International in London, at offices close to Trafalgar Square. A few minutes’ walk from here is Cecil Court, said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Cecil Court is home to some wonderful independent shops, including specialist book sellers, map and antique shops. There’s even a bookshop which offers tarot readings.
If you’d like to see the location which was used as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films, you need to go to Leadenhall Market. This is a beautiful Victorian covered market and it features in several of the films as Diagon Alley – the blue door of the opticians in Bull’s Head Passage is the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron pub. The market is home to food and flower stalls as well as shops, pubs and restaurants.
If you walk to the end of Cecil Court to St. Martin’s Lane, stop and look across the road and up, you’ll see an old painted sign depicting a man with a large cooking pot. The sign is attached to a building which is currently a Greek restaurant, but when J. K. Rowling worked nearby it was a pub. This pub and the sign are said to be the inspiration for the Leaky Cauldron pub, which is used by wizards and witches to get to Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
A flower shop in Borough Market appears as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film, for the scene where Harry arrives on the Knight Bus. Borough Market is London’s oldest food market, and has been here for around 1,000 years. Today it’s a fantastic place for street food, and is home to some great eateries.
If you cross St. Martin’s Lane from Cecil Court and look carefully to the left, you’ll find the very narrow entrance to Goodwin’s Court, said to be the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. In the Harry Potter stories, Knockturn Alley is where wizards and witches go for things relating to the Dark Arts.
Charing Cross Road
In Harry Potter’s world, the Leaky Cauldron pub is on Charing Cross Road, which is a real road in London. There are actually several pubs on this road, which is known for its second-hand bookshops and and antiquarian shops.
King’s Cross Station
King’s Cross Station is where Harry and the other Hogwarts students catch the Hogwarts Express train to school at the start of each year, from Platform 9¾. This platform is inaccessible to non-wizards and witches, but if you visit the station you’ll find a helpful sign on the wall showing where it is – there’s also a luggage trolley embedded in the wall where you can pose for photos (though there’s usually a queue to do this). Next to the embedded trolley there’s a Harry Potter shop, in case you’d like a souvenir.
St Pancras Station
In the films, the marvellous Neo-Gothic exterior of St Pancras Station appears as King’s Cross Station. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron park the Weasleys’ Ford Anglia in the corner of the courtyard and later they fly off over the station in the car. The station is the London departure point for trains to the Channel Tunnel and is home to a range of upmarket shops and places to eat and drink. You can actually stay overnight at the station at the gorgeous five-star St. Pancras Renaisssance Hotel. Some of the rooms even have views across the station platforms.
The exterior of the South African High Commission on Trafalgar Square was used as the basis for the set of Gringotts, the wizarding bank, in the Harry Potter films. Australia House on the Strand was used for filming the interior of Gringotts, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Australia House is Australia’s diplomatic mission in the UK and so the interior isn’t usually open to the public – but you can look at the building from the outside and try to peep in through the doors.
Westminster tube station
Westminster tube station is used by Harry and Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. They travel by underground train to a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic. The station was closed for a day while filming was going on. You can visit the station for free, but you need to buy a ticket if you’d like to travel on a tube train.
Ministry of Magic
In the Harry Potter stories, the Ministry of Magic is the government of witches and wizards in Britain and it’s located under Whitehall. Whitehall is the heart of the UK government and is home to key departments. You can walk along Whitehall and look at government buildings from the outside. The exterior of the Ministry of Defence appears in the film of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry, Ron and Hermione go into the Ministry of Magic in disguise, via the public toilets in the street outside (there aren’t actually any public toilets there – these were constructed as props for the film). The Royal Horseguards Hotel, which is opposite the MoD, appears in the same scene.
Great Scotland Yard
Great Scotland Yard in Westminster is where Harry and Arthur Weasley enter the Ministry of Magic in the film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You won’t see the red phone box which was used as the entrance to the Ministry in the film, as it was a prop created for the scene.
23-29 Claremont Square was used as a filming location for the exterior of 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black’s family home and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Craven Street, near to Charing Cross Station, is said to be the place where the original idea for Grimmauld Place came to J. K. Rowling.
Reptile House at London Zoo
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry discovers that he’s a parseltongue (muggle translation – he can talk to snakes) when he finds himself speaking with a burmese python in London Zoo’s Reptile House. In 2001 this scene was filmed on location at London Zoo, and today you can visit the Reptile House and see it for yourself. You can read my full review of London Zoo here – A family trip to London Zoo.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry flies along the River Thames and over Tower Bridge on his broomstick. You can explore the bridge by visiting the excellent interactive Tower Bridge Exhibition, which offers views from the upper walkway, including through its sections of glass floor.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Millennium Bridge is destroyed by Death Eaters. The bridge, also known as the Wobbly Bridge, is a footbridge across the River Thames, linking Bankside with the City. If you cross the bridge from south to north you’ll see a perfectly-framed view of St. Paul’s Cathedral as you walk.
Lambeth Bridge is where the fabulous triple-decker purple Knight Bus squeezes between two oncoming double-decker buses in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The bridge has been used in many other films too, including the James Bond film Spectre, where a boat and a helicopter race under and over it. The bridge is open to road traffic and pedestrians.
Harry, Ron and Hermione apparate at Piccadilly Circus when they flee from Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In the book, they escape to Tottenham Court Road, but Piccadilly Circus was used for the film version. Piccadilly Circus is one of London’s busiest squares.
House of MinaLima
House of MinaLima in Soho is home to graphic designs created by designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima for the Harry Potter films. The walls of the four-storey house are covered in prints and graphics, which are all for sale, and there are also some authentic film props on display.
Harry Potter Tours
If you’d like a guided walking tour of some of the top Harry Potter sites in London, there are quite a few to choose from. I’ve tried two tours: Strawberry Tours Free Harry Potter Tour and Muggle Tours. Both tours were very good and I’d recommend them. The Strawberry Tours Free Harry Potter Tour starts from Leicester Square, lasts for two hours and focuses on the area around Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. Our guide was a history graduate and was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all things Harry Potter. This tour is free, but at the end of the tour you are invited to pay whatever you’d like to pay for it. Muggle Tours start just around the corner from London Bridge, and the tour guides share background details about the Harry Potter books and films, and also touch on London’s history, performing a few magic tricks along the way. The tours last around two and a half hours and cost £16 for adult muggles and £14 for child muggles.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
The studios where the Harry Potter films were created are at Leavesden, just outside London. The fascinating and immersive studio tour encompasses iconic film sets, such as the Great Hall, Diagon Alley and Privet Drive, the Hogwarts Express, the Forbidden Forest, animatronic creatures and a multitude of beautifully crafted props and costumes. You can have your photo taken riding a broomstick or sitting in Mr Weasley’s flying car, drink some butterbeer and sit on Hagrid’s motorbike. You definitely need to book in advance here, as the studios are hugely popular. You can read my full review of the studio tour here – Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I really enjoyed seeing the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays on stage in London. My daughter managed to book cheap tickets for us, and has written a post about how she did it – check it out:
Where to stay
If you’re looking for some magical accommodation in central London, the Georgian House Hotel has some wizarding themed rooms which are very popular with Harry Potter fans.
If you’re visiting Platform 9 3/4 then the five-star St. Pancras Renaisssance Hotel is nearby, and its exterior was used as Kings Cross Station in the films.
The exterior of the Royal Horseguards Hotel, which is opposite the MoD, appears in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film.
St. James’ Court Hotel offers a bespoke Harry Potter Experience for guests.
Over to you
Do you have any other Harry Potter-related places in London to add to the list? Have you been to any of these places?
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