— I solemnly swear that I am up to no good —
What kid didn’t secretly die a little inside when their Hogwarts letter never came on their eleventh birthday? And more specifically to my want-to-be-witches, what girl didn’t lust after Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy or find themselves telling their friends they thought Sirius Black was “hot for an old guy”?
Just me? Don’t kid yourself. 😉
Even if you didn’t grow up alongside these magical characters or wait outside movie theaters for hours to see the midnight premieres – you’ve surely heard of, read or seen Harry Potter in some form or another. JK Rowling has blessed the world with this magical series and this summer, us mere muggles in Belgium get to experience a little bit of Hogwarts in Brussels.
ARRIVING AT THE HARRY POTTER EXHIBITION AT BRUSSELS EXPO – We arrived a little before our allotted time (our tickets were time-stamped for the 12:30 viewing), we got ourselves a drink and waited in line. The line moved fairly quickly and the 12:30 viewing started right on time. We ended up waiting about 30 minutes to enter (most of it being because we were early.)
**TIP: Do not alter your ticket, at all, whatsoever, in any form. My boyfriend is known for being stubborn and when there’s a 99% chance that I’m right, he will always go with the 1% chance that he is right – so when he decided to edit the large photo off our tickets to save ink, I scolded him and told him that altering a ticket (in any way) usually makes it invalid. Wouldn’t you know it – we get there and our tickets won’t scan. After 10 minutes of waiting, the employee calls a manager over and they wave us through, seeing that our tickets were valid copies from our emails.
A missed opportunity? The small drinks and snacks area outside the exhibition entrance was labelled with this “Fresh & Tasty Potions” sign (left), but none of the items on the menu were Harry Potter themed…which I personally think is just a huge missed opportunity. I am a huge sucker for marketing and if you slapped a “Felix Felicis Good Luck Potion” or a “Polyjuice Potion” sign on your menu (even to sell things like a cola or water), I totally would have spent more money on that. Take advantage of people like me when you’re planning an exhibition!
THE BEGINNING OF THE EXHIBITION – About 40 people at a time are let into the “great hall” area where 3 (ONLY THREE) volunteers are chosen to sit under the sorting hat. What I disliked most about this portion wasn’t just that the little child in me screamed bloody murder when I wasn’t chosen as a volunteer, but that actual children weren’t chosen either. All 3 people chosen were adults, and I just think if you’re only going to let three people sit under the hat, it should be the ansy little children who are standing on their parents’ shoulders trying to get the employee’s attention.
**TIP: Pay the extra 5 euro for an audio set! At almost every area there was a number, and you punch it into your telephone shaped audio set and listen to behind the scenes information on costume designs, funny things that happened to the actors on set and information about the wizarding world. The audio sets we were given is by far what made this exhibition great for many reasons, but the biggest being that the information provided on the signs in the exhibition were only in FRENCH and DUTCH. So, as an English speaker (who’s Dutch is unbelievably embarrassing for the amount of years I have lived here…), I was so thankful for my audio set. I was also blown away by how much information the audio set gave you – it seemed to be WAY more than what was on the signs.
As we made our way through the exhibition I noticed there was a lot more space and it wasn’t nearly as crowded in the middle as it was in the beginning and then again at the end. Of course, the high profile props and costumes (like the Triwizard cup, The Horcruxes and the main character costumes) had a larger crowd usually gathered in front – but there was almost always a time when you could squeeze in there to get a few photos yourself.
**TIP: Take your time. So many people are pushing and nudging there way around you, but after those people pass there’s no one around! You can take all the photos you would like if you’re not in a hurry! Our entire tour through the exhibition took us almost 2 hours. This allows you to get all the photos you want and to actually enjoy the exhibition.
**TIP: Quickly look through your photos before moving on. This is just common sense for any adventure you go on, but I was just so darn excited I didn’t look at the photos my boyfriend was taking of me – and we ended up with a few very blurry ones.
PLAYING A LITTLE QUIDDITCH was one of my favourite interactive parts of the exhibition (although it was mostly crowded by children), I just patiently awaited my turn and had to get in there to throw the quaffle into the ring a few times.
(If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I would have what it takes to be a Quidditch player – that game looks rough!!!!)
MRS. SPROUTS HERBOLOGY CLASS AND LISTENING TO MY MANDRAGORA SCREAM was one of the other highlights of the exhibition for me.
**TIP: Do what you want to do – there is no shame in being a fan!
THE GIFT SHOP: The only let down of the whole day was the Maruaders Map I wanted to buy in the gift shop was almost 70 euro!!! I wasn’t about to pay 3x what it cost to get into the exhibition for a map, but the prices didn’t really surprise me, because most gift shops having to do with movies or TV shows usually are expensive. I was really impressed with the amount/quality of things in the gift shop. There were Hogwarts sweaters, robes, wands, a ton of candy from the Weasley’s joke shop, scarves and more. If I had extra money to spend I would have bought a lot!
Prices We Paid…–
20 euro entry (x 2 for two people)
+ 5 euro audio set (x 2 for two people)
+ parking (6 euro)
+ souvenirs from gift shop (10 euro)
Was it Worth It? Absolutely. I would give this exhibition a 4/5 chocolate frogs.
Before we went, we read some reviews and they were over-all negative – saying that it was too crowded, underwhelming and not worth the money spent going, but I totally disagree.
I think it depends on what kind of person/fan you are. For me, it was worth the money to just be in the same room as these iconic props and costumes because Harry Potter was such a big part of my life growing up. Then the added bonus of the few interactive things (like Quidditch, Mrs. Sprouts Herbology class and walking through Hagrid‘s Hut) made things so much better.
The audio set is something that made it worthwhile for my boyfriend (not a huge Harry Potter fan but still enjoyed the movies), because the information you got from those was just so much more than what was written on the signs in front of the displays. We listened to interviews with the costume designers, funny little things that happened behind the scenes and things fans normally wouldn’t know (like in the first Harry Potter film, Daniel Radcliffe went through a bunch of different glasses made from different frames because he kept having allergic reactions to them.) Little bits of information like this was just really interesting to learn about when Harry Potter’s glasses were sitting in a box right in front of us.
**All opinions/photos in this review are my own, as I must not tell lies.