Today is Harry Potter’s 33rd birthday, and to celebrate the wonderful life of our favorite famous wizard, we’re showing you how you can have a perfect day exploring the most important Harry Potter sites in London.
Here’s a step-by-step itinerary to how you can have a magical London day.
London Zoo’s Reptile House
Tube stop: Camden Town
Start your day off at the place where it all began for Harry: the Reptile House inside the London Zoo. About a fifteen-minute walk from the Camden Town tube stop on the Northern Line, the Zoo opens up every day at 10am.
The Reptile House itself is pretty easy to spot, right across from the entrance to the Zoo. A plaque marks the spot where Harry Potter spoke Parseltongue to the Burmese python in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. You might be surprised to see that the enclosure actually houses the Zoo’s black mamba—don’t try talking to this snake though, it’s far more poisonous than Harry’s snake and far less interested in your vacation plans.
King’s Cross, St. Pancras International, and Euston Train Stations
Tube: King’s Cross/St. Pancras
After your reptilian adventure, head on over to the Camden Town tube stop again and take the Northern Line south towards the King’s Cross/St. Pancras stop. Take the King’s Cross exit to go visit Platforms 4 and 5 at King’s Cross Station. These were the actual platforms used to film Platform 9 ¾ in the Harry Potter films.
For a little bit of added fun, move a few platforms over to King’s Cross’s actual Platform 9. Sitting between Platforms 8 and 9 is a plaque memorializing the famous Hogwarts Express entrance, with a luggage trolley that didn’t quite make it all the way through to the other side.
King’s Cross recently went through a renovation, and the train station has embraced its Harry Potter legacy by adding a Platform 9 ¾ Shop next to its famous trolley where you can shop for wands and your favorite Hogwart’s House gear.
After you’ve had your fill of sugar quills, head outside and take a look at the exterior of St. Pancras International Station located next door, where the Weasley’s parked their famous Ford Anglia.
If you want to see what train station JK Rowling was actually imagining when she wrote Harry Potter, take a short walk on Euston Road over to Euston station.
Charing Cross Road
Tube: Charing Cross
From Euston station, take the black line south to Charing Cross. Charing Cross Road is where the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron is located in the novels, and after taking a look around at the second-hand bookshops and spell-binding antique shops, you’ll see why J.K. Rowling was inspiring to set the entrance to London’s magical world here.
A popular theory is that Diagon Alley itself is inspired by Cecil Court, which is just off of Charing Cross Road. This pedestrian street, which in many ways feels more like a secret alleyway, is still owned by the Cecil family, and still has its original Victorian shopfronts. The court is known for its eclectic mix of rare and antiquated bookstores, many of which have a focus on magic.
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
From Charing Cross take a stroll over to Piccadilly Circus to see one of the most recognizable London landmarks in the Harry Potter films. Harry, Ron, and Hermione apparate to Piccadilly Circus when they are on the run from the Death Eaters after Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and while this hectic city center is a maddening sort of delight during the busy days, it’s a true spectacle at night when all of the shop and theater lights paint the street in flashing neon.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields
From Piccadilly Circus, take the Piccadilly line north to Holborn. Located near Sir John Soane’s Museum is Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the location where 12 Grimmauld Place was filmed. Unfortunately, the Order of the Pheonix does not actually work there, only a bunch of British lawyers.
Tube Stop: Bank
From Holborn, take the Central Line east to Bank. The visually stunning Leadenhall Market is the location of the original Diagon Alley filmed in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.
If you come on a weekday, the Market’s colorful storefronts and bustling people will make you feel like you stepped into a busy wizard alleyway. The stores all close on the weekends, but don’t let that deter you from a visit; walking the empty cobblestone streets feels like its own kind of magic.
On your way out, make sure and take a peek at 42 Bull’s Head Passage. It’s the storefront of an optician now, but in the original Harry Potter film, the blue door served as the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron.
7 Stoney Street at Borough Street Market
Tube: London Bridge
From Bank, take the Northern line to London Bridge. Borough Street Market is famous for it’s eclectic foods, but Harry Potter fans know it as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban after the Knight Bus grinded to a terrifying hault in the film’s opening minutes.
Unfortunately, all that can be found at the actual 7 Stoney Street is a flower shop—then again, muggles aren’t supposed to see the magical pub for what it really is anyway.
Tube Station: Westminster
From London Bridge, catch the Jubilee line to Westminster. Westminster tube station made its mark in the fifth Harry Potter film when Harry and Mr. Weasley had to take muggle transportation to get to the Ministry of Magic, and Mr. Weasley couln’t quite figure out how to work the exits.
After you’ve patted yourself on the back from your own successful Westminster tube station exit, head up to Great Scotland Yard to see the actual Ministry of Magic exterior used in the films. With some luck, you should be able to happen upon a red telephone booth to make your own 62442 phone call.
Look across the river, and you can see Lambeth Bridge. Unlike what the Prisoner of Azkaban film would lead you to believe as the Knight bus terrifyingly squeezed between two oncoming double-decker buses, Lambeth Bridge does actually have multiple driving lanes and pedestrian walkways, so if you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and take a stroll across.
From Westminster you can either take the tube to Temple, or if you’ve got time to spare, walk on over to see the Australia House. Built during WWI to be the home of the Australian Embassy, this building’s exterior was the inspiration for the films’ version of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank.
The Exhibition Room where Harry’s banking scenes were filmed is unfortunately closed to the public, and it’s pretty hard to actually get in to the embassy itself, but you can always try and console yourself by taking a peek through the building’s intimidating doors.
Finally, end your Harry Potter filled day by taking the tube to Blackfriars and having a sunset stroll across the Millenium Bridge. And although Death Eaters destroyed this beautiful, pedestrian bridge in the Half-Blood Prince movie, fortunately, in our muggle world, it is still intact and breathtaking.