A Magical Guide to Harry Potter Locations in London, Edinburgh, and Ireland
My sister and I are hardcore Harry Potter fans (fun fact: she’s a Ravenclaw and I’m a Gryffindor)! We have both watched the films and read the books numerous times and still cannot seem to get enough of the wizarding world. On a recent trip to Europe we took together, we got the chance to take not one, but TWO Harry Potter walking tours in London and Edinburgh, where J.K. Rowling lived while she was writing the novels.
In this guide, I will take you through magical locations in London and Ireland that were used in the films. I will also guide you through locations in Edinburgh that inspired characters and places in the novels. Cue the Harry Potter soundtrack!
Australia House (Gringotts Bank)
You may not recognize the exterior of this building as Gringotts bank. That’s because the front facade was transformed by the magical powers of CGI to appear crooked, as if it were about to fall over! While they were at it, they added a few more levels. You have to be Australian to be allowed in; if you happen to be escorted by an Australian friend, you’ll recognize the beautiful crystal chandeliers, marble columns, and mosaic floor that make up the interior of Gringott’s bank. Keep your eyes peeled; you may spot a gnarly goblin lurking around the corner!
Great Scotland Yard
The Ministry of Magic uses an abandoned red telephone booth as the visitor’s entrance. This was filmed in London’s Great Scotland Yard. Arthur Weasley escorts Harry to the Ministry via the visitor’s entrance for his hearing on charges of using magic in front of his cousin Dudley. The phone box itself was a prop that was brought in and removed after filming the scene. They placed an arch way right where the brown door you see in this photo is located, with the telephone box to the left of it. To enter, just dial 62442 or “magic”!
The corner on the opposite side of the street was filmed for another scene. You might recognize this spot as the scene in the Deathly Hallows Part One when Harry, Ron, and Hermione infiltrate the Ministry of Magic disguised as ministry officials via Polyjuice Potion. Ron peeps his head around the corner, looking out for Mafalda Hopkirk, demonstrated so well by my sister Rocio!
The Millenium Bridge was used as the location of the famous opening scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince when the Death Eaters swoop in on their brooms and destroy the bridge, leaving the muggles to run for their lives. Spooky! The CGI wizards took shots of the bridge from hundreds of angles, by foot and by plane, to create this scene. Safely intact, this pedestrian bridge allows you to cross the River Thames from the St. Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern museum.
Tower Bridge and Big Ben
These iconic London landmarks can be seen as Harry and the Order of the Phoenix soar through the London skies on their way to #12 Grimmauld Place in the fifth movie. Bonus: you can actually visit the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, located in Claremont Square. Alas, we did not get the chance to see it.
Kings Cross Station (Platform 9 3/4)
King’s Cross Station, also know as Platform 9 3/4, is the ultimate Harry Potter location in London! So many of the iconic scenes in the series take place here. Kings Cross created a faux platform 9 3/4, complete with a trolley halfway through the barrier. We were lucky to have caught this photo op at a good time, our wait was only twenty minutes! After taking our photos, we stepped inside the Platform 9 3/4 shop to pick out a souvenir. We then headed to the REAL Platform 9 3/4, located between Platform 4 and 5 where the station scenes were filmed. Trust me, you can feel the magical vibes pulsing through this station. If you fancy attempting to enter the platform, “best do it at a bit of a run”!
Cliffs of Moher (the cave)
In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore and Harry board a boat and then enter a cave that houses one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. The cave used for this scene is nestled along Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher. In the muggle world, boats cannot approach these treacherous cliffs. Only those with magical blood could possibly enter and leave this cave with their lives!
The Burren located in Ireland’s County Clare is a landscape of bedrock, used as the location where Harry and Hermione “Apparate” to after camping in the Forest of Dean, no longer accompanied by Ron in Deathly Hallows Part One. I thought this location was so beautiful in the movies so it was really cool to see it in person.
George Heriots School
George Heriots is a prestigious private school in Edinburgh that J.K. Rowling’s daughter attended. The school has four towers and sorts its students into four houses; J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is an ancient and spooky cemetery in the middle of Edinburgh, located next to George Heriots School. This location is the inspiration for the creepy cemetery that Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory are “Apparated” to in the Goblet of Fire. J.K. Rowling used to stroll through the cemetery while waiting to pick up her daughter from school.
She chose a lot of the names for her characters from the headstones. Our guide pointed out the headstone for “William McGonagall” and “Thomas Riddell”. Slytherin fans of Voldemort leave letters for him at the tombstone. In the distance, you can see the Edinburgh Castle, further inspiration for Hogwarts! J.K. Rowling actually organized a dinner at the castle for winners of an essay competition she hosted. She had the castle transformed into Hogwarts for a magical night.
Elephant House Cafe
We got the chance to visit the Elephant House Cafe, which one of the cafes J.K. Rowling would visit to get some writing done while sipping on coffee. We sat down to some pastries and a cappuccino while taking in the location where our favorite author wrote our favorite books! There is a wall with photos taken of J.K. Rowling on display, as well as some interesting articles. Fans have written messages over every inch of the bathroom stalls about how much Harry Potter means to them. You can even sign up for Dumbledore’s Army! Be warned; the cafe got tired of painting the walls and fixing the damaged toilets and sinks in the bathroom so they have left them untouched.
Last but not least is the inspiration for Diagon alley; Circus Lane! You can easily see how similar the colorful Circus Lane is to Diagon Alley. Some of you may not know this, but J.K. Rowling actually sketched her ideas for Harry Potter locations to pass on to the set makers. She sketched Circus Lane as Diagon Alley. The set makers loved it so much that they asked her to do the same for several sets! Naturally, she sketched many locations around Edinburgh.
We booked the London Harry Potter Walking Tour through Viator for $34.25. Save yourself the galleons and use this baby as your guide! The awesome walking tour that we did in Edinburgh was called The Potter Trail. The tour is free and leaves from the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue at noon and 4 pm everyday. I highly recommend this tour if you are visiting Edinburgh as it’s packed with tons of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling info for serious fans!
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I loved writing it! What is your favorite Harry Potter book? Mine is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.