‘A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, 11 o’clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the ticket box had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it.’
— Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 6: The journey from platform nine and three quarters
This scene from the Harry Potter books took place in the middle of London. If you’re a Potterhead, you already know that. If you’re one of those just discovering the wizarding world, then that’s a new fun fact for you. And if you're none of the above, but like to travel, this iconic train station should still be on your radar.
London’s King’s Cross Station todayShutterstock
London King’s Cross or the King’s Cross Station has been the setting for pivotal moments in the Harry Potter series, both on screen and in the books. There is the obvious fact that September 1 at King’s Cross is equally important every year, but there are also other important details associated with this station, which opened to passengers in October 1852 as the largest in Britain at that time.
Naturally, on Back to Hogwarts Day, or any other day, King’s Cross is worth a stop on your London itinerary.
Did you know: Author of the series, JK Rowling, chose the station because that’s where her parents met “on a train departing for Scotland” — sounds familiar?
The wizarding side of King’s Cross Station
“But Hagrid, there must be a mistake. This says ‘Platform 9 and ¾’. There's no such thing, is there?”
— Harry to Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Well, not really, but yes, there actually sort of is! One of the biggest Harry Potter attractions at King’s Cross is the stuck trolley at the station.
The trolley outside the Harry Potter shop is a popular spot for photographsWikimedia Commons
This trolley that seems to be entering the wall, will remind you of the scenes in the movies where wizards get swallowed by the wall between platforms nine and 10 to emerge at platform 9 ¾ from where the Hogwarts Express departs. Originally placed in the path from platform nine to 11 at the station, the installation was moved to a spot right outside the well-known Harry Potter store at King’s Cross, which is where it stands now. It is a great photo-op for visitors and you can also rent a house scarf from the store and pose for a photo with the trolley!
The Harry Potter Shop at King’s Cross is a wonderland for fans of the seriesShutterstock
The store is also another top attraction for fans. Named The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 ¾, this is a one-stop shop for all things magic. If it’s there in the series, chances are you’ll find it here. From robes, wands and Hogwarts school trunks — you can even personalise your own — to sweets, bottled butterbeer, books and trinkets, the choices are endless. In fact, if you’re at the store on September 1 any year, you’re in for a treat! This year they have a host of activities and offers planned from September 1-3 to celebrate.
(Store timings: Mon-Sat 8am-10pm, and Sun 9am-8pm)
September 1 is a special day at London King’s Cross for the annual Back to Hogwarts Day celebrations. The massive gathering of Potterheads dressed in wizarding world paraphernalia is a huge draw for fans and travellers alike. Sometimes, you will also have stars of the movies drop in for a special appearance. Perhaps one of the best sights is seeing different generations of fans gather for the main event — the flagging off of the Hogwarts Express.
At exactly 11 o’clock in the morning, the PA system at the station crackles with a familiar announcement: “May I have your attention please. The Hogwarts Express is now departing from platform 9 ¾.” Since the train is never late, neither is the announcement. The event is so popular that every year there is a competition held to pick one kid below the age of 17 (sorry, adult Potterheads) to lead the announcement.
Did you know: Hogwarts Express and platform 9 ¾ are not the only magical train and platform at King’s Cross in the wizarding world. There is platform 7 ½ from where a long-distance train departs to all wizarding villages in continental Europe. There is also 3 ⅓, from where departs The Great Wizarding Express from London to Berlin, and many more.
The muggle side of King’s Cross Station
“Well, I was going to ask you that,” said Dumbledore, looking around. “Where would you say that we are?”
Until Dumbledore had asked, Harry had not known. Now, however, he found that he had an answer ready to give.
“It looks,” he said slowly, “like King’s Cross station. Except a lot cleaner and empty, and there are no trains as far as I can see.”
“King’s Cross station!” Dumbledore was chuckling immoderately. “Good gracious, really?”
— Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35: King’s Cross
Beyond all things Harry Potter and the celebrations of Back to Hogwarts Day, King’s Cross — both the station and the neighbourhood — are a great spot to explore when in London.
The Granary Fountains near King’s CrossShutterstock
Summers at King’s Cross can be spent cooling down near the Granary Fountains, which is a favourite with the kids who can play amidst the dancing jets of water rising from the ground. There is also an art project, and the nearby Camley Street Natural Park is perfect for those quintessential sunny London days in the park. The weekend Canopy Market has stalls for food, local produce and handicrafts, while on Wednesday evenings there are open-air salsa nights.
The canalside neighbourhood was part of a huge reclamation project. Over the last two decades, the once industrial area has been completely revamped with new streets, art installations, shops and galleries and a host of eateries. The restored canal-side railway arches at Coal Drops Yard is one of London’s eclectic shopping destinations.
The almost equally famous London St Pancras or St Pancras International station right next door is also worth a visit for the nearby British Library, numrous art installations and more.
Did you know: During the shoot of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the facade of King’s Cross was blocked by construction work. So, the scenes shot outside the station feature not the London King’s Cross but the building of St Pancras railway station (pictured above).
- King's Cross railway station is located in the Borough of Camden, right at the edge of Central London
- It is about 6.5km from Victoria Station
- The quickest and cheapest way to reach is via the London Underground to King's Cross St Pancras Station, where six lines — Circle, Piccadily, Hammersmith and City, Northern, Metropolitan and Victoria — intersect.