Going Back to School with Harry Potter

Kids across the US and the world are going back to school, and on September 1, the kids in some of the most beloved books head back to school, too.

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the wizard and witch students meet at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for another adventurous year.

Let’s visit some of the places the magical children in the books visited as they prepared for a year at the most magnificent Hogwarts.

Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station, London, UK

Every year on September 1, the wizarding students from across England and Scotland meet at Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station in downtown London to say farewell to their families and board the Hogwarts Express, bound for Hogwarts in the Scottish highlands.

In order to get to the magic platform, students were required to run at full speed with their belongings towards the wall between platforms, which would open up for the students to catch the special train.

In the real King’s Cross, fans of the story can see a cart “stuck” in the wall between platforms 9 and 10. It’s a fun tourist attraction for Potterheads visiting London.

Platform 9¾. King's Cross Station (Harry Potter) (StreetView)
Platform 9¾. King's Cross Station (Harry Potter)

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hogwarts was established more than a thousand years ago, as a school for magical children ages 11 to 17. When Harry Potter was old enough, he too received an invitation to attend school. In the books, it is the central location for most of the magic, mayhem, and mystery of the wizarding world.

For some of the movies, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland was the filming location for Hogwarts. The castle was built in the 1300s, and has been added onto over the centuries. It’s also been adapted in recent decades to work as a school and sometimes as a filming location. In addition to Harry Potter, Downton Abbey specials were filmed there, as well as Elizabeth and other films.

Alnwick Castle (Bing Maps)
Alnwick Castle

Interior of Hogwarts

The scenes inside Hogwarts are some of the most important, and magical, of all the movies. It’s fitting that the scenes were filmed in a school that has been in use nearly as long as the school in the film. Christ Church in Oxford was the site of much of the interior filming, and has been the location for filming other movies and shows as well. The halls are some of the most breathtaking places in the university, and familiar to anyone who has seen the Potter movies.

Christ Church is part of the University of Oxford education system. More British leaders have graduated from Christ Church than any other institution, and it’s associated with many other famous political, scientific, and literary leaders.

Christ Church Cathedral (Birds Eye)
Christ Church Cathedral

Harry Potter’s House

Poor Harry Potter was forced to live in a cupboard in his uncle’s house until he moved away to Hogwarts. The exterior of the home was a real British home, in Bracknell, UK. The city is one of the westernmost towns in the greater London area, and is a perfect location for filming the home of a traditional, average British family.

Filming was onsite for the first film, but after that, the logistics were complicated, and so a film set was created based on the exterior of the house. In 2016, the private residence was put on the market for more than $500,000. No doubt the fame of the house contributed to the high price!

Harry Potter's house (Google Maps)
Harry Potter's house

Diagon Alley

Some of the most enchanting scenes in the Harry Potter movies take place in Diagon Alley, where wizards and witches gather to buy school supplies only magical students need, like wands, owls, and cauldrons. When Harry Potter first visited the market, he made a life-changing visit to Ollivander’s, where he chose his wand, or rather, his wand chose him. It was this wand that changed the future of the magical world.

In real life, Borough Market in downtown London is a market hall that’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s a perfect filming location for such a magical place.

Borough Market (Google Maps)
Borough Market

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, all these sites will be familiar and fun to see. And it’s exciting to know that they can be visited in real life. If you or your kids are going back to school, maybe you can gather around and watch a Harry Potter movie this weekend to relax and recover from the first week of school. Hopefully it won’t be as exciting or as dangerous as what Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends experienced!



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