I’m here to tell you the truth about Platform 9¾: It sucks.
I know tourists flock to King’s Cross Station to get a glimpse of the famous Harry Potter location. I know that because I’ve done it.
The magical spot between platforms 9 and 10 that young witches and wizards use to access the Hogwarts Express and be whisked away to wizarding school! Nothing says Harry Potter quite like Platform 9¾. So why am I telling you not to waste your time?
1. It takes a lot of buses. Maybe I’m just bad with maps and timetables, but it took a lot of effort to get there.
Update: King’s Cross is very easy to reach via Tube, but it’s also very expensive at £4.50 (nearly $7) each way.
Of course, if you’re in the neighborhood, then by all means, skip right to number 2:
2. You can’t see Platform 9¾. That’s right, you can only access platforms 9 or 10 by purchasing a ticket for a train that is departing from those or nearby platforms.
If you’re a budget traveler like me, you sure as hell can’t afford to buy a worthless train ticket just for the photo op. But the train station does give us a consolation prize:
3. There’s a fake photo op in the main hall. They’ve actually set up a fake Platform 9¾ in the main entrance hall of the station. But I’m no fool, England! I know there’s not a lick of magic in that random wall you chose for this faux Platform 9¾!
You can access this fake Platform 9¾ without a train ticket, but you will be gawked at right there in plain view of the actual patrons of the train station.
And you’ll have plenty of time to be gawked at because:
4. You’ll have to wait in line. There are ropes set up to keep the giddy masses in an organized queue.
And when you get to the front of the line, you’ll be rushed by the pair of nerdy photographers, which leads us to:
5. The photographers won’t help you. When you sweetly ask them to snap a pic of you and your pal with your cheap digital camera, they’ll say, “No.”
They’re only allowed to take an official (read: expensive) photo of you with their professional gear. But they will let you use the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor scarves they have on hand for your poor-people photo.
So you’ll don that scarf and arrogantly ask the tourists behind you in line to take the pic. Which, at the end of all that trouble, leaves you with this crushing realization:
6. I went to Platform 9¾ and all I got was this crappy photo.
What does that give us? Just another unimpressed American in London.
It’s not often I give a tourist attraction a big fat “Don’t waste your time,” because I actually love wasting time, but I’m sticking to my guns, er, wands, this time and giving it to you straight.
Don’t waste your time!
Bonus Fact: The gorgeous exterior shots of “King’s Cross Station” in Harry Potter are actually not King’s Cross Station at all. They’re the neighboring St. Pancras Station.