London is one of the most well-known destinations and is on many travellers’ bucket lists, but if you are a Harry Potter fan like me, this city has an even more magical touch. Every Potterhead wants to visit the Queen’s country and make their dream come true.
While planning my itinerary, I made a list of Harry Potter-related places I wanted to see. However, my backpacking budget is tight and I can’t go to the famous Warner Studios, so I started researching places I could visit for free or for as little money as possible.
The result is this list that I now share with you: 10 amazing places that will make you feel totally in the Harry Potter universe. Shall we go and see them?
1. The 9¾” platform
Our first stop is King’s Cross station, where Platform 9¾ is located. For anyone who has ever dreamed of visiting Hogwarts, this place is at the top of the list. When you arrive at King’s Cross, you will find the platform. The station is not very big and you will be able to find it easily, as it always has a long queue.
There is a team that organises the queue and takes the photos. When it’s your turn, you can choose your Hogwarts house scarf (mine is Slytherin, of course!) and wand to take a picture. The team tells you what poses and moves you can do to make the photo look great. At the end, you can buy the photo for £9 from the official shop next to the platform. Realistically, it’s not too cheap, so to avoid spending that kind of money you can give someone your mobile phone to take your photo. The people in the queue are always helpful and almost everyone does the same, so you can have a souvenir of this magical moment without having to pay.
If you don’t feel like standing in line, you can go to the station in the evening. However, the shop will be closed and there are only the signs to the platform and the trolley with the luggage. You can take advantage of the fact that no one is there to take photos, but the accessories such as wands, owls and scarves are only there during the day. Still, it’s a magical souvenir!
2. Leadenhall Market
going to Diagon Alley? Our next stop is Leadenhall Market, a place with several shops that was used for the filming of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. The architecture is simply stunning, Victorian in style. It immerses you in the art and history of the place; after all, this is one of the oldest markets in London!
If you want to find the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, know that the door is now painted blue and there is an optic. It’s not uncommon to pass by and see tourists trying to find the brick wall, I even tried it myself!
Unfortunately I didn’t find a broom or owl shop, only muggle shops and restaurants without butterbeer. But still, it was worth the visit, and getting there is easy, just get off at Leicester Square station and go left into Charing Cross Street.
3. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is undoubtedly one of the most iconic landmarks of London and Harry Potter. In the scene “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” Harry passes over it while flying over the River Thames.
Note that Tower Bridge and London Bridge are different, so don’t confuse one with the other. Tower Bridge is to the east, and in my opinion is more beautiful. By the way, here’s a tip: at sunset, the view is even more incredible! To get there, you can get off at London Bridge or Tower Hill tube stations.
4. Millennium Bridge
Speaking of bridges, another one that should also be on your list is the Millennium Bridge, which appears in the first scene of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”. If you’re a Potterhead, you may remember that it was destroyed during the Death Eater attack.
Seeing this bridge and remembering that scene is simply spooky, so during your visit to London be sure to walk over it, enjoy the view and relive the excitement completely in the books and in the cinemas. Millennium Bridge is close to Mansion House tube station (Circle and District Line).
5. Westminster Underground Station
Westminster tube station is close to several tourist attractions, such as the London Eye and Big Ben. This is where scenes from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” were filmed, when Harry and Mr. Weasley were on their way to the Ministry of Magic.
You will surely pass by this station because of its location, and of course, you will remember our wizard.
6. Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is one of the busiest areas in London, full of tourists and crowds all the time. At this point, there are several shops, after all, this is a big shopping centre and the nightlife is also usually very busy.
The scene of Hermione, Ron and Harry running away from Ron’s brother’s wedding while being chased by Death Eaters is in Piccadilly Circus. By the way, our wizard was almost run over by a double-decker bus in this scene, remember?
Walking through Piccaddilly Circus is very exciting. The area is beautiful and very vibrant. Needless to say, it’s a must stop, isn’t it? You can get there by getting off at the tube station with the same name.
7. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a very special place, it is where the celebration of the premiere of the last film of the saga took place on 7 July 2011 (a date that will always be important). A stage was set up where the actors appeared in front of the eagerly awaiting crowd.
After leaving the square, the actors and JK Rowling made their way to Leicester Square, where the film was screened. Trafalgar Square also features in the same scene of the Death Eaters in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” that I quoted in the Millennium Bridgesection.
The square is amazing and full of life. Day or night it is always full of people coming to admire it. It is only 400 metres from Picaddilly Circus, so you can walk there. But if you prefer to take the underground, the station to get off at is Charing Cross, which is also close to Diagon Alley.
8. Gringotts Bank
remember Gringotts Bank? The bank used in the wizarding world and run by goblins is near Diagon Alley. We can see in detail its gold coins and safes in the first film of the saga and in the last one.
The building that inspired the facade of Gringotts Bank actually belongs to the South African embassy. The details and architecture of the building were used by the film’s designers as a sketch for the wizarding world bank.
You can see the building when you go to Leadenhall market, as they are very close. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to enter, but it costs nothing to check out the façade, which is really beautiful – have a look and take a picture!
9. St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Next to King’s Cross is London’s most famous hotel, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. The façade of the building was used in the film “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” as the entrance to King’s Cross Station in the scene where Ron and Harry park the flying car.
The hotel has beautiful architecture and was opened in 1873, but was renovated again in 2011. In addition to Harry Potter, this spot has been used in the Netflix series The Crown, and for the films Bridget Jones’s Diary and Batman Begins. And if you’re over 25, you should probably remember the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ video, which was also filmed inside the hotel. On your way out of King’s Cross station, don’t miss the opportunity to stop in front of the hotel.
10. Grimmauld Place
The house where Sirius Blake grew up and served as the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix when he left for Azkaban is also close to King Cross Station. Number 12 is not visible to Muggles, and the address to look for on the map is 23-29 Claremont Square in Islington.
The houses in this neighbourhood are all Georgian in style, and really resemble the universe created by Rowling. As well as feeling like you are inside the world of HP, seeing these little houses and walking around here is part of getting to know and experience some of London life, away from the main tourist attractions. To get to Claremont Square, you can get off at Angel (Zone 1) or King’s Cross (Zone 1) tube stations.
In London there is a “Harry Potter Free Tour”, a walking tour that you can take with a guide. As the name suggests, you don’t have to pay anything, you just have to make a reservation on the website. At the end of the tour, you can make an optional contribution – but always appreciate the work of the guides!
The guide speaks English and tours several of the places I’ve mentioned here. This is a good option if you want a guided tour to learn about Harry Potter trivia and meet more wizard fans like us.
Best time to visit London
London is a very touristy city all year round, so no matter what month you choose to visit, the city will always be full. The best time to visit London is in spring, between March and June, as it’s not as cold and ticket prices are still a little more affordable.
Where to stay in London
You can feel even more inside the magic of Harry Potter by staying in a Victorian-style lodge. Palmers Lodge is informally known as the “lovely old mansion”, but rest assured that the facilities are in very good condition. The whole building is rustic in style, has a cosy atmosphere and is only 200 metres from Finchley Road tube station, which offers easy access to the London Eye (20 minutes) or Buckingham Palace (10 minutes).
Astor Hyde Park is also Victorian in style and combines traditional decor with modern facilities. The hostel is very welcoming and in an excellent location, close to Hyde Park and the Natural History Museum. The location is also very good. You can visit many places on foot, there are several bus stops nearby and Gloucester Road tube station is only 10 minutes away. There are also several bars you can take advantage of.
While waiting for the Hogwarts letter, how about discovering the rest of London?
About the author
Daiane Jardim is a content writer and teacher of Portuguese as a foreign language. She has an accent from the interior of São Paulo and currently lives in France. She collects travel stories and considers herself a true chameleon, adapting to the most diverse corners of the world. Check out her adventures on Instagram and on the blog Viaje com Dai.