Travel in the Footsteps of Harry Potter in London

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When parents are able to weave a child's interests into a travel itinerary, the best vacation memories are formed. If traveling to London with a Harry Potter fan, literary travel opportunities abound. Visiting Harry Potter sites can be the thrill of a lifetime for anyone who loves the fictional boy wizard. Here are some fun ways to travel in the footsteps of Harry Potter in London.

Re-creating a Harry Potter film scene at Lacock Abbey

Re-creating a Harry Potter film scene at Lacock Abbey

Harry Potter Tours in London

The most efficient way for families to see filming locations in London is to book one of the guided walking tours that specialize in Harry Potter. Knowledgeable guides from companies such as Muggle Tours or Brit Movie Tours lead walks to locations featured in the Harry Potter movies. You may get to visit to the Leaky Cauldron, the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic, No. 12 Grimmauld Place and the alleyway that served as J.K. Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Those who prefer to explore independently and save a few pounds can download the Free Harry Potter London Tour, a self-guided treasure hunt designed by a travel writing parent who wants to make exploring London more affordable for families. The tour has easy-to-follow directions to many recognizable filming sites and includes general historical information about London and many of the buildings seen along the route.

London King's Cross Station at Platform 9 3/4 for Harry Potter fans

London's King's Cross Station at Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

Platform 9 3/4 at London's King's Cross Station is a priority for most visiting Harry Potter fans. The fictional platform is where students bound for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry board the Hogwarts Express after pushing a luggage trolley through the brick wall that sits between Platforms 9 and 10. King's Cross isn't included on any of the walking tours because of the distance from other sites, however, it's quite easy to get here on one's own either on foot or by public transport.

When we visited on our first family trip to London in 2010 there was half a trolley cart embedded in a wall near one of the train platforms. There was nobody else around and we posed for quite a few photos before going on our way. All that has changed as Platform 9 3/4 has become a full-blown attraction at King's Cross station. The luggage trolley now has a permanent location in the Departures area and crowds queue to don a house scarf and have a photo taken by a professional photographer. The souvenir photos are available to purchase along with an extensive selection of other merchandise in a nearby shop.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter - Gryffindor Common Room

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter -Gryffindor Common Room

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Since opening in 2012, the most popular Harry Potter site in the United Kingdom has been Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Formerly known as Leavesden Studios, it was home to the Harry Potter franchise for more than a decade. Each of the eight films were made here. Located just a short train (and shuttle bus) ride outside London, this is a must-see for Harry Potter fans who will be thrilled with some behind-the-scenes exploration. There is timed entry to the attraction but once inside fans can browse for as long as they like.

The Making of Harry Potter showcases many of the actual sets used in the films including the Great Hall, the Weasley's Burrow, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore's Office, and the Potions Classroom. There are displays of actual costumes and props, artwork and a large-scale model of Hogwarts. On the Backlot, visitors can board the Knight Bus, walk on Privet Drive or ride in Hagrid's motorcycle. Green screens provide visitors with the opportunity to ride a broomstick or drive a flying car and purchase a photo or video souvenir of the experience. Every conceivable Harry Potter souvenir can be purchased at the on-site gift shop. This attraction is nothing short of magical; there is so much to see and do that it can be overwhelming to try and take it all in. Families should plan to spend several hours here and know that it's going to be difficult to leave.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter - Hagrid's motorcycle

Hagrid's Motorcycle at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter

Harry Potter Day Trips from London

Filming for the film series also took place at various sites across the United Kingdom and it is possible to visit some of them on full-day trips from London. The first time that our family was in London, we booked a 13-hour Harry Potter tour with London Taxi Tour that included stops in the village of Lacock and at Oxford University, where various scenes from the movies were filmed. The guide thoroughly impressed the Harry Potter expert in our family with his extensive knowledge of the films and made certain that her day was absolutely perfect. As awesome as it was, a full-day private tour like this is exhausting, expensive, and will likely only appeal to families with serious Harry Potter fans.

London Millennium Bridge

London Millennium Bridge, which is destroyed in Harry Potter films

Attractions and activities abound for families visiting London but building time in the itinerary to experience the magic of Harry Potter will make for happy kids and a memorable trip.

Do you have a Harry Potter fan in the house? What attraction would he or she most want to visit?  Let us know in the comments below!

All photos by Lisa Goodmurphy.

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

Comments

  1. I haven’t read the books but I would find it interesting to see a few of the sites used in the movies. These sites add to the mystique of London.

    • Lisa Goodmurphy, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

      One of the things that I think is great about the Harry Potter attractions is that they are fun to visit for the casual fan as well as the Harry Potter fanatic. Definitely worth checking out on a trip to London.

  2. Amy @ The Q Family says:

    Thanks for this post, Lisa! It will be our family guide for our trip. My daughter is a big HP fan. She read all the books twice. My son is not so much but he did watch all the movies. So it will be great for us to do. Can’t wait!

    • Lisa Goodmurphy, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

      Your kids are going to have so much fun in London, Amy! Let me know if you need any more information about any of the sites.

  3. I love this! I can’t wait until the boys are all big enough to get into HP. And what a tragedy that we won’t be living close to London by that point 🙂 Love the pics!

    • Lisa Goodmurphy, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

      Thanks, Farrah! Once your boys are old enough then you will have the perfect excuse to head back to Europe and visit London!

  4. How lovely! I’ve wanted to see Platform 9 3/4 for a loong time!

    • Lisa Goodmurphy, the Spunky Travel Mama says:

      Platform 9 3/4 is definitely worth a visit, Charu, just bear in mind that the queues can be quite long if you go mid-day. The girls loved the professional photos that they had taken there and they could have spent hours in the shop if I had let them!

  5. My kiddos would freak! Such a fun topic and a dream trip.

  6. wanderingeducators says:

    what FUN!

  7. Anne Helmers says:

    After almost a year of traveling with our kids around the world, we found our last few days in London. It coincided with my sons 11th birthday so what better way to spend it than at the Harry Potter Studio tour. For a 15 year old and 11 year old there is no better place on earth. The details and amount of props are staggering. I spent half an hour looking at a wall of toys and props from the Weasley Brothers store. And ww loved the special effects room!!!! The breathing Voldemort was creepy!!! Highly recommend for teens and pre-teens!

  8. Timely–I think we’re headed to London this summer and we discussed incorporating HP into the trip!

  9. Delores Lyon says:

    Thanks for sharing your travels! I agree it would be so cool to walk around int he same places that Harry Potter did! Even if the Hogwarts isn’t real, it is still awesome that you can visit pivotal places used for the movies. In fact, I think I’ll talk to my husband about having our vacation in London this summer!

  10. Miranda @ Migration Expert UK says:

    I love the Harry Potter movie, I wish I could visit this place someday. Great post, thank you for sharing

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