I’ve known for a while that Platform 9 3/4, the secret platform accessible only to wizarding folk departing for Hogwarts, really does exist in London, but it’s taken me 6 months to actually get there.
Why? My elder son is as big a Harry Potter fan as you could possibly imagine, claiming to have read the whole series 22 times, you’d think it would have been top of our list.
We’ve already stumped up the considerable cash to visit the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios tour just north of London and found it to be worth every cent. Heck, it was worth double to see my babies open the door to the Great Hall, that’s the REAL Great Hall, as seen in the movies. Yet we hadn’t made it into King’s Cross, an easy tube ride away, to see platform 9 3/4, a free attraction.
We’d Read Some Terrible Reviews.
Words like “tourist trap”, “rip off” and “don’t bother” kept cropping up on the review sites. Potter fans of all ages had been disappointed and hadn’t held back in sharing their disgust online.
Well stuff the reviews, I like to find out for myself, so we went.
What is Platform 9 3/4?
There’s not much to it. It’s a sign and a luggage trolley made to look as though it’s passing into the station wall, just as it does in The Philosopher’s Stone. What more could it be?
I’ve heard that the attraction used to be inside the station, on the platform, but they’ve moved it outside to reduce congestion, you can see where a new brick panel has been added to house it.
Basically it’s a photo opportunity, a fun one.
It’s also a shop. Next door, the Platform 9 3/4 shop is the only place in the world you can buy 9 3/4 branded merchandise. Yes, it’s expensive, Harry Potter merchandise is expensive everywhere, I still think it’s cool and so did the kids. The shop is small, nothing compared to the huge shop at Warner Bros or the Potter stores in Florida, but it’s fun.
We visited at 11am on a wet Wednesday in October. There were 3 people in the line in front of us. I’d read horror stories of hour long waits and expected the worst, to find nothing.
London is a very different place during the long summer school holidays, you’ll notice that everywhere, even on the streets. I wouldn’t even think of trying to visit 9 3/4 then.
It has been suggested that late at night is the time to get your photos here, no people around and maybe a few beers inside you for optimum action shots.
There is an official photographer with an assistant distributing Hogwarts scarves and helping them look wind-blown for your shot, but there is no up-front charge and everyone is free to take their own photos. If you choose to buy a professional image, they are just under £10. There is zero hard sell and the atmosphere was fun and laid-back.
Where to Find 9 3/4
Platform nine and three quarters, the sign, trolley and shop, is inside the King’s Cross Station building, under-cover near the other shops and food outlets. If you go through the station turnstiles, you’ve gone too far. Ask if you can’t find it, the staff will help you out.
Cool, very cool, a little bit of fun on a wet morning and a happy memory of London and her unique culture and connections. We think you should go. Take the chance to try these too, everybody should try dirt flavour beans ( they were 50p cheaper at 9 3/4 than in this shop).
Have fun, take it for what it is and just enjoy!