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Can the real Hogwarts location be in Ukraine? From the first moment I landed in Ukraine a few years ago, it was love at first sight – like magic! But getting to visit The Chernivtsi National University, a school whose architectural resemblance to Harry Potter’s famous Hogwarts is uncanny (no wonder it’s aka Hogwarts University), made it even more magical. You can see the resemblance for yourself…check it out.
The Chernivtsi National University is a real school named after Yuriy Fedkovych. It is so beautiful and historic that Harry Potter fans, architecture and history buffs alike can join a tour to learn more about its origins. I first took the tour several years’ back but recently returned for more photos and facts, since I wanted to write the best, most up to date post for you!
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Hogwarts in real life? Visit Hogwarts University in Chernivtsi, Ukraine
- 1.1 History of the Chernivtsi National University – UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 1.2 Real Hogwarts Location Photoshoots?
- 1.3 Ukrainian Orthodox Church inside the Chernivtsi University
- 1.4 Hogwarts entrance
- 1.5 Mother Austria Statue in Chernivtsi
- 1.6 Historic Rooms and Hallways at Chernivtsi National University
- 1.7 The park and gardens at Chernivtsi University
- 1.8 Tour information:
Hogwarts in real life? Visit Hogwarts University in Chernivtsi, Ukraine
The Ukrainian locals refer to Chernivtsi National University as Ukrainian “Hogwarts” since the architecture so resembles that well-known school of the Harry Potter book series and, to make it even cooler, the building is used as an actual school. Did I mention that the University building is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011? But honestly, I think that what makes this place even more magical is that the professors and priests wear robes while walking around the halls of the historical University, adding just a touch of mystery to this already mystical place.
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History of the Chernivtsi National University – UNESCO World Heritage Site
The University is located on the highest point in Chernivtsi, and it was established on October 4th, 1875, during the Austro Hungarian Empire (1867-1918). Thus, many areas and halls inside the University will remind you of other buildings found in Austria. Actually, when you walk around the park of the University, you can still find royal names from the Austro-Hungarian empire.
There are also things written in German all around Chernivtsi, including places of interest to check out in the city center of Chernivtsi, such as the Deutsches Haus (former German People’s House), which was a place of cultural gatherings, educational, political, and social organizations and associations. This kind of network (People’s houses) were used during the Austrian era as a meeting point for major ethnic groups where they could express the self-confidence and pride of their ethnicity together.
Fun Fact: Chernivtsi was the most mixed of all provincial capitals of the Habsburg empire during that era. From a population of 90,000, 33% were Jews, 17% Germans, 17% Ukrainians, 16% Romanians and 14% Polish. The rest of the population was comprised of Armenians, Hungarians, Slovaks and Lithuanians, to mention a few others. Very unique for a town at that time.
Going back to Chernivtsi National University, a curious thing you will notice, when you first past the security gated entrance, is that there is an area right in the front of the main entry of the university that is taped off. The reason for that is because it is prohibited to stand there due to a special system that controls the level humidity. It is a drainage (about 2 meters high on the ground passages) that was built during the 19th century, which starts from behind the University’s building (the park area), and runs all the way to the railway station. The system actually still works to this day thus, in an effort to preserve it, they try to block people from standing over it. But, as with anything, there is an exception to the rule; each student has the right to stand there only twice during their 5 years studies: The first time during their first year ceremony and then during their master’s ceremony.
Real Hogwarts Location Photoshoots?
You will also notice that, all over the university site, you will find brides and grooms having their wedding photo-shoots all over the grounds. When I visited, I probably witnessed over 10 beautiful brides having their pictures taken around the University. What a great idea for charming and unique wedding pictures!
Maybe I’ll return one day for my own wedding photoshoot!
Ukrainian Orthodox Church inside the Chernivtsi University
There is also a beautiful Ukrainian orthodox church, which was built in 1878 as one of the university’s buildings, not far from the University’s Theological Department. The Theological department is composed of mostly male students but, these days, there are a few female students as well.
Inside the church, you can appreciate many authentic touches, such as a Dome that is 38 meters high, plus a lot of paintings and frescos.
During the time of soviet ruling, the ground floor of the Church was used as a computer center. The computer was actually 22 and 3 meters high. The administration refused to let them destroy anything inside the Church, so everything remains almost intact and it was truly amazing to see all of the details preserved. The church was opened again in 1991, with the computer and other equipment taken away before then, and the Theological Department reopened in 1993.
Btw, when you are outdoors of the main “Hogwarts entrance”, if you look up on the right side of the building, you will notice a symbol on top of the building, a cross that resembles a snowflake or even a flower, flat on each side, which is the highest point in Chernivtsi. And there is a belief that if someone Orthodox looks at this cross, they will head east and if someone Catholic looks, they will head west. I truly love how each symbol (or building, for that matter) at this world heritage site has tons of history attached to it.
Mother Austria Statue in Chernivtsi
When you first enter the main University building, you will notice several statues of women without heads or arms, and there’s a great story behind them. Let’s go back to the 19th century where, since 1875, there was an 8 meters high statue, built from marble, that was called Mother Austria because it was a symbol of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It used to stand in the city center, in what is now known as Soborna Square. But when the Romanians came in 1918, the statue was lost; somebody decided to “throw it away.” But luckily, it was found 15 years ago in storage inside of a building that was originally a museum in the 19th century but currently is a bank. The Mother Austria statue was missing its body parts when it was found and currently is in restoration. After that, 10 copies of the statue were given to 10 sculptors. Some sculptors decided to exhibit it with a head and some without it. Hence, some of these modern art statues, without body parts, can be found in the University’s lobby.
Historic Rooms and Hallways at Chernivtsi National University
Other than some of the historical facts and spots previously mentioned, during the tour we visited different halls and areas inside the main building. There was a big room, that it is currently used for ceremonies and presentations, with a high dome, chandeliers, and much more. In that hall, there was a fire in 1944, when they changed authorities between Romanian and Soviet Union. It looks like somebody tried to burn the hall down, but there are always different versions of the story so nobody knows who did it or why. But that is why there is no marble found in that hall.
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During the soviet years, students were placed on the ground floor while teachers went to the gallery upstairs and then, from the balcony, they would look down to see if the students were cheating. They monitored the exams from that gallery. Now, as I previously mentioned, they hold international events, celebrations, and commencements there.
Adjacent to the previously mentioned hall, there is a Blue hall, which was a gym/sports center for basketball and more during the soviet time but, unfortunately, the blue hall was destroyed during the fire of 1944. The color of the walls was blue in the past so the color was kept as part of its renovation.
On the other side of the first hall mentioned, there is a red room which fortunately was not destroyed during the fire, so it is authentic, with original windows, door, mirrors and lamps (there since 1912, still in working order) and the ceiling is painted with the characteristics of traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs (Pysanka). Only two elements were changed, the furniture and the silk on the wall, which is not silk. The original was silk, but it disappeared and replaced with a replica. Behind the red room, there is the rector’s office, which is as big as this red room. One cool thing about the mirrors found in the red room is that they were made with 5 layers of silver and are 143 years old! They were imported from Venice, Italy and, if you light something in front of a mirror, you can count 5, 6, 7, reflections of the flame because of the many layers of silver. I found it quite fascinating.
Fun Fact: There is a legend that if a woman looks inside the mirror of the red hall, she becomes younger. So, do I look younger to you in this photo? BTW, if men look at it, it provides them with forgiveness for all of their sins. Who’s getting the better deal…men or women?
The park and gardens at Chernivtsi University
The park and gardens at the University are isolated from the rest of the city, so you won’t hear any noise making it a very relaxing place.
Since it is not a public park, you can only obtain access as a student, faculty member or as a tourist who has paid for the tour.
My understanding is that back in the 19th century there were peacocks, small foxes, swans and fishes found in this park, and the gardener looked after them, along with the trees and plants.
It is the place with the freshest and cleanest air in the city (thanks to almost no cars being around). Just a wonderfully fresh and peaceful escape from the city. How can you resist it?
Another fun fact: Did you know that the architect of Chernivtsi National University was Czech? Josef Hlavka was a young architect from Prague who, at only 29 years of age, won a contest and came to Ukraine to design and build Chernivtsi university. Afterwards, he was always working and his company went on to build another 143 buildings, including the Vienna Opera House. At the end of his life, since he had no children, he left everything to charity and his foundation, which still exists, providing scholarships for Czech students.
Note: There’s a maternity hospital in Prague which has a lot of the same elements of the Chernivtsi University. Hmmmm….
Wondering about how to arrange a tour?
The tour is quite affordable. It was 70 UAH per person (around $2.75 USD) when there is a group of less than 8 people; when there is a larger group, the price is reduced to 45 UAH (which is approximate $1.75 USD).
You can book the tour in advance on Chernivtsi University’s official website and it’s offered in different languages including English, Polish, German, French and more. While they have Ukrainian language tours every hour, starting at 10am, other languages should be pre-arranged.
Overall, I totally recommend you to go and see this Hogwarts University for yourself. Honestly, it is totally worthwhile and definitely magical!
Have you ever visited Chernivtsi? Are you a Harry Potter fan who’s heard of this University? Share your answers or leave any questions for me on the comments below.
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