London is an exciting destination for families, with much to offer. For Harry Potter fans, there is even more to see and do. TravelingMom with Daughters shares what to see and do to bring wizarding magic into your vacation when visiting London with kids.
Having the opportunity for a wish by the amazing Make-A-Wish Foundation, we knew that my teen daughter Hannah would choose something related to Harry Potter. She has been a huge fan of the series ever since first reading the books at age seven. And after ten months of intensive chemotherapy, she definitely deserved a dream vacation to look forward to.
Our family truly enjoyed exploring Harry Potter’s London. Here are our top five destinations for wizards and muggles alike.
- King’s Cross Station
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- House of MinaLima
- Harry Potter Walking Tours
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Harry Potter London Locations: King’s Cross Station
Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station holds a special place in the heart of every Harry Potter fan. This is where the journey to Hogwarts begins as young wizards and witches catch the Hogwarts Express every September 1st.
Notwithstanding with the magical association, King’s Cross is a real, working railway station. As such, it’s extremely easy to get there via the London Underground (also called the Tube) railway system. Since the popularity of the Harry Potter books, King’s Cross has become an extremely popular destination for fans.
Where Is Platform 9 3/4?
There is no barrier between the actual platforms nine and ten (they’re separated by tracks), so an alternate location was used for filming in the movies. To accommodate fans, a ‘Platform 9 3/4’ plaque was added to a brick wall near platforms 9 and 10. Along with the plaque is a luggage trolley stuck halfway through the wall to create a photo opportunity. There is also a large Harry Potter shop there, called the Platform 9 3/4 Shop.
We knew the line for pictures at the Platform 9 3/4 photo spot can get long so we made sure to give ourselves plenty of time. Being tourists, we weren’t sure which tube line to use ,so asked a security guard. He helpfully pointed out the “How to get to King’s Cross Station” sign posted just around the corner. Apparently that question gets asked a lot nowadays!
Platform 9 3/4 Photo Opp
There’s no cost to take your own picture with the luggage trolley. But if you want a professionally-taken photo while wearing a scarf in your house colors, make sure to go between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. They have scarves there in all four house color schemes and even have folks ready to flip the scarf up for that ‘perfect’ action shot as you pretend to run through the magic barrier. If you prefer to use your own camera or phone, the photographer is happy to oblige. There’s no obligation to purchase the professional photo.
Hannah and I were the only two in our family who decided to brave the line for the photo opp. Our wait was about 30 minutes. I grabbed a few shots of Hannah with my phone and she got a few of me, along with the professionally-taken ones. Then we joined the rest of the family inside the Platform 9 3/4 gift shop. We spent a good amount of time (and some British pounds as well) in the store. Along with purchasing a copy of Hannah’s professional trolley photo, we bought some house souvenirs for each of the girls. We also bought hardcover copies of the first three Harry Potter books since we only had them in paperback at home. Having the British versions is a fun novelty and great souvenir of our time in London.
Harry Potter London Locations: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Hannah’s actual Wish was to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. At the time, this was the only location where the play was showing (the Cursed Child play is now open in New York on Broadway). We will always remember how incredibly special it was to see the show, with the original cast, in the real-life city where the story took place.
The play is broken in two parts. Each part is over two hours long (including a 20-minute intermission). There is also a two hour break in between the two parts. You can see them on separate days or do both in the same day. We chose to do both together, which made for a very long day. However, it was amazing to see the whole story unfold and not have to wait overnight in between.
We had the same seats at the beautiful Palace Theatre for both parts. We knew exactly where to go when we returned for Part II. Our seats were about halfway back on the main floor and we could see everything perfectly well.
Our Cursed Child Experience
The set is very minimalistic and we were all impressed with the large staircases that were set up in different ways to represent different things. They were always changing, like the staircases in Hogwarts do. The show is truly about the story and the characters more than anything else, and neither of those disappointed. Most of us had already read the Cursed Child script when it first came out (Hannah read it in three hours that same night!). But seeing the play performed is so different than simply reading the script. And this play was performed so incredibly well that it drew us in right from the opening scene.
I can’t say enough about the cast – they were absolutely incredible. None of us minded or really even paid attention to the actors being different from the movies. They simply just were the characters that we already loved so much. The story has mystery, drama, excitement, friendship, time travel, and of course, plenty of magic.
At the end of the first part, they handed out Cursed Child buttons that reminded us to #keepthesecrets. We spent some time drooling over all of the items for sale and bought a few souvenirs. The break between the two parts offered plenty of time to head out and grab some dinner before we had to return for Part II. In the theatre district there are plenty of restaurants to choose from and shops to browse through.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is now on Broadway at the Lyric Theater in New York as well as in London. The Broadway cast includes seven members of the original London cast. The show earned a total of six Tony awards in 2018, including best play. In June 2018, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway smashed the record for the most ticket sales in a week for a play!
Harry Potter London Locations: House of MinaLima
I had never heard of the House of MinaLima before Hannah brought it up to her Make-A-Wish volunteers as a must-see location for her Wish. This off-the-beaten path stop is a true gem for any Harry Potter fan. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima are the graphic design duo who created all of the graphic art for the Harry Potter films. On display there you can see originals of everything from copies of the Daily Prophet to those many Hogwarts letters that the Dursleys tried in vain to stop Harry from reading. They also have the original Marauder’s Map and many of the Educational Decree Proclamations put forth by Dolores Umbridge during the fifth book/movie.
The House of MinaLima is located just around the corner from the Palace Theatre where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is playing. They are open seven days a week from noon to 7:00 pm. Since our tickets for Part I of the play were for a 2:00 p.m. performance, it worked out perfectly to stop at the House of Mina Lima first. It’s also convenient to head over during the break in between the two performances if you’re seeing both Parts I and II in the same day. Just keep in mind that we were told that it can get quite crowded at that time.
Exploring the House of Mina Lima
There are three rooms in the House of MinaLima dedicated to the Harry Potter films, plus one with items from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Seeing the drawings, newspapers and other props up close showcases just how much detail went into creating each and every item. The folks working there are very knowledgeable and have plenty of fun stories about filming the movies. We had fun listening and wandering and fully immersing ourselves in Harry Potter before heading over to the theatre for the play.
Harry Potter London Locations: Harry Potter Walking Tour
Along with the traditional London sights to see, there’s a whole new side of London for Harry Potter fans. Not only does much of the action in the books take place there but a great deal of the movies were filmed on location in London.
Along with the well-known spots like King’s Cross Station are many smaller places where certain scenes were filmed. There are also real areas that inspired fictional locations in the books and movies. As much as we enjoyed simply wandering around the city to experience the ambiance of being in London, we needed help to find those places that every Harry Potter fan wants to see.
Strawberry Tours – Free Harry Potter Walking Tour
Tours of all kinds are easy to find in London. Just walking down a main street results in seeing folks with signs advertising bus tours, walking tours, boat tours and more. And it seems like all of them offer Harry Potter themed tours as well. We chose a walking tour from Strawberry Tours. This is a free tour (donations accepted), which was definitely a big part of the draw. I can’t compare this tour to any others, but I can say that we definitely enjoyed the tour and thought that the tour guide did a great job.
Harry Potter London Locations: Warner Bros. Studio Tour
The Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a Harry Potter experience unlike any other. Filming the series of movies spanned over ten years. And since the books were still being written while the first movies were made, a significant portion of the original sets, props and costumes were saved. After the films were completed, the Studio Tour was created adjacent to the working film studios in Leavesden, England. The tour is comprised of two soundstages and a backlot.
Located 20 miles northwest of London, the WB Studio Tour is accessible by car or bus. The closest train station is Waterford Junction, so it’s possible to take the tube there and then a bus transfer will get you the rest of the way. I would highly recommend using public transportation, at least to get outside London proper. We had car service to get to the Studio Tour, which took over an hour. On our return, we asked to be dropped at a tube station outside the city and were back in less than half that time, having avoided the London traffic.
Tickets can only be purchased ahead of time and are not available onsite. We were told to expect to spend around three hours for the tour. If we hadn’t had pre-arranged car service picking us up, I know I could easily have spent longer. There is so much to see!
What does the Warner Bros. Studio Tour offer?
The tour is self-guided, although there is an audio portion provided via wireless headsets that you can purchase separately. We did have the headsets, but I found it distracting to use. If we had more time that day, I would have listened more because the stories were very interesting. Each of us wandered at our own pace separately and then we met up for lunch.
Many of the iconic sets are on site with original props and costumes. The Great Hall, Diagon Alley and Forbidden Forest are a few of the largest, but the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office and many other sets are there as well. They also have recreated some of the special effects used in the movie. In a different section of the tour are many scale models of the sets and artwork used in costume and set design.
The Backlot Café offers breakfast and lunch and is located about halfway through the tour. It was perfect timing for us to stop and rest and grab a bite to eat. I couldn’t resist some Butterbeer as well, of course. They also offer Butterbeer ice cream.
Our favorite parts of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Hannah’s favorite experience was the opportunity to try out the green screen effects. You sit on a broomstick model and are filmed flying over the streets of London, just like in the movies. You can purchase a video of your ride for an extra cost.
My favorite part was the Hogwarts Great Hall. This is the first portion of the tour and is such a grand way to begin. We also loved the newer Forbidden Forest section. It opened soon after our trip, but we were fortunate to get a sneak peek ahead of time. This area might be a bit spooky for younger kids but I loved seeing the Hippogriff and Acromantula models.
At the end of the tour is the large Harry Potter store. Here you can buy everything from wizards’ robes and wands to candy, stuffed animals and more. We had to be mindful of luggage space for our flight home so focused on souvenir options that we couldn’t buy elsewhere easily.