Day One: Kings Cross
Before we left, I decided on a balance between organised walking tours (official and non-official), and self-guided rambles around well-known HP sites.
The first of these was Kings Cross itself. And, if you’re a witch of wizard looking for magic, this is exactly where you need to start! Gazing up at the magnificent Victorian façade of St Pancras Station, I told Uchenna to imagine a blue Ford Anglia flying above her, and was intensely gratified by the look of wonder she wore as she realised where we were.
Finding Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station was a cinch – it’s literally between platforms 9 and 10. And if you missed the sign, you couldn’t fail to spot the massive queue of curiously-dressed, excitable tourists waiting to have their picture snapped passing through the barrier on their way to catch the Hogwarts Express.
ProTip: if you have tickets for the WB Studio Tour, then there will be an opportunity there to take the same photo without spending hours in a queue.
The Harry Potter shop at Platform 9 ¾ was the first of many, MANY shops selling HP merchandise that we were to visit over the next 10 days. To be honest, it’s currently quite hard to avoid Harry in London. Every shop seems to have some sort of Wizarding World offering, and we eventually made a game of it: Spot The Merch. By the time we left, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find an “I Brake for Muggles” bumper sticker in a panel-beater shop in Croydon. From postcards to pillows, coffee cups to car upholstery…Harry is big business.
We didn’t know this on our first day, though, and I’m glad, because the shop at Platform 9 ¾ is MAGICAL. We wandered around entranced by everything we saw, alternating between gasps of wonder and girly squeals of delight as we spotted Hedwig plush toys, stuffed house elves, invisibility cloaks, chocolate frogs, Gryffindor-stationary, games, books, ornaments, pins, badges, robes and themed jewellery of every description. Finds of the day were Uchenna’s (glass-less) Harry Potter spectacles and a genuine Mrs Weasley-knitted pullover. We had an absolutely ball and left on a happy cloud of retail-indulgence.
Pro Tip: The prices at the official Harry Potter Platform 9 ¾ shop are actually better than any of the other ‘official’ merchandise shops we visited, including the one at Warner Bros. In fact, only Primark was better in terms of value.
The rest of the day was spent on a treasure-trail through Bloomsbury, organised through www.treasuretrails.com. If you have the time, these are WELL worth the effort! Not specifically HP-orientated, there are nevertheless dozens of different trails available that offer a completely different London experience, whilst testing your clue-solving abilities to the maximum. We finished our final day extremely footsore, and not a little pleased with ourselves!