J.K. Rowling first gave us a window into her incredible imagination with the magical world of Harry Potter in 1997. Fans young and old wanted nothing more than to crawl inside the books and live in this world. Twenty years later the books may have come to an end, but the magic lives on, and being a part of it is now a reality. Pack your cloak and wand and get ready to explore the best Harry Potter experiences around the world.
Livraria Lello, Portugal
It’s a lesser-known fact that J.K. Rowling spent some time in Portugal during the early stages of Harry Potter, outlining the series and beginning the first novel. Livraria Lello, known for its whimsical staircases and stained glass ceiling, is thought to have served as part of her inspiration, as she is said to have visited this shop regularly. Located in the heart of Porto, this century-old Neo-Gothic bookstore has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world, time and time again.
Alnwick Castle, England
Alnwick Castle starred as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. Memorable scenes shot on the grounds include Harry’s introduction to Quidditch and Ron crashing the Weasley family’s flying car into the Whomping willow tree. Madame Hooch’s broomstick training also took place here, and thanks to the castle’s wizarding professors, you can participate in this lesson yourself on the very same spot as your favorite trio. Otherwise, enjoy the day touring 700 years of history before taking a stroll and exploring the nearby gardens and Treehouse Restaurant.
Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel, Scotland
To escape the hustle and bustle of city crowds and theme park lines while still basking in the glory of Harry Potter, dive into Scotland’s breathtaking nature. The 17.5 mile long Loch Shiel is the backdrop for Hogwarts and the location of the fictional Black Lake. Overlooking the loch is the stunning Glenfinnan Viaduct, a Victorian construction that served as the Hogwarts Express railway, and is featured most notably in the flying car scene of the second installation. This peaceful escape is a treat even for those unfamiliar with the franchise.
Freshwater West Beach, Wales
Located near Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire in Wales, Freshwater West Beach was featured in the last installation as the setting for Shell Cottage and final resting place of Dobby. The abode was built down to the last detail on the sand dunes along the coastline, but promptly removed after filming. Still, visitors can walk in the footsteps of Harry, Hermione, and Ron at this location, which also happens to offer spectacular waves for surfing.
The Jacobite steam train, Scotland
While you’re in the area, hop on board the famous Jacobite steam train, in true Hogwarts Express style. This journey will take you through the Highlands Valley and cross over the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct. There, you’ll be rewarded with monumental views of Loch Shiel. With a little imagination, you can visualize the exact location of Hogwarts across the way.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the play, England and USA
If luck is on your side, you may be able to catch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the play, by Jack Thorne. In this eighth Harry Potter adventure co-created by J.K. Rowling, we follow a middle-aged Harry whose son, Albus, is beginning his studies at Hogwarts. Currently playing at London’s Palace Theatre, audiences Stateside can catch the action on Broadway in the spring of 2018.
Harry Potter Exhibition, around the world
Currently in the Netherlands until September, this exhibition has been traveling around the globe since 2009. It’s the perfect opportunity to get a close look at the costumes and various wands, brooms, and other objects that appeared in the movies. These artifacts are displayed in sets inspired by the film’s locations to create an even more authentic experience.
Gloucester Cathedral, England
Built as a living and working space for monks, the vaulted cloisters of the medieval Gloucester Cathedral are easily recognized for their role as the corridors of Hogwarts. This Benedictine abbey appeared in a few memorable scenes, including when Moaning Myrtle’s toilet flooded, the writing in blood warned of the opened Chamber of Secrets, and Harry and Ron hid from a troll in the lavatorium.
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