If you're near the West End of London this July, you're probably like, "What's with the long lines outside the Palace Theatre?" That is, until you remember that the Palace Theatre is home to the debut production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As London’s answer to the buzz around Hamilton (which has yet to reach the UK), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is sold out until June 2017 – and the next round of tickets are eagerly awaited.
Yet for everyone who does not have one of these golden tickets (or has somewhere else to be before mid-2017), the play’s script will be released on July 31st – not so coincidentally, Harry Potter’s 37th birthday. But for anyone interested in getting in the Harry Potter mood before the script’s novelisation is released (and perhaps catching a glimpse of a magic wand out of a corner of a Muggle eye), here are some suggestions for the most magical places in London. They’re definitely best enjoyed while catching up on The Cursed Child – or, perhaps, rereading Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them before the December release of the movie based on the early adventures of magic naturist Newt Scamander.
Platform 9 ¾, Kings Cross Station
The major London station for northbound trains (and formerly hidden platform) has become a bit more visible to Muggles after a recent renovation of the historic station, which has been in operation since 1852. Thanks to the trolley stuck partway between Platforms 9 and 10, visitors can have their photo taken next to the trolley and then hop on a train to Scotland. Rumour has it that Hogwarts is based in the Scottish highlands. Unfortunately, no train travels as fast as the Hogwarts Express, which can make it to Hogwarts in just a few hours. For Muggles hoping to trace the Hogwarts Express’ path, the Caledonian Sleeper runs an overnight service to Inverness, the heart of the Highlands. It’s the ideal train for anyone who wishes to see the harsh beauty of the Hogwarts landscape.
Cry if you must, but you can't pass through the brick wall at Platform 9 ¾, you Muggle, you.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
Although technically outside of London (the studio tour is based in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, a bit north of London), this is a must visit. All eight movies were filmed at Leavensden Studios. The original sets are still there, as well as an opportunity to see some of the film’s special effects at close hand. Even more tempting is the opportunity to purchase realistic souvenirs. The house jumpers are made by the same company that made the costumes for the movie’s cast. Who can't resist an authentic Gryffindor jumper? Besides Draco. The Studio Tour is rumoured to be best enjoyed at Christmas, when it features a snowy Hogwarts and a Great Hall set for a feast, but at any time of year, it is an incredible immersion into the world of Hogwarts for aspiring witches and wizards.
10 Downing Street
Unfortunately, security concerns mean that you can only have a look at the outside of 10 Downing Street. After all, dangerous fugitive Sirius Black is on the loose. 10 Downing Street is the home of Theresa May, Britain’s Prime Minister, head of a government which includes the Other Minister (aka the Prime Minister’s name for the Minister of Magic). There’s also a dirty painting in 10 Downing Street which cannot be removed – and allows the Prime Minister to communicate with this secret member of government. Close to both the Houses of Parliament and Horseguards Parade, it’s a beautiful location on a sunny July day, perfect for a walk towards the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Anyone interested in not only the magical part of Her Majesty’s Government, but all of the various departments which run Great Britain, could also stop in the House of Parliament to see the British Parliament at work.
The London Zoo is a place of interest for Muggles and wizards alike. For Muggles, it’s an innovative, forward-looking zoo. The zoological society has made an effort to promote conservation, environmentalism, and a better academic understanding of its residents. As well as providing free entrance for local children in homeless shelters, it provides Muggles with a peek into the importance of looking after fantastic beasts like elephants and penguins.
Perhaps it's known best as the home of the Reptile House. A young Harry Potter was shocked to realise that he was able to chat to a Burmese python. Harry’s first realisation that something may be a bit different about him is when he's able to understand the snake. While vanishing the glass is definitely not recommended with the current occupants of the Reptile House, it’s a chance for an introduction to a snake and to try out those hissing Parseltongue vowels.
Charing Cross Road
The entrance to Diagon Alley is through the wizarding pub, The Leaky Cauldron. It's located off of Charing Cross Road. Although it proves difficult for Muggles to find the entrance, the Charing Cross area is a fun example of London’s hidden corners – with plenty of side streets, hidden shopping centres, lush enclosed gardens, and close access to one of the lovelier sections of the River Thames.
Charing Cross Road is also an easy walk to many of the other notable locations in Harry Potter’s world: Tottenham Court Road, where Hermoine fled to after the Ministry of Magic fell, the Palace Theatre, where the newest play based on his life is being performed, and the Ministry of Magic near Westminster, where Harry works as a auror. Taking a tube or train to Charing Cross Station is the perfect way to begin a walk around Harry’s London and to enjoy both Muggle London and glimpses of the wizarding world.