If you’re like me, you might synonymously associate Harry Potter with British culture. Growing up, I knew the streets of London from Mary Poppins, the concept of “tea time” from Alice in Wonderland and pretty much everything else from Harry Potter. While many elements of the wizarding world are indeed fictional, the magic of the books and films are alive all over the muggle world of the United Kingdom.
If you’re a Harry Potter lover visiting the United Kingdom, be sure to put these on your itinerary:
Landmarks in Scotland
“Diagon Alley” – Edinburgh
Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row are said to have inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley — the infamous home to the Leaky Cauldron, Ollivanders wand shop and the Weasley’s joke shop.
The colorful stretch of shops is quaint, and I really enjoyed walking through the area when I visited Edinburgh. I was especially excited to see that there was even a joke shop there, but it was clearly less cool than the one run by Fred and George.
Greyfriars Kirkyard – Edinburgh
This cemetery, dating back to the 16th century, is home to some familiar names. Rowling frequented the area often, and clearly drew some inspiration.
My friends and I spotted Voldemort’s grave, but the name on the tombstone was spelled Tom Riddell instead of the normal spelling (Riddle). I guess that’s fair because Rowling clearly couldn’t ask his permission before he became one of the most despised villains of all time.
The Elephant House Café – Edinburgh
Rowling is rumored to have written Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in this small café. My current British Fantasy Writing professor here in London, however, says that it’s a scam. He believes that the original is across the street. Regardless, I still stopped by.
Landmarks in England
Durham Cathedral – Durham
I had no idea this site had anything to do with Harry Potter when my dad and I first planned our visit there three years ago. We went because of the name, obviously. It wasn’t until I was standing in the courtyard in the center of the cathedral that I knew I had seen the gorgeous 10th century architecture before.
It turns out that Durham Cathedral was used to film the flying lesson scene in the first Harry Potter film. Knowing that, I love the place even more now.
Platform 9 3/4 – King’s Cross Station, London
This is probably the most cheesy activity to check off the tourist to-do list, but nevertheless, I did it. I was actually really impressed with how they organized the photo-op. We got to choose our house scarf (I chose Gryffindor, of course) and a wand. Just before the pictures were taken, someone fluffed my scarf so it looked like it was magically blowing in the wind.
Harry Potter Studio Tour – London
I am going to be doing this at the end of April, and I am already so excited. The experience is often compared to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter World in at Universal Orlando — but better. Luckily, I was able to get tickets. It apparently fills up quickly, so if you are visiting London in the near future and want to go, book it in advance!
Bonus: Meet Daniel Radcliffe!
Yes, this happened. AIFS offered us tickets to the play he’s currently starring in, Endgame / Rough for Theatre II, for £5 ($6.50). It was the best £5 I’ll ever spend.
I had no idea we would be able to meet him after the performance. Honestly, I’m not sure what I said to him or when I stopped shaking, but I can promise, he is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.