Visiting film locations when on my travels has become one of my new favourite things to do, especially when they are Harry Potter related. After visiting the Harry Potter filming locations in Edinburgh I knew I wanted to find more throughout the country, luckily for me, you will find a ton of Harry Potter in Oxford.
Hogwarts, Harry’s prestigious wizarding school, is a composite of several amazing locations, many of them real places are in Oxford, including Oxford University – undoubtedly one of the most famous universities in the world. With a population of about 150.000 people, Oxford is a university-city located in South Central England, and it’s just an hour and a half away from London.
Aside from the Harry Potter filming locations, Oxford is also the place where Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice in Wonderland,” where J. R. R. Tolkien gave lectures and worked on “The Lord of the Rings,” and where Oscar Wilde studied.
As always, when I started my day in the city I was armed with a Marco Polo guide. When visiting a new city I will always carry a travel book with me, even in the UK, Marco Polo, in particular, are my favourite as they come with an easy to read map – which was perfect for locating all the Harry Potter spots in Oxford. Aside from the map, the books always have a variety of self-guided walking tours which are perfect for following if it is your first time in a city.
A Self Guided Harry Potter Tour in Oxford
Spoiler Alert: The content below may ruin the surprises for those who haven’t watched or read the Harry Potter series yet. (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!)
Christ Church College
The Christ Church College itself is a visual treat for the Potter fans. Many parts of the college were used during filming but more than that some part of the college was used for the inspiration for the original stories.
- Christ Church Dining Hall: If you’re Harry Potter fan, then you definitely remember the Great Hall. Although no shooting actually happened here, the producers’ found inspiration for recreating the Great Hall in their studio from the real great Hall which is located inside Christ Church College. Spotting the similarities between the two is easy. The real Great Hall is actually a dining hall. Interestingly the hall has been in almost constant use since the 16th century where members of the college can eat three meals including a formal dinner in the evening were wearing a gown is a must.
- The Bodley Tower Staircase: This staircase is also known as the “Welcome to Hogwarts Spot.” The steps to the real Great Hall in Christ Church College were used in the first Harry Potter movie. It’s the same stairs where professor McGonagall says “Welcome to Hogwarts” on arrival of the new students. It’s also the same spot where at the end of the first movie Harry is reunited with Ron and Hermione after being released from Hogwarts Infirmary. This spot certainly holds a special place in many Potterhead’s hearts.Pro Tip: the spot is busy during visiting hours, so taking photos can be difficult. Arrive at the opening to be one of the first to get photos without crowds.
- Christ Church Cloisters: The beautiful Cloisters were transformed into Hogwarts hallways in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After Harry has been made seeker for the Gryffindor quidditch team, here Hermione tells Harry being a seeker is “in his blood” and then shows him a display case in the hallway containing a Quidditch trophy with his father’s name on it. This scene was shot in the cloisters just outside of what is currently a bookshop.
Before we talk about the shooting locations, let’s talk about the college. New College is exactly opposite of its name. It is one of the oldest of the Oxford colleges and was initially established for the education of priests. New College is an incredible 13th Century building definitely not to miss.
Many parts of the college are used during the filming of Harry Potter in Oxford, you’ll be able to recognize New Collage’s 15th-century cloister in different scenes of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
- New College Cloisters: The New College Cloisters are used multiple times in The Goblet of Fire, where they serve as the Hogwarts hallways. Harry fans may remember New College Cloisters as being used for the scene where Harry pushes through a crowd of his fellow students as they ridicule him with Potter Stinks badges after he had been selected to take part in the Triwizard Tournament.
- The New College courtyard: This is the place where Harry tips Cedric off about the dragons they’d be battling in the first task. Do you remember the scene where Draco Malfoy says Harry “you won’t last 10 seconds” under a tree? That same tree is also inside the New Collage’s grounds and it is more than 200 years old.
Oxford University’s Bodleian Library
While the Bodleian Library may have been around since 1602, the majority of people around the world probably know it better as the Hogwarts Library. Or, more specifically, the Restricted Section. Starring in four of the Harry Potter films, this is one of the most popular tourist locations in Oxford.
Duke Humfrey’s Library
Duke Humfrey’s Library is one of the favourite locations for fans to visit. It is the oldest reading room still in use today. What’s more interesting? It has more than 80 miles of bookshelves, and you can find many mysterious works, including ancient books of spells and witchcraft.
The Hogwarts Restricted Section is actually the Duke Humfrey’s Library. Do you remember the scene where Harry walked through the Hogwarts library hidden underneath his invisibility cloak to steal a book? Duke Humfrey’s Library was used for this scene. The Library comes in to view again in Half-Blood Prince when Hermione is seething about Ron’s new romance with Lavender, and they’re both contemplating who to invite to Slughorn’s big Christmas bash. With its dark, thrilling, mysterious corners and floor to ceiling shelves of old books and ancient manuscripts, it’s no wonder Duke Humphrey’s Library was chosen to play the Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Please be aware you can only visit the Library as part of an organised tour.
The Divinity School
The Divinity School was used in the shooting of the first four Harry Potter films. The School itself is a fantastic construction and has a stunning grand hall which was used for filming the Hogwarts Infirmary. It’s the same Hall where Harry wakes up at the end of the first film after confronting Voldemort for the first time, where Harry and Hermione use the time turner to save Sirius and Buckbeak in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s also the same place where Professor McGonagall teaches Ron how to dance for the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire among many other famous scenes.
The Oxford Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History houses the University’s scientific collections of geological and zoological specimens. The Museum itself is a Grade 1 listed building, renowned for its spectacular architecture. Some it’s outstanding feature includes Oxfordshire dinosaurs, the dodo, as well the Swifts in the tower and more. You will not find this place anywhere in the movie. Still, it is a part of the movie. Why? It’s a place where producers spent a lot of time and sourced ideas for ancient artefacts when recreating these with the costume departments.
Make sure you watch the Knight Bus scene from the Prisoner of Azkaban before you visit this place, as this is a great example of the artistry the movies borrowed from Museum.
Aside from filming locations, you will find many gift stores dotted throughout Oxford, many of which are littered with Harry Potter memorabilia to ensure you remember your day of finding Harry Potter in Oxford.
If you are limited on time or prefer to book onto guided tours, there are many available which will take you to all of the locations mentioned above. This particular 2 hour guided tour also includes fun Harry Potter Quizzes along the way.
Being in Oxford can often feel like roaming around one big Harry Potter world. It is a must have experience for fans to explore the wonderful world of Harry Potter in Oxford and walk the very hallways that Harry, Hermione, and Ron once did.
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This post is in paid collaboration with Marco Polo, of who I am a brand ambassador for 2019.