Potter fans all over the world are over the moon now that JK Rowlings has announced four new eBook shorts that will delve deeper into the magical curriculum Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley study at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you’re a Potterhead and visiting England for the ICC Cricket World Cup, head out to the walled city of York for a Potter fix.
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The charming medieval town with narrow cobbled alleys is best known for its rich history, Viking past and glorious architecture. And it is also pure magic for muggles thanks to the atmospheric The Shambles, an atmospheric street that is said to be an inspiration for Diagon Alley from the wizarding world of the Potter books. The narrow cobbled street is lined with beautifully preserved mostly timber buildings, some dating back to the 14th century.
Once a hub for butchers and meat shops - you can still meathooks hanging on the walls - the street has been preserved well over the centuries with most of its historic features still intact. Walk through the street lined with quaint shops, charming boutiques and hipster cafes and bakeries and you will understand why it was named the most picturesque street in Britain in the Google Street View Awards. Look out for the cobbled channel that runs along the street between raised pavements - it was once used to dispose of the meat shop waste. The overhanging upper floors blocking out natural light may give you a sense of claustrophobia but these were built to shield hanging meat from sun and rain. They are a common feature of Tudor architecture.
There are three Potter shops in the area stocked to the gills with magic-themed merchandise than you can shake a wand at. The first and original one has the best name - The Shop That Must Not Be Named. All three stock a range of licenced Potter merch from wands to mugs, scarves, hats, frog chocolates, potions, and much more. The Potter influence isn’t just limited to the three shops. Some eateries such as the café at The Flax have developed Potter-themed dishes.
Continue the quirky trail following cats around the town. This is a city with a strange love for the feline and this is reflected in York Glass Ltd which specialises in ornamental glass products, jewellery and the famous York Lucky Cats. Statues of cats have been placed on buildings around York - you can obtain a Cat Trail Map from the shop to check them out.
This small area is also a heaven for shoppers with indie store fronts advertising premium jewellery, artisan bread and handmade chocolates. Hit up Monk Bar Chocolatiers for artisan chocolatier with more than 60 varieties of luxury, handmade chocolates; Roly’s Fudge Pantry has the best handmade fudge with free tasters; pick up contemporary silver jewellery at Lily Shambles and Silverado. Zatchels sells British satchels and leather handbags made using traditional manufacturing techniques. Got an incurable sweet tooth? The Shambles Sweet Shop is York's finest independent sweet shop serving over 300 varieties.
You will find it difficult to walk by Via Vecchia, an Italian artisan bakery selling the most divine breads and pies. When you are done with the shopping, dive into Ye Old Shambles Tavern for beer and spot of grub. Serving fresh, locally sourced food and the best of Yorkshire Ales, it has consistently won the Good Food Award, Trip Advisor Customer Excellence and was a York Tourism Finalist in 2016.
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The Shambles isn't the only Potter-themed place in York. The York Railway Station is another slice from Harry Potter’s world. Remember that scene set in King’s Cross station and the bridge that Harry and Hagrid walk over in The Philosopher’s Stone? It is the pedestrian bridge at York Railway station though the barriers with thick metal beams have now been replaced with plastic. And do take the time to make a trip to Barley Hall, a medieval townhouse which was once home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York for an interactive exhibit called Magic and Mystery. Filled with information on alchemy and astrology, it lets you create your own wand, learn about potion ingredients and what they are used for, or discover charms and predict the future.