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Duke Humfrey’s Library – Visit Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Library (2024)!

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One of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen is Duke Humfrey’s Library in Oxford which forms part of the Bodleian libraries. 

Also known as the Bodleian Old Library, it’s one of the oldest reading rooms in all of Europe founded in the 15th century.

Today, it is still a working library that is open for students and readers alike but you have to take a sacred oath to read any of the books!

Even if you aren’t a sworn member, you can still visit this incredible book trove as part of a Bodleian Library tour. 

Harry Potter fans will love visiting this library as it featured as a filming location for Hogwarts Library including the restricted sections in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 

Here is a complete guide to Duke Humfrey’s Library and how to visit this incredible reading room in Oxford.

Duke Humfrey's Library Harry Potter Hogwarts Library oxford
Duke Humfrey's Library Harry Potter

Duke Humfrey Library History 

This incredible historic library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, the 1st Duke of Gloucester. One of King Henry IV’s younger sons. 

He was an avid collector of books and maps and had many classical works of Greek and Latin translated into English.

When he died in 1447, he donated his entire collection of 281 books to the University of Oxford. 

This was a massive relief to the academy as, at the time, the university only had 20 books in its collection. 

You have to think that this was a time before the Gutenberg Press so many books were hand-made and hand-painted and they were very expensive. Most were only owned by the rich and people of status.

Duke Humphrey's Library Oxford
Duke Humfrey's Library

This reading room was constructed as a second storey to the Divinity School in 1450 to protect the collection. 

In 1550, during the Reformation, the library was damaged due to the references to Roman Catholicism.

Many pieces of furniture and books were burnt. Only three of Duke Humphrey’s original books remain in the collection today.

The library was eventually restored in 1598 by Sir Thomas Bodley. There are several desks in-between the bookshelves and on the ceilings are painted ceiling panels with coats of arms of the university. 

Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford

A short time later the Arts End or East Wing was added. Twenty years after that the west wing or Selden End was added. So, now the library resembles an H shape.

The library originally served as a reading room for maps, music and rare books that pre-dated 1641.

However, after the introduction of the Weston Library or New Bodleian Library, it only serves as an additional reading room today.

It’s now one of the oldest reading rooms that you can find in all of Europe and an important historical archive of knowledge. 

Duke Humfrey's Library

The library today 

Nowadays, Duke Humfrey’s Library is still part of the Bodleian Library complex and invites students and members to study, read or use its archives daily.

The Bodleian is one of the largest libraries in Britain second only to the British Library.

It’s a service that has been supporting the University of Oxford for the past 400 years and they have millions of books (yes, over 13 million) and nearly every publication you can ever think of!

The only way that you can visit some of these libraries is if you’re a student at Oxford, a member of the library or by taking a private tour. 

Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford

Bodleian Oath & becoming a reader of the library

Anyone is welcome to become a member of the Bodleian Library and use their books but, to do that, you must recite the Bodleian Oath during a sacred ceremony. 

It’s a promise that every reader is required to read out loud on seeking admission to the Bodleian Libraries.

In medieval times this used to be recited in Latin but has now (thankfully) been translated into English. The formal declaration goes as follows;

“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”

To take it further, all the books are chained to the library shelves and are alarmed. So, if you want to read one of the precious tomes, you must ask security to deactivate the alarm for you to read it. 

No food or drink is allowed inside the reading rooms (even water). Sometimes, you may even be asked to wear gloves while handling the items! 

So, most members simply use this library as a quiet study space. Although these bookshelves are old, every desk has a plug and USB sockets for laptops!

Duke Humphrey's Library Oxford

Duke Humfrey’s Library Harry Potter connection

The reason why Potterheads will love Duke Humfrey’s Library is due to it being a Harry Potter filming location in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The production crew used the Bodleian Libraries for the Hogwarts Library and the restricted section scenes.

Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford

This is where Harry Potter sneaks in with his invisibility cloak during the Christmas Holidays. 

He enters the restricted section at night time to look for information on Nicolas Flamel’s connection to the Philosopher’s Stone.

When you enter this magical library, it does feel like you’ve stepped into a part of Hogwarts. So, it’s must must-visit for any Harry Potter fan visiting Oxford. 

Click here to watch the Hogwarts Library scene on YouTube

Duke Humfrey's Library Hogwarts Library

A Discovery of Witches 

Harry Potter isn’t the only production that used Duke Humfrey’s Library as a filming location with a magical theme.

A Discovery of Witches on Sky used this historic library to film the series and this is where Diana and Mathew first meet. 

Duke Humphrey's Library discovery of witches

However, you may be surprised that they didn’t actually film inside the library. Instead, they recreated it as set in its exact dimensions (with a few extras) in Cardiff’s Bad Wolf Studios.

Fans of the show will still love it though as on your tour you will really feel like you’re following in their footsteps. 

Duke of Humfrey's Library Discovery of Witches

Can you visit Duke Humphrey’s Library in Oxford?

Yes, you can visit Duke Humfrey’s Library in Oxford even if you aren’t a sworn member.

But, be aware that you can only visit Duke Humfrey’s Library by booking a guided tour of the Bodleian Libraries. You can book a 30, 60 or 90-minute tour depending on your interest.

For most, a 30-minute tour is sufficient as you get to see both the Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library. 

Duke Humfrey's Library Tour

Tour prices start from £10 for a 30-minute tour, £15 for a 60-minute tour and £20 for a 90-minute tour that includes a look inside the Radcliffe Camera.

It’s recommended to book your tour time well in advance as these are very popular and can sell out. This is especially important in the summer months. 

In my opinion, visiting the Bodleian Library complex is a must-do in the City of Dreaming Spires.

Click here to book a tour of the Bodleian Libraries

Duke Humphrey's Library Tour

What to expect on a Bodleian Library tour 

Most of the private tours start in the Divinity School where you’ll be given a short introduction to the tour and the history of the building.

Then, depending on the tour you’ve chosen, you’ll head on to the Duke Humfrey Library and the Radcliffe Camera.

There will be several steps required to access the upper floors of the library and there are no accessible lifts. So, keep this in mind! 

Duke Humfrey's Library
Duke Humfrey's Library Tour

Divinity School – Harry Potter filming location 

Harry Potter fans cannot miss a visit to the Divinity School as this was another Harry Potter filming location. 

It was built during the medieval era in the 15th century and used to be where lectures and exams were held. Now it is only used for events, student ceremonies, and tours.

This incredible room was used as the Hogwarts Hospital Wing during Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Do you remember when Dumbledore eats an earwax Every Flavour Bean?

Divinity School Oxford Harry Potter

It’s also the Hospital Wing during Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when many of the students are petrified including Hermione Granger. And again, it appears during the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry wakes up after defeating the Dementors. 

You’ll also see poor Ron here at the Divinity School during Half-Blood Prince. He drinks poison that was meant for Dumbledore. Harry quickly saves his life with some Bezoar he got from Slughorn.

By far my favourite scene from the Divinity School has to be when the students are practicing their dances for the Yule Ball. Ron will never live down dancing with Professor McGonagall!

Even if you don’t want to do a guided tour, you can book a self-guided visit to the Divinity School for £2.50 per person and it’s open daily. You just need to prebook your timeslot to guarantee entry. 

Divinity School Oxford Harry Potter filming location

Convocation House and Chancellor’s Court

At the back of the Divinity School, you can access the Convocation House and Chancellor’s Court. 

The Convocation House was a meeting house for the University of Oxford’s Convocation and was almost like a courtroom for the university. 

It became the House of Commons for the Royalists during the English Civil War in the 1660s and 1680s. King Charles I and II have both sat on the head chair.

The adjoining room is the Chancellor’s Court where legal proceedings used to take place.

Oscar Wilde was famously tried here for not paying his tailor. It’s thought he owed him over £2,000 in today’s money. So, he was fined by the university court. 

Today, you can rent out these rooms for all sorts of parties, events and weddings. What a magical location for a celebration.

Oxford Convocation House
Oxford Convocation House

Duke Humfrey’s Library 

After you tour the Divinity School, you’ll take the stairs to the upper floors and step inside the majestic Duke Humfrey’s Library.

As soon as you walk in, you’ll be hit by the most glorious smell of leather-bound books and parchment. It’s hard to describe but it’s the most wonderful scent.

You’ll see many prized books and these are all chained to the shelves. This was a tradition to stop books from being taken from the library years ago.

If you look up you’ll see some beautiful artwork on the ceiling which are the arms of the university.

Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford

Also, above the bookshelves, you’ll see several portraits of benefactors, including Queen Elizabeth I.

Harry Potter fans will recognise the central aisle that featured in the first movie where Hermione ‘had Harry and Ron looking in the wrong section’ when she was doing some ‘light reading’.

This is where she explains about Nicolas Flamel and the connection to the Philosopher’s Stone.

Also, in the first room, you’ll see where they filmed Harry entering the restricted section of Hogwarts Library. If in doubt, ask your tour guide to point out the filming locations. 

It’s honestly the most breathtaking library and it’s so special to think that you’re standing in one of the oldest reading rooms in all of Europe. 

Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford

Duke Humfrey Library photography rules

They have (very recently) changed their photography rules at Duke Humfrey’s Library during private tours.

You’re allowed to take photos of the library with your phone (not with a DSLR) but you are not allowed to take videos.

This is a great development as it is one of the prettiest libraries I’ve ever seen and I feel that it deserves to be seen. So, get snapping on your tour!

If you’re planning a private photography session for a wedding or special event, the library is available to be rented out for this purpose too.

Duke Humphrey's Library

Is a Bodleian Library tour worth it?

100% yes, I truly do believe that a Bodleian Library tour is worth the money. Whether you’re a history lover, a Harry Potter fan or an avid reader.

During your tour, you not only get to see these amazing book troves but also learn so much history and interesting information with their expert guides.

Duke Humfrey's Library

You can take a short tour of 30 minutes or take a longer tour of 60 or 90 minutes if you choose. All of them are great value for money. 

A visit to the Bodleian Library is something you simply cannot miss whilst in Oxford. Just make sure to book your tour well in advance as they tend to sell out in high season. 

Duke Humphrey's Library Oxford

What else can you see at the Bodleian Libraries? 

Even if you don’t plan to take a guided tour of the Bodleian Libraries you can still visit the buildings around the complex for free.

These famous monuments are truly some of the highlights of Oxford and places you cannot miss in the City of Dreaming Spires. 

Make sure to add these locations to your Oxford bucket list. 

Bodleian Libraries Oxford

Radcliffe Camera 

The icon of Oxford is Radcliffe Camera which is part of the Bodleian Library complex. 

The building is home to another historic archive but the name can be a bit misleading – there is no camera inside!

The building is called that because the word ‘camera’ translates to ‘room’ in Latin.

The circular building was constructed from 1737 to 1749 and is named after John Radcliffe who was a physician. He left £40,000 upon his death to build the structure for the colleges of Oxford.

Radcliffe Camera Oxford
Radcliffe Camera

The only way you can go inside is if you’re a Bodleian Library member or you can go on a 90-minute guided tour.

But, even if you don’t go inside, a visit to see the Radcliffe Camera from the outside is a must.

You can take a photo down below or for the best view head up to the Look Out at St Mary’s Church Tower. You pay a small free to climb the steps.

After, make sure to have a coffee or some brunch at The Vault Café next door.

They have an outdoor seating area with majestic views of the RadCam. Or, stop by the Narnia Door which was a C. S. Lewis inspiration.

St Mary's Church Tower Lookout Oxford
A view of Radcliffe Camera from St Mary’s Church Tower

Weston Library Free Exhibitions 

Another great place to visit during your tour of the Bodleian Libraries is the Weston Library opposite the Sheldonian Theatre.

This is a modern library complex also known as the New Bodleian Library which is the the main research library of the University of Oxford.

There is a FREE exhibition you can visit which has some of the special collections of the Bodleian on display. It’s well worth checking out. 

Beyond the exhibitions, the Weston Library has a great tea room. It makes a great place to relax after your library tour. 

Weston Library Oxford

Sheldonian Theatre 

Although it isn’t a library, you can visit the Sheldonian Theatre within the Bodleian Complex. It was built from 1664 to 1669 and was designed by Christopher Wren for the University of Oxford. 

There are events and graduation ceremonies held here throughout the year but they also run guided tours.

If you climb to the very top of the building, you’ll be greeted by one of the best indoor panoramic views of Oxford from their Cupola. 

There are plenty of rooftop views in Oxford but this one I found the most compelling as you saw the city from a different perspective. 

If you just wanted access to the rooftop and the theatre it will cost you £4 an adult but guided tours can also be booked for £8. Click here for more details.

Bridge of Sighs from the Sheldonian Theatre Cupola
Bridge of Sighs from the Sheldonian Theatre Cupola

Bridge of Sighs

Just over the road from the Boldiean, you’ll find another iconic view of Oxford which is the Bridge of Sighs also known as the Hertford Bridge.

The bridge is a skyway that hangs over New College Lane beside the Bodleian Library. The Bridge of Sighs was completed in 1914 with the design by architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.

Although not open to the public, the passageway connects two buildings in Hertford College for students to easily walk through.

It was built for convenience but today it is an icon of the city and somewhere that tourists and photographers flock to every day.

To get photos of this place empty, I would visit very early in the morning around sunrise for the best results. 

Click here to read my complete guide for the Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs Oxford

Looking for more Oxford Harry Potter locations? 

There are plenty of magical Harry Potter filming locations that you can visit in the gorgeous city of Oxford.

You must make a stop at Christ Church to check out the Bodley Staircase that is featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 

This is where the students first arrive at Hogwarts to enter the Great Hall where they are sorted into their houses.

Click here to read my Oxford Harry Potter guide

Christ Church College Harry Potter
Bodley Staircase, Christ Church

Although they didn’t film Christ Church Hall for the films, they did use it as inspiration for Hogwarts Great Hall. You can take a look around as part of your self-guided tour.

Did you know you can also stay over at Christ Church College when the students are away? It makes a great budget base in Oxford.

The best part is that you can explore the campus at night time and then have breakfast in the Great Hall in the morning. It’s the perfect place to stay for Potterheads.

Christ Church Hall aka Hogwarts Great Hall
Christ Church Hall aka Hogwarts Great Hall

New College is also a great place to chase down some Harry Potter filming locations. You can visit the cloisters and the ‘Draco Malfoy’ tree where Mad-Eye Moody turns him into a ferret.

You’ll also find many pubs that the actors visited during filming like the Turf Tavern plus some Harry Potter shops like The Shop of Secrets and House of Wonders.

Click here to read my New College Harry Potter guide

Oxford New College Harry Potter filming locations
The Draco Malfoy Tree at New College Oxford
New College Harry Potter
New College cloisters

Also, make sure to head into Blackwell’s Books to see the famous Norringtom Room. This is just next door to the Weston Library.

Although it didn’t feature in the movies, Harry Potter fans will love the thousands of books to buy. It holds a Guinness World Record for the largest single room selling books.

Not to mention that the whole city looks like a real-life Hogwarts with many colleges, museums, and Dark Academia buildings to admire.

A little further afield, make sure you pay a visit to Blenheim Palace to see the Harry Potter Tree that is featured in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!

Click here to find out how to find the Harry Potter Tree at Blenheim!

The Harry Potter Tree Blenheim Palace
The Harry Potter Tree at Blenheim

Read more of my Harry Potter guides

How to ride the real-life Hogwarts Express in Scotland

How to visit Platform 9 3/4s in London

Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh

All the Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland

A complete Leadenhall Market Harry Potter guide

How to visit the real Godric’s Hollow in Lavenham 

Visit the Deathly Hallows filming location at Malham Cove

How to visit Hogsmeade Station in real life

How to spend a night in Hagrid’s Hut

A complete Forbidden Forest Experience review

Harry Potter locations in Lacock

Harry Potter filming locations in Alnwick Castle

Where to find Harry Potter in York

How to find the Harry Potter Tree at Blenheim Palace

The Shop That Must Not Be Named Review

How to find Dobby’s Grave in Wales

Harry Potter filming locations in Gloucester Cathedral

How to see the Hogwarts Express in Scotland

How to visit Dumbledore’s Grave in Scotland

Visiting Malfoy Manor in Real life! 

Where to find Tom Riddle’s grave in Edinburgh

Visiting the Quidditch Town of Tutshill Tornados

Harry Potter locations in Exeter along with Gandy Street and the Room of Requirement

Virginia Water – the Other Hogwarts Lake

Instagram locations at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

How to visit Hagrid’s Hut in Scotland

How to visit the Harry Potter Waterfall in Scotland

Harry Potter filming locations at Durham Cathedral

Save this Duke Humfrey’s Library Harry Potter guide for later! 

How to visit Duke Humfrey's Library Oxford