Five years ago, I applied to study at Christ Church, Oxford. Because of Harry Potter. So many people laughed at my reasoning but with over 30 different colleges to choose from, this seemed like a pretty legit reason to me. Fast forward to the present and I have just completed my French degree at Christ Church. I have spent the past 4 years wandering around Oxford, pretending I’m a Hogwarts student, and dining in the Great Hall every night, which was literally a dream come true. Most people comment that the old colleges here remind them of Hogwarts but there are a few locations dotted around the city that really were used in the Harry Potter films. Without further ado, here are six unmissable pitstops you have to make on a visit to Oxford.
Duke Humphrey’s Library
First up is the Bodleian Library. This is the main library at the university and it is open to all students and all subjects. It is one of the largest libraries in the world, second only to the British Museum in London! Inside, there are many smaller libraries, none more special than Duke Humphrey’s Library, aka the restricted section of Hogwarts library. In the Philosopher’s Stone film, we see Harry creeping around here under his invisibility cloak before he is given away by a screaming book.
Whilst you might think that this library would be one of the most popular libraries at Oxford University, I actually found it to be pretty empty most of the time. This library dates back to the 15th century so all the books are incredibly old and delicate. You’re not allowed to bring your bag into this section if you want to study there, you’re not even allowed a small bottle of water! The books that line the desks are alarmed so if you touch them, the guard will be alerted – so it really is like the restricted section!
The Divinity School
Whilst you’re at the Bodleian, make sure you take a peek into the Divinity School, which was used as the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts. When it was first build it was used for lectures, oral exams and lectures on theology, but it is no longer used today. The iconic ceiling design is stunning and I love that the name sounds a little like Divination (probably my least favourite subject at Hogwarts).
New College Cloisters
The Cloisters at New College are instantly recognisable to Harry Potter fans and walking through them will make you feel like you’re walking through the corridors of Hogwarts. These particular cloisters are used in the fourth Harry Potter film, where Draco Malfoy is (hilariously) turned into a ferret by Mad Eye Moody. New College is one of the biggest and oldest colleges at Oxford so it is well worth a visit even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan.
Christ Church Cloisters
Finally, let’s talk about Christ Church, the college I called home for four years. A lesser known fact about it, even to the students, is that the cloisters here were also used in the Harry Potter films. The space just outside the gift shop at Christ Church is where Hermione revealed to Harry that his father was a brilliant seeker during his time at Hogwarts.
Christ Church Stairwell
A more well-known filming location is the stairwell, leading up to the Great Hall. These iconic Harry Potter steps were used in multiple films, but they are mostly known for the grand arrival of the students at Hogwarts on their very first day. McGonagall stands tapping her fingers at the top of the stairs as she waits for the new students to enter so she can brief them about the Sorting Ceremony. It is also the staircase that Harry and Ron hurry up when they arrive at Hogwarts via Arthur Weasley’s flying car in The Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately they were soon caught by Mr Filch..
The Great Hall at Christ Church
And I’ve saved the best til last! The dining hall at Christ Church was the inspiration for the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Filming took place at Leavesden Studios (see my review here!) where they recreated this hall, taking inspiration from all the portraits and the long tables. This is the dining hall where Christ Church students dine every single evening as there are no kitchens! This is possibly (probably), the only college that still does not have a canteen for the evening meals, and instead all three courses are served to the students by the hall staff. I have to say, the food is pretty awful, but with views like this (and seriously cheap food), you can’t complain!
All in all, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you need to take a day trip to Oxford. The city is simply magical and there are so many Potter related locations to visit. Walking through these colleges will make you feel like you’re truly walking through the halls of Hogwarts, which is an experience like no other! Reams and reams of tourists come to this beautiful city every day and there’s always a large number of them sporting Hogwarts scarves.
Oxford is really easy to access by either bus or train. If you’re coming from London then you can either take the Oxford Tube (which, funnily enough, is actually a bus) or the train from Paddington. The journey should take no longer than an hour and a half and is usually much shorter if you’re not travelling during rush hour.
So are you a Harry Potter fan? What Harry Potter locations have you visited or do you plan or visiting?
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