Let’s face it, we didn’t get our letter to Hogwarts when we were 11. We are mere muggles, but we still dream of living in JK Rowling’s magical world of Harry Potter. That is why, for the longest time, London was number one on my bucket list. And, after much anticipation, I finally got to cross it off.
Now, just a heads up, this post won’t cover the WB Studio Tour. You will need a whole day for this magical journey, therefore, I will need a separately dedicated post. However, there are plenty more stops around London that will make you feel less like a muggle.
1. Strawberry Tours’ Free Harry Potter Tour
I hope the word “free” caught your attention on this first one. Because it definitely caught mine when I was researching all of the places to see in London that inspired or were apart of the Harry Potter world. Strawberry Tours is a wonderful little tour company (well, rather large actually… they offer tours on 6 continents), that provides free walking tours for just about any topic of your interest. In exchange, you provide the tip to your tour guide… which they even advise you don’t need to do if you felt the tour sucked (but it doesn’t, and even if you didn’t like it, don’t be a dick and tip your tour guide). To make it better, part of your tips go to Charity.
So I found us this Free Harry Potter Walking Tour of London and booked it right away. We had a pretty jam packed schedule for our time in London (an NFL game at Wembley, a day trip to Liverpool to worship the Beatles, and like I said before, a day trip to the WB Studio Tour), so I planned our tour for the same day that we were flying in. At 11 am.
But first, a brief note on London’s TSA…
Now, if you haven’t been to London before, like us, be aware of the TSA line! It’s horrendous. It takes so long that they leave packs of water bottles around, and you have to make friends with who you are standing by so they can save your spot in case you need to use the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but standing in never ending lines is my hell. Luckily there were no screaming babies around us, or I would have asked to just get back on the plane and say screw it to London all together, haha, kidding… maybe. It is seriously worth it to get Global Entry for London alone.
Anyway, while we were waiting in the dreaded line, I started to worry if we would make our walking tour. We originally had plenty of time to go to our hotel, and then meander over to the meeting point. But by the time we got through TSA we had time to drop off our luggage and then chase down a cab, just making it to the meeting point for them to start. A nice, pleasant way to start our London adventure, huh.
…ok, back to Strawberry Tours:
But the tour was wonderful. We did go to some different places than the listing shows, but I felt like we got to see a lot more. You do walk a lot, given that it’s in the name, so wear comfy shoes. But, it goes by so fast. And I feel like since this was the very first thing we did upon our arrival to London, everything is so new and exciting that it made the tour that much better. And it helped us familiarize ourselves with some of the surroundings, which would be helpful for the following days.
While a lot of the stops are not filming locations, they were JK Rowling’s inspiration for her world. You can really see how they used these inspirations to bring that magic to life on the big screen. From the roads that inspired Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley, to the African Embassy that resembles Gringotts, London it was clear that London has such a wonderfully huge impact on Jo. We were taken to Trafalger Square (which isn’t mentioned as a stop in the listing) where they held the huge premier for the final movie and many more stops with stories along the way that I don’t want to spoil for you. I’m sure there are plenty other Harry Potter walking tour, but I felt like Strawberry Tours did a really great job with theirs and I don’t think you would regret joining it.
2. House of Minalima
This is a stop I wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for good ole’ Facebook. A travel page had featured them and I immediately knew we had to pop in and see it for ourselves. The front of the building is the first thing that catches your eye; with it’s pink painted outside and windows that feature gorgeous displays of their works.
Let me back up a minute and explain. House of Minalima is an exhibition that was put together by the designers responsible for most of the graphic design in the Harry Potter franchise, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And what a beautiful exhibit it is.
We thought it would be just a small set up, but when we walked up there was a sign boasting four floors of displays! And we came in just as they were starting a tour of the place, which was free to join (score!). I suggest taking the tour, which goes every 30 minutes or so I believe. They talk about the designers themselves, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, and the detail that went into creating their part in the Harry Potter franchise. It’s amazing the little details you wouldn’t even notice originally, that they had to think about constantly. It’s truly impressive. The front of the exhibit is a gift shop where you can buy memorabelia with their famous designs. Everything from notebooks that look like Hogwarts school books, to pins with Wizard Weasley Wheezes products, and more.
The location is also in Soho, right around the corner from where they are playing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theater. When we went, I guess they were having some event because the whole front area was boarded up and there was large lighting displays. We could only get the smallest glimpse of the sign. But maybe you’ll have better luck! Either way, it was really cool to be in the area.
3. King’s Cross Station
The ever famous King’s Cross Station. An obvious stop for even the smallest of Harry Potter fans due to the famous “9 3/4” wall sign that has a queue of people all day every day wanting to get their picture taken. They have a professional who will take your photo for you to buy, but they are also more than happy to take a photo with you cell phone for you. The shop also has some cool memorabilia that I didn’t see anywhere else we went, not even at the Studio Tour. So check it out if you’re in need of a souvenir (but careful, it’s tight and crowded).
Across the street from King’s Cross you will see the beautiful St. Pancras, which was actually used as the exterior shot of the train station in The Chamber of Secrets. It’s easy to see why too, it’s such a remarkable structure. We didn’t have the time to walk through St. Pancras International Station, but both are worth it if you do.
4. Millenium Bridge
Anyone who loves the movies knows that this famous pedestrian bridge collapses in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It’s a beautiful suspension bridge that walking across will give you great views of London from the River Thames. Walk from the south side to the north side and turn around. Despite all of the pedestrians (tourists probably), you will have a gorgeous view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you stay in the area, waking up before the crowds will give you a stunning shot, I’m sure.
5. Georgian House Hotel
While this isn’t a stop, it is a recommendation for a place to rest your head. The Georgian House is away from the hustle and bustle of London’s city centre, but it is so quaint and the staff is ridiculously friendly. This is also where Anthony proposed, so it has a special place in my heart (awhhh, mushy).
The Georgian House got a lot of buzz on the internet due to their “Wizard Chambers.” You walk through a hidden door and down to their dungeon (Slytherin, much?). They are done up to look like magical chambers, complete with four poster beds. The little details in the decorating were my favorite part. It’s fun for the whole family (seriously, they have a family suit and a couple’s suit). Included in the price regardless of the room you choose is a delicious made to order breakfast. However, with the Wizard Chamber price you get a special “Wizard’s Breakfast,” a specialty menu of fun items. The Toffeedukes Pancakes sounded a little too sweet for us, but the Forbidden Feast was delicious, and adorable.
A small disclaimer that the couple’s suit chamber isn’t really made for giants, Hagrid or otherwise (in our case, my 6’4″ fiance).The bathroom is so tiny, even the front desk staff said when they saw Anthony they were worried for him getting in there. It is also rather hot due to being next to the boiler room and in the basement. There is a window that opens (and where some of the workers take their break) which helped at night, but it was very stuffy when we first arrived. The staff was very accommodating though and switched us to a normal room on a higher floor. They gave us an extra fan to keep in the room if we needed, and refunded the difference of room rates. Superb customer service, truly.
There are of course many other spots that were made famous thanks to the magic that is everything Harry Potter. The London Zoo, Westminster Tube Station and Ledenhall Market were just a couple that we didn’t have the time to see. But that just makes me even more excited for our next trip to London. I will make sure to have a skip the line TSA pass by then!
I’m sure you’ll be hungry on your magical journey, so I've added a post with some fun places to eat around London below.
Where were some of your favorite Harry Potter inspired stops on your trip to London? Let me know in the comments.
Want help planning your own Harry Potter London adventure? You can schedule your complimentary vacation planning call with Belest Travel Co here.
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