By Lisa Johnston
London, it’s the home of the Queen, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Soho, the Tube and, of course, Harry Potter.
While Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is not actually in London, the city serves as a backdrop for many of the movie scenes. If you are planning to visit and are a Harry Potter aficionado, several companies offer tours to these sites (for a price). A great one is The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, 20 miles northwest of London but with a little bit of research and a good pair of walking shoes, it is easy to explore Harry Potter (for free) on the streets of London.
Located at the intersection of Scotland Place and Great Scotland Yard, surrounded by government buildings, Harry Potter fans will find the Ministry of Magic although the phone booth that serves as the entrance is no longer standing – or at least not visible to us muggles. It is precisely at this corner where Harry, Ron and Hermione waited with Polyjuice potion for their unsuspecting prey: Albert Runcorn, Reg Cattermole and Mafalda Hopkirk.
Leadenhall Market on Gracechurch Street serves as the inspiration behind Diagon Alley – a shopping mecca for wizards in search of wands, owls and books. However, the entrance the Death Eaters swooped into, destroying many of the iconic buildings during the Second Wizarding War, is located on Great Newport Street just off Charing Cross Road. Although it looks like a dark, dingy alleyway, with a little imagination, you might be able to use your extendable ears to hear a Wildfire Whiz-bang.
One of the most iconic locations in almost every Harry Potter film is Platform 9 3/4, in the venerable King’s Cross Station. For those who don’t mind waiting in a long lineup, you can take a photo as you try to run through the brick barrier to reach the platform beyond to the waiting Hogwarts Express. Don’t miss the landmark building next door, St Pancras International, where the Weasley’s magical car took off in the Chamber of Secrets after Harry and Ron missed the train.
Only a 10-minute walk from King’s Cross is Claremont Square, otherwise known as 12 Grimmauld Place, home to Sirius Black and the Order of the Phoenix. While #12 is protected by a Fidelius Charm and invisible to non-wizards, muggles can find it at 23-29 Claremont Square.
For those in search of goblins, stop by Australia House, home of the Australian Embassy, which served as Gringotts Bank in the movie series. From there, head across the Millennium Bridge – destroyed by Fenrir Greyback and a group of Death Eaters near the end of the Harry Potter series – to visit the Borough Market. A small flower shop located in the bustling market, Chez Michele, was used as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Although not a filming site, Harry Potter fans will want to stop at the House of Minalima, a mini-Harry Potter museum and store featuring artwork and items from the movie sets. Some lucky muggles have even had the opportunity to visit with cast members who periodically stop by when in London. We just missed Dumbledore himself by only a day.
For muggles who will never experience the real magic of Harry Potter, exploring the movie sites on the streets of London may be the closest thing to being a wizard.
Lisa Johnston is a communications consultant and serves as editor of the national trade magazine Canadian Funeral News. She is also a freelance writer and editor for several Canadian magazines and when not at her desk, enjoys travelling the world with her family.