Sunday, 21 August 2016

10 must see places for Harry Potter fans!


The first sign that I wasn't of wizarding kin should have been when I was riding my bike down a hill as a kid. The brakes failed and frozen in fear I went headlong into a wall, which disappointingly did not prove to be a secret passageway to a train enroute to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 
And yet despite this and all evidence to the contrary, like all who followed Harry's adventures from the start and loved the magical world created by J K Rowling, each year I secretly wished that an owl would drop that elusive Hogwart's acceptance letter on my doorstep.

Unbelievably its been 19 years since that first Harry Potter book was released and completely transformed the publishing world. So its unsurprising that Potterheads around the world could barely contain their excitement on news that Rowling and a trusty team of playwrights had created a brand new adventure, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, currently playing at the Palace Theater in London. 




Of course unless you were clever enough to nab yourself a ticket early, are one of the lucky few who get the handful of tickets released every Friday or are in possession of an invisibility cloak and can sneak yourself in, you are in for a long wait as shows are currently sold out until the end of 2017!

However fear not, a trip to see these 10 magical locations offers the perfect way to wile away the time until you can see the play and best of all, every single one of them are visible to the Muggle eye. 


 1.  'Shop till you drop' in Diagon Alley - Cecil Court near Charing Cross Underground Station is, I am told, what inspired Rowling to create Diagon Alley. Amongst the independent bookshops and antiques dealers with Victorian shop-frontages it is fun to spot the interesting touches like the fact that one place is called 'The Witch Ball' or that nestled in the window display of another shop, alongside the usual goods is Gringotts bank notes, or indeed that there is a woman sat in a window of the new age shop across the street offering palmistry and angel readings. This street is full of subtle but brilliant little details that planted the seeds in Rowling's mind for one of the most memorable locations from the first book.




2.   Take a walk on the dark side through Knockturn Alley - Take a wrong turn when leaving Diagon Alley and many a young witch or wizard has found themselves in Knockturn Alley, a dark, twisting alleyway devoted to the Dark Arts. Similarly in the Muggle world right round the corner from Cecil Court you will find Goodwin Court, which was used in the films for Diagon Alley's creepy neighbour, where everything from toenails to flesh-eating slug repellent can be purchased. 

Goodwin Court's tiny, dark alleyway entrance means that most people go right past it without a second thought, but it's worth a walk through just to see the Georgian buildings with their rounded bay windows and the overhead gas lamps which give it an olde worlde feel.




3. Say "G'day!" at Gringotts - Want to visit Gringotts but a little low on your knuts, sickles and galleons? Well just head over to Australia House, within walking distance of Temple underground station. Both the inside and outside of the building were used for Gringotts in the films. Its huge, grand exterior and the fact that the general public are rarely allowed in, gives it a suitably mysterious feel. Is it a front for a goblin-run wizarding bank? Must be!




4.  Visit the world's most famous train platform - 9 3/4 
You've bought your new robes. You've stocked up on magical supplies. Now all there is to do is to head to Kings Cross or Platform 9 3/4 to be exact, to board the Hogwarts Express. Yes this is a tourist trap but when you are hanging off the back of a trolley which has half disappeared into the wall, for just a millisecond you believe that it all just might be true, and isn't that feeling worth any amount of mockery??




5.  Visit Hogwarts a.ka Oxford University
To fully emerse yourself in the magical world of Harry Potter a trip to Oxford University is an absolute must. Bodleian Library, New College Cloisters and Christ Church all feature extensively in the films so stepping into the Great Hall or simply catching students wandering around in black robes is a truly enchanting experience. No need for a Hogwarts acceptance letter to visit, just study super hard and earn a place in one of the colleges, or failing that you can just join a guided tour.




6. Watch a game of Quidditch on Hampstead Heath
When J K Rowling created the game of Quidditch where players fly about on broomsticks throwing Quaffles and Bludgers and chasing the elusive Golden Snitch,  little did she know that Potterheads across the land would soon be descending on green spaces to recreate their own version of the game. In the Muggle world that has translated to a game which is a mix of rugby, dodgeball and volleyball and has players using PVC pipes as broomsticks. To watch the magic happen head to Hampstead Heath between 12pm and 4pm on Saturdays where one of London's Quidditch teams (the London Unspeakables) train.

7. Take on a magical challenge
I have only just learnt of Engima Quest's School of Witchcraft and Wizardy Escape Game and it is now firmly on my bucket list for the year. Here's what Time Out has to say about it , "One of the newer among London's growing collection of escape games, Enigma Quests' magical experience takes its theme from literature's most famous boy wizard. Your team of three-to-five must graduate from a school of witchcraft and wizardry by solving puzzles and tracking down clues. The runes, potions, charms and spells are held in specially designed rooms that are brimming with detail and clever surprises, so your hard thinking is rewarded at each turn." I love both escape rooms and anything Harry Potter so this sounds absolutely INCREDIBLE!!




8. Enjoy a memorable night in Wizard Chambers
A Harry Potter fan's dream, the Georgian House Hotel near Victoria train station has created the Wizard Chambers. Waking up in this 165 year old hotel in a four-poster bed, surrounded by potion bottles, spell books, trunks and cauldrons, you will truly feel like you have been transported into the Gryfinndor dormitories. However at £249 for one night, you'll definitely need to save up your galleons for this one.




9. See Tom Riddle's grave
For the final few choices I'm sending you a little further afield, up North to Edinburgh. I lived there for 3 years and have a huge love for the place. It's easy to see why this historical city was the birthplace of our boy wizard, as the streets of the Old Town are brimming with character. Head to Greyfriars Kirkyard, the old graveyard at the southern tip of the Old Town which is a beautiful and fascinating place but also particularly interesting for Potterheads as it is the resting place of Thomas Riddle Esq. Word on the grapevine is that this gravestone is what inspired the name of one of literature's most famous villains - Lord Voldermort aka. Tom Riddle. The grave has now become a bit of a shrine for Potter fans, with many leaving little notes. Nearby is the gravestone of William McGonagall which some say is the inspiration for the Hogwarts professor of the same name.




10.  Go back to where it all started 
Just five minutes walk from Greyfriars Kirkyard is the Elephant House cafe where the magic all started. It is in this cafe that Rowling would sit and write for hours on end creating the stories that have captured generations. I've been in many a time and its a cosy, welcoming, low-key place but an absolute essential for any true fan. Head to the loos and add your own tribute to the heavily graffited walls which include such absolute gems as, "I'd get sleazy for Ron Weasley". Classic!




Of course it would be mad to do a post on Harry Potter sights and not mention the Harry Potter studio in Leavesden which has lots of sets from each of the films and is ridiculously fun and impressive sight to behold. Its not cheap but its absolutely worth a visit.

And on that note I will sign-off with one of my favorite excerpts from the books which always manages to crack me up. Enjoy and see you in 2017 at the play!


“Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business.
Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony, and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git.

Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor.

Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slimeball.” 


- J.K. Rowling

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2 comments

  1. As per usual a delight to read ! I did not know half of what can be seen in London, so thanks for that !! xx

    ReplyDelete

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