Being Nerdy, Harry Potter, London, Travel

The Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter’s London Part 2

Recently, I spend four absolutely amazing days in London. Most of them walking in the footsteps of Harry Potter and in stationery stores – could there be anything better? Because I am such a huge Harry Potter nerd I couldn’t just make one list with ten measly places to visit, I wanted you to be able to visit all the places! Thus, I had to split the list in two, you can find the first part here and also a review of all the great stationery stores of London here. But for now, check out numbers 11 to 20 of my Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter’s London!

11. It all Ended Here (Or Did It?)

Trafalgar Square itself was never featured in any of the Harry Potter franchise (so far?), but it hosted the premiere for Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 2. The red carpet stretched from the fountain to the stairs of The National Gallery. Fans camped for days (partly in the rain!) to snatch up one of the 8,000 sought-after wristbands that were given out the night before so they could watch the last movie together with the actors on a big screen at Trafalgar Square.  It must have been quite an event!

12. Ministry of Magic

You can find the entry to the Ministry of Magic at the Old Scotland Yard, Scotland Place. On one side is where the trio dragged Ministry officials to, disguising themselves as them with the help of Polyjuice Potion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Unfortunately, you can’t find the beautiful wooden door, only an ugly gray entrance, the film crew added the wood for effect. Also, around the corner is the entrance to the Ministry of Magic through the red phone booth. Again,  you won’t be able to find the phone booth from which you can reach the Ministry’s Atrium by dialing 62442 (spelling “magic”). It was only a film prop as well.

Fun fact: When you stand where Harry is standing in the picture above (there is no wood, just the ugly garage door) look to your left. Up in the corner is a little camera – Big Brother style. And apparently it can be seen in the movie! I so need to go back to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and find out!

13. Visit to the Prime Minister

“The trouble is, the side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”

–Rufus Scrimgeour to the Muggle Prime Minister

In the books we learn that the British Prime Minister is traditionally informed of the existence of the wizarding world on the night of his or her appointment. Occasionally the wizard counterpart pays them a visit after certain events such as the escape of one Sirius Black from Azkaban, the mass breakout from the same prison (lacking security, isn’t it?), and the return of Lord Voldemort (yes, I just said his name). The scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Cornelius Fudge meets the Muggle Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street is unfortunately cut from the film. Rather than having the two prime ministers talk about the horrible Death Eater attacks all around London, the filmmakers decided to show the attacks themselves during the flight of the Death Eaters through London destroying, for example, Millennium Bridge. But since I love the books just as much as you do (right?) I had to visit the Prime Minister’s place of business anyway. You can’t really get too close anyway, but while you’re there you check out the Horse Guards in front of Downing Street.

14. Harry and Arthur Take the Tube

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Harry and Arthur Weasley take the tube to the Ministry of Magic they exit at Westminster Tube Station. Taking the Jubilee Line to Westminster, you can even ride the same escalator (no. 12) up.

Fun fact: It actually made little sense for the film crew to film at the original Westminster Station, one of the busiest tube stations in London. They could have easily used a different station or build one at the studios. But they wanted the original for the “sun light” that falls into the station – funny enough you never do see it in the films.

15. Death Eaters Take Flight

Both Tower Bridge as well as Lambeth Bridge, right at the Houses of Parliament, are seen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Death Eaters take flight through London. In the same scenes Millennium Bridge is destroyed, like I mention in Part 1.

16. Talking Parseltongue

“Brazil, here I come. Thanksss, amigo.”

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone we see little Harry at the zoo with his “wonderful” family. During the trip to the London Zoo Reptile House we find out that Harry can talk to snakes. Only later we will learn that this is not common for wizards and is considered a Dark Art. Try your luck at the Reptile House, maybe you can set a boa constrictor free as well, who knows?

19. Flying the Ford Anglia 

Even though wizards and witches board the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station, the exterior is actually the one from the building across the street – St Pancras Station. The beautiful Neo-Gothic façade of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Arthur Weasley parks his flying Ford Anglia to take his kids and Harry to Platform 9 3/4 to board the Hogwarts Express. You can catch a glimpse of the clock towering over you when you stand in front the station when Harry and Ron take flight in the car to get to Hogwarts.

18. Going to Hogwarts

When Harry goes to Hogwarts the first time in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone he has to pass through Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. That platform now exists even in the Muggle world! Well, you can’t board the Hogwarts Express, but at least you can take a fancy picture with a trolley stuck in the wall.

You have two option to get your picture taken:

  1. Try your luck outside of the store’s hours and get one of your fellow Harry Potter nerds to take your picture. For the authentic feel don’t forget to bring your house scarf and wand!
  2. Get in line and have the staff of the Platform 9 3/4 shop take your picture (they also have all four house scarves and several wands to choose from!) It costs £9.50 to get one print and a digital copy. The line can get quite long though, so either plan on standing in line for up to one hour or, do it like I did, come right when the store opens in the morning. There was absolutely no line at 8AM on a Thursday!

In any case do stop by the Platform 9 3/4 shop. You find all kinds of nerdy Harry Potter merchandise here!

19. Number 12 Grimmauld Place

Only a short broom ride or a 15 minute walk from King’s Cross Station you will find Number 12 Grimmauld Place at Claremont Square. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a group of wizards picks up Harry at the Dursleys’ home to take him to his Godfather, Sirius Black. They fly through London and land in front of a row of unassuming houses – not so much anymore when No. 12 Grimmauld Place appears out of thin air! Don’t worry when you can’t see it, it’s kept under a Fidelius Charm.

“Tucked away in northwestern London, a twenty minute walk from King’s Cross Station, lies number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Both Unplottable and hidden behind a Fidelius Charm, the house is invisible to all but a few. Though the neighbouring Muggles don’t even know the building exists, it was for many years home to the Black family – one of the wizarding world’s oldest pureblood families, and extremely proud to be so.” – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

20. Where the Magic Happened

I am sure all of you are aware of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter located at the Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden where all eight Harry Potter films were produced. It’s absolutely amazing! You can step onto the authentic sets, find out the behind-the-scene secrets, and explore the magic of the spellbinding special effects. Check out the original stone floor in the Great Hall – they used real stone because the filmmakers knew it was the only material able to withstand the wear and tear of thousands of little feet that would trample through the dining hall during the ten years of filming.

Wander down Diagon Alley, take a look into the Potions classroom (my favorite), and encounter creature animatronics. In addition, you will be able to visit two soundstage and a backlot filled with original stets! And … drumroll … try butterbeer! It is amazing, marvelous, fantastic! If you want to try your hand at making the delicious drink at home you can get my personal recipes in the AmazinglyMarvelous library. You get access by signing up to my newsletter.

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By the way, this year the Warner Bros. Studio Tour will also open a new attraction: The Forbidden Forest!

Extra: Walking Tours

If I have now officially overwhelmed you with places to visit, you can join one of the very many London walking tours – some are just for Harry Potter filming locations!

I’ve tried two, the Tour for Muggles and the Free Tours by Foot. They both have their merits, and I think a lot depends on the guide. For Tour for Muggles you pay £14 per Muggle and the Free Tours by Foot tour is, obviously, free, but they ask you to pay whatever you though the tour was worth at the end. I loved the Tour for Muggles because our guide was a huge Harry Potter nerd (Hufflepuff) and played some HP Trivia along the way. The tour by Free Tours by Foot visited (some) different spots than the Tour for Muggles, but was way less nerdy overall. But at the end of the day I’d recommend taking a Harry Potter walking tour regardless of which. You will see quite a number of the spots I have recommended here and in The Ultimate Guide to Harry Potter’s London Part 1 and anything they might have missed you can always explore after, self-guided!

 

Have you planned a trip to London yet? Are you perhaps going over September 1st, when Albus and Scorpius are going to Hogwarts? Well in that case, keep an eye out for the red-haired Slytherin – that could be me!

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