London via Platform 9 ¾: A Harry Potter-Style Guide

Because, unfortunately, you can’t really holiday in Hogsmeade

Part two is here. It’s in theatres and is being watched by millions right now. The cat is out of the bag; the ending has been revealed — the real, final ending. As they say, that’s all she wrote. And while we’ll impatiently await the 2012 opening of the Harry Potter theme park in England, a pilgrimage across the pond seems imminent.

There are tours aplenty, which stop along a predetermined Potter-filled route, but to get a real idea of what Harry, Ron, and Hermione have been up to all these years, fill your itinerary with these London stops (alongside bonus tips in Oxford and Edinburgh). The Leaky Cauldron, Slug and Jiggers Apothecary, and Gringotts Wizarding Bank exist only on cleverly built soundstages, but set locations and personal favorite spots abound in London.

Take the Kings Cross railway station, for example. Get yourself to Platform 8, follow it to the end, and turn left toward Platform 9 to find… Platform 9 ¾. Marking the start of Harry and his companions’ magical journey, a plaque on the wall accompanies a luggage trolley half embedded into the wall. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/striped-socks)

Hagrid may not accompany you through the Glass House Optician’s shop into Diagon Alley, but you can still visit the alley and the Leaky Cauldron with stops at Borough Market and Leadenhall Market. When Harry disembarks from his white-knuckle ride on the Knight Bus, he steps through the secret entrance to Borough Market which is, in real life, a food-lover’s heaven. All types of food and drink artisans sell their wares like home baked breads, locally-made cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, and exotic spices.

Leadenhall Market was also used for Diagon Alley scenes, most importantly for locations like The Leaky Cauldron. When the wands have been put down, Leadenhall Market is a lavish indoor food shopping (and consuming) experience. While you can actually buy a broomstick there, some may argue that your money would be better spent on such items as cheeses, chocolates, freshly chopped meats from the butcher, and a glass of wine at Bedales Wine Bar.

The Millennium Bridge met an unfortunate end on screen in the Half Blood Prince, but it is still standing in London. Walking across it offers a generous view of the gothic architecture of the Houses of Parliament, which have seen Harry, Ron, and Hermione flying passed on broomsticks many times. You can also see Lambeth Bridge from there, which you’ll recognize from the Knight Bus’ spine-tingling route in The Prisoner of Azkaban. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bernt Rostad)

Way back in The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry took a trip to the London Zoo where he marveled in the Reptile House. You, too, can marvel at scaly reptiles in a flannel shirt like the boy wizard, though your trip will involve much less conversation with (and freeing) snakes. Find the plaque inside the room that marks the spot.

 

 

When the clock strikes twelve and Ron, Harry, and Hermione turn back into Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Emma Watson, they enjoy culinary delights all over London. These eateries may not serve butterbeer, but the actors seem to have found something on their menus to enjoy. They’ve been spotted dining at restaurants like Automat and The Wolseley, which are highly recommended even without their Potter-approved status. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Adriana Lukas)

Automat’s dinner menu is mouth-watering with classic American brasserie cuisine on offer. Think iceberg wedges with blue cheese and bacon, crab cakes, the Automat burger, and a lemon sole. Now that Harry and friends are 21, they can also indulge in Automat’s thorough wine list.

The Wolseley has reached iconic status on London’s dining scene. Just near Piccadilly Circle, the fancy, old world décor makes the perfect afternoon tea setting. Tuck into your expertly prepared and presented dessert and keep a subtle eye out for Emma Watson sitting across the room. 

Once you’ve had your fill of London’s magical locales, hop a train to Oxford where Hogwarts was once in session. Take your time in Oxford by booking a room at Malmaison and exploring the college like the wizarding students once did. Find Hogwarts library at the Bodleian Library on the university’s campus and the Great Hall (pictured) at Christ Church College. Oxford’s cloisters and gardens once hosted Harry and his colleagues while the Divinity School was used as Hogwarts’ hospital in many of the films, as well. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/JKleeman)

Once you’ve worked up an appetite in Oxford, stop into Brasserie Blanc for a bite and the Rose and Crown pub for a pint.

Traveling even further afoot should prove a welcomed prospect for true fans. And while you may not be able to ride the Hogwart’s Express, you can hop aboard any other train bound for Northumberland to see where the students once played Quidditch and learned to fly on broomsticks — Alnwick Castle. Once you’re there, you may as well book it just a bit farther north to soak up the scene where it all began.

Edinburgh’s Elephant House is where J. K. Rowling once sat penning the early Harry Potter novels with a view of Edinburgh Castle before her. 

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