Did your Hogwarts acceptance letter get lost in the mail? Mine too. But not to worry, you can still experience all the magic of Harry Potter's world as long as you have a passport...and a few pounds. Whether you're the ultimate fan or a casual movie-goer, grab your broomstick and join with us as we take you on a multi-country trip around the UK to show you every last stop where the wizarding teens passed their time.
Harry Potter's Birthplace
The Elephant House earned the title of "Best Coffee Shop" in Edinburgh, but the real reason fans flock here --beyond strong beans, gourmet food, and beer on tap -- is that J.K. Rowling wrote much of her first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone overlooking the Edinburgh Castle. It's easy to feel the magic and get inspired as you sip tea from the same table where Harry Potter's creator wrote in longhand.
A Magical Walking Tour
"The Potter Trail" is a humorous, free walking tour around Old Town, Edinburgh. Over the course of an hour, you'll learn who the worst poet in the world was and which Harry Potter character was named after him, see where Lord Voldemort was buried, and explore the cemetery where Rowling got ideas for many of her character names.
Staying true to Rowling's rags-to-riches story, while the series may have begun at a café, it ended at the Balmoral, a luxury five-star castle and estate in Edinburgh that's actually home to the royal family. In commemoration of the occasion, the author actually marked a marble bust of Hermes in her room with the words, "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007." While defiling public art is generally frowned upon, the bust is now behind glass and the room has been renamed the J.K. Rowling Suite. You can spend the night for a whopping 1,000 pounds ($1600), or have afternoon tea for 35 pounds in the lovely Palm Court. A live harpist will play while you dine on scones and finger sandwiches, dreaming of your own chance at literary fame.
Say "Action!" Across the Pond
For real fans who want to experience the wizarding world of Harry Potter, there's no better spot than the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden. About 20 miles north of London, The Making of Harry Potter is a 3- to 4-hour experience (35 pounds) that includes a breathtaking entrance into the Great Hall of Hogwarts. From there, you can view film sets, costumes, props (want to sit on Hagrid's motorcycle?), make-up, animatronics, animals, and everything that brought the world of Harry Potter to life on the silver screen. There are cafés that serve sandwiches and butter beer, and a souvenir shop where fans can purchase everything from Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans to their very own wands.
Freebies for Fans
After spending quite a few bronze Knuts and silver Sickles on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, it's nice to know that there are many sights in London that fans can take in for free. Kings Cross is a lively train station, which, as every reader knows, is the starting point of the Hogwarts Express. Visit platforms 4 and 5, which were used for filming, and don't miss Platform 9 3/4, where you can actually take a selfie pushing a trolley.
But it's St Pancras International Station that was used to film the exterior shots of the train station where Harry and friends board the Hogwarts Express. When you're done studying the striking Neo-Gothic exterior, go inside. St Pancras houses the longest champagne station in Europe.
Leadenhall is a beautiful covered Victorian market which is featured in several of the films. Keep your eye out for the blue door of the optician's shop in Bull's Head Passage: you just might recognize it as the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron.
Any traveler visiting London will want to visit Piccadilly Circus, but Potter fans have an added incentive. This is where Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn they are being chased by Death Eaters after fleeing from Ron's brother's wedding in Deathly Hollows Part One.