Harry Potter Week: The Busy Traveller’s Guide to Harry Potter’s London

Harry, Hermione & Ron in London
Harry, Hermione & Ron in London © Warner Bros.

There are countless reasons to visit London but for many fans of Harry Potter, getting to see some of the real life locations from the films has to up near the top. A quick Google search will provide you with countless options for everything from self-guided walking tours to week long vacations taking in all the Potter goodness you could possibly wish for, but a good number of visitors to London are here on business without the time for such extended tours. If you only have an hour spare in your trip, what’s worth seeing and what is convenient? Here then is the guide to Harry Potter filming locations for those people who are in a hurry and just want to squeeze a bit of Potter magic into a hectic business trip.

 

1. Kings Cross Station/Platform 9 and Three Quarters

Underground Station:
Kings Cross St. Pancras (Victoria, Piccadilly, Northern, Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines)

Is it worth visiting?
This is the location that gives you the most Potter for your time with three distinct Potter locations within minutes of one another and all right at the station, meaning there’s little chance of getting lost in London’s winding back streets. If you only have time for one Potter experience, this is where you should head. It is worth noting that the current location of the entrance to Platform Nine & Three Quarters is outside and the brick wall into which the trolley appears to be vanishing is actually a shiny plastic photograph of a brick wall and very fake when close up, not the genuine brick wall inside the building which was used previously. This may be because of the major renovations currently happening at Kings Cross in preparation for the London 2012 Olympic Games and so the platform entrance may eventually be moved back to a real wall.

What is the location like?
For the unseasoned London traveller, it is very important to know that Kings Cross actually comprises two different stations which are set across the road from one another, Kings Cross and Kings Cross St Pancras International. Past visitors may recall a third Kings Cross station – Thameslink which has now closed with services to that station now re-routed to St Pancras. Make sure you are aware which station you will be arriving at, Kings Cross is one of the largest hubs in London and is nearly always very busy, even late at night. You will need to cross a road to see both areas but a pedestrian crossing is located close by and the area is usually so busy that the traffic is often stationary for long periods anyway.

What will I see?
Kings Cross itself is home to Platform 4, where the bridge scenes from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone were filmed, however the bridge that Harry & Hagrid walked across has been demolished. Scenes from Chamber of Secrets were also filmed on Platform 4. You cannot access the platform itself without a valid ticket however it is easy to see the distinctive arched roof from the station concourse. Outside the station (follow the signs for lost property) you will find the false brick wall that marks the entrance to Platform 9 and 3/4 – if you get lost, look for the crowd of people queuing up for a photograph, it was a constant presence during my time waiting for a friend there.

Platform Nine & Three Quarters
Platform Nine & Three Quarters

Finally, to your immediate left as you look at Platform 9 and 3/4, you will see the distinctive architecture of Kings Cross St Pancras, where the exterior shots from Chamber of Secrets with the flying Ford Anglia were located. Crossing the road and heading up the stairs immediately in front of you will take you away from the traffic and into the courtyard of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel which will allow you to really see the location and the beauty of the building. This is also where several publicity shots for Deathly Hallows Part Two were taken last week.

 

2. Grimmauld Place

 

 

 

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Some Houses at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

 

 

 

Underground Station:
Holborn (Piccadilly & Central Lines)

Is it worth visiting?
This is rather debatable as the true location for Grimmauld Place is still up for some debate, meaning there’s a good chance that what you’ll see has nothing to do with Harry Potter except baring a bit of a resemblance to the film set. However when we went along to the most  touted location for Grimmauld Place, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, there was no mistaking that the houses here are an uncanny match to those at in the films.

What is the location like?
We used Holborn underground station and followed the signs to Lincoln’s Inn Fields from the station exit, they were clearly signposted. This is not scenic, picturesque London by any stretch of the imagination but if you want to see something closer to the “real” London, this is a good stop. The location was around five minutes walk and unmistakeable upon arrival. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is believed to have been the inspiration for New York’s Central Park as all the houses face out onto  a scenic open square, accurate to the film. If you’re on a lunch break and want to mix your Potter sightseeing with a nice spot to get lunch, this is the place.

What will I see?
All the houses facing the square have elements of Grimmauld Place to them, walking along the roads we would spot a familiar railing at one house and the next would have the correct window surrounding. Take a stroll around the square and you can probably amalgamate the appearance of Number 12 by piecing together the different bits from each different front. Naturally you wouldn’t actually be able to spot Number 12 anyway, unless you have been there before.

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3. Shaftesbury Avenue & Piccadilly Circus

Shaftesbury Avenue
Shaftesbury Avenue

Underground Station:
Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly & Bakerloo Lines)

Is it worth visiting?
This is where Harry, Ron & Hermione apparate to when they escape from the wedding in Deathly Hallows Part One. There is little here to actually mark the location as being a Potter location but you will certainly see some of the same sights around you from those scenes.

What is the location like?
Busy! This is the heart of tourist London, expect huge crowds from dawn ’til dusk. The underground station has numerous exits that bring you out on various sides of a huge road junction with multiple streets converging. It is difficult to truly see much of the area because of the crowds and tricky to get your bearings. Unless you really want to see everything or are interested in the tourist attractions, theatres and restaurants here, this may be one to avoid.

What will I see?
This stop is more about atmosphere, especially if you’re visiting at night, perhaps before a show in one of the countless theatres located nearby. The crowded pavements, roads filled with bright red London buses and neon signs of the theatres and restaurants give you the feel of being in the scene along with the characters which is a feeling you may struggle to attain at other locations. One of biggest tourist attractions here is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not which can be seen very briefly in the film as can the famous Piccadilly video screen wall.

 

4. The Ministry of Magic

The Ministry of Magic
The Ministry of Magic

Underground Station:
Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo Lines) or Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle and District Lines)

Is it worth visiting?
This is one of few locations that are almost identical in reality to the way they appear on screen. It is a significant walk (perhaps 10 minutes) from Charing Cross, where we approached from however you will get to see Trafalgar Square on your walk, combining the location with some more traditional London tourism. This one is certainly worth it if you have the time but there are certainly more scenic places to see.

What is the location like?
The Ministry of Magic  is aptly located, close to many real governmental buildings including the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and Downing Street – home of the Prime Minister. Coming from Charing Cross, you will pass by Trafalgar Square and you are close to other famous London landmarks such as The Mall. The surrounding areas aren’t much to look at, this is a government area with little to attract non workers so expect grey monotony. You are also right by the original home of the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard.

What will I see?
Scotland Place is where the trio staked out the main entrance to Ministry in Deathly Hallows Part One and also where we see Harry & Mr Weasley enter the Ministry in Order of The Phoenix. The phone box Harry & Arthur used to enter the Ministry was a prop and does not really exist, however apart from this nothing was changed for the film so this is one of few places where you can stand in the exact locations seen in the films. Nearby is Trafalgar Square where the premiere of Deathly Hallows Part Two took place last week.

 

5. Other locations

London is a big city and, partly due to several large protests that were converging on Parliament the afternoon of our trip, we didn’t have the time (or consider it entirely safe) to visit every filming site. The Millennium Bridge which is destroyed in the opening scenes of Half Blood Prince can be seen from many points along the River Thames as can several other bridges and the Houses of Parliament where we see Harry & members of the Order flying in Order of The Phoenix and Lambeth Bridge where the Knight Bus squeezed between two London buses. Australia House (interior of Gringott’s Bank) is close to the Ministry of Magic location and can be accessed best from Temple underground station; Leadenhall Market (Monument underground) is the location for Diagon Alley and a flower shop in Borough Market (London Bridge underground) marks where the Knight Bus pulled up to deposit Harry at the Leaky Cauldron. Finally, if you do find yourself with a little extra time, you could always visit the reptile house at London Zoo and see if you can talk to any of the residents there or take the 17 minute train ride from Waterloo to Surbiton Station where Harry flirted with a waitress in the platform cafe at the beginning of Half Blood Prince.