5 things every Harry Potter fan should do in London
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more up-to-date information. It was originally published on 30 July 2016.
Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Consider this your guide to geeking out at many of the London locations from the books and movies, and where to see HP attractions you can’t find anywhere else. Here are five things every true Harry Potter fan should do during a trip to London.
1. Get your picture taken at platform 9 ¾
In the Harry Potter universe, students famously depart from Platform 9 ¾, a hidden spot in King’s Cross train station in London, to begin the journey back to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
While it’s not actually a live track (in real life), you can still visit the site of Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross, a little area set off to the side, especially for fans. It’s come a long way over the years. The first time I visited in 2003, the location was marked by a single sign on the wall and it took some effort to find — it was a little confusing since platforms 1 to 9 are on one side of the building, platforms 10 and up are on the other, and there’s no obvious middle ground.
Since then, Platform 9 ¾ has grown significantly and now the huge lines of people queuing up make the location hard to miss. Have your picture taken as you pretend to push luggage through the wall to the magical platform — the staff there will let you pick out your favourite Hogwarts house scarf (so you can represent Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin) and tell you the best way to pose or jump so it looks like you’re racing through the wall at top speed. The best part: all of this is free — just ask another Potter fan in line to take your photo and take theirs in return.
Of course, next door, there’s also an opportunity to visit the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾ to buy wands, chocolates, shirts, bags and my favourite souvenir, your own train ticket to Hogwarts.
2. Make a pilgrimage to Warner Bros. Studio for the official set tour
About 24 miles from the city centre is Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden in Hertfordshire where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Take the self-guided Making of Harry Potter tour, where you can see the actual sets, board a replica of the Knight Bus, check out the costumes and props the actors used and view the animatronic creatures featured in the movies. While you’re at it, ride a broomstick in front of a green screen, sip butterbeer (or try butterbeer ice cream!) and pick up a souvenir wand and cloak in the gift shop.
Tickets cost £47 for adults over the age of 16, £38 for children ages 5 to 15, and must be booked ahead of time online. In my experience, tickets tend to sell out three or four days in advance and even then your choice of times will be limited, so book your tickets well in advance to guarantee your preferred entrance time.
Getting to the studio tours requires a bit of effort. The most direct way is to take the tube from London’s Euston station to Watford Junction (either by Overground or National Rail), then take a 15-minute shuttle to the studios — note that you’ll need to show your Studio Tours ticket in order to board the shuttle.
3. See Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage — if you can
The latest addition to the Harry Potter universe is the new stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Based on J.K. Rowling’s short story of the same name, this sequel set 19 years after the end of the series follows Harry and his youngest son, who struggles with his complicated family legacy.
You can catch a show at the Palace Theatre in the West End. The play is set in two parts, with both playing back to back on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday — if you’d like to see each part on consecutive days, part one plays on Thursday and part two plays on Friday. One ticket gives you access to both parts, however, you do have the option to see them both on the same day or to buy two separate tickets for two separate days. As of this writing, prices are about £99 per ticket per part.
4. See sights from the books and movies on a Muggle walking tour
The 2.5-hour Tours for Muggles covers many of the London landmarks mentioned in the books, including Number 12 Grimmauld Place and the Ministry of Magic. You’ll also visit streets and alleys that were the inspiration for many of the series’ locations such as Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. The knowledgeable, costumed tour guides also provide insight into some of the historical (non-Harry Potter) sites you’ll pass along the way.
Tours for Muggles cost £16 for anyone aged 12 and up and £14 for children aged 11 and under.
There is one notable location excluded from the walking tour because it’s easy enough to find on your own — Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station, which I outlined above.
5. Spend the night in a Hogwarts-themed room
While it’s not a London points-hotel option, Potterheads may say it’s well worth spending £255 per night for the chance to stay in the Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House, a local, family-run boutique B&B located in London’s city centre. Walk down a candlelit passageway and enter your sleeping quarters, hidden behind a bookshelf and filled with gothic castle-like touches such as stained glass windows, cauldrons, trunks, stone walls, tapestries, a wood-burning stove and a fancy four-poster bed draped in velvet.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, London definitely deserves a spot on your travel bucket list, especially since there are attractions here you won’t find anywhere else.
Featured photo courtesy of Mike Marsland/Contributor/Getty
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