If you’re anything like me, being in the UK was a dream come true because it meant that I could explore EVERYTHING Harry Potter. Every castle/estate was Hogwarts, every train was the Hogwarts express, every stray cat was Professor McGonagall (the list goes on and on). It’s fun to explore the inspiration behind the series and there are many websites dedicated to the various filming locations from the Harry Potter and Wizarding World franchises, for example:
(This is a good one!)
There are also certain items that will be on every travel/tourism site regarding Harry Potter such as the Harry Potter Studio tour, the Harry Potter shop at King’s Cross, etc. While it’s important to see these items, they’re probably already on your wizarding checklist. With the following items, I’m hoping to expand your list and enlighten you to some maybe lesser known magical items and locations that will satisfy your inner wizard as well as give you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way. This will ensure that you’ll be able to check off everything on your wizarding checklist without spending all your galleons.
Here is my breakdown of 5 essential experiences every Canadian Wizard should experience while studying in the UK:
1. Back to Hogwarts Day
Location: London (King’s Cross Station)
The Hogwarts Express leaves King’s Cross Station on September 1 at 11am sharp.
When I initially arrived in the UK to begin my studies, the Hogwarts Express was long gone. But you better believe that I was standing in King’s Cross station at 11am the following September! As far as I can tell, whether something happens or not at this time within the station is random. When I was there, there was no announcement, Wizard additions to the departure boards or anything of that sort but I know in other years there have been (especially during the promotion of the Fantastic Beasts films). It’s still fun wander around and pretend that you’re leaving for Hogwarts.
While you’re here: Check out the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾ and (if you don’t mind waiting) take your picture going through the wall between platforms 9 and 10! Keep in mind that there is a cost for having the professional photos taken.
Pro tip: If the lineup is too long for your liking, and you’re planning to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, there is also a photo opportunity here for the trolley passing through the wall! The trolley is on the way to the Hogwarts Express portion of the tour so there is no additional cost for you. It’s a great alternative AND you can tour the real Hogwarts Express coaches afterwards.
2. The Cursed Child
Location: London (Palace Theatre)
No matter what your opinion is of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in terms of where it stands in the overall Harry Potter canon, The Cursed Child is something that EVERY Harry Potter fan should experience. It’s a truly magical production and a new way to immerse yourself within the world itself – there’s a reason why it’s won so many awards around the world!
While you’re here: Around the corner from the theatre you can visit House of Minalima (located on Greek St) to see incredible graphic art from the Potter films.
Pro tip: If you think this may be out of your budget, the London production offers a “Friday 40” EVERY Friday where you can enter to win the opportunity to purchase tickets for the following week of performances for the low price of £40 (£20 per part). More information and instructions can be found here:
If you don’t end up getting tickets, you can always take pictures outside of the theatre.
3. Pub Quizzes
Location: Wherever your local pub is
Something fun to experience while you’re studying for your OWLs or NEWTs is a Harry Potter themed pub quiz. All pubs are different in terms of if they offer quizzes/what those quiz themes are but chances are if you find a pub that offers quizzes, they’ll probably have a Harry Potter theme eventually! This is fun to do with a group of friends and is a great opportunity to test your wizarding knowledge over a butterbeer! You’ll also be around fellow Potterheads and get to come up with witty Harry Potter-themed team names (Mine was Harry Potter and the Canadians in London). Many of these pubs will also give the opportunity to win some fun Harry Potter themed merchandise/prizes.
These events may have a small registration/cover charge for your team to ensure its place.
Pro tip: These events usually have a limited number of seats available! So, if you see one happening at your local pub you may want to inform your fellow wizards and register your team quickly.
4. Quidditch in the Muggle World
Location: Across the UK
There are many instances where the wizarding world has crossed over into mainstream muggle world. Perhaps the most prominent instance of this crossover is seen with the development of minor league Quidditch teams. Taking the rules created by J.K Rowling, and utilizing your everyday broomstick, teams have popped up all over the world to play this whimsical sport.
Many ATP partner universities have their own teams that take part in matches and tournaments! This means that if you happen to be going to one of our partner universities, you can spectate, try, or even join a real quidditch team! To make things even more magical, the teams often utilize Wizarding World puns within their names.
5. Trace the Origins
The Elephant House is a little coffeeshop located in Edinburgh. If you’re studying in Scotland, or want to take a trip during your studies, make your way to this little coffeeshop where JK Rowling spent time writing much of the earlier novels in the Potter series.
While you’re here: Visit the Greyfriars Kirkyard, less than a block away from the café. If you do a walking tour here, you’ll hear about all the Harry Potter inspiration that JK Rowling took from the names on the gravestones. You can still visit without a walking tour, and you can find out where to look for the Harry Potter spots of interest online!
Bonus Pro Tip: Harry Potter Merchandise
Location: Across the UK
It is SO tempting to buy every single item that’s available at The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾ but the truth is, all of that merchandise can add up! Instead of stocking up here (or even at the gift shop when you visit the Warner Bros tour) you can also find a wide selection of Harry Potter merchandise at Primark shops around the UK. With everything from keychains, to tees, Hogwart’s house PJs, home décor and MORE you can save significantly by shopping here (items are as low as £1.50!).