Kathryn Ippolito is a student at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in London, England.
A major reason why I decided to study abroad in London is because of Harry Potter. Growing up with the books and films, my life has been seriously impacted by the series. After reading the books, I always dreamed of venturing to Diagon Alley and King’s Cross Station. With my internship abroad, my childhood dream can now be fulfilled! I strongly advise to any Harry Potter fan going to London to make a special trip to the Leavesden Studios. The studio has everything you can think of props, costumes, sets and more!
However, this can be an expensive venture, as it requires about an hour and a half bus ride from Central London, and tickets into the Studio cost about £35.00 per person. Never fear, Potter fans! I have composed a tour guide to all the magical Harry Potter locations in London. Although you will have to pay for Underground transportation, the rest is free! Meaning you will have extra money to spend on Harry Potter merchandise at the store in King’s Cross station!
First up, is Charing Cross Road! The gate to the wizarding world is the Leaky Cauldron, a tavern placed between a record store and book store on Charing Cross Road in London. There are several pubs on Charing Cross Road, none of which fit the description exactly, so try to decide for yourself which one is the real Leaky Cauldron! Nearby is Cecil Court, which is believed to be the location that inspired Diagon Alley.
The alleyway has several colorful storefronts with unique signs, some might even say magical! The Watkins Books claims to be the oldest mystical bookshop in the world! The Colin Narbeth and Son Ltd. store on Cecil Court has also decided to cash in on the Harry Potter fandom, by offering fans that make the pilgrimage to the location Gringott Bank Notes that carry the faces of main Harry Potter characters.
Continue past Trafalgar Square, where Death Eaters fly by leaving destruction in their path in the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Keep walking past Wyndham’s Theater, stay left near Charing Cross Road and go left to Leicester Square. Leicester Square is a special place in the Harry Potter series, the site of the film premieres in London! Keep going straight until you reach Shaftesbury Avenue. This is where Hermione takes Harry and Ron after they narrowly escape Death Eaters that crash Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.
However, the movie differs from the book version, where they escape to Tottenham Court Road instead. Cross through Shaftesbury Avenue by the pedestrian crossing to walk through the arcade with the large globe lights overhead. This is where Hermione suddenly remembers that they forgot to celebrate Harry’s birthday in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I!
The next stop is Millennium Bridge, where Death Eaters attack London in the opening sequence in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Although the Millennium Bridge was not specifically mentioned in the books, it was destroyed by Death Eaters in the film. It’s twisted architecture makes the bridge an easy object to visually manipulate and change to fall apart with computer graphic technology. The Death Eaters cause the bridge to fall in the water. Walk across the bridge towards Tate Modern and to Shakespeake’s Globe. Keep walking past the theater and to the Southwark Bridge. In the Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix movie, Harry and his friends fly past London landmarks in a way that does not correspond to London’s real geography. In the film, they pass along the Docklands to Southwark Bridge to the HMS Belfast, which in fact is placed beyond the London Bridge to the right. Perhaps magic was the source of changing scenery.
Make sure to stop off near Borough Market when in the Southwark region! Not only was it the filming location for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry is staying in a room at the Leaky Cauldron inn, but it is also a great place to stop for a mid-day meal! Take advantage of the local culinary artists! Also, being that it is London, the market has several different types of food to try.
From the Great Fire of London Monument, turn left and go up Fish Street Hill. Cross over Eastcheap Road and veer right to go over to the next crossing. Turn left along Gracechurch Street. Keep walking ahead of Fenchurch Street until you come to Bull’s Head Passage. Then, turn right along it and look for a doorway.
Does it look familiar? Although it may be blue now from its most recent renovations as an optician office, this was used as the location for the Leaky Cauldron in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film. Keep walking straight ahead and go left to find Leadenhall Market, the exterior location of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
And to finish off the trip, journey to King’s Cross Station through the Underground station. Although this was not used as a film location, there is a specialized merchandise store to appease Harry Potter fans from all over the world that make the journey to the site. Near the shop is an area for fans to pose for their pictures against the nine-and-three-quarters platform wall, the barrier that Harry would pass through to get on to the platform for the Hogwarts Express. The station has a luggage cart embedded in the wall to look as if it was half way through, getting the posed witch or wizard on their way to Hogwarts! The store even provides the four different House scarves for people to borrow and use as costumes to complete the bewitching effect!
The world awaits…discover it.