21 years ago, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK. To celebrate, here’s our pick of the best wizarding tours and experiences in London (all of which are suitable for muggles)…
It’s been 21 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the book that launched JK Rowling’s hugely successful wizarding series – first apparated into our lives. Back then, we knew nothing about Hogwarts. Now, though, pretty much everyone knows how to cast a Patronus (in theory, anyway), the points system for Quidditch, and which house they belong in.
Back in the old days, Potterheads had to sate their appetite for all things Potter by re-reading the books or watching the movies over and over again. Now, though, we have a whole host of magical happenings at our fingertips, from tours and exhibitions, to actually visiting the film set (and gulping down some delicious Butterbeer).
Of course, this is even more easily done if you live near London. From the Dudley’s family home at Privet Drive in Watford, to King’s Cross’s infamous platform 9 ¾ , the capital city has some major ties to the world of Harry Potter.
So, whether you fancy a whole day’s activities or to simply browse some magical-themed artworks, we’ve collated the best Harry Potter themed events in London to celebrate this spellbinding anniversary of literature. You are welcome.
Speak parseltongue at London Zoo’s Reptile House
As mentioned previously, London has played an important part in Harry Potter’s story and was the setting of several pivotal moments, one of which was the moment he discovered he could speak to snakes. Harry’s parseltongue abilities first became apparent on a day trip to the London Zoo with the Dudleys, when he got chatty with a boa constrictor in the Reptile House.
If you fancy visiting the spot where it all happened, or giving parseltongue a go yourself, head down to the London Zoo and pay a visit to the snakes that live there.
Buy tickets here.
Strike a pose at Platform 9 ¾
What Potterhead doesn’t want to board the Hogwarts Express, indulge in a chocolate frog or two and take their place under the Sorting Hat at the most esteemed School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that the world’s ever seen? Exactly: it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
While we can’t promise you a seat on that famous red train (no muggles allowed, sadly), you can make your way to King’s Cross and visit Platform 9 ¾. There, you will find that magical spot marked with a half-disappeared trolley – the ideal place to get that all-important Instagram snap. Left your selfie stick at home? No bother, there’s usually an assistant from the Platform 9 ¾ store (we’ll get onto that in a minute) around to take snaps for you.
You can visit the platform at any time and it’s free to take your own photographs. If you would like a picture with a scarf in your chosen house’s colours and a professional snap, you can buy these in the official store next door.
Find more information here.
Visit the official Platform 9 ¾ shop
Once you’ve finished snapping photos at Platform 9 ¾, you might want to treat yourself to some magical memorabilia to celebrate the moment.
The Platform 9 ¾ shop sits just beside the photo opportunity spot mentioned above and sells all sorts of wizarding wares. From wands, to house scarfs, to key rings, it’s the place to pick up something that reminds you of your favourite books and of course, is where to get your hands on the photo you just took next door.
The store is open 8am to 10pm every day except Sunday, when opening hours change to 9am to 9pm.
Find more information here.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron, Harry and Hermione are pursued by Death Eaters across London, narrowly avoiding one of the city’s huge red buses as they dart across Piccadilly Circus.
This tense moment in the film hits home because of its authenticity, capturing the bustling and sometimes dangerous nature of Central London in the gang’s worried expressions and quick movements. Make a trip to Piccadilly Circus and soak up the atmosphere in the flesh. All you need do is take the tube to the eponymous station and see for yourself!
Find out how to get there with Transport For London map.
Explore the set of the Harry Potter films at Warner Brothers Studios
To say the stylist.co.uk team are Harry Potter fans would be an understatement. Not only do we hold the same regard for the books and films as so many others, we have actually been known to listen to film’s theme tune in the office and spend our lunch breaks finding out our houses we are (we have one Slytherin in our midst, and a few Gryffindors, but the majority of us are Team Hufflepuff).
So when we say The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Brother Studios is good, you know it’s true.
Yes, you do have to travel just outside of the big smoke to Watford. It’s worth it, though, to walk through the Forbidden Forest (watch out for Aragog), visit the Great Hall, ride a broomstick and sample a genuine Butterbeer.
Tickets cost £39 for an adult. Make a booking here.
Get artsy at House of MinaLima
This kooky little place, hidden in the burrow of Soho, is a gallery-come-shop that displays graphic works straight from the Harry Potter films.
The four-floor building holds some serious treasures with art prints and stationery of The Daily Prophet, wanted posters for dastardly characters (think Bellatrix Lestrange, for example), and extracts from wizard-ing books such as Advanced Potions.
However, it’s not just memorabilia from the eight glorious Harry Potter films that you can expect to see: there’s also an impressive amount of limited edition prints, books and badges from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, too.
MinaLima is open everyday from 12-7pm. Take a look at the website here.
Gaze up at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
The fancy, five-star St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s striking neo-gothic architecture features in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when the Weasley’s magical Ford Anglia takes off into the sky. The building is certainly a beautiful sight and, if you’re in the mood to extend your experience, make sure you step inside and try one of the Booking Office bar’s delicious Potter-themed cocktail.
Find more information here.
Watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
If you thought Harry’s story was over for good, you were very much mistaken. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the sell-out play which jumps back into Harry’s life now that he’s a middle-aged father of three, working at the Ministry of Magic and grappling with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs.
The play is shown in two parts intended to be seen either on consecutive days or in matinee and evening performances, and although is notoriously hard to get tickets for, is said to be a must-see. The critically acclaimed production recently became the most awarded West End production in the history of the Olivier Awards, winning a record-breaking nine awards including Best New Play and Best Director.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is based at the Palace Theater on Shaftesbury Avenue. Tickets range in price, take a look here.
Graduate from the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Enigma Quests
You may have already heard about live escape games, or escape-the-room games – the new entertainment activity that is taking the world by storm.
In most cases, small teams are locked in the room and have to escape within 60 minutes. While escaping the room sounds exciting, we decided to take it to the next level by creating games where you are completely immersed in surroundings and forget about the real world.
Now, courtesy of Enigma Quests, you can embark on a mission to defeat the Dark Arts, prove your bravery and graduate with flying colours from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Wands at the ready!
Enigma Quests is based in East London and open from 10am-10pm every day. Minimum number of players is three with prices from £90. Buy tickets here.
Discover the real-life London locations of the films on this muggle-friendly walking tour
As any true Potterhead knows, there’s plenty of real-life locations featured in the Harry Potter books – many of which are either based in London, or at least inspired by it. And there are plenty of walking tours which promise to show you the city’s most iconic wizarding landmarks (think the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron), as well as learn some unusual Harry Potter trivia from your guide.
Tour for Muggles, though, is our favourite, as it specifically appeals to muggles (and squibs) and includes plenty of “weird and wonderful behind-the scenes-stories”. Win.
Tour for Muggles costs £14 for one adult and takes approximately two and a half hours. Book tickets and read more here.
Create alcoholic potions at The Cauldron
While Dalston-based bar and pub, The Cauldron, makes it clear that it’s not technically affiliated with Harry Potter, you don’t have to be Severus Snape to see where the inspiration for their potion-making class came from.
Upon arriving at this 1 hour and 45 minute immersive cocktail making class, you’ll be handed your very own wand and robed up accordingly. After been given the chance to fill up your pint, you’ll be escorted to your potions class perch, ready to whip up a spellbinding storm.
Consult your ancient magic scripts, use a real cauldron to mix up your ingredients and make sure you take loads of pictures, before enjoying a few bubbling, colour-changing beverages yourself!
The class is priced at £29.99 which includes the experience itself, two cocktails and a beer. Book yourself on here.
See Harry Potter film locations on a London bus tour
If a walking tour is a bit much for the old trotters to bear, why not hop on a air-conditioned bus and see the Harry Potter-themed sights instead?
Brit Tours do a fabulous sounding tour around the big city, stopping off at plenty of recogisable stops from the books and films along the way, including Leadenhall Market (above) which houses the secret entrance to The Leaky Cauldron visited by Hagrid and Harry. You’ll get chance to see the spots up close, and those who want to dress up as their favourite character are encouraged to do so.
Tour timings alter throughout the year so take a look here for the next available slot.
Who could forget the gripping scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which sees London’s Millennium Bridge attacked (and destroyed) by Death Eaters? Nobody, that’s who. And, while this may not be the most inviting description of one of London’s most famous bridges, Potterheads can visit the real-life site (which is now Dementor-free, thankfully) by getting off the tube at St Paul’s station and walking past the towering monument and across the bridge for themselves. We recommend a movie marathon beforehand to really get you in the spirit.
Find out how to get there with Transport For London.
Magical Afternoon Tea at The Potion Room
Soho bakery, Cutter & Squidge, are serving up a special afternoon tea-come-potion-class which invites you to spend two and a half hours in their “world of alchemy.”
The menu includes classic British finger sandwiches, a pie and a Yorkshire pudding – but it’s the drinks that have really got us reaching for our broomsticks: the Hubble Bubble, for example, comes in a cauldron which you add to yourself, stirring up a personalised potion. There’s also the promise of plenty of surprises that are kept secret for the experience.
Tickets are £49.50, make a booking here.
Stay at the Wizard Chambers in Georgian House Hotel
This quaint, Central London bed-and-breakfast is the perfect place to stay if you’re a fan of witchcraft and wizardry. The Wizard Chamber sits concealed behind a bookcase door on the lower ground floor of the Georgian House Hotel, and has been decked out with trunks, cauldrons, Gryffindor colours and a comfy and four poster bed. The flickering candle light amps up the mystical factor even more.
Prices start from £309 a night. Find more information here.
Images: Courtesy of venues / Getty