Full disclosure: This is a paid blogpost for the #HipmunkCityLove project. As a part of the project, I will be creating content about London, Edinburgh, and Vancouver. Opinions are my own.
Blog Post Type: Summary of a City Guide
I recommend beginning your tour of London with an early morning visit to Westminster Abbey before it’s overtaken by tourists. In addition to serving as a coronation site for British monarchs, the abbey has been a burial site for many historic figures. The Poet’s Corner commemorates writers like Jane Austen; Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte; Robert Burns; Lord Byron, Geoffrey Chaucer; John Keats; and C.S. Lewis.
Harry Potter connection: In “The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry Potter and Mr. Weasley pass through the Westminster Underground Station on their way to the Ministry of Magic.
Walk Along the Thames River
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was built based on the original theatre and hosts lives performances each summer. I took the theatre’s behind-the-scenes tour to learn about its design and traditional staging methods as well as to view costumes and props from the Elizabethan period.
Harry Potter connection: Harry Potter and other characters fly along the Thames River in “The Order of the Phoenix,” while the Millennium Bridge collapses at the start of “The Half-Blood Prince.” The nearby Borough Market is one of two film locations used for the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron.
Bloomsbury District Walk and Museums
For a retreat from the tourist-filled city centre, I highly recommend visiting the Bloomsbury District, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood where many authors once lived. I followed a self-guided walk, which led me to The Lamb Pub where the Bloomsbury Group used to meet, the building that inspired the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s “1984,” and former residences of Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and Virginia Woolf.
This neighborhood is also home to the British Museum and the Charles Dickens Museum, which showcases his Victorian home, life story, and manuscripts. Additionally, the area is safe, quiet, and central, making it a spot to consider when choosing your London hotel or hostel.
Harry Potter connection: The district shares its name with Bloomsbury Publishing, the publisher of the Harry Potter series. It’s home to quaint bookstores, publishers, and cafes.
Books and Manuscripts
The British Library’s free public exhibit shows rare manuscripts such as “Beowulf,” Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” Gutenberg’s Bible of 1455, and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. While the works are stored in protective glass cases and photography is forbidden, my heart still pounded as I beheld ancient manuscripts with fading ink and gorgeous illustrations.
Harry Potter connection: Walk for a few blocks to reach King’s Cross Station, where you can take photos near the entrance of Platform 9 ¾.
Charing Cross Road and Trafalgar Square
Follow signs to Charing Cross Road, which has dozens of specialty, antique, and second-hand bookstores, where you can fill your suitcase with books, postcards, and old prints. Near Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery offers portraiture of renowned British figures, including the only surviving portraits of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare.
Harry Potter connection: Branching off Charing Cross Road, Cecil Court is the supposed real-world inspiration for Diagon Alley. If you want to see another film location for Diagon Alley, head to Leadenhall Market.