With its great halls, its green lawns, and its sprawling neo-Gothic architecture, the University of Sydney does look a little bit like Hogwarts. Apparently enough to fool thousands of Chinese Harry Potter fans, at least, who are flooding to the university’s grounds in the hope of catching a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the locations where the movies were filmed. Most of those locations are spread throughout Britain—and importantly, none of them are at the University of Sydney. But that hasn’t stopped a number of tourist websites from cashing in on the resemblance.
"Our tour guide told us this is where one of the scenes of Harry Potter was filmed," one disorientated tourist told SBS News as they ambled through the sandstone quadrangle. Another said “this place… Harry Potter. It’s very famous… so that’s why I really wanted to come here.”
Dr Jamie Fraser, senior curator of the Nicholson Museum inside the Quadrangle building, said he’d noticed a “significant increase” in Chinese tourists visiting the campus grounds of late. “In two years in February we've had more than a 4000-people increase since 2017 to 2019,” he said. “One reason for that is the neo-Gothic architecture of our main quadrangle, and people come to the front desk of our museum and ask us can you please show us where Harry Potter was filmed."
Another reason might be the questionable language, and the somewhat misleading advertising, that some tourist sites have chosen to promote Sydney Uni as a must-see destination. One example is F.I.T. Travel, a service that gives advice to Chinese tourists in destinations like Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, which lists the campus as one of Sydney’s best attractions. “There is a school in the real life that looks exactly like Hogwarts. Let us visit Australia’s magic academy while waiting for the owl,” the listing states. “[It] is the real version of Hogwarts”.
Except it isn’t—and consumer law expert Sarah Butler suggests that telling people otherwise could in fact be illegal. Speaking to SBS, Sarah said that "If a tour company is offering tours of the University of Sydney and it's promoting those tours by saying that Harry Potter was filmed at the University of Sydney when that is not in fact the case, that would likely fall in breach of Australian consumer law."
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.