Growing up, I was the kid that read every single Harry Potter book and watched every single film. Whenever a new book came out, I remember rereading all the previous books till I got to the latest to make sure I remember everything. Perhaps it’s because the story is so rich in detail, it felt like you could immerse yourself fully.
Now that I’m a big kid, things are still the same. :P
Before visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan, I watched every single film again. And when I headed to London, I made sure I visited every single Harry Potter spot possible.
If you’re as much of a fan like me, this magical guide to a Harry Potter London experience is perfect for you. If you find yourself in London, do check these out!
Harry Potter Filming Locations in London
While much of Harry Potter is filmed in the studio and overseas, there are still plenty of locations in London from the world of Harry Potter. From the iconic King’s Cross station to the ornate Leadenhall Market, checking out Harry Potter film locations is a great way to discover the various sights of London.
I even brought some butterbeer (actually it’s real beer) along for good fun.
1) Claremont Square
12 Grimmauld Place, the home of Sirus Black and headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.
2) St. Pancras International
Used for filming the outside of King’s Cross Station where Harry took the train to Hogwarts. Just beside King’s Cross Station.
3) King’s Cross Station Platform 9¾
Location for taking the Hogwarts Express. The film set has been moved from inside the paid train area to a public area so people can take pictures easily. There’s also a gift shop here.
If you don’t mind queueing, there’ll be “wizarding” staff helping you with props and pictures.
4) London Zoo
The Reptile House inside the zoo is where Harry set a giant python free.
5) Piccadilly Circus
Place where our 3 leads escape to after Death Eaters invade Bill and Fleur’s wedding. There’s also lots of shopping and restaurants in this area.
6) Scotland Place
Muggle entrance to the Ministry of Magic. The actual red telephone booth used isn’t here as it was a prop though.
7) Westminister Tube Station
Used for filming the scene where Harry and Arthur travel to a hearing at the Ministry of Magic.
8) Lambeth Bridge
Bridge where the Knight Bus squeezes between two red London busses in the Prisoner of Azkaban.
9) Millennium Bridge
Apparently the film poked fun at how wobbly this iconic bridge is by letting the Death Eaters destroy it.
10) Australia House
Inspiration for the exterior of Gringotts Bank.
11) Leadenhall Market
Location for Diagon Alley, and also the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron.
Recognise the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron?
How I got around
The most time and cost efficient way is to hire a bike. London has a great self-service bicycle sharing scheme by Santander Cycles, which allows you to gain 24hr access to the shared bikes for just £2. The only catch is that you have to return your bicycles within 30mins, otherwise there will be an additional £2 fee for every subsequent 30mins. There’s also a 10mins period where you can’t use the bike immediately after docking it to avoid being charged extra.
The trick is to plan your route so that you always arrive at the docking station near your destination within 25mins after rental! It might sound troublesome, but the docking stations are literally all over the city. You’ll also at least spend 10mins at each film location after docking so no problems there!
Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour
For fans, no where is as magical as the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio in Watford. This is the actual studio where much of the movie was filmed. Everything you see here are the original props and sets!
The tickets cost £35 on the official website. I’ll recommend getting the multimedia guide as it contains lots of extra information on the film and sets. The tour starts off with a 10mins guided section before becoming free and easy. This means you can spend as much time as you want inside. Most people take about 3-4hrs to complete the tour, but I actually took 6! Do note that it’s one-way only and you can’t re-enter an area after leaving it.
The multimedia guide with more behind-the-scene footage. Cupboard under the stairs where Harry slept for most of his life. The Great Hall in full glory. Golden snitches hidden all around the studio for kids to spot. Excellent mini-game in my opinion! Activity book that comes with every Child ticket. Well I’m a big kid so I asked for one. :P Gryffindor Common Room with actual costumes and set. Dumbledore’s office. The books are actually old phone books with new covers! Potion ingredients. The crew went into a lot of trouble to make ordinary items look with wizard ingredients. As it’s currently the 15th year anniversary of the book, there are special popup booths all around. Demonstration of the green screen effect. You can even get your picture taken here. Other than props, I also got to see how they made stuff like Fluffy’s drool. Yuck. Wand choreography interactive booth for the wizard wannabes. Dolores Umbridge’s office with her intricate kitty plates. Again the detail is incredible. All onboard the Hogwarts Express! Railway shop at the end of the first section. Other than the usual stuff, they have a couple of exclusive merchandise. Don’t forget the butterbeer! The Knight Bus can be found at the outdoor area of the studio, also known as the Backlot. Recognise Aragog the Acromantula? Huge model of Hogwarts Castle. Finally a wand box credits area for everyone who worked on the set.
And of course there is also a gift shop for those who want extra merchandise at the end.
Pro-tip: Do book your tickets at least a month in advance as it is known to run out really fast. It’s also better to get the morning slots as you’ll have more time to explore the studio.
Directions to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour
The studio is actually at Watford instead of Central London so it takes awhile to get there. The cheapest way is to take the train from London Euston station to Watford Junction station (£5 off peak, or £8.10 peak b/w Monday to Friday 0630-0930am), before hopping on the two-way Harry Potter themed shuttle bus (£2.50) from Watford Junction station. Set aside 1-1.5hrs to get there.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play
The latest in the series of Harry Potter attractions, the two part Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is taking over London by storm. Mix a city that loves theatre and Harry Potter together and you get ridiculous demands. The tickets are basically fully booked till the end of 2017.
Unless you are willing to get it from the black market, the only option is to camp for their “Friday Forty” event. Every Friday, 40 premium tickets are released for sale at heavily discounted prices (£20 per part). If you’re trying, make sure your internet connection is blazing fast. More information here.
House of Minalima
If you love the artwork and detailing behind the props in the movies, you’ll love the House of Minalima. The graphic designers here are the ones who designed the actual props for the film. The second and third floor houses the Harry Potter exhibition, with authentic props from the film sets. I love how you can finally get a good look at the artworks up close. There are even props that didn’t make it to the big set!
Location: 26 Greek Street, Soho, London
Hope you found this as useful as the fun I had visiting all these places. If you’re headed to London, remember to check out our London Budget Guide: £60 a day including accommodation too.
Know of any other magical Harry Potter spots in London? Share them with us in the comments section below!