My Favorite Experiences (Harry Potter)

As I’ve been studying in London, I have been able to just live the dream in regard to anything Harry Potter. London is of course the perfect city for anything related to the books and films, and I’ve been lucky to experience essentially everything it has to offer.

If you like Harry Potter, London is 100% the place for you, and here’s why:

1. The Warner Brother’s Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter: This is the tour of all of the sets, costumes, props, etc. from the Harry Potter films! It is absolutely amazing. I was lucky enough to go 4 different times since I’ve been here, and two of the times were for themed dinners in the set of the Great Hall (which was probably the coolest thing I have ever done)! Once you get there, you get to see everything from the films from the set of the Gryffindor Common Room, to the kitchen of The Burrow to the amazing costumes for the Yule Ball. I would definitely recommend going near Christmas because the Great Hall is an absolute dream and is breathtaking all decorated in silver.

2. The Premiere of Fantastic Beasts: This was of course not a constant event in London, but it was one I was lucky enough to go to! I got up at 4am to get in line for a free ticket to attend the premiere, and I was able to meet tons of members of the cast! I got autographs from almost everyone in the newest film, plus Jason Isaacs! Unfortunately I missed out on meeting JK Rowling, but I did get to see her, which was still so cool, and I was there to hear her speak about the film. If you happen to be in London when the next installment of the Fantastic Beasts films come out, I would absolutely say you should go!

3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the play written with JK Rowling following Harry, Ron and Hermione as adults tackling parenthood. The play focuses on one of Harry’s sons as well and how he deals with having Harry as a father. It is honestly amazing. I read the screenplay before going, and I wasn’t a fan, but it really is something that just works on stage. The magic they are able to do right in front of you is unbelievable. If you’re in London for an extended period of time, you should enter the Friday Forty, which is a weekly lottery for some of the best seats for only 40 Pounds (the play is two parts, so 20 pounds per part). I was crazy lucky and won the lottery 5 different times between October 2018 – March 2019. I gave the tickets away to some friends one of the times, but I went the other 4 times because it is really just that good.

4. Harry Potter Walking Tour: This is really cool and is a nice way to walk around London on a fun tour. I would recommend going near the beginning of your time in London, so you can see a good amount of the city right off the bat! You walk to a ton of different places including streets used as inspirations for the films. It’s also inexpensive.

5. Oxford: Oxford is a bit away from London, but is definitely worth a trip! Some of the scenes in the first film were shot here, and it’s really cool to see in person. They have a Harry Potter tour here as well.

6. House of MinaLima: Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima did all of the graphic design for the Harry Potter films such as the front pages of the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler. They have an exhibition of the different pieces they created for the films that is free to see and very cool.

7. Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station: At King’s Cross Station there is a real life Platform 9 3/4! You can take a fun picture that looks like you’re going through the platform as well as go in an amazing shop with lots of cool merchandise. I live only 10 minutes away from King’s Cross, so I’ve been a ton of times, and it’s always fun.

London has been beyond perfect for someone who loves Harry Potter, and I’m so happy I got to see/do everything that I did. Not on the list, I also met the illustrator of the illustrated versions of the books, Jim Kay, on Harry Potter Book Night. This was also an incredible experience, and if you keep an eye out for any HP announcements regarding London, you’ll be sure to find amazing events like that!

Sacrificing Travel

I was fortunate to be able to study abroad for a full 9 months instead of just one semester, which allowed me to be a bit more relaxed about my travel. For instance, I have been able to see and do a ton of different things around my city (London) instead of trying to travel around Europe most weekends. I’ve been able to see 5 different plays/musicals on the West End, do seriously every tourist attraction possible, and just enjoy the city that I’m living in.

Of course, I also travelled around Europe, but lately I’ve been reflecting on choosing to sacrifice travel in order to study, which has been difficult to do. Before I left the US for London, I made a list of cities/countries that I absolutely wanted to see. I’ve been able to see most, plus a couple I wan’t planning on as I met friends who live across Europe, but I did not hit all of them. Specifically, I was very set on going to Germany, Austria and Poland, and my family originates from these areas of Europe. I had originally planned on using the next few weeks to hit the remaining places on my list, but ultimately I’ve had to decide to stay in the UK.

For anyone who may not know, the exam system here is very different. I took 4 year-long courses with no exams and very little coursework throughout the two terms. However, my final exams are each 3 hours long and 100% of my final grade. We have a full month off from classes before exams begin to study, and originally I thought that would be plenty of time to travel as well, but man I was wrong.

It has been difficult to sit back in London and study every day while I see others choose to travel during their final weeks, but I think ultimately I needed to remember that this is study abroad, and I can’t forget about my classes and grades. I’ve been able to see some absolutely amazing places, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to travel and study, even it meant sacrificing some places on my list at the end.