The United Kingdom is Harry Potter country. I'm not trying to undermine the rich history of the country with its grand cities with creaky and beautiful architecture, its rolling hills in the Highlands, and its many cultured offerings, but Harry Potter popped up again and again during my recent travels to London, Lacock, and Edinburgh. J.K. Rowling's story about the Boy Who Lived is dear to my heart, so I sought out some destinations deliberately, but other times it was, "Oh hey, here's another Harry Potter thing."
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These are nine spots I recommend visiting if, like me, you're a Muggle that longs to be a witch or wizard.
Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden is the home of an epic making of tour/exhibit for the Harry Potter films. Sets, costumes, prosthetics, and more are on display in this must-see experience. I shared over a hundred pics from my visit, but it's really worth checking out in person.
The graphic designers behind all the Daily Prophet covers, potion labels, and everything else printed in the Harry Potter films have a pop-up shop in Central London. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima's designs are on display in a charming three-story shop called House of MinaLima. It's worth visiting just to browse and admire the theming, but there is a ton of unique merchandise to choose from. The shop is open until February 2017.
Even if you haven't managed to score tickets to the two-part Harry Potter play happening at the Palace Theatre, you can stroll around the building to see the marquee and decor. Bonus: It's near House of MinaLima.
Visit the lovely Leadenhall Market to enjoy the aesthetic of the covered shopping center and to see exteriors used for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Most notably, you can see the door to the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron. The dark blue door in the film is actually bright blue and part of an optician's storefront in the Bull's Head Passage.
The best money I spent on my trip was on the photo op at Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross station. The faux set with a trolley is in the station (they provide the house scarf and wand of your choosing), separate from the actual platforms. You can have a friend take a picture with your camera, but you can also purchase an official copy from the shop adjacent to the photo op. And incidentally, that shop had my favorite Harry Potter merchandise—it was different from offerings at the studio tour.
If you take a train out of King's Cross, you can of course see where the Hogwarts attendees get to Platform 9 ¾ in the film.
6. Horace Slughorn's "Home," Lacock
Tucked away in Wiltshire, a couple hours away from London, you'll find the village of Lacock. It's mostly owned by the National Trust and maintains an eighteenth century aesthetic that makes it extra appealing as a filming location. On the north side of the village off Church Street, you can see the house Horace Slughorn uh, borrowed from vacationing Muggles in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
7. Lacock Abbey, Lacock
The thirteenth century Abbey on the outskirts of Lacock was used extensively in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It served as the interior for several Hogwarts scenes, including the corridors, the courtyard, and some classrooms.
J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in various locations around Edinburgh, including The Elephant House. The spot isn't the "birthplace of Harry Potter" as they claim, but Rowling did pen chunks of the first few books from the restaurant. Its main seating area overlooks Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard--both of which look magical and inspiring. The bathrooms in Elephant House are covered with graffiti from fans that the restaurant has given up trying to clean it off the walls. I wasn't overly impressed with the food or the service at The Elephant House, but I enjoyed seeing the fandom touches. If you make a donation to the charity they support, you can have a look around without getting a meal (as long as you don't disturb diners).
9. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh
A sixteenth century cemetery can be seen from Elephant House; Greyfriars Kirkyard is overflowing with well-maintained tombstones with incredible carvings. It includes the grave for the poet William McGonagall and the grave for one Thomas Riddell. Both could have inspired names for characters in the Harry Potter story; Rowling has reportedly said that Riddell's tombstone may have subconsciously inspired Voldemort's name, but I can't source the quote, so take it with a grain of salt.
This list includes the handful of locales I came across while exploring the UK, but it only scratches the surface; what Harry Potter filming locations would you recommending checking out?
Images: Amy Ratcliffe, Warner Bros.