I’m not sure if y’all are aware, but today is a very important day. Why is that you ask? Well let me just tell you what day it is. HARRY JAMES POTTER’S BIRTHDAY. Yes, the boy who lived, was created on this very day. The author who penned the most magical figure of all time, also happens to be celebrating a birthday today as well. Shout out to my girl J.K. Rowling for legitimately changing my life. You’re the real hero.
Hold up one moment while I go on a bit of a love tirade. Harry Potter did change my life. This series, which is so much more than just some books about a few kids going to some wizarding school, made me fall in love with reading. This series opened up my mind to a world I didn’t know existed, and I’m not just talking about Hogwarts (though…still waiting on my letter to come). It introduced me to the world of literature, and how a simple story can transport you to a completely different place, expand your mind beyond what you thought possible, and open up your imagination beyond your wildest beliefs. Harry Potter introduced this concept to me when I was in third grade, and I will be forever grateful. I still remember, every summer as a new HP book was released, standing in line to get my copy at midnight, then heading immediately to my bedroom and locking myself in there for the next three days while I was absolutely consumed with every word on every single addicting page. My mom seriously had to come into my room to make sure I was still breathing during these marathons of mine. When the off years came that a book didn’t come out, we had the movies as a backup. And while those were excellent, and we can thank them for bringing the ultimate goddess Emma Watson into our lives, they in no way even compare to the books. Do not even attempt to tell me you’re a real HP fan if you’ve only seen the movies. Typical muggle comment. You have no idea what you’re missing out on.
One of the best feelings in the world is not being able to put a book down. That feeling that you’d rather sacrifice all of your sleep rather than close those enticing pages. Sigh. My now husband and I bonded over our mutual love for this magical wizarding world when we first met, and still nerd out hard every time we talk about it (which, unsurprisingly, is quite frequently) and how excited we are to read this series to our future little witches or wizards. And by witches and wizards, I mean our future children. One of the reasons I knew Zach & I were meant to be was due to the fact that our last names both represented Hogwarts House Mascots. He, being a Badger, represented Hufflepuff. Myself, being a Lyon (Lion..same same) represented the (obviously superior) Gryffindor. I realize this isn’t a legitimate reason, but what are the odds of this? I mean, come on! Also…#GryffindorForever.
With all this being said, it will come as no surprise that when we landed in London earlier this month, I was over the moon excited. Cue the Harry Potter soundtrack because I’m taking you on a tour even the Marauder’s Map would be proud of. There is a guided tour of all things HP, but it is insanely pricey. So save your galleons, and use this little baby as your go-to-guide.
Australia House AKA Gringotts Bank
The interior of this gorgeous structure was used as the setting for the infamous Gringott’s Bank, the wizarding bank run by the gnarliest goblins you’ve ever laid eyes on. While the inside is not typically open to the public, you can drive or walk by and stand in awe of the beauty that is Gringott’s. If you do happen to get inside, you’ll recognize the iconic crystal chandeliers. But hopefully you’ll avoid running into Bellatrix while you’re there…
Leadenhall Market AKA Diagon Alley
Okay, so this was the first HP location we stumbled across and I swear to you I got chills. Not only is Leadenhall Market so incredibly beautiful on it’s own, it also served as the location for many of the exterior shots in Diagon Alley. You know Diagon Alley? Just the place where Harry got his first wand. Where Hedwig was adopted. NO BIG DEAL. It also plays home to The Leaky Cauldron, the ultimate wizard pub. The actual location for this is an optometrist shop in Leadenhall Market. Who knows, if you can’t make it to London anytime soon, try using the Floo Network. Just remember to pronounce Diagon Alley correctly, or you may end up in Borgin & Burkes.
Entrance to The Leaky Cauldron
The Millennium Bridge
Ooooo this one’s a bit spooky (if you let your imagination run wild). The Millennium Bridge is a a filming location featured in Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, and is destroyed by Death Eaters in the opening scene as they begin their reign of terror that not even the muggle world is safe from. The benefit of this sight is that it will actually get you from one side of The River Thames to the other, and offers dramatic views of St. Paul’s Cathedral as you pass over. Don’t miss this one, but keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious flying objects.
Piccadilly Circus is an attraction in its own right, but it definitely makes this list. Picadilly is where Ron, Harry, and Hermione land when they apparated in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Hermione said she and her family came here for the theatre when she was younger, and it was the first location that popped into her head. Hey, any place that’s good enough for Hermione is good enough for me. Not to mention, Picadilly has excellent shopping for all us muggles out there.
Tower Bridge and Palace of Westminister
Both of these iconic London spots are must-sees for any visitor’s to London, whether your a fan of our dear Harry or not. However, both of these noteworthy locations can be seen as the newly introdcued Order of the Phoenix fly over London as they head to #12 Grimmauld Place in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. P.S. Grimmauld Place is a real location is well! We didn’t make it there, but you can visit it at Claremont Square in London.
St. Pancras International
You may recognize this intricate building as the backdrop to one flying car scene, which can be viewed as the backdrop as The Weasley’s magical car takes flight in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. It’s truly beautiful, and definitely worth a visit. Luckily for you, the most exciting Harry Potter landmark lays right across the street…
King’s Cross Station AKA Platform 9 3/4
I have a habit of saving the best for last, and this is no exception. We could not contain our excitement as we stepped foot into King’s Cross Station. This location is THE HP landmark for all true fans, and played home to so many iconic scenes throughout the entire series. As the station’s conductor was announcing platforms for departure over the speakers, we kept anticipating she would announce the next departure for Hogwarts would be leaving Platform 9 3/4 in twenty minutes. Okay, now to the most important part. King’s Cross has created a faux platform on the main level of the station, that is a great place for a photo opp. However, this is not the real platform, and not where the scenes were filmed. So, snap a pic of it, but then skip the line (which was OUT THE DOOR) and head to the real platform, which lies between platform 4 and 5 in the station below. I promise you, there will be no line, and you can just FEEL the gloriousness that was filmed here. The hair on my arms is standing up just writing about it. Once you get to the real platform, just don’t forget to follow Molly Weasly’s advice: best do it at a bit of a run if you’re nervous.
Legitimately thinks he’s headed to Hogwarts…
Don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited in my entire life…(!!!)
BONUS HARRY POTTER MAGIC
For those of you hoping to find a guest entrance to the Ministry of Magic, use your imagination and hop in any of the hundreds of red photo booths that are so symbolic of our fair city of London.