Sometimes we travel to see iconic landmarks or famous museums. It’s good to balance it by traveling to see something a little different, like a play. London is obviously a dream destination for any Harry Potter fan. With themed tours and filming locations, you can immerse yourself in all the magic that inspired the books and was featured in the movies. One of the most exciting ways to bask in all the magic of Harry Potter in London is to see the 8th installment of the series on stage.
Getting tickets to the play
Playing at the Palace Theatre, the entirety of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is two full-length parts. Tickets can be bought for single parts or together, for parts that are on consecutive nights or on the same day, with the first part being a matinee and the second part showing in the evening.
I highly recommend you buy tickets far in advance to ensure you get tickets together in the price range of your choice. The good thing is that on the London stage, there are tickets at many price levels. So even if you don’t have a great front row view, you can see the play for as little as £15 or £20.
So why is it better to do both on the same day and not on consecutive nights? Obviously your opinion on this might differ. But if you’re visiting London for only a limited time like we were, it’s kind of a waste to spend two whole nights on the play when you could instead be enjoying a nice dinner or a few pints at a bar with the after-work crowd. That being said, you’ll be in the heart of the city when you get out of the play, so you’ll be in the perfect place to check out the surrounding nightlife.
The logistics of seeing both parts in one day
If you do see both parts of the play on the same day, you have to do a bit of planning around the show. Since the area is buzzing with places to go for food and drink, it’s not a bad idea to dedicate the entire day to exploring it.
You should be at the theater at least an hour before showtime both in the afternoon and evening, especially if you need to collect your ticket at the box office. You can pick up your tickets for both shows at the same time. They recommend the early arrival to allow you time to go through security, coat check, and to do any shopping for merchandise. They certainly don’t want latecomers ruining the magic for the rest of us.
The line for security an hour before the show wraps almost entirely around the theatre but it moves quickly. So if you had to arrive 30-40 minutes before instead of an hour, you would probably still be okay.
Even though there is a bar and some snacks served in the theatre, you must leave the theatre between the two parts. So there’s no way to avoid the early arrival both in the afternoon and evening. So for instance, if your showtimes are 1 pm and 6:30 pm, you must arrive around noon for the first part and around 5:30 pm for the second part. With the first part clocking in at 2:40 (the second is around 2:35), this doesn’t leave you much time to between the two for essential things like eating.
What to do before the first part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
If you’re a really dedicated tourist, you can wake up with the sun and still get sightseeing done before the first part of the play. For instance, the Palace Theatre is 10 minutes away from Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus and Chinatown. Since public transportation is so efficient, you could theoretically be sightseeing anywhere in London before arriving for the play, and it would probably only take you 15-20 minutes to get to the Palace Theatre.
However, unless you can go until the late afternoon without eating, I suggest you spend the time before the play having a late breakfast or lunch. We had a lovely brunch at Bill’s which is just a few blocks away in St. Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden. The food was incredible, maybe one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. If you choose this spot, I recommend reservations because it does get busy.
What to do between the two parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The time between the two parts is the trickiest because slow service could make you late to the second part. Keeping in mind that all the people watching the play will be descending on the surrounding at the restaurants at the same time, the smartest thing to do is make a reservation ahead of time. There are plenty of options; you won’t go hungry. But having a reservation ahead of time can ensure you get to eat where you prefer without having a wait. The first part is two hours and 40 minutes so you can get a ballpark idea of when you’d be ready for lunch. You’ll have about two hours to eat.
The pubs are a good idea because pub food comes out quickly. You can pay ahead at the bar and wait for your scotch eggs or steak and ale pie while you have a beer. Some good options include Spice of Life and The Cambridge, which are just across the street from the theatre.
Another option is to go to one of the fast food restaurants in the area. It’s not the most glamorous option, but it’ll get you fed quickly and nearby. We got a burger at Shake Shack and still managed to have an hour left over to spend at the National Portrait Gallery nearby before we had to return for the second part.
What to do after the second part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
There are some great bars and pubs in the area though they do close fairly early, between 10 pm and midnight. Aside from the pubs across the theatre, just a few blocks away is a cozy gin cocktail bar called Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour. It’s right upstairs from the corresponding Mr. Fogg’s Tavern, where you’ll find servers wearing top hats and a festive atmosphere. Nearby at The Harp, you can enjoy a nice selection of beers on tap and bar snacks.
If your idea of nightlife is an all-night dance party, Soho has a lot to offer like Zoo Bar and The Box, which also hosts cabaret and burlesque shows. The area is an LGBT oasis, offering a lot of gay and lesbian friendly options like Ku Bar, with three floors of neon lights and pop music, and the lesbian club, She Soho.
But none of the things you might do before or after the show will overshadow the highlight of your day, the play itself. How was it? I will keep its secrets, but suffice it to say it’s a remarkable production worth traveling for.
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