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London’s 18 Most Magical Harry Potter Sites

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For every Harry Potter fan, a trip to London is a dream come true, and with the Cursed Child play premiering on July 30, there’s never been a better time to head to London and experience the magic yourself. From the iconic Platform 9 ¾ to the lesser-known pedestrian streets, here are the top Harry Potter sites in London.—Ellin Stein

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

There are many reasons to visit Sir Christopher Wren’s beautiful English Baroque masterpiece, but for Potter fans one of the main points of interest will be the spectacular spiral Geometric Staircase (also known as the Dean’s Stair) in the cathedral’s southwest tower. Recognizable from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan, this is where students trudge up the stone steps towards Professor Trelawney’s Divination classes held in a classroom atop a Hogwart’s tower. It was also used in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the Turris Magnus staircase.

Nearest Tube: St. Paul’s

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Leadenhall Market

This beautifully preserved example of a Victorian covered market, noted for its ornate roof painted in green, maroon, and cream over a cobblestone floor, portrayed Diagon Alley in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. You can still see wrought iron hooks above the contemporary restaurants, boutiques, and gift shops, a legacy of its past as a meat market (the current market was designed in 1881 but there has been a market on the site since the fourteenth century). An optician’s shop called The Glass Ball, located in Bull’s Head Passage, an alley off the market’s Gracechurch Street entrance, was used as the exterior of the Leaky Cauldron in the same film.

Nearest Tube: Monument

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Borough Market

For Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the producers moved the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron to this location. The brickwork and door that can be seen when the Knight Bus drops Harry off has vanished. In real life, No. 9 is a flower shop with a slightly wider entrance. Borough Market is a must-visit for foodies as well as Potterites, filled with stalls selling organic and farm-sourced meat and produce as well as artisanal baked goods and condiments. There are also stalls serving delicious street food.

Nearest Tube: Southwark

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Lambeth Bridge

The Knight Bus, a triple-height purple version of the classic double-decker Routemaster, is both invisible to Muggles and remarkably able to dodge obstacles as it rescues stranded members of the wizarding community at terrifying speeds. In the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lambeth Bridge, located just west of the Houses of Parliament, is where the Knight Bus squeezes between two more conventional London buses as it transports Harry to the Leaky Cauldron. The bridge is painted red, to symbolize the crimson upholstery on the House of Lords’ benches (Westminster Bridge, to the east of Parliament, is painted green for the House of Commons). On the south side of the bridge you’ll find the Garden Museum and Lambeth Palace.

Nearest Tube: Westminster

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Hipproductions |
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Great Scotland Yard

The name of this street might ring a bell with fans of that other world-famous British fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. It was here that the rear entrance to the former headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police was located, and “Scotland Yard” became shorthand for the institution. However, viewers of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will recognize it as the site of the Visitor’s Entrance to the Ministry of Magic, although the actual entrance was via a phone box located at the corner of Scotland Place. Scotland Place is still there (but not the phone box, which was only a prop) and in fact makes an appearance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 when Harry, Hermione, and Ron disguise themselves as Ministry of Magic employees.

Nearest Tube: Embankment

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London Zoo Reptile House

The somewhat larger London Zoo was used in the film of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as Little Whinging Zoo, where Harry first discovers he has magical powers when he strikes up a conversation with a boa constrictor from Brazil (who in the movie version became a Burmese python). There’s a plaque by the tank that portrayed the talking snake’s residence. However, it’s currently occupied by a non-speaking, highly venomous black mamba, so don’t get too friendly.

Nearest Tube: Regent’s Park

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St. Pancras

Thanks to a drab 1970s extension, the exterior of King’s Cross station was deemed too un-magical, so it was impersonated in the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by its next door neighbor, St. Pancras International, a Victorian neo-Gothic fantasia with wizardly turrets. In the film, Ron Weasley’s Ford Anglia takes off from a part of the station that has been turned into a Renaissance Hotel. In an interview with the BBC, Rowling confessed that when she was writing the book she had confused King’s Cross with yet another London station, Euston, and in fact had Euston’s Platforms 9 and 10 in mind (she was living in Manchester at the time so she couldn’t check.)

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross

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Charing Cross

This major thoroughfare appears in several books: Harry walks down the street with Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he travels down it on a Knight Bus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince mentions Ministry of Magic cars driving down Charing Cross Road. It is here that the Leaky Cauldron wizards’ pub and inn, which serves as a gateway between the Muggle world and Diagon Alley, is located. These days the second-hand bookstores for which the road was known have been largely replaced by coffee shops and restaurant chains, though the famous Foyle’s remains a notable exception.

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross.

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Tower Bridge

One of the city’s most recognizable and most filmed landmarks (it has also turned up in Mission Impossible, Fast and Furious 6, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The World Is Not Enough, to name a few), the iconic bridge appears in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Harry and members of Dumbledore’s Army fly down the Thames, passing other landmarks like the London Eye and Big Ben before swooping under the bridge on their broomsticks. Built in the late nineteenth century, it’s still a working drawbridge that opens for tall vessels.

Nearest Tube: Tower Bridge

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Kings Cross

Perhaps the best-known Harry Potter location in London is Platform 9¾, located in King’s Cross, a decidedly muggle-like commuter station. You’ll recognize it by a luggage cart vanishing halfway into a brick wall under a helpful sign that says “Platform 9¾” on the main concourse between the elevator and Platform 9. The departure point for the Hogwarts Express went unnoted until 1999, when the station decided to capitalize on the worldwide fame of the Potter books by installing the plaque and luggage cart in a passageway leading from the main building to an annex before transferring them to a bricked-up arch on the station’s exterior wall. Finally, in 2012, following a major remodeling of the station, the plaque and trolley (now with birdcage and luggage), was moved to the current location. If you still have trouble finding it, look for the adjoining Harry Potter shop, which sells official merchandise.

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross

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Australia House

A landmark since it opened in 1918, this imposing building on the Strand is home to Australia’s diplomatic mission in the UK. Its equally imposing Exhibition Room (which is not open to the public, though you may be able to poke your head in for a quick look) is so grand it required almost no set dressing when it appeared in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the main hall of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. A set inspired by Australia House’s interior, although with slight differences, was later built at Leavesden Studios for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2.

Nearest Tube: Temple

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Piccadilly Circus

A major London destination known for its nightlife and theaters, this is where Harry, Hermione, and Ron apparate to in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 while fleeing the Death Eaters after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. In the book version, they actually flee onto Tottenham Court Road Station, another major if less photogenic London hub, where the Luchino cafe is located.

Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus

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Millennium Bridge

The newest of London’s bridges, this modernist steel pedestrianized crossing portrayed the Brockdale Bridge that was dramatically destroyed during a Death Eater attack in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Fortunately, the real bridge is in fine shape and provides nice stroll between Tate Modern and St. Paul’s cathedral.

Nearest Tube: Mansion House

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Cecil Court

This charming pedestrianized street off Charing Cross Road is full of quirky Victorian-era shops specializing in rare books, maps, and antiques. It is widely believed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley and even has a shop that pre-dates the books called “The Witch’s Ball”.

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

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Surbiton Station by Train Photos [CC BY-SA 2.0]
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Surbiton Station

This quintessential 1930s art deco suburban station about 10 miles southwest of central London provided the location for the scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where Harry is reading The Daily Prophet in the station’s cafe (in real life a waiting room) on Platform 1 when he spies Dumbeldore on Platform 3. It is from the bottom of the stairs on this platform that the headmaster whisks Harry out of the muggle world. The filmmakers may have been making a sly joke since Surbiton was immortalized in the classic British sitcom The Good Life as the epitome of a comfortable, conformist bedroom community.

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Smartin69 |
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Horse Guards Avenue

This is the heart of official, ceremonial London. If you look back along Horse Guards Avenue towards Whitehall, you will see a statue of the Eighth Duke of Devonshire. For the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, a “gentleman’s toilet” was erected in the area behind the statue, opposite the entrance to Britain’s Ministry of Defense. This, of course, was no ordinary toilet but the staff entrance to the Ministry of Magic, which Ron, Hermione, and Harry entered in disguise.

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

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Westminster Station

This is where Mr. Weasley runs into difficulties using his ticket at the exit barrier en route to the Ministry of Magic with Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The station serves the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and several other main tourist attractions.

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Palace Theater

The Victorian glass canopy of this West End theater dates back to 1891 and has been decorated with suitably witchy additions for the run of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2. Created by Jack Thorne in collaboration with J.K. Rowling, the play, which opens on July 30, picks up the story of Harry, Hermione, and Ron 19 years after the end of the last book. Demand for tickets is astronomical, but every Friday the show’s website will release 40 tickets in a special promotion called “The Friday Forty”.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road

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