June 26th marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Time really flies for the boy who lived… As you may remember (from my numerous newsletters and blog posts), I love the Harry Potter books. But you might be shocked (shocked!) to learn I didn’t feel the love during the early days of Potter mania.
After several attempts to get through the first book, I finally finished it sometime in 2009 and was hooked. The change? I read the first book (and all subsequent books) to my daughter. I loved experiencing the books with her, and I’m pretty sure she liked it too. (Although, by the time we got to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollow three years later she was ready for me to take a hike).
We visited several “Harry Potter” spots during our visit to London and I’ll visit a few more in Scotland this summer. So if you love the magic of J.K. Rowling’s world of wizards and witches and real-life England and Scotland, here are few ideas to plan your own magical vacation. No broomstick required.
A Magical Trip to the UK
There’s something special about the Harry Potter series, with a world so vivid it almost feels real. It’s the classic battle between good and evil, and we all want good to win in the end. Add that magical story to the joy of London and Edinburgh (and a few spots in between), and you’ll have a wonderful, wizarding trip your family will remember forever.
A Harry Potter themed trip might include:
- A tour of London with a visit to Kings Cross Station and platform 9 3/4,
- St. Pancras International (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Maybe you’ll see the Weasly’s magical flying car soar past?)
- London Zoo Reptile House (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s…I mean Sorcerer’s…Stone Where Harry learns to speak to snakes)
- Australia House (Gringott’s Bank in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
- Leadnehall Market (a.k.a Diagon Alley)
- Piccadilly Circus (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows I – plus it’s pretty cool)
- Charing Cross Road (Location of the Leaky Cauldron and the gateway to Diagon Alley. Fictitious…or is it??)
- Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
- Behind the scenes tour of the Making of Harry Potter at Warner Brother’s Studio Tour.
Around Great Britain
- Durham Cathedral (Hogwarts School quadrangle)
- Oxford University and Christ Church College (Hogwarts dining room)
- Bodlein Library at Oxford University (Hogwarts library & infirmary)
- Alnwick Castle (Madam Hooch’s broomstick flying lessons)
- Hogwarts Express (Jacobite Steam Train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct)
- Glencoe, Scotland (Outdoor setting for Hogwarts and Tri-Wizard Tournament)
A Few More Ideas for Your Visit
- Tower of London – Try to get tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys. For the past 500 years, this ceremony locks the Tower gate for the night. Tickets are very limited so the place will be empty and spooky.
- Black Cab Tours – Definitely a splurge, but a fun, private way to see London. Worth it!
- London Eye – Touristy, but worth it for the view. Buy tickets in advance or risk wasting a day in line.
- Speed Boat Tour on the Thames – After cruising past the “normal” landmarks, the Captain headed to an open area, turned on the theme to James Bond and ripped it up. Fun!
- Hampton Court Ghost Hunt – If you’re a fan of King Henry VIII (who isn’t, right?!?), you’ll love visiting his favorite palace. Plus, ghosts.
- Winston Churchill’s Bunker – A replica of Churchill’s WWII bunker (of course). Interesting and (surprisingly) the kids liked it.
- Camden Market – A favorite spot when I lived in London, Camden Market is all funky, noisy, crowded, and cool. Teenagers will love this place.
“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” – Marauder’s Map, Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban