Monday, 21 May 2018

 

Literary London: Harry Potter Walking Tour


It's no secret that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. In fact, the majority of my Literary London posts so far have been Potter-themed, from House of MinaLima (three times) and the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play around its corner to the unmissable Warner Brothers Studio Tour. One wizarding must-do I had not yet checked off the list though was a Harry Potter walking tour of London. Focusing on filming locations rather than book-related references, I finally got a chance to experience it this weekend. While most of Britain was glued to the telly for the royal wedding, I was wandering through sunny London spotting obscure wizarding locations.

We met our guide at Westminster tube station, which was also the first Harry Potter related filming location. Do you remember Arthur Weasley and Harry taking the tube to the Ministry of Magic in The Order of the Phoenix when Arthur is fumbling with his ticket at the barriers and can't figure out why his paper ticket doesn't swipe like an Oyster card? Well, that's Westminster tube station for you!

Rather than recreating a tube entrance in a studio, Warner Bros hired out the entire station for a few hours (for a bargain £15,000) and filled the scene with background extras rather than real commuters. One interesting point to note here is that in the moment just before exiting the station you can see Arthur going down the escalators when in actual fact, the escalators in this station go up when leaving. They filmed it the other way around, however, because it makes for a nicer shot. Did you ever notice?

Following on from Westminster tube we made our way to none other than Scotland Yard. For a moment I thought I'd accidentally joined a Sherlock Holmes tour instead. However, this area had a few nifty Harry Potter references too, including the entrance to the Ministry of Magic when Harry, Ron and Hermione have taken Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves – though an ugly metal door was manually replaced in the scene for a much nicer wooden one.... held up by a few crew members not in frame rather than actually being bolted on, that's movie magic for you!



Next we took a few stops on the tube to get to St Paul's Cathedral. For this one we had to squint a little harder to imagine Hogwarts, as it's actually the staircase on the inside of the cathedral that has appeared in the films and it's only viewable when doing a tour. Luckily our excellent guide had a flip book of photos on him that he took out on each location, so even for those who didn't quite remember specific scenes, it wasn't too hard to imagine the famous locations he was talking about.

The spot we stood still to hear all about the relevant Potter references in the area was smack-down in front of a private school, where – apparently – Daniel Radcliffe went in between filming. Though most of the time Daniel and the rest of the child cast went to school on set for three hours every day on top of working full-time on the film set (though a maximum of four hours of those were spend in front of the camera, per Equity regulations for child actors).



Just in front of St Paul's is the famous Millennium Bridge, which is of course the location for a big, flying battle between our heroes and a horde of Voldemort's Death Eaters. The bridge gets destroyed in the film, which is a more extreme version of real life events. The bridge closed just three hours after it had been officially opened by the Queen as it was swaying too much and there were safety risks. They've now all been fixed though, so unless another wizarding battle is upon us we should be all good. Unrelated but super fun to note here is that there's an artist who is transforming the chewing gum marks on the floor of the bridge into tiny pieces of stunning art. Next time you cross the bridge, look down to spot his colourful pieces!



Borough Market is not only the location for arguably the best Earl Grey macarons you'll find in London (trust me) but also one of the entrances to the magical Diagon Alley via The Leaky Cauldron pub. Spoiler alert: the pub is not real, it is in fact a Mexican restaurant, but the arched windows pictured above do also appear in the films as Harry looks through them onto Borough Market, which is supposed to be Covent Garden in the film. Some more movie magic for you. 



Our last and probably most Potteresque stop was Leadenhall Market in the City. Gorgeous in its own right it was as if we'd walked straight into Diagon Alley (no movie magic necessary), but no matter how much I searched for it, I couldn't find Ollivanders, Flourish & Blotts or even Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Sad face. We did however see another incarnation of The Leaky Cauldron (in reality an opticians) and the spot between number 44 and 45 you can see Hagrid in front of in the films. This shopping Arcade is really gorgeous and while J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in Edinburgh and Diagon Alley is likely inspired by Victoria Street there rather than Leadenhall Market, it really isn't hard to imagine wizards roaming around just beyond the shops we muggles can see.



While I was hoping the tour would include more obscure locations than those I already knew about and had visited before, the majority of the filming did take place inside studios and so I realise there weren't that many 'secret' London spots for us to explore. I hugely enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stories and interesting facts we were told along the way, many of which were new to me so I did pick up lots. And having the flip book of photos to show how the location we were visiting had been transformed on screen, sometimes unrecognisably, into something out of the wizarding world certainly added a touch of magic!


 
The tour I joined was the two-hour long guided Harry Potter London Walk by Brit Movie Tours. Tickets are £12 for adults are £10 for children. Huge thanks to Love Pop Ups London for organising the outing!

🎵 Listening to: Fall Out Boy – Young Vulcanoes


2 comments:

  1. I was in London at the weekend too - watching the "Cursed Child"! It was FAB!

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    Replies
    1. No way, what a coincidence! Did you go to House of MinaLima around the corner too? :)

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