The Search for Harry Potter in London

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Like a fair few of you, I’m a bit of a book nerd. And as the luck of my age would have it, I grew up with the Harry Potter book series. I won’t even lie to you: Harry Potter has been a big part of my life. From working five years in a bookstore (again, as luck would have it…I worked there during several Harry Potter book releases) to midnight movie screenings, JK Rowling’s fantasy world is one close to my heart.

As you’re probably aware, JK Rowling set more than a few scenes from the series in London. It’s also distinctly a British book with occasional colloquialisms—things that sometimes went over my head as an American. So from the very beginning, I’ve always associated Harry Potter with London. And as I would find out on my Harry Potter themed tour with Muggle Tours, much of that association is by design.

Muggle Tours

My tour guide, Adam, telling us about Harry Potter and the Southbank neighbourhood

I wasn’t originally planning to take a Harry Potter tour in London. In fact I never even knew such a thing existed! But when researching for tours in London, I stumbled on Muggle Tours and then I just knew it was something I’d have to do for myself. At £12 per person, it’s not a bad price for a speciality walking tour.

The tour started near Borough Market, which I’d only recently discovered because it was so near to where I was staying. The beauty of this walking tour is that it covers an assortment of London sightseeing destinations, but through the lens of Harry Potter (both the books and the films). Wandering through the Southwark Borough of London along the Thames South Bank, our guide Adam pointed out all sorts of sites and attractions. We learned about historic London from typical sightseeing stops near London Bridge and The Clink, as well as more modern-day aspects of typical London life and how it all shows up in the Harry Potter books and films—whether as inspiration for a particular setting or maybe a backdrop in one of the films.

For example, in the Borough Market, our guide pointed out how it was a popular place for cheap eats, but then also pointed out the flower shop Chez Michele. The shopfront was used as a film location for “The Leaky Cauldron” in one of the Harry Potter films. The mix and match between reality and fantasy, of old and new London, was a regular theme of the tour.

While the tour started in Southbank, we eventually made our way to Westminster. And while normally a metro ride in the middle of a walking tour can be disruptive, this one actually made sense. Because one of the tube stations we went through was actually a scene in one of the films. Which brings me to one of the more interesting aspects I learned about Harry Potter in London. Throughout the tour, our guide explained how the directors and writers were keen to make the films as believable as possible. JK Rowling managed to successfully create an entire world built underneath an already existent reality—and in the films, they were keen to mimic this atmosphere. Sure there are magic and spells in Harry Potter, but there are also traffic jams and tube stations.

For anyone paying attention to the films, the film locations were purposely put in realistic neighborhoods of London—because many were actually real! Southbank, being a bit of a dark and dirty area in its medieval history, was a prime location for some of the darker and dirtier scenes. In Westminster, the actual UK government offices are in just about every other building, so it’s only natural that JK Rowling’s fictional Ministry of Magic would be located nearby. Naturally, our guide told us, that’s why the film producers used buildings and settings from Westminster in film scenes—because that’s how it would actually be if the world of Harry Potter was actually real!

Overall I found the tour to be interesting and informative—and a good way to explore London for a few hours. Our group was a mix of young adults and families with small children. The guide I had, Adam, was friendly and personable (he’s an actor, so it’s not surprising!) and he went out of his way to make the tour interactive. Asking trivia questions and trying to get the kids talking. While some of the stops on the tour may have seemed a bit of a stretch with their Harry Potter connections, there was almost always a silver lining—interesting tidbit facts about JK Rowling’s influences or something new to learn about London today. If you’re a Harry Potter geek like myself (did I mention I have a Harry Potter-themed tattoo?), this is a good walking tour to get a sample of London’s most touristic neighborhood (Westminster) and central London’s most scenic neighborhood (Southwark). And all with a healthy dose of talk about wizards, witches and magical spells!

Tours cost 12€ and run regularly. Book at MuggleTours.co.uk

Harry Potter Tour

Talking about The Clink Prison Museum and its historical significance — and how it relates to the Harry Potter book series

London Tour

At Borough Market, the Chez Michelle shopfront was used as a film location

knockturn alley london

Near Trafalgar Square, our guide tells us about this little street which served as the inspiration for Knockturn Alley

diagon alley london

Just across the street from Knockturn Alley, our guide points out what JK Rowling has said to be one of her favorite streets in all of London—which coincidentally served as an inspiration for the Diagon Alley film location

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

14 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Oh this looks fantastic! This is a must-do!! I went to the Harry Potter Studio in Watford and was not disappointed.

    • Cool! This is the only Harry Potter tour I’ve done but I’d definitely try out some studio tours, too.

  2. Hello! You had really an impressive experience. It must be very interesting to you,right? I have also some good news to tell you related to Harry Potter cosplay costumes which I hear from the website-skycostume.com. Here are the news.
    Danny Radcliffe, the leading role in Harry Porter’s will be in the TV screen showing his face in public again. The second season of “a young doctor’s notes” series co starred by him and the “advertising madman” Jo Hamm will be launched on the Sky Arts station on November, the 21th. “Harry Potter” and “advertising madman” with this strange combination will attack again.

  3. No way! I had no idea this tour existed either! Someday when I make it back to London I fully plan to do a Harry Potter-themed day or two, including the Warner Brother’s museum with all the movie sets and the installation at Platform 9 3/4. Now I can add a Muggle Tour to the itinerary! My poor husband! He likes Harry Potter, but it’s definitely not as close to his heart as it is to mine!

  4. That’s great. And I like it a lot better than the Twilight tours, and the totally fictional Juliette’s House in Verona. I mean, clearly it’s not “real” (I know, tragic) but at least there are some places around London directly related to the story.

  5. This sounds like fun but I think London needs to step up its game. I was in NZ recently on a Lord of the Rings tour and, not only did we visit the locations, but they showed us a clip of the movie while we stood in that exact location. After that, they brought out some really funny props and got us to re-enact the scenes! I felt like an idiot, but it was so much fun :)

    • Oh that’s an awesome idea Arianwen! I did think the tour could use some clips shown on an iPad. I like the idea of props too. We had several trivia sessions which proved to be more challenging than I was expecting, though they were fun :)

  6. that is so cool! Ive been to england recently and we visited the christchurch college where some scenes are shot from harry potter! It was as if i was walking with them to the dining hall :D

    • Oh that’s awesome! Since all the films were made and produced in the UK (and all with UK actors, there must be tons of film locations out there.

  7. Just came across this post and I love it! I took a similar tour a couple years ago and it was a really fun way to see parts of London that I’d never seen before! If you go back, try the one that goes through Oxford and Lacock, another great one filled with HP awesomeness! :)

    • Thanks Daisy for the great recommendations! I was hoping to visit Oxford on this trip but didn’t end up making it. I know they filmed some HP scenes there so it’s somewhere I definitely need to visit.

  8. Wonderful! I’m from London and never knew such a tour existed. It’ll be on my list for when I’m next there.

    • They’ve got tours for everything these days :)

  9. Love Harry Potter! It must have been cool to check out London with a magical lens.

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