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An Overnight Stay at Hogwarts!

Planning a dream-come-true trip to Hogwarts

After reading J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and seeing the movies, it's nearly impossible not to fantasize about actually going to Hogwarts. What if that dream could come true?

In a way, it can.

Hogwarts, as it appears onscreen in the Harry Potter movies, is not one place but several. Some of the scenes set in and around Hogwarts were filmed at Leavesden Studios. Those studios, where you'll find a detailed model of the exterior of Hogwarts Castle and a few Hogwarts interior sets, can be visited by booking tickets for Warner Bros. Studios Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. (Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden is easily accessible from London in about an hour by taking an express train from Euston Station to Watford Junction and then a dedicated studio tour bus at Watford Junction.)
Jen visiting the Great Hall set from the Harry Potter movies at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden
But Hogwarts also exists in real life, outside the studio walls. The filmmakers used a number of fantastic old buildings to portray Hogwarts in the movies. It is still possible to visit many of these places, and they are just as magical in person as they appear onscreen. Lacock Abby (in Wiltshire), Gloucester Cathedral (in Gloucester), St Paul's Cathedral (in London), Alnwick Castle (in Alnwick), and buildings in and around Oxford University (in Oxford) all shared the role of Hogwarts in the films. In August 2018, Jen (AKA: J.W. Lynne) from mydreamcametrue.com visited the most famous Harry Potter filming sites in Oxford.

There are many Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford: the staircase where the first year students meet Professor McGonagall and where Harry reunites with Ron and Hermione at the end of the first movie and where Filtch scolds Harry and Ron when they arrive at Hogwarts via flying car (Christ Church College), the hallway where Harry learns that his father was a star Quidditch player (Christ Church College), the pretty courtyard with the old oak tree where Professor Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret (New College), Hogwarts' infirmary and the room where McGonagall teaches her students to dance before the Yule Ball (Bodleian Library's Divinity School), and Hogwarts' library (Bodleian Library's Duke Humphrey's Library).

Staying overnight at Hogwarts!

Staying overnight at a Hogwarts filming location just might be the closest one can get to staying at Hogwarts. As of this writing, it is possible to stay overnight at one of the most recognizable of all of the Harry Potter filming locations. A few weeks out of the year (usually during March, April, July, August, and/or September), bedrooms at Oxford University's Christ Church College can be booked for an overnight stay that includes a full English breakfast served in Christ Church College's splendid Great Hall. Reportedly, this Great Hall was a major source of inspiration for the design of Hogwarts' Great Hall set, which was built by the film construction crews at Leavesden Studios. In August 2018, my mom and I booked an overnight stay at Christ Church College. Here's what it was like ...


Oxford is easy to visit without a car, using inexpensive public transportation, from the city of London (via train or bus) or from Heathrow Airport (via bus). We arrived in Oxford from Heathrow Airport in about 90 minutes via The Airline (a bus service), and we were dropped off at a bus stop on St. Aldates, directly across the street from Christ Church College. At the porter's lodge, we checked in for our stay, and we were each presented with a blue satin lanyard and our "keys to the kingdom": an identification badge and a medallion that opened the doors that would admit us to our dormitories. We were instructed to ignore the signs that we would encounter throughout the grounds that said "Private." Those signs apply only to daytime visitors, we were told. The college was ours to explore!

We made our way across Tom Quad, feeling dwarfed by its expansive size.
Tom Quad
Then we turned a corner, and we saw Hogwarts' entry staircase!
Hogwarts' entry staircase in real life!
Campus map in hand, we walked down a small flight of stairs, exited through the same door that Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered when they first arrived at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (aka: Philosopher's) Stone, crossed a quiet courtyard, ducked into the cloisters, passed one of those signs that said "Private," and, at the end of the corridor, found ourselves staring at the Meadows Building, a gorgeous weathered building worthy of an appearance on the big screen (though it didn't appear in the Harry Potter movies) that would be our home for the next few nights.
Christ Church College's Meadows Building
Our rooms

At the top of five flights of stairs were our dormitories.
My dormitory
My ensuite bathroom
My window offered a view of a courtyard lined by towering stone buildings that looked like they would be right at home at Hogwarts.
View from my dormitory
My mom's window looked out over Christ Church meadow, where cattle graze, people stroll, and construction crews were busy building a visitor's center to accommodate the masses of people who come to visit Christ Church College.
View from Mom's dormitory
Exploring the grounds

By the time we settled into our rooms, the custodians were clearing the grounds of the day visitors, and so we set out to explore. Now sans luggage, we returned to the Hogwarts entry staircase and ascended, just like the first year students did in the film.
The Hogwarts entry staircase
As we neared the top of the stairs, we could imagine Professor McGonagall welcoming us to Hogwarts, just as she did to young Harry, Ron, and Hermione in that very spot many years ago. Aside from the occasional custodian and fellow overnight guest passing by, we had the staircase all to ourselves, allowing us to feel as if we had stepped right into the Harry Potter movies.
Looking up at the top of the Hogwarts entry staircase
As we continued wandering about, we spotted another filming location from the first Harry Potter movie: the hallway where Hermione showed Harry that his father was a star Quidditch player. Again, aside from the rare custodian and overnight guest, were all alone in the hallways of Hogwarts.
Jen in the hallway where Hermione showed Harry that his father was a star Quidditch player
Exhausted from our red-eye flight, we decided to retire to our dormitories for the evening. After a refreshing shower, we settled into our beds. The mattresses were rather thin, with almost no padding over the innersprings but, since it was summer, I slept very comfortably using the duvet as a mattress pad with the sheet and spare blanket on top of me to keep me warm.

Breakfast in the Great Hall

In the early hours of the next day, we once again ascended the staircase that Harry, Ron, and Hermione did on their way to the Great Hall. Although the movie scenes in Hogwart's Great Hall were filmed in a soundstage at Leavesden Studios, there is a real Great Hall at the top of the stairs at Christ Church. Just outside the Hall, we found a buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereals.
Buffet of fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereals
We collected a bit of food and then entered the magnificent Great Hall.
The Great Hall!
Waiting for us there were eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, bacon, sausage, and toast.
Hot foods in the Great Hall
We were directed to sit at the head table, where we felt as if we were Hogwarts professors looking out on their students (the students who were present during our visit were actually college students participating in a summer program at Christ Church).
The head table in the Great Hall
Already, our trip to Oxford was a dream come true, but there were even more Harry Potter filming locations waiting for us just outside of the walls of Christ Church. You can read about our experience visiting them and see my photos of the filming locations here.
I did this in 2018 in Oxford, United Kingdom
~ Jen (California, USA)


Jen is also known as J.W. Lynne, a best selling author of twelve novels.
Check out her books on Amazon:

THE UNKNOWN: Eight kids learn the shocking reason why they were kidnapped.

ABOVE THE SKY: A girl lives in a world where touching her soulmate is forbidden.

WHAT HE DIDN'T TELL ME: A traumatized girl meets a boy with a horrible secret.

IF I TELL: A teen wonders if her father is a serial killer.

: A teen is locked in a bunker to take a simulated trip to the moon.

WILD ANIMAL SCHOOL: A girl falls in love with a boy at an exotic animal ranch.

KID DOCS: An experimental program turns kids into doctors.

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Besides reading books and dreaming up stories to write, Jen's favorite activities are singing along to musical theater soundtracks and hiking in California's beautiful parks.
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