At King’s Cross Station, Harry Potter fans can pretend to step onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters to board Hogwarts Express. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Feature image (above): London’s Leadenhall Market was the filming location for Diagon Alley. // © 2015 Thinkstock
London lures visitors in many ways — it offers photo ops of Big Ben, rides on the London Eye Ferris wheel and, perhaps most importantly, a taste (or several) of rich London Pride lager. But, for Harry Potter fans like me, it is attractive for an entirely different reason. London is the birthplace of Harry Potter mania as the city plays a major role in the seven books and eight movies in the famous series.
I feel like I’ve grown up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I first met them at age 7, when my mom began reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” aloud at bedtime. Quite symbolically, the last movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” hit theaters in 2011, when I was about to graduate high school.
My first visit to London took place 3 years after the last movie premiered. As my dad and I were planning out our relatively short trip to England, visiting the Harry Potter-inspired sites was not on the forefront of our mind. It was only when I had fallen asleep on the third tour bus in a row (blame it on the jetlag?) that we decided it was time for a change in itinerary.
Our first stop was Leadenhall Market, the filming location for Diagon Alley. I walked down the cobblestone streets and peeked my head into the shops of this covered market on Gracechurch Street. Although I didn’t get the opportunity to order a Butterbeer or a package of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Leadenhall Market is home to a few nice restaurants and coffee shops and was an ideal spot to grab lunch and a latte.
The real excitement came an hour later when we stepped into London’s bustling King’s Cross Station. As they say, true fandom never dies. I just about sprinted into the station to find Platform Nine and Three-Quarters in the main concourse area — a brick wall that all young witches and wizards must run through in order to board the Hogwarts Express.
I stood in line for more than an hour with my fellow Harry Potter enthusiasts, who ranged in age and nationality, just to snap a picture while jumping in the air (symbolizing that we were about to “fly” through the platform like our favorite characters). Many fans donned round-framed glasses and other Harry Potter garb, proof that the wizard phenomenon is still going strong.
Just next to the platform is the Harry Potter gift shop, which sells a wide selection of memorabilia, ranging from mugs and key chains to the wands used by characters in the series. Seventy dollars later, I left a happy “muggle” (one who is not lucky enough to be born into the magical world).
Even though I didn’t get the opportunity to see all of the Harry Potter hot spots, there are several other sites of interest scattered throughout the city.
Brit Movie Tours offers its own Harry Potter Bus Tour of London Locations, where passengers embark on a three-hour excursion through the city. In addition to visits to Diagon Alley and King’s Cross Station, the tour includes stops at the exterior of Gringotts Bank (the only known bank of the wizarding world) and the site that served as the inspiration for 12 Grimmauld Place in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Children tickets cost $23, and adult tickets cost $30.
For those who prefer a more active experience, Brit Movie Tours offers a Harry Potter Walking Tour of London that mixes film locations with popular London landmarks and attractions. The walk takes about two hours to complete and is $12 for children and $14 for adults. Stops include the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic and the Millennium Bridge, which was destroyed by Death Eaters in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
Visitors can also book private or semi-private tours through Muggle Tours, which bills itself as the only Harry Potter walking tour in London that limits the number of guests on each walk. Tours are $12 for children ages 11 and under and $14 for adults. Private tours start at $118 plus $12 for children and $14 for every adult. Tours do not include Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross, but it can be added to a private tour for an additional cost.