I remember the first time I heard of Harry Potter. I was in elementary school and some girls in my class were talking about the books. I had to wait to borrow them and already the first three were out. I then joined in with most children and teens of my generation—pre-ordering each book, devouring each new one within several days, and then having to wait for a year to find out what would happen next. I went to midnight screenings of the films, re-read all seven books while in college, and continue to listen to the books on tape whenever on long car trips. Yet, I still wouldn’t consider myself a big fan, at least not as big of a fan as my mom.
Unless you’ve been avoiding bookstores lately, you probably have seen the newest Harry Potter story’s yellow and black cover on the shelves, but if you look inside, you’ll see the story is actually a script. About a year ago, my mom won a spot in the lottery to buy tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a play in London and so the plan for our trip across the pond was born.
Although a short week, we managed all the magic and mischief in a few short days. Here was our Harry Potter Itinerary in and around London:
Day 1- Oxford + Platform 9 ¾
I missed a previous opportunity to visit Oxford when my Czech school dropped the city from its England trip itinerary. The city and campus are stunning with the ancient architecture and quaint shops and restaurants lining the main streets. The buildings simply ooze scholarly history and the open green spaces and architecture are enchanting. After some official business learning more about Oxford’s Department of Education, my mom and I crafted our own Harry Potter filming tour by visiting the Bodleian Library and Christ Church.
On our way back to London, we stopped at King’s Cross to see the tourist sight of Platform 9 3/4. When I visited London 4 years ago, the cart halfway in the wall was actually stationed on one of the train platforms. Now, it has been fully commercialized with a professional photographer, gift shop, and prime location in the center of the station.
Day 2- Warner Bros. Studios
A short train and bus ride outside of London stands the magnificent Warner Bros. Studios where the movie magic of the 8 films was made. Brilliantly curated, the 3-4-hour experience inside the now unused part of the studios will definitely fulfill any fans of the Harry Potter films. We entered with a group, truly from around the world. We were the only Americans and other guests had come from as far as Malaysia, South Korea, or India. It was impressive to see just how far-reaching this story has traveled around the world. Cultures may have different histories and tastes, but Harry Potter is truly a universal story.
The most impressive takeaway of the studios was just how much work, time, creativity, effort, and manpower went into these films. Since watching a few after the tour, I see and appreciate all 8 movies in a totally new way.
Day 3- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt. 1
The main event of our trip was of course, the play. When we arrived in the West End area, the Palace Theatre’s imposing location on the central corner was enough to spark excitement. After queueing for 30 minutes and going through a security check, everyone stepping into the theatre was buzzing with curiosity. Whether in more formal theatre-going attire or a Harry Potter t-shirt, everyone in the audience seemed to share a sense of camaraderie. And the show definitely did not disappoint with special effects that truly were magical. While you can buy the books, I agree with J.K. that it is best to #KeeptheSecrets of how the story comes to life onstage.
Day 4- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt. 2
Returning for Part 2 was just as exciting after a dramatic ending the night before that involved the return of Voldemort. With one magical mystery after another, the play was truly spectacular. Even though each night was 2-hours and 2 acts, the play never felt long or drawn out. If anything, it was a welcome excuse to be pulled back into a world that is so synonymous with my childhood and literally, a simpler time in the history of the world today.
In addition to our wizarding activities, we also explored London’s culture and wellness scenes. As a total coincidence, our family friend Evan Hall and his band, Pinegrove, were playing a super-cool venue, The Lexington, on our first night in London. It was amazing to see a sold-out, jam-packed room of strangers singing along to the words that a friend wrote across the ocean.
On my last day in London, I also was able to reunite with my Buenos Aires travel buddy, Katie, and we took on one of my favorite museums, the Victoria & Albert Museum. From the first time I went to London when I was 8, I loved the fashion exhibit at the V&A. This time I also fell in love with a new temporary exhibition, “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970.” With a curated soundtrack of classic rock in my ears, the exhibit was an awesome combination of my Gifted & Talented Art class project theme of Revolution, AP US History class, and university course The Music of the Beatles all wrapped into one. Definitely check it out if you’re in London before February 26, 2017!
Other suggestions for healthy options in London include Tri Yoga and Tanya’s Raw Café, which we checked out on assignment from Style.BodyAndSoul. Read my upcoming reviews of these two great spots in Chelsea.
With each day pleasantly full of the perfect amount of activity, our week in London flew past and soon it was time to pack up our tiny Bayswater hotel room to travel on. Stay tuned for more European stories from the Czech Republic!