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Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)
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If the magic is still real for you too, then a visit to the city of dreaming spires, AKA Oxford, will guarantee a trip down memory lane in the form of plenty of Harry Potter filming locations, inspiration, and more. And so, if you’re looking for a dreamy destination, then experience the mystery and history of one of England’s oldest university cities during this tour of Harry Potter in Oxford!

Editor’s note: Though all of these locations can be seen as a self-guided experience on a long weekend in Oxford or as a day trip from London, there are, of course, ways to go on guided tours of the city with an experienced and knowledgable local. For example, this guided tour will show you all of the best magical sites the city has to offer!

Free & self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Dining Hall, Christ Church College

The main highlight of Christ Church College, a piece of Oxford University which was first founded by Henry VIII is the magnificent dining hall. This long room was used as the inspiration for ‘The Great Hall’ in the wizarding series. And so, if you make it your mission to see just one Harry Potter filming location in Oxford, then make it the dining hall.

Although actual filming took place in the Leavesden Studio, this Tudor Dining Hall remains well worth a wander through. While the dining hall itself dates all the way back to 16th-century Tudor times, some of the paintings on the wall date back even further. Many of the windows there are filled with stunning stained glass.

One stained glass window of note is dedicated to the fantastical works of Charles Dodgson (better-known as his pen-name of Lewis Carroll- aka the author of the Alice in Wonderland series of books). Dodgson attended Christ Church, as did a plethora of other iconic authors, artists, and politicians. King Edward VI and Albert Einstein even studied there!

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Bodley Tower Staircase, Christ Church College

For those who are familiar with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Bodley Tower Staircase likely needs no introduction. This beautiful set of steps can be found on the way up to the Christ Church dining hall and a visit here is included in the ticket admission price for Christ Church College.

The ornate staircase was used in the scene where McGonagall meets Harry, Ron, and Hermione for the first time, as well as in the scene where Ron and Harry rush to the Great Hall following the flying car incident. It’s worth noting that Bodley Tower is not named for the same man as the Bodleian Library, but instead for the architect G.F. Bodley.

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.) Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Cloisters, Christ Church College

Elsewhere on the Christ Church campus, filming locations can be found in abundance. Some of the hallways- specifically those of the Cloisters- were used as the setting for the scene where Harry Potter discovers that his father was a Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

While some of the other Harry Potter in Oxford filming locations are much better-known, the Cloisters is more of a hidden gem of movie sets. These beautiful cloisters, which now house an Oxford University gift shop, were originally where the Priory of St Frideswide was located until the 16th-century. Frideswide was the first abbess of Oxford Monastery and is now interred in the very heart of Christ Church Cathedral.

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

New College Cloisters, Bridge of Sighs & Oak Tree

Conveniently easy to spot behind Oxford’s very own Bridge of Sighs, the giant Oak tree which featured during a duel between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire can be seen in New College Cloisters. And while the cloisters themselves are closed to the public, a photo of the tree can still be snapped from the roadside!

For those more interested in the history of Oxford University (rather than Harry Potter in Oxford locations), the Bridge of Sighs has a rather unique history. This structure spans the space between Hertford College and New College and is now a Grade II listed building, making it a must-see Oxford landmark.

Constructed at the beginning of the 20th-century, the bridge was meant to be Oxford’s very own version of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Somehow, however, the architecture was quite literally lost in translation and so this bridge actually resembles the Rialto Bridge of Venice!

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Bodleian Library: Divinity School

This beautiful room was first constructed between 1427 and 1483 for teaching theology. Back then, Theology was the only, and lectures and exams were done orally. The room is directly opposite the RadCam (Radcliffe Camera) and lies directly underneath Duke Humphrey’s Library.

The Divinity School also happens to be the oldest surviving purpose-built university room. During Harry Potter filming, the room was used as a sanatorium (infirmary). The carved ceilings of the room, as well as its beautiful architecture, means that it has been used as a backdrop for several other high budget movies, including X Men: First Class and the Golden Compass.

Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)Self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Bodleian Library: Duke Humphrey’s Library

If you’re not a student (or a member of the British Royal Family!), then this world-famous library can, unfortunately, only be seen as part of a guided tour. No photos are allowed to be taken within the library (although I did find a couple on Instagram!). During the Harry Potter films, part of the Bodleian Library was used as the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library.

Historically, Duke Humphrey’s Library dates all the way back to the 15th-century and is also home to the oldest reading room at the University. The library is named for one of Henry IV’s younger sons and architecturally forms an ‘H’ shape, for ‘Humphrey’.

Alden's Oxford guide: with key-plan of the University and city, and numerous engravings (1903)

Alden’s Oxford guide: with key-plan of the University and city, and numerous engravings (1903)

How to visit Oxford (and see the Harry Potter in Oxford filming locations)

If you’re a little short on time in the UK but still want to see some of the magic for yourself, then a day trip to Oxford from London couldn’t be easier. During the daytime, trains depart every half-hour from Paddington Station and take just over an hour.

Alternatively, for a stress-free visit with no self transfers, this Oxford, Stratford, and Cotswolds Day Trip from London tour combines many of the major attractions in the local area. For more magic on a day trip to Oxford from the UK capital city, this Harry Potter Studio Tour & Oxford Day Tour from London provides the perfect wizarding experience!

All of the Harry Potter in Oxford locations in this list can be visited within the space of a day, all the while checking out some of the other highlights of this historic UK city. If you’re looking for other interesting things to do in Oxford, then I highly recommend visiting Blackwell’s Bookshop (which houses the largest single room selling books in the world).

For one of the best views of the city (after all, Oxford isn’t called the City of Dreaming Spires for nothing!) then I recommend paying a few pounds to ascend the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Later on, head to FREUD cocktail bar, for some of the best drinks in town. This bar is housed within a former 19th-century church and is perfect to visit on a warm summer’s night.

FREUD, Oxford: Cocktails and coffee in a Former 20th-Century Church with Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows, Oxford, England

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Free & self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

Free & self-Guided Tour to the Best of Harry Potter in Oxford: here are the very best filming locations in Oxford, England (Christ Church College, Bodleian Library, etc.)

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Tania Fonseca
    4th April 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Can´t wait to follow your tips next month! Thank you for such a great guide!

  • Reply
    Alasdair de Voil
    3rd February 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Sophie, great article.

    By the way, anyone who wants to visit Christchurch, please be aware that on Saturdays year round or during Xmas or summer high season daily, Christchurch gets very busy and can have long queues to enter. However, Christchurch website sell advance entry skip queue tickets which go on sale on Thursday ever week for Monday to Sunday of the following week. Entry costs from £8-£10 per adult.

    In my view though, all of us tour guides who deliver Oxford tours much prefer visiting the other two film sites which are New college and the Bodleian library. New college is free entry but from 2pm to 3.45pm last entry from approx March 10-Oct 14th. Then it charges £5/6 per child/adult from March 11th to Oct. 13th but opens from 10am to last entry 4.45pm. New college is older & has lots more to see than Christchurch. They both have wonderful dining halls but please note that the Hogwarts dining hall is entirely CGI shot at WarnerBros studio!

    Divinity school now costs £2 per entry and is open daily from 10am to 4.40pm last entry but is sometimes closed for private events or graduations. Divinity school is where they filmed Hogwarts infirmary and also dance scenes. By the way, as for the Bodleian medieval library, you can also visit there so long as no children aged under 11 and it is open from 10am daily (11am on Sundays) till last entry about 4.30pm but you have to join the library’s official tours which run every half hour and cost from about £7 upwards.

    Please note that this info was correct on Feb 3rd 2019 and it is written by Oxford’s best reviewed Harry Potter film sites tour operator.

  • Reply
    K
    26th November 2018 at 5:31 pm

    New College is actually open to the public at certain times, and is well worth a visit to see the cloisters and tree featured in the movie, as well as the courtyards, beautiful chapel, and dining hall. You can get a map and some information for a self-guided tour at the entrance to the college on Holywell Street. Here’s a website showing open times at all the colleges: https://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors/visiting-oxford/visiting-the-colleges?wssl=1 .

  • Reply
    Kathi
    14th July 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Wow, Harry Potter or not, those locations look gorgeous! I love HP though and have been to the studios outside of London and rode the steam train in Scotland. I’ll ddefinitely have to come and visit Oxford next!!

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