Can you believe the last movie raked in an amazing $158M in box office revenue in its very first weekend? By Friday, it had pulled in nearly $60M and half of that was in pre-sales! If only we had a cut of those earnings, we’d be able to go nearly anywhere we wanted and not have to get there on a broomstick. Although, I'm sure you helped contribute to that total, just like I did. Since there isn’t a floo network – that we know about – we still have to get places the old fashioned way: via planes, trains and automobiles. And because it’s been all Potter all the time in the news, papers and magazines, I’ve decided to dedicate this Wednesday’s post to my favorite fictional character and the Boy Who Lived’s hometown:
You all know my love and fascination with the metropolitan city across the pond, so it should come as no surprise to you that I plan another trip there in the coming years and will incorporate some Harry Potter goodness into my itinerary. Hey! I’ve already seen all the major tourist sites, so now’s my chance to see a totally different London – although I’ll probably still visit the zoo, which was missed on my last trip, due to the decision that we should check out something a little more unique instead and headed to Chislehurst Caves and Eltham Palace. Both totally worth the train and bus rides. Not to mention getting to hear the train station’s lovely recording for incoming commuters – “Orpington, this is Orpinton.” – which made us feel like we were in a (classic) sci-fi movie.
So, let’s start with fun and funky Potter inspired tourism and then we’ll talk about some not-to-miss
sites as well as how to save on the outrageous ticket prices. I’ll tell you now that London is NOT a budget destination by any means, but with planning and saving, it can be done and you can still do it on about half the budget you thought, assuming you aren’t dying to eat at a variety of Michelin-starred restaurants or think you should take a black cab everywhere (or really anywhere…those things are cute to look at, but a total drain on your wallet). London
First up on my list of must-dos for the Potter fanatic – you know who you are – is the as-yet-to-be-opened Warner Bros. owned Leavesden Studios. I loved, loved, loved Harry Potter: The Exhibition when I trekked up to
for the weekend to see it, but nothing is going to be quite as awesome as walking the “halls” of Hogwarts and the sets from the movies. Can you beat actually standing in the Great Hall or Dumbledore’s office? I think not! Of course you’ll have to take the train out to Watford, a good 20 miles outside of Seattle , but you can make a day of it. Doors are expected to open in Spring of 2012, so that’s about all I know. London
But, I digress…do you want to see the real Diagon Alley? The Leaky Cauldron? The
that was destroyed by Death Eaters? Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station? Okay, while there isn’t a real platform 9 ¾, there IS a barrier between platforms 9 and 10 that you can take a picture in front of. Brush up on your Harry Potter trivia and take a walk with other fans on this magical (surely, it must be!) tour that rings in at $32 per person. While not totally cheap, it’s a great way to experience London and get some exercise while also hanging with a fun crowd and seeing amazing sites from one of your favorite series of movies. Millennium Bridge
Do your own walking tour and stop by these awesome sites for free! (unless there’s an admission price)
London Zoo – When Harry is introduced to us in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he visits the zoo with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley and fids out he can communicate with snakes, when he lets loose a large Brazilian python and traps Dudley in the snake exhibit.
· King’s Cross Station – Take a picture of you and/or your travel companions in front of the famed barrier on the platform between 9 and 10. You won’t be able to board the Hogwart’s Express like Harry and his school friends, but you WILL be able to stand where they stood.
Millennium Bridge – You can cross this one without fear of it snapping in half and sending you hurtling into the Thames. It is nicknamed the , though, for the sway and give it has during windy days. Wibbly Wobbly Bridge
· Picadilly Circus – Go here by night for the full effect, then maybe take in a show or get something to eat. I’d recommend that sad little diner the trio ducked into, if I knew what it was called.
House – Home of the marble-floored exhibition hall of the Australian Embassy, but known better as the wizarding bank Gringott’s. Australia
· Borough Street Market – Remember the knight bus in The Prizoner of Azkaban? Harry wishes he couldn’t, but you can visit the end point of his journey – The Leaky Cauldron – in Borough Street Market on Stoney Street near the Market Porter Pub.
London Eye – One of the awesome sites that whizzed by during Order of the ’s getaway broom ride. You can see all of Phoenix from the rotating pods and get some excellent pictures of the city and the river.
· Big Ben – Another site seen from Harry’s broom. A visit to
just isn’t complete without a photo of it. London
Buckingham Palace – Yet another London staple shown during the opening scenes of Order of the . Phoenix
· Leadenhall Market – You probably can’t buy an owl or school robes or a Quick Quotes Quill there, but it is still the setting for Diagon Alley in the Sorcerer’s Stone. You can take home your own finds from here, to remind you of your trip.
· Phone booth to enter the Ministry of Magic – Still cool, though it doesn’t take you anywhere, you can find this red telephone box where the Strand, Agar St and William IV St meet near Charing Cross Station.
There are probably loads more places to visit on your trip to soak up the history of Harry Potter, but that ought to keep you busy for a day or more. When you’re ready to do some other cool sightseeing, check out these awesome sites that I highly recommend:
Victoria & Albert Museum – Another free activity, V&A claims to be the “World’s Greatest Museum of Art and Design”. My trip was so packed full of stuff, I never made it here, but it’s certainly on my list for my next visit. View clothing and architecture, jewelry, paintings, prints, furniture and quite a bit more. Some special exhibits have an admission fee, but otherwise, you can walk right in and spend as much time as you want without ever opening your wallet.
OXO Tower – Want to see all of
from the top? The London OXO Tower viewing platform has an awesome 8th floor gallery to see across the Thames. If you’re feeling splurge-y, make a reservation at one of their restaurants and take in the view while having a fantastic meal.
Do you want to pack a lot of sightseeing into your trip? Consider a London Pass. It works just like CityPASS and gets you into a multitude of attractions, as well as giving you discounts to dining, shops and other touristy stuff. If you don’t plan on walking everywhere – which you probably could do if you were very ambitious – you can also add transportation to your pass and jump on tubes, busses and trains with a swipe of your card. We took advantage of the
while we were in the city and saved gobs of money, because it enabled us to do much more than we even planned to do, including the Aquarium, Sherlock Holmes’ house and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. We were always busy doing something and had a great time. London Pass
Dining on a budget is super easy in the city. Use TopTable to make restaurant reservations and get deals like 50% off, 2-for-1 dining and special prix fixe menus. You can also eat in cafes, split entrees or stay where you have a kitchen(ette) and make some of your own meals. There are groceries all over, so picking up some food stuffs is relatively easy and usually on your way back to where you are staying.
tips on saving and what to do, you can check out these other posts I did on Jetsetera and My Itchy Travel Feet. Even in the absence of Harry Potter it can be a magical place to visit. We had a wonderful time and can’t wait to go back. You’re probably lucky I didn’t try to fit in more photos. It’s hard to choose favorites when you come back with hundreds! London
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