Whether Harry Potter’s universe is an enviably enchanted world of wonder or alternately a frightening destination best visited only in books and films is a matter of debate. However, the good news is that all of the locations from the movies are in the UK and most of them can be visited by the general public (read: Muggles).
In between the forbiddingly expensive (it’ll cost a family of four upwards of £75 to visit the reptile house where Harry learnt he could speak Parseltongue) to the forebodingly remote (Dumbledore’s grave is free to visit if you can make it to the middle of Loch Eilt), there are plenty of more accessible options to bring the magic to life.
Diagon Alley, for example, is played by London’s Leadenhall Market in The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s still a working market and can be accessed for free, notwithstanding any trinkets and morsels you might buy. Malfoy Manner – Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire in real life – is accessible from late February through to December, tickets are cheap, and the gardens are exquisite.
Die-hard fans, however, will want to make their way straight to Hogwarts. While the main exterior is at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, the quadrangle can be found at Durham Cathedral, which is free to enter and easily reached from Durham city centre and train station.
Wherever you’re heading, if you’re setting out from London then Kings Cross Station might make an appropriate portal: the famous Platform 9 ¾ has been immortalized with a plaque and half-disappeared luggage trolley, and the station has now conjured up a Harry Potter shop, well-stocked with wands, house-ties and, of course, the books. Here’s twelve top picks for broom-bound fans, from casual drop-ins to full-on magical treats.
Cornish, J. (2013). 6 Reasons Why Living In The Harry Potter Universe Would Suck. whatculture.com
Ross, A. (2015). J.K. Rowling Reveals the American Word for Muggle. time.com
ZSL London Zoo (2016). Entry costs. zsl.org
National Trust. (2016) Hardwick. nationaltrust.org.uk