Dining Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford. Image courtesy of David Nicholls via Flickr Commons.

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Oxford’s Harry Potter Filming Locations: Hogwarts’ The Great Hall

Dining Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford. Image courtesy of David Nicholls via Flickr Commons.

The Great Hall is one of Hogwarts‘ most memorable places. For one, it’s the main gathering location for students and teachers, who flock to its beautiful tables to eat, study, get owl mail, and celebrate important events. If you’re visiting Oxford and you love Harry Potter, you’re probably aware that the Great Hall was, in fact, heavily inspired by Christ Church’s Dining Hall. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this Harry Potter filming location, including how and when to visit, what details you should not miss, and more. So, let’s get started!

What Is The Great Hall from Harry Potter?

The best way to describe this iconic location is to read the words from the Harry Potter books. In them, the Great Hall is introduced like this:

It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting… The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight… Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars… It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heaven.

The Great Hall at Night
From the movies: The Great Hall at night. Image courtesy of Harry Potter Wiki.

It sounds incredible, doesn’t it? And I’m pretty sure you’ll agree the movie did the Great Hall honour, with those floating candles, exquisite banquets, and changing ceilings. 

Let’s quickly set the mood as we start delving into why Christ Church, Oxford, was the inspiration for this amazing filming location. The Great Hall is located right off the Entrance Hall. It’s the first proper place Harry, Hermione, and Ron (as well as any first-year student) see when they enter Hogwarts… and it’s, naturally, enchanted. Literally. For example, during Halloween, the hall is filled with pumpkins, bats, and orange streamers, and at Christmas, there are twelve magical Christmas trees. 

The Hall consists of a large space with tables for students and a High Table that houses the entire staff of Hogwarts. In the centre is the Headteacher’s seat, a throne. From left to right, the student tables belong to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. 

Christ Church College: The Inspiration for the Great Hall

If you have ever visited Oxford or have seen images or videos, chances are you will instantly notice where J.K Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The city is a magical collection of gothic vaulted ceilings and staircases, as well as old libraries and wonderful great halls. But Oxford did more than inspire Harry Potter. Many of its colleges were actually used for filming. 

You can follow this link if you want to see a complete list of Oxford Harry Potter filming locations.

Here are some images of the Dining Hall at Christ Church, Oxford. Can you see the similarities?

Harry Potter Filming Locations: Christ Church's Dining Hall. Photo courtesy of ChiralJon via Flickr Commons.
Harry Potter Filming Locations: Christ Church's Dining Hall. Photo courtesy of ChiralJon via Flickr Commons.
Harry Potter filming locaitons in Christ Church Oxford
Detail of Christ Church's Dining Hall. Photo courtesy of ChiralJon via Flickr Commons.
Dining Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford. Image courtesy of David Nicholls via Flickr Commons.
Dining Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford. Image courtesy of David Nicholls via Flickr Commons.

If you want to learn more about Christ Church College, you can also take a look at this article, which covers its history, architecture, and activities, and includes information on how and when to visit if you’re stopping by Oxford:

Oxford Christ Church College - Image courtesy ofArnaud Malon

Christ Church College

Christ Church is college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII and is one of the larger colleges.

The Dining Hall and The Great Hall

The design for the Hogwarts Great Hall set in the films was based, as we have mentioned, on the dining hall at Christ Church, Oxford. 

The Hall is considered Christ Church’s finest surviving section of the original foundation of the College. With a Renaissance style, it gives you an excellent idea of the magnificent scale of the then-called Cardinal College. Until 1870, in fact, this dining hall was the largest in all of Oxford (Keble College then took the crown, although theirs is only one more meter long). 

Christ Church’s Dining Hall or Great Hall was completed in the 1520s and has been in constant use since then. One of the best things about it, most people agree, is the spectacular vaulted ceiling, which was built by Humphrey Coke (the chief carpenter of Henry VIII). 

The Great Hall during Halloween
From the movies: The Great Hall during Halloween. Image courtesy of Harry Potter Wiki.

The Hall was almost destroyed in 1720 when a fire broke out after the choristers attempted to burn some Christmas decorations in its fireplaces. Luckily, the beams that caught fire were promptly repaired and repainted with what are now over 600 heraldic devices.

Today, the Great Hall is decorated with numerous portraits that celebrate the history of Christ Church and its members. If you visit, don’t forget to say hi to Henry VIII, the founder of the college, whose painting rests at the very far end. Oh! And don’t miss the stained glass windows, which were finished in 1985 and celebrate the vibrant heritage of Christ Church College, including the work of Lewis Carroll.

So, Was Harry Potter Filmed In This Hall?

You might be disappointed to learn that the movies were not actually filmed here. The Great Hal at Christ Church, Oxford, serves as the inspiration. However, considering how many scenes take place in this iconic location within Hogwarts, it’s not surprising. Warner Bros wanted to have their own Hall at their studios. 

So, the ‘real’ Great Hall (the one you see in the films) is in the Harry Potter Leavesden studios, outside London. 

We got some good news, though. There is one location here that did see Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint ‘in person’: The staircase where Professor McGonagall first meets Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It’s right outside the Great Hall at Christ Church!

Can you Visit this Harry Potter Filming Location?

Of course, you can! The colleges of Oxford University and the streets of Oxford city that inspired the books and movies are all open to the public all year round. You don’t even need to book your visit; you can just drop by, pay a small entrance fee, and be transported right to Hogwarts.

This applies also to Christ Church College, which is open practically all day long. If you’re unsure whether the college will be open, you can check their website here and/or book a ticket in advance for £10. There are also guided tours every 30 to 60 minutes. 

You can use this map to find your way around the different Harry Potter filming locations:

Map of Oxford Harry Potter Filming Locations
Map of Oxford Harry Potter Filming Locations

Looking for Harry Potter Tours and Experiences?

Are you looking for a more organised way to enjoy Oxford (and London) through some magic lenses? Here’s a small collection of tours and experiences that transport you to the spellbinding realms of wizardry and wonder. Immerse yourself in the magic that inspired J.K. Rowling’s iconic series as you explore the captivating landscapes of Oxford and London, where the wizarding world comes to life:

Can’t see this widget? Use this link instead.

Books to Help You Explore Harry Potter Filming Locations

If you want to learn more about the Geat Hall (Dining Hall) and other Harry Potter filming locations, and learn why J.K Rowling and the creators of the films were so inspired by Oxford, here are some good books I recommend:

Explore literature landmarks and filming locations in Oxford and its surrounding areas. Harry Potter, Tolkien, Lewis, Carrol, and many more. Browse All >

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