Be sure to visit the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes for some whacky souvenirs
For everyone who grew up with Harry Potter, and more than a few besides, the Great Hall encapsulates the magic of Harry Potter. It holds the long oak tables for the four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and lowly Hufflepuff. Overhead, hundreds of candles hover in midair and an illusion turns the ceiling into a sky, inky black and with a sprinkling of stars or radiant blue with scattered clouds, like rips of cotton wool. This is where the Sorting Hat does its thing, countless feasts materialise out of thin air (many thanks, Dobby & co.) and the occasional exam or duels take place.
Hogwarts’ Great Hall was based on that of another venerable institution that dresses its students in gowns, the University of Oxford. Christchurch College, one of the university’s oldest and richest colleges - which is saying something - is home to the inspiration. It is well worth a visit, but you don’t need to go to Oxford to see the Harry Potter Great Hall.
The Warner Bros. Studio in Hertfordshire is home to sets from all the Harry Potter films, including the replica Great Hall — and this one you can actually dine in. If you go in December you can eat a Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings of course, before seeing the rest of the set, including the Gryffindor common room in full Christmas decoration.
The dinner is for over 18s as they serve alcohol, but you can visit any other time with the children. And there is much more besides the great hall: you can see how the movies were created as you tour the sets, admire the costumes and props, pose next to the Hogwarts Express and meander down Diagon Alley. Just don’t get lost now…
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