York is a magical place for anyone to visit, but for Harry Potter fans it’s extra special thanks to the city’s connection with JK Rowling’s much-loved books. Grab your cloaks and wands and hop on your broomsticks to enjoy some fantastically enchanting York experiences.
1. Amble down the Shambles – or should that be Diagon Alley?
Popular with Harry Potter fans the world over, York’s famous medieval street, Shambles (an old word meaning meat market or open-air slaughterhouse) is said to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Although none of the Harry Potter films were filmed in York, and JK Rowling hasn’t confirmed the link, walk down the cobbles and you’ll soon see why the connection has been made: its timber-framed buildings ooze history, charm and magic. Formerly a street of butchers’ shops adorned with hanging meat and with raw sewage running along it, it’s a street that could tell a story or two.
Although it retains its original charm, the modern-day Shambles is a sweet-smelling experience with many a treat for Potter fans. Visit The Potions Cauldron at No. 9 ¾ (of course) to make your own magic potion, see the amazing LEGO Hogwarts and visit the potion room. You can even book a potion-making experience.
Also on the Shambles is The Shop that Must Not be Named, complete with official Harry Potter merchandise, a cast of Potter-mad staff and even broomstick parking. It’s the ideal place to pick up a new wand or replace your old cloak. Shambles, York YO1 7LX
2. Visit York Railway Station to cross the King’s Cross bridge
Apparently, the bridge that Harry and Hagrid cross is at York station! There’s some debate about it, but why not take a pilgrimage to York’s main transport hub and watch out for steam trains that are Hogwarts-bound… York Railway Station, Station Road, York YO24 1AB
3. Play wizard-themed golf at The Hole in Wand
The Hole in Wand is a marvellously magical world of magic mini-golf, based in Coppergate near the JORVIK Viking Centre. Play a round, let them host your children’s birthday party or enjoy some of the many other magical experiences on offer. It’s a really fun thing to do with children aged 3+ (although better suited to 6+ if they want a fighting chance of getting a hole in one!). The attention to detail is excellent, it’s good value and you can even just pop in for a drink or something to eat. There are restorative potions and brews on offer, as well as tasty food (use your Little Vikings Family Card for a discount). Visit The Hole in Wand website for the latest information.
4. Magic your way out of a wizard-themed escape room!
New to York, this wizard-themed escape room in the basement of city centre bar, Rehab Piccadilly Cafe Bar, is amusing, immersive fun for the whole family. Solve the clues to make your escape from the room, and have plenty of fun along the way. Rehab Piccadilly, 7-9 Piccadilly York YO1 9PB – visit the Rehab Piccadilly website
5. Head to Hogsmeade (AKA Goathland Station) and climb aboard!
A short drive from York are the North York Moors, one of the most stunning parts of the country. The North York Moors Railway is one of the top visitor attractions, not least because of its connection to the Harry Potter films. Goathland Railway Station was transformed into Hogsmeade, welcoming Harry Potter and his friends to their new term at Hogwarts. While you’re there, we’d really recommend riding the North York Moors Railway for the full experience – it’s a truly magical thing to do, and one of our top recommendations for family days out in the North York Moors. Goathland Station, Cow Wath Bank, Goathland, Whitby YO22 5NF – Visit the North York Moors Railway website
6. Stay at The Enchantment Chamber
For a really immersive Harry Potter experience, there’s no better place to stay than The Enchantment Chamber, a Harry Potter-themed apartment just a snitch’s throw from York city centre. With magical artefacts and attention to detail, it’s a stay to remember. For something more traditional, take a look at our family-friendly places to stay in and around York, from hotels to self-catering. The Enchantment Chamber, 44 Cocoa Suites, Navigation Rd, York YO1 9AE – Visit the Enchantment Chamber website
7. Explore Malham Cove
Have courage, channel your inner Dumbledore and head out to Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales where you’ll see one of the settings for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, where Harry and Hermione hide from Lord Voldemort. There are numerous walking routes for children who are old enough to embark on a hike (or babies who are happy in a carrier) and it’s an absolutely stunning place to go. If you’re looking fora family-friendly place to stay in Malham, we’d recommend The Lister Arms which has very comfortable family rooms. Malham, Skipton BD23 4DJ