Harry Potter Fans Will Geek Out So Hard Over This United Kingdom Tour
As I strolled up to Christ Church College at Oxford University, I fangirled hard. Then my tour guide, Linda, asked if I wanted to act out Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter's first encounter on the famous staircase. "You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort," warned Draco, followed by Harry's reply (aka the biggest burn of the century): "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks." I was wondering where the hell my Hogwarts letter and robe were, because I was in my element.
I got to quite literally walk in the footsteps of some of my favorite Harry Potter characters when I toured the UK with VisitBritain. From flying over the Glenfinnan viaduct on the Jacobite steam train like Ron and Harry did in the Weasleys' car to exploring MinaLima, the charming exhibition house in London, I geeked out the entire time.
Once you see what's on the agenda for this week-long tour, you'll want to book a trip ASAP and explore every hidden Harry Potter gem in the UK.
House of MinaLima, London
House of MinaLima is an absolute must for both Harry Potter fans and graphic design geeks. Creators Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima are the graphic designers on both the Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts series and they are currently working on the second film. The two talented designers have opened up their own exhibition house to showcase their work from the films.
During my visit to MinaLima, the designers told me that when they were viewing potential buildings, they felt like this one found them, and you'll see exactly why when you visit. The creaky floors are full of charm, the house itself feels like something straight out of the Wizarding world, and the design magic is so detailed you'll be blown away by each piece. It truly feels like they stumbled into their own Room of Requirement.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic Exhibition, London
The Harry Potter: A History of Magic Exhibition at the British Library is where real Harry Potter-lovers can take their knowledge of the books and films a step further. The British Library will transport you back in time to discover some of Rowling's inspiration, from charms and potions to the Harry Potter journey. You can read more about my experience at the exhibition here.
The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour, London
No Harry Potter tour is complete without a trip to the famous Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour. Believe me when I say the tour gets better every time you visit. This was my third trip, and each one has felt different thanks to the immersive nature of the exhibits and the fact the tour constantly evolves. During the tour, you will experience the iconic Great Hall, sit on the Hogwarts Express, and stroll through the marvelous Diagon Alley. You'll even have the opportunity to try butterbeer and the new butterbeer ice cream! Trust me, it's delicious.
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London
For visitors to London (or residents who want a night away), staying in the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel will make you feel like you're a part of Hogwarts. The hotel connects to Kings Cross train station where the students of Hogwarts famously made their way onto Platform 9 3/4. It's also the filming location of another pop-culture classic, The Spice Girls' "Wannabe" video. You'll recognize the staircase instantly.
Despite having visited Oxford on a number of occasions, I'd never realized how many Harry Potter film locations there are around the different Oxford University colleges. From the Hogwarts hospital to a famous staircase where Harry and Draco had a "friend off", you'll recognize so many memorable spots. Christ Church College at Oxford University was even the inspiration behind the Great Hall.
Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter novels, so it's a hotbed for any fan. I was lucky enough to be taken around the city by Ross Tillbrook, who not only showed me the magical city, but spun an incredible yarn throughout.
From various cafes, including the famous Elephant Cafe, to graveyards where you may see headstones that inspired characters, Edinburgh has so many locations that will have you pondering over Rowling's inspiration.
The Highlands, Scotland
The Highlands are picturesque and brimming with eerie Harry Potter locations. Glenfinnan is where you'll explore the most Potter places, including the Glenfinnan viaduct. You will recognize the black lake as the Great Lake from the series immediately, although a lot of CGI was added in the film, so don't expect to see Hogwarts when you look across the water. The same goes for Loch Eilt, aka Dumbledore's grave.
Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
If you've ever wanted to travel through Scotland as though you're on your way to Hogwarts, the Jacobite steam train is a must-do activity. Even if you're traveling with a not-so-enthusiastic Harry Potter partner, they'll enjoy this adventure, too. The Hogwarts Express took the Jacobite steam train route from Fort William to Glenfinnan over the viaduct. Although I can't promise you'll find Ron and Harry dangerously weaving through the bridge in the Weasleys' flying car, this will still be exciting for anyone who's seen the films.