This was our last day in London and my last full day in the UK after two months. It was a really amazing experience to work and live abroad for a summer and I’m really grateful for this opportunity.
We spent our last day on a tour scoping out more Harry Potter spots and going walking around the shopping districts before everything closed at 6.
The Harry Potter walking tour we took went to a lot of major tourist places that were significant to the films as well as some more hidden areas around the city. In addition to the landmarks that the Death Eaters destroy, we saw 2 different entrances to both the Ministry of Magic and Diagon Alley which were used in various movies. This picture is where the telephone booth was located and the toilets are somewhere in the City of London near Leadenhall Market.
The tour ended up at King’s Cross Station that has a fake Platform 9 3/4 for people to take pictures with. The queue was about 45 min long but I did eventually get to take my picture running into the wall. There were two little girls who brought their own stuffed animals to take with them to Hogwarts and they were so cute! There’s also a Harry Potter store nearby the wall with the cart that sells slightly different stuff than the store at the studio tour.
After attempting to go to Hogwarts, we headed down to Oxford Street to get some shopping in before we left. We went to Selfridge’s that looked nothing like the PBS show about the department store as well as Hamleys which is a giant toy store located along Regent Street. The store was packed with families looking for toys and the aisles were full of employees demonstrating toys. I wish I knew about this place earlier!
For the last dinner we headed back to South Kensington and had pasta at a restaurant called Loves by the museums. Each table had a tablet to order your meal from and it even allowed you to choose between al dente and soft pasta. It wasn’t exactly British but it was a good way to finish off my two months in the UK!
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan so one of the things I knew I needed to do was to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in Leavesden. It was definitely worth it and pretty much exceeded all of my expectations! We changed our date about a month before so we got an evening ticket but we ended up staying almost till closing. Since we went so late, we visited some of the museums in the South Kensington area, went to the Borough Market, and walked across the famous Abbey Road.
After museum hopping we went to the Borough Market for lunch. It was really really crowded but the food was worth it. I had a halloumi veggie burger as well that was pretty tasty. I had been wanting to buy one of these for a while because they looked so cool and I discovered that it’s pretty much a puff of crunchy sugar. Not too sure what else I was expecting.
Abbey Road is located a few blocks from the exit to St. John’s Wood. The street crossing was crowded with tourists like us trying to take pictures walking across the street as cars angrily honked at everyone trying to cross. It was probably the only spot that we visited that hadn’t really been capitalized on by companies looking to make money and it was refreshing and fun to visit. The studios are located across the street and are covered in Beatles themed graffiti. The signs that say “Abbey Road” are kind of hard to find. I’m guessing it’s because so many people have tried to steal them. If you look high up (like almost to the second story) on the surrounding buildings you’ll be sure to spot one.
The Harry Potter studio tour was probably the highlight of my entire trip! If you go be sure to book months in advance especially for weekends because they sell out fast! It was really nice that they controlled the amount of people they let in so there weren’t suffocating crowds everywhere. The first part of the tour takes you through some sets, props, and costumes used in the making of the movies and the second part leads you through the creature shop and right down the real Diagon Alley! It was really impressive to see everything up close and in real life. A lot of things that looked computer generated were actually real like the door to the Chamber of Secrets and the door to Bellatrix’s Gringotts vault.
The last surprise is the real Hogwarts itself! They used a model for all the external shots so there’s a giant room that houses the entire school! It was really cool to see it in person and it was extremely breathtaking and beautiful. Pictures really don’t do it justice. You need to come see it for yourself.
On Friday we took a day trip out west to see a few famous landmarks outside of London. We visited Winsdor Castle, the Roman Baths, and Stonehenge with a tour. These places were pretty far apart so most of the day was spent riding in a bus.
We started off the morning at Windsor Castle which was about a 45 minute drive outside of London. Because it’s the residence of the queen, the only areas open are the estate rooms, doll house, painting gallery, and the church. The rooms were ornately decorated like how you’d expect a castle to be but apparently it was originally built more for defense than for luxury living. We didn’t have much time here so we just saw the estate rooms and left.
After we drove about two hours to Bath. The city was really lovely and I kind of regretted not going by myself earlier since it’s not too far from Oxford. All the buildings are historic and crafted out of limestone (I think) so the entire town has this sort of ancient feel to it. We spent all our time at the Roman Baths Museum and it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. The audio guide also had an additional Bill Bryson commentary track which I listened to instead of the regular one. Over the past few weeks, he has become one of my favorite authors and I’m currently trying to read through most of his books. If you visit be sure to try the water at the end!
Our last stop before heading back to London was the mysterious Stonehenge. It was pretty interesting to see it in person and up close because it really makes you wonder why and how it was built. The historians think it’s part of some type of burial ground but it must’ve taken some kind of massive effort to complete it. This place was also really nice because of the fact that it wasn’t suffocatingly swarming with people. The open areas surrounding it made Stonehenge a really nice place to visit.