Ever since JK Rowling left her mark on literature with her immeasurably successful Harry Potter series, and especially with its subsequent movies, travellers from all over the place have started flocking to the UK in the quest for the magical world of Hogwarts. It’s not only original filming locations that attract tourists but also a whole Harry Potter-themed travel industry built around the young wizard.
We’ve compiled a TOP FIVE selection of our ultimate Harry Potter sights in and around London to focus the theme of your next trip to the UK on.
PLATFORM 9¾ (KING’S CROSS STATION)
As featured in the Harry Potter series, King’s Cross Station in central London houses the gateway to Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry via the Hogwarts’ Express, which leaves from the mysterious Platform 9¾. While undergoing major refurbishment recently, King’s Cross Station made sure to pay tribute to this literature and pop culture icon by installing a commemorative spot for the fictive platform. You can go and have your picture taken here to start your own journey into Harry Potter’s world or just stare at scores of people rushing for the opportunity to see whether the wall behind it is really solid or whether they can disappear through it into the young sorcerer’s realm.
LEADENHALL AND BOROUGH MARKETS
These two markets in East Central and South Central London were famously featured in the Harry Potter movies as parts of the sets of Diagon Alley in “The Philosopher’s Stone”. However, they are actually rather charming, functional markets and popular sights to enjoy off the beaten path. It’s best to start with Leadenhall (near Bank Station), where a variety of shops, pubs and cafés cater to your every need. Borough market (near London Bridge Station) is aimed at epicureans, particularly on weekends, where the best local produce, cheeses, jams, patisseries and much more will make you salivate all day. The best part is that you can easily walk from one market to the other. We recommend that you talk a slight detour via the nearby Millennium Bridge, which also rose to Harry Potter fame in the movies (remember what the Death Eaters did to it?).
HARRY POTTER WALK
There are organised walks to explore all the many London sights mentioned in Harry Potter and their particular narrative contexts, especially around Westminster. To join a fully guided Harry Potter walk, all you need to do is to show up at Westminster Tube station, EXIT 4, on given any Saturday at 2pm. Make sure to bring an umbrella, as Harry Potter may not always able to work his magic with the London weather. The tour costs £9 for adults, £7 for concessions (students and pensioners), £3 for children above the age of 8 (children below 8 go free). The tour highlights such sights as the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey while presenting the contexts of both the novels and the movies as useful information, allowing you to see London’s famous landmarks from the wizard’s point-of-view.
WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO TOUR
For those among you, who are dedicating their entire trip to tracking down Harry Potter and his friends, the only solution to succeed is taking a trip out to the Warner Brothers Studios, where Hollywood magic meets an interactive theme park just north of London. It is here, where all the magic actually happened, where all the special effects and computer generated images were created for the movies and all the studio scenes were produced in purpose-built sound stages. In other words, you’ll be treading on the footsteps of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and the rest of the star-studded cast. Even non-Harry Potter fans are blown away by this studio tour that brings you right to the heart of the real Hogwarts. Advance purchase of tickets is highly recommended. You wouldn’t want to miss this broomstick ride!
About two hours northwest of London, you’ll find beautiful Oxford, world-renowned for its prestigious university but also a favourite among Potter fans for even further filming locations of various installations of the movies. While some of the sights here might be off-limits for tourists (such as the famous Great Hall of Christ Church college), you can still tour this beautiful town and find filming locations dotted around, such as the Bodleian Library, the Pitt Rivers Museum or Blenheim Palace (located slightly outside Oxford). You can also look for local information regarding Harry-Potter-themed guided tours and walking tours, which may have special permissions to access university locations and other sights with limitations. Coincidentally, one of the easiest and fastest ways to get to Oxford is to catch a train from King’s Cross Station, which brings us back to the beginning. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and it might just leave from Platform 9¾.