A Wizarding Weekend – a Harry Potter magical filled 3 day London itinerary

We’ve just returned from the most magical weekend in London, perfect for the biggest wizarding world fans. Miss 10 is a big fan of everything J.K Rowling has created, and in essence of our continued gifting of experiences not stuff, she received some tickets for Christmas this year. Together we’ve designed a magical other worldly itinerary for any wannabe witches or wizards in London Town!

Day 1

Start the day with a wonderful walking tour exploring all the actual and inspirational places for the Harry Potter movies. We toured with Tours for Muggles accompanied by Ellie Lovegood (Luna’s cousin of course). We went around many of the key sites from the movies- learnt about the challenges in filming in central London with all the crazy potterhead fans. Starting around the Tower Bridge area we saw the Borough markets (a good spot for lunch even if the Leaky Cauldron doesn’t quite look the same) we explored the area. Now experts on the range of bridges and the inspiration for Azkaban (well the English inspiration in Clink prison anyway), we took a tube to Westminister and retraced Mr Weasley and Harry’s footsteps on the way to the Ministry of Magic. A dander (walk for all you non Northern Irish) through Trafalgar Square to the inspirations for Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley before ending near Leicester Square. Ellie was able to answer all questions, and full of great wizarding knowledge.

An afternoon well spent is at the Potion Room in Soho’s Cutter and Squidge. A magical interactive afternoon tea- with potion brewing (I make a mean galaxy drink), a crackling cauldron to blow your head off, and a full spread of very English magical inspired savoury and sweet delicacies. Dressed in robes, in the beautifully adored basement, seated at school desks, our potion making class was delivered by a fabulous in character wizard. Full to the brim, we ended with a lovely treat from the sweet trolley! Great fun, immersive and delicious- a great afternoon out.

 

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Reading Harry Potter in the Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House Hotel

Then to retire to the Wizard Chambers in the Georgian House Hotel. Situated near Victoria station, the hotel has dedicated a number of rooms to detailed wizarding theming. Through a secret bookcase, we came up to our magical room, with potions, brews, old style furniture and lighting we were transported to a different time. There was even a secret passageway to the Ministry of Magic down the toilet if you dared! A comfy 4 poster bed meant for a good night’s sleep after walking all those steps! Sweet magical dreams.

 

 

 

Day 2

Next morning, following a delicious wizarding breakfast (included in the stay) head for the Palace Theatre in the West end for the enthralling Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It is split in two parts – we did them both in the same day, some people choose two consecutive nights. Tickets must be bought well in advance, but there’s also the weekly Friday Forty when 40 tickets are released for the next week’s shows for the total price of £40.

E0C1F759-22C0-449E-80C8-4FA4C055E9FCThe play is absolutely mind blowing, a full day in the theatre went in a flash! Keeping to the #keepthesecrets we won’t say too much. Other than go go go go!!! A little scary in places perfect for Potterheads aged around 8 plus! Miss 10 did jump out of her skin a few times but was totally spell bound! The end leaves you ready for the next part instantaneously!

There’s a few hours gap between the two performances- we grabbed a pizza and had time for a visit to the House of MinaLima. A wonderful exhibition of the graphic artwork of two of the main designers on the Harry Potter movies has been curated in a 3 story building in Greek street just around the corner from the theatre. Free to enter, and lots of wonderful prints to purchase should you desire. It covered all the movies including the more recent Fantastic Beasts. Lovely way to pass a little time.

Back to the theatre, for the second splendid part. Gripped throughout, the magical performances, wizardy set design, spell binding music, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lives up to the high expectations. A new production, that my theatre loving one now has in her eye for future treading the boards! In our case, a short wait at stagedoor resulted in some lovely chats, magical memories and the important signed merch for the theatre wall at home! What a day- time to rest those weary legs (a different type of weary from all the sitting today).

 

Day 3
(Caveat we didn’t do this part this time, but did go 2 summers ago, but would make a perfect part to a 3 day magical weekend).

Up early and off to the famous Warner Brothers’ studios to see The Making of Harry Potter. We caught a train to Watford Junction (about 1 hour outside of Central London but easy on public transport), then we jumped on the themed double decker bus and in no time we were transported to the magical studios.

ADFFCAC1-598B-48F9-A396-4247C95C2911After seeing Harry’s under the stairs bedroom, we inspected the table settings in the Great Hall and took in the sights of the sets, props and costumes from the movies.We wandered along the cobbles of Diagon Alley, gazed at Dumbledore’s bookcases and saw many videos of the making of the movies. After a lovely cool butterbeer, we headed to peer through the windows of number 4 Privet Drive and a quick photo with the Knightbus.

A highlight for me was the model of Hogwarts itself. Built to 1:24 scale, it was used in the exterior shots for the first six films. The attention to detail is incredible- more than 3000 fibre optic lights fitted inside and turned on as the night sky darkens.74FB211D-9477-4AA5-AA10-9C919EEEF957

We met some fantastical beasts including buckbeak, flew across London on a broomstick (well with the help of a green screen), and saw Dobby in model form.

Incredible, detailed, and perfect for Potter fans of any age. The gift shop is pricey, but the chocolate frogs went down well! A great day out.

Other ideas:

We arrived into Kings Cross station on our train from the airport which was perfect for a quick search for platform 9 3/4. You can queue up for a photo- it can be super busy so go for early in the morning, or later at night. The Harry Potter Shop takes photos that you can buy inside, but we were happy snapping on our phones! Quick browse around the gift shop for any other purchases too.

Primark in Oxford street has a dedicated Harry Potter section- perfect for some cheaper inspired purchases.

77F2871A-6ECD-4940-99DB-B7653ED20A0BThere you have it, our recommendations for a magical wizarding weekend in London! Let us know what you think and if you give any of it a go.

Tickets for the cursed child, the potion room, and rooms in the Wizarding chambers all book out in advance. The WB studios also can book out so get that sorted too. So if you are planning a wizarding weekend get those reservations in place, otherwise you will be staying with the muggles in the rest of London.

Theatre with kids – review of Les Miserables, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

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We are big musical fans in our house, there’s always a performance ongoing with the 3 dramatic ones, so any opportunities of a ‘big show’ in Belfast or Dublin and we are there. When I saw ‘Les Mis’ was coming over the Christmas period to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, I knew Miss 10 was just about ready. She’s been learning ‘Castle on a Cloud’ at singing  lessons for the last few months and this recently resulted in a brave moment whereby she sang for her class- even making it on to the school website. A big step for the usually shy one in class. We decided to make it an intergenerational adventure with an overnight, so Granny, Mummy and Miss 10 set off for a Dublin adventure. 

Equipped with the soundtrack, we were excited for the musical adaption of Victor Hugo’s novel.  Set in 19th centenary France, ‘Les Mis’ is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, ready for parole after serving nineteen years in prison for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Valjean breaks his parole, and starts a new life after a bishop inspires him through a tremendous act of mercy, however his journey to a new existence, is relentlessly hampered by a police inspector, Javert. Based during the revolutionary period in France, we witnessed young idealist students attempting to overthrow the government and all the devastating consequences of such a struggle.

Killian Donnelly is fabulous in his role of Valjean as he follows a righteous path through decades of war, suffering, themes of death, prison, prostitution and poverty. There are of course parts that are a little ‘adult’ in content, such as the ‘lovely ladies’ for sale. I fielded a couple of awkward questions about it on the drive home.

With fantastic musical numbers, we journeyed through the suffering and passion of little Cosette, her hardworking mother Fantine, and Miss 10 was particularly impressed with the young performers and more generally with the vocal ranges in the show.

I enjoyed the clever use of projected images at the back of the stage gave nearly cinematic feelings at times. It is long, but even Miss 10 was gripped throughout. She barely moved and we have been hearing the songs performed since!

A wonderful show.

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We followed it by a delicious ‘Les Mis’ themed meal in the The Marker Hotel in Dublin. It is a perfect location for a pre  or post theatre meal. Often with some theming of a set menu. We previously enjoyed a ‘Mary Poppins’ inspired meal when that musical was in town a few years ago, and the tasty food and attention to detail is still discussed by the two girls. We stayed in the Clayton Hotel in Cardiff Lane. Both  The Marker and the Clayton are right beside the Bord Gais theatre.

Undoubtably a wonderful classic theatre musical. Do I recommend it for kids? I think they need some maturity. For my 10 year old, it was perfect, she enjoys musical theatre, we’ve seen most of the more child aimed shows, she was familiar with some songs,  she could process the notion of war and any more risqué aspects went over her head. I would have more caution for the younger ones, and I will be leaving it a few years before bringing the two little ones in our house. Perfect post Christmas afternoon out, with the three generations.