A Potterhead’s Quickie Guide to London
London has been a destination city for people from around the world for literally centuries, and it’s certainly no different today. The city is steeped in history, is a melting pot of culture, and is home to some of the most notable works of art and familiar architectural landmarks in the world. To us, it’s also home to many of our favourite shows and films, from Sherlock to Notting Hill and everything in between.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up Harry Potter. London has made many appearances in both the books and the films, so it’s no surprise that many do a Potter pilgrimage to the English capital. Since accommodations, food, and flights will already cost you a pretty penny, I’ve put together my shortlist of the four must-see spots in town for any Potter fan that won’t cost you a single galleon, sickle, or knut… and one that’s well worth the trip (and the £££).
Found in the heart of the financial district (and once the heart of Roman London), this covered market dates back to the 14th Century and has a variety of vendors selling everything from fresh produce to cool socks, along with countless restaurants frequented by tourists and after-fivers alike. Potterheads will recognise it from the very first film, The Philosopher’s Stone, when Hagrid took Harry to the Leaky Cauldron and then shopping at Diagon Alley ahead of his Hogwarts attendance. It’s a beautiful piece of historical architecture to marvel at, and it’s not difficult to see why location scouts were drawn in by how magical it looks.
The Millennium Bridge
First opened in 2000 (for a day!) then closed for two additional years for additional work, the London Millennium Footbridge conveniently connects the financial district near St. Paul’s Cathedral to the south bank, in front of the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe - ideal for visitors who want to see as much as they can without wasting time on public transit. Unlike its appearance in The Half-Blood Prince where the bridge pulled an Elle Woods and did a massive bend-and-snap after a Death Eater attack, it’s perfectly stable for you to see (and walk on) today.
Few road junctions can boast being known enough to be their own landmark, but the bright Times Square-esque lights, the famous fountain (it’s Anteros on top, not Eros!), and its location right next to the West End theatres and the shops of Regent Street have made Piccadilly Circus a tourist attraction in its own right. In Deathly Hallows, Part I, our favourite trio apparate here into the middle of the street and narrowly avoid being hit by a double-decker bus. I’d strongly advise not to reenact that, though… stick to the sidewalks, please and thank you!
King’s Cross Station
What visit to London would be complete without visiting this famous train station? Though it’s been beautifully renovated since it was seen in the first film, King’s Cross has still kept Platform 9 ¾ intact and in fact have built an attraction around it. Now, at most hours of the day, you can pay a visit to the famous brick wall with half a trolley disappearing into it and have your photo taken (complete with house scarf of your choice) whilst running for the Hogwarts Express.
When I first visited the station in 2008, a trolley and sign were in place for anyone to approach, but now they have transformed it into a proper attraction, where employees will take your photo, hold your scarf up so it looks like it’s billowing, and escort you to an adjacent shop filled with exclusive merchandise and professional photos. Fortunately, it’s free to queue and simply have your photo taken with your own phone or camera instead. I’d suggest coming early or late in the evening on a weekday to avoid the long line up.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Last but most certainly not least, this attraction is unsurprisingly the most must-see from the list. Sure, it’s the one that costs money (tickets must be purchased online in advance) and it’s the most out of the way (a short train ride will take you close, or you can book a bus from Victoria station that takes you straight there)... but considering it’s a destination built specifically for people like us, there was no way I could leave it off the list.
From the moment you arrive and pose with the giant chess pieces outside, you’ll find your breath taken away. No amount of photographs will ever do this tour justice. Standing in the Great Hall, seeing (and walking through) the countless sets, props, and costumes, sitting on the Hogwarts Express, dangling off the Knight Bus, sipping on butterbeer and finally, finally seeing the scale model of our beloved alma mater… I’ve had the privilege of visiting twice (and counting), and both times I was left in absolute tears.
When a fandom has influenced you to the extent Harry Potter has influenced me (and so many of us), the studio tour at Leavesden is the closest thing to bringing everything to life around you, and there are no words in my vocabulary that can express how grateful I am that a little bit of magic exists in this world - and that we can all pay it a visit.
Have you visited London and all these spots? What are your favourite Potter spots in town? Sound off below so we can chat and add to my list for others to see.
Jen dela Luna
Jen is a 29-year old Canadian writer, traveller, pastry cook, and full-time fangirl. When she isn’t busy with her day job, she’s usually leaving on a jet plane or taking a midnight train going anywhere, baking up a storm, reading a new book (or rereading a really good old one), or marathoning The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, and sense8 (again… ahem).