You’ve read and re-read the books, you’ve watched the movies, now it’s time to visit some of the most iconic settings brought to life by J K Rowling’s magical pen.
Harry Potter fans both young, old (and in-between!) will be delighted by the variety of Potteresque offerings in London, and when you stay with us at The California, you’ll find that you are ideally located to explore them (particularly if you’ve already had your letter delivered by owl inviting you to study at Hogwarts…)
Let’s shed some light upon the best places for muggles to discover Harry Potter in London. Lumos!
Harry potter guided walking tours
You can choose to take a guided walking tour of the close to King’s Cross Harry Potter hotspots (Muggle Tours, Brit Movie Tours and several other operators run good ones) or go it alone, taking your time and wending your way from one location to the next, stopping off for a refreshing butter bear and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans (or your choice of more mundane, but ultimately more palatable muggle refreshments) as you go.
Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station
All Potter aficionados know that the Hogwarts’s Express leaves from Platform 9¾. Follow signs to Platforms 9, 10 and 11 and you will come across a trolley belonging to an erstwhile Hogwarts’ student disappearing into the wall. It’s a perfect photo opportunity, but you will have to queue for the pleasure. In return though you will get an eager Hogwarts Express assistant on hand to throw a Gryffindor scarf round your neck and take a few snaps.
Spot a flying car at St Pancras International Station
St Pancras International station is located right next to King’s Cross, and its huge and imposing façade was used for exterior shots of the somewhat less photogenic King’s Cross.
It is, famously, the location from which Harry and Ron take to the sky’s in the Weasley’s enchanted Ford Anglia in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Magic!
Read more: How to get from King’s Cross to St. Pancras
Chat up a few snakes at London Zoo
A key moment in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the moment that Harry unwittingly speaks Parseltongue for the very first time. The reptile house at London Zoo, the setting for this epic event, is stuffed full of weird and wonderful species, and you’ll find a Harry Potter plaque commemorating this auspicious event there too.
Warning: Don’t try and chat to any of the snakes. They may take offence.
Visit the Leaky Couldron on Charing Cross Road
Charing Cross Road is home to the building that acted as the Leaky Cauldron, pub and conduit between non-wizard London and magical Diagon Alley, shopping paradise for witches and wizards alike.
This is an intriguing and very historic area of London, packed with antiquarian and second hand bookshops. The surrounding book shops even have a magical atmosphere all of their own and if you look closely enough, you may notice some suspiciously magical-looking members of staff….
Check out Diagon Alley at Leadenhall and Borough Markets
Two separate, equally charming London locations were used to represent the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. A number of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed in London’s iconic Leadenhall Market, one of the oldest and most characterful in the city.
To see the this version of the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, walk round to Bull’s Head Passage and look for the Opticians that is located there. The other is in Borough Market, another London landmark that is well worth a visit and is a great place to grab a very fresh, very eclectic (non-magical) bite to eat.
Read more: The best London markets near King’s Cross
Attempt to break into Gringotts at Australia House
The one and only bank catering to witches and wizards, Gringotts Wizarding Bank keeps its client’s valuables safe with a variety of spells and charms. Interior scenes that featured in several of the adaptations were filmed at in the majestic marble interior at Australia House on the Strand.
Perhaps the most memorable of these is the scene where Harry, Hermione and Ron come to the bank to find the horcrux in the vault belonging to the witch (and evil personified) Bella Lestrange, escaping on a dragon once they have done so. As you do.
Be summoned to the Ministry of Magic at Great Scotland Yard
The very epicentre of magical law, the Ministry of Magic is accessed through a classic red telephone box on the junction of these two streets in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Sadly the phone box was just a prop, but this austere part of London does still seem a very apt setting for the tense scenes where Harry is up on charges of practising magic in front of a muggle in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Ride the Knight Bus along London Bridge
The Millennium Bridge is dramatically destroyed by the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In a rather more cheerful scene, the Knight Bus just about squeezes through two of London’s iconic double decker buses on Lambeth Bridge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The full Harry Potter Experience
If you (or your kids!) are a committed Potter fans, you may decide to take the studio tour at the famed Warner Bros studio. Located only a short distance outside London, you will be bedazzled by the amazing array of sets, props, special effects and costumes that really bring the stories to life, in the most creative way.
Take the train from Euston Station (you can find directions from King’s Cross in our travel guide to traveling via Euston) to Watford Junction and simply hop on the studio’s shuttle bus. Ascendio!
Photo credit: David Iliff, License: CC-BY-SA 3.0