I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit obsessed with Harry Potter. I’ve read the books so many times that I actually bought the first Harry Potter book in German when I was trying to learn the language because I knew the story so well that if I didn’t understand a word I could remember what the book said in English and figure it out. One of the perks of living in London is that lot of the films were filmed round here – so I’ve started this working guide which I’ll keep updated as and when I stumble across a new film location.
1. The Making of Harry Potter – Warner Bros Studio Tour, Watford
Going to the the Harry Potter Studio Tour was one of the best things I have ever done. You can find it in Watford, on the outskirts of London, and there you can spend hours wandering around some of the sets used in the movies, checking out some of the props and learning about some of the techniques used to create characters and get the shots. I saw the Great Hall, Griffindor Common room, Dumbledore’s office, Snape’s potions classroom, the kitchen from the Burrow, Hagrid’s hut and number four Privet Drive. I spotted Aragog, the basilisk the Pensive, the Triwizard Cup, the Golden Egg, the Goblet of Fire, the door to the Chamber of Secrets and the Philosopher’s Stone. I even walked along Diagon Alley, climbed aboard the Hogwart’s express, tried to travel through the station wall and got a selfie with a Death Eater. This is the ultimate destination for all Harry Potter geeks.
2. King’s Cross Station, London
My old commute to work used to take me through King’s Cross station and onto platform 9. It was here I realised that there is no barrier between platforms 9 and 10 – apparently J.K. Rowling made a mistake about that. They are actually only separated by two lines of train track and any trains that may happen to be on them. Instead, there’s a plaque on the wall near the ticket barriers saying “Platform 9¾” with a trolley below stick in the bricks. I never stopped to see whether, if I gave it a push, I would find myself in front of the Hogwarts Express but I often saw a line of people waiting to try it out and pose for pictures.
There’s also a souvenir shop next to the plaque, built to resemble Ollivander’s wand shop, for all your Harry Potter souvenir needs.
In the films, the barrier that is actually used is the one at King’s Cross separating platforms 4 and five – which indeed looks far more familiar.
3. St. Pancras Station, London
Although the films may film the inside of King’s Cross station in King’s Cross itself, the outside of the station shown in the films is actually St. Pancras station, which is just across the road. This is the building where Harry and Ron take off in the Weasley’s Ford Anglia. It’s not hard to see why the filmmakers chose St Pancras over King’s Cross, its neo-gothic architecture is pretty impressive and makes it one of my favourite buildings in London.
4. Leadenhall Market, London
Leadenhall Market is an incredibly picturesque Victoria Market that can be found in the City of London. This is the place used as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron can be found at an optician’s in Bull’s Head Passage.
5. Millennium Bridge, London
The Millennium Bridge is a footbridge over the Thames that goes between the Southbank and St. Paul’s. This is the bridge that the Death Eaters make collapse at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
6. Westminster Underground Station, London
Westminster Tube Station is the station that Harry and Mr Weasley travel through on their way to the Ministry of Magic for Harry’s hearing for his use of underage magic outside of school. It’s here that Mr Weasley gets a bit stuck trying to get through the ticket barriers.
7. The Shambles, York
The Shambles is a very quaint and rustic alleyway in York. It wasn’t actually used for filming but apparently was the inspiration behind Diagon Alley and when you know that it does look a bit familiar. The shop fronts are old and have wooden boards, and even some old meat hooks, hanging outside of them. Some were quite top heavy and lean so close to each other that apparently once upon a time you could walk from the upstairs of one to another.