This one goes out to all the Potterheads out there. One of the reasons I was most excited come to London was to see and explore all of the Harry Potter related sites. There are rather a lot, and the way I have been getting to know Harry Potter’s London is gradual; I opted to pair the Harry Potter excursions with some other great London sites. However, you could also see nearly all of these sites in a day or two trip to London if you plan it right!
The first thing I did, and I would suggest to do, is going on a Harry Potter Free Walking Tour. One of my flatmates and I did a Strawberry Tours one the first week we were here. It was fantastic. It was a great way to see the city and a lot of not-so-obvious filming locations in the City of London. The tour guide also provides a lot of amazing facts about the movie premieres, including some pretty shocking ones about the release of the final film. There are a few other free tours that you can search up, but Strawberry tours was super easy to find the meeting place for. The tour itself lasted about two hours and was a lovely study break.
There are two bridges in London that were filmed in the Harry Potter movies.
Lambeth bridge was the bridge where the Knight Bus squeezed between two red buses on its way to drop Harry at the Leaky Cauldron. (This was cool because I actually rode in a red bus over the bridge!) If you are looking for a reason to check it out, it is a three minutes walk from Victoria Tower Gardens and about a ten minute walk from the Palace of Westminster.
Millennium bridge is the far more well known Harry Potter bridge. It is the bridge the Death Eaters destroy in The Half Blood Prince. This one is in a great location if you are not looking to just walk across a bridge as your day trip. It is right by the Globe Theatre on one side and on the other there is Tate Modern, a great art gallery. In addition, if you go and see it on a Saturday or Sunday, you can walk from there to Waterloo bridge on Southbank potentially pass a great little food market and book market! It was a sweet little surprise for me.
Leadenhall Market was the filming location for the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the first movie. It is about a ten minutes walk from the Tower of London, and about a six minutes walk from Bank Station and the Royal Exchange. I actually did not go in search of this one; I happened upon it during a class walking tour. It was pretty funny actually because as we were approaching I turned to my friend and whispered, “I don’t know how or why, but this has something to do with Harry Potter.” As we were leaving the market, our tour guide announced to us that if the market had seemed familiar, it was because it was filmed in Harry Potter. My Potter-senses have not been wrong yet.
Leadenhall Market There are many places around London that are said to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley, and Borough Market is one of them. While it is also houses the filming location of the back entrance to the Leaky Cauldron that Harry uses in the Prisoner of Azkaban, the market itself gives off the same kind of atmosphere that appears in the filming of Diagon Alley. Especially on a Saturday morning, the bustle of people looking for groceries or just a snack is definitely comparative to the looks of the people traffic in the movies. Bonus: it is a great place to grab some delicious street food!
The Free Sites
The first location for this category is Claremont Square. The inspiration for No. 12 Grimmauld Place is another debated location, but it is a fact that Claremont Square is the location the movies used to film the iconic Order of the Phoenix Headquarters. Right when I turned onto the street it was obvious it was from the films. It is about a twelve minute walk from, or a few bus stops past, King’s Cross Station.
Which brings us to the next location: King’s Cross. While there is no 9 3/4 on the actual platforms, the station does have a trolley lodged into a brick wall in the open part of the station. Here, you are able to take a picture in your house scarf and enjoy a lovely Harry Potter store right next door. A tip for this one: the line is almost always long, but if you can manage to get there on a weekday night, say a Monday night around 7pm, the line should be pretty short!
Charing Cross Station to the real Diagon Alley
The final free location I have to share with you all is the walk from Charing Cross Station to the real Diagon Alley. JK Rowling writes in the books that Hagrid and Harry exit Charing Cross Station, walk down Charing Cross Road, and turn right to enter Diagon Alley. If you follow those directions and turn right onto Cecil Court, you will find that you have walked the same path as Harry Potter. Though it is under scaffolding right now, the shops alone give off a magical aura that makes it easy to see why JK Rowling made this her real life inspiration for Diagon Alley.
The More Expensive Sites
Unfortunately, not all Harry Potter sites can be free, but that does not mean they are not worth the money! The first location that you have to pay to see is the Reptile House from the first movie. It is located in London Zoo which is within Regent’s Park. This one is not super expensive and is a great place to go with family if you are in London on a nice (preferably not rainy) day.
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour
The second is the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. This one is technically outside of London and will take about a half a day to do. However, even if you are only in London for a few days, it is totally worth it. I actually went about a year and a half ago when I came to London with my dad and little brother. It was by far my favorite part of the trip. You get to walk through the great hall, see Dumbledore’s office, the cupboard under the stairs, and so much more. It is absolutely a must do for anyone; you definitely do not have to be obsessed with the books or movies to appreciate it!
Cassandra Jones is an English and Secondary Education student at Illinois Wesleyan University studying abroad in London for Fall 2019. Cassandra is a keen Lacrosse player and a lover of literature. She is very excited about finding ways to keep her passions alive in London and sharing them through her blog posts. Keep checking back for more of Cassandra’s blogs here.