There’s no doubt about it. The Harry Potter Franchise has been a phenomenal success both in publishing and cinematic terms. Since the publication of the first novel in 1997 — Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — J.K. Rowling has gone on to sell more than 500 million copies of all (as of 2013) making the Harry Potter series the most successful book series in publishing history. Of course, it is the film franchise where the real money has been made, together with the accompanying merchandising which, between them, are now estimated to be worth $25,000,000,000 — yes that is not a typo, $25 billion!
Of course, if you are a fam of American theme parks, you will already know that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, spanning both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in Florida has been a huge attraction since it opened in 2010. By sheer coincidence, I happened to be holidaying with my family in Orlando at that time and wasn’t aware that the day we visited Universal Studios was the day of its official opening. Such were the size of the crowds that day that we heard subsequently that queues for the Harry Potter-themed rides were over two hours long! Thankfully, I had more sense and we moved on to other attractions within the park after having a goods snoop around, possibly since I have never been a HP fan.
If Orlando is a bit outside your budget or if you hate flying, there is somewhere a bit closer to home where you can relive many of the more memorable Harry Potter moments by visiting Warner Bros Studios located in Abbots Langley which is just outside Watford and is about 30 minutes’ drive from Luton airport. The Studios and backlot (where many of the films were shot) are located on a former airfield and aircraft factory that was extensively to manufacture aircraft during WW2. Their studio tour entitled ‘Warner Bros Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter’, receives over 6,000 visitors per day at peak times and is well worth a visit if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Harry Potter fan.
A bit further away but still within relative proximity to Ireland (and with much better weather) is the adorable Portuguese university city of Coimbra — allegedly, the inspiration for a lot of what J.K. Rowling created in her Harry Potter opus and the original capital of Portugal back in the 12th And 13th centuries! In the early 90’s, Rowling spent some time living in Porto as a T.E.F.L tutor and eventually married a local although the divorced just over a year later. It is quite likely that during her three or more years living in Portugal she would have visited the city of Coimbra where university students to this day still wear the black gowns so popularised in the Harry Potter movies (see photo accompanying this blog which was taken last month in Coimbra. The nearby Palace hotel do Bucaco further reinforces my theory as it could almost have served as the blueprint for Hogwarts with its incredible gothic architecture.