It’s a well-known secret that J.K. Rowling attended Exeter University in the 1980s and that many of the bars, cafés and shops around the quaint little city in the heart of Devon inspired her when she was writing the Harry Potter series. So much so, that today you can take yourself on a magical Harry Potter tour of Exeter for yourself.
Also worth noting is that the nearby towns and villages of Ottery St Mary, Chudleigh and Topsham were probably the inspiration for ‘Ottery St Catchpole’ (where the Weasley family lives), Topsham (where Madam Nettles lives) and Chudley (possible home of the Crudely Cannons). For more wizarding inspiration in the UK, check out my Harry Potter guide to the UK.
Before you visit Exeter, you need to know a few things. As the capital city of Devon (the other city in the South West county being that of Plymouth), there’s no shortage of things to see and do. And between Roman ruins, an award-winning free to visit town museum, and an excellent foodie scene, there’s pretty much something for everyone! Thanks to its massive popularity, especially during peak season, you’ll want to book your place to stay well in advance so as to secure the best deal. Check accommodation prices here.
Alleged to be | Diagon Alley
Start your walking tour on Exeter High Street and turn down onto Gandy Street, a little road filled with boutique shops and dating back centuries. Filled with tiny boutiques and pretty cafés, it’s not hard to see how Rowling transfigured this street into a magical one.
When wandering down this road look hard enough and you’ll soon spy The Mugglers Inn, a magically-inspired bar that serves cocktails with names such as ‘First Year Experiment’ and ‘Berry Worms’. Update: As of May 2019, the Mugglers Inn (formerly known as the Cauldron Inn) has been closed for refurbishment.
From the end of the road, start walking down towards the boutique shops and bunting. Cross the road (be sure to look both ways), and around halfway down Gandy Street, you’ll see…
The Vaults Nightclub
Alleged to be | Gringotts Bank
And no, I doubt any dragons will be bursting out of the roof any time soon! But, the unique façade of the vaults bar and club in Exeter looks surprisingly like Gringotts Bank from the film…
From Gandy Street, cross over to the other side of the main high street and turn down one of the many small alleys to enter into. En route, you’ll pass by several bookshops, jewellery stores, ancient pubs, and even the building which was once the oldest hotel in Devon.
Alleged to be | the room of Requirements
Alohomora! There is a small door (so small that you’d have to crouch down to go through it) hidden in a corner of the close. The ancient carved door is supposed to be the inspiration behind the door for the Room of Requirements. For more details about this ancient portal, check out my guide to the Room of Requirements door.
After snapping photos of the Room of Requirement door, don’t leave Cathedral Close just yet! After all, you still need to visit the stunning and Gothic Exeter Cathedral. Worth noting is that a huge Roman bath complex is located beneath Exeter Green, and preliminary excavations suggest that the site here may be as important as the Roman Baths of the City of Bath!
Exeter Cathedral Interior
Alleged to be | The Great Hall
The impressive architecture on the inside of Exeter Cathedral supposedly inspired the Great Hall where almost every major event in both the movies and films occurs.
From the Cathedral, turn back on yourself and walk back onto the main high street. Walk down the High Street towards the Next, Boots and John Lewis stores. At the junction by the John Lewis store, turn left and walk down the road for about 150/200 metres. On your right hand side, you’ll see:
The Old Fire House
Alleged to be | The Leakey Cauldron
If at the end of your Harry Potter, you’re feeling a little peckish, no problem! Not only does the Firehouse, Exeter make delicious pizzas, it was also the inspiration for the Leakey Cauldron. And as soon as you step into this cosy pub, you’ll see exactly why! Before ordering these mouthwatering Italian delights, be sure to note that pizzas are absolutely enormous and just one is more than enough to share between two people!