In October, during the Danish fall break, a momentous thing happens. Odense, a city oft-noted for its fairytale splendor in its own right, as the birthplace and childhood home of Denmark’s beloved Hans Christian Anderson, betwitches itself into a Harry Potter fantasyland. The city streets transform into Diagon Alley, the banks exchange kroner for galleons, the bathrooms echoes with moaning Myrtle, and He Who Shall Not Be Named himself roams the streets, along with his dangerous and frightening band of Death Eaters. For three days children in black cloaks and striped scarves, and clutching wands in their fists, duck in and out of tents and buildings, where they can try their skill at herbology, potions, even a game of Quidditch.
For my two Harry Potter fanatics, the sign we spied at the train station a few weeks prior led to simply too much excitement to handle. Every couple days I heard the question, “is the Harry Potter festival this weekend?”. I knew we just had to go. And so the weekend (finally) arrived and we hopped on the regional train from Copenhagen to Odense to live a day in the wizarding world.
A few practicalities to start: the festival is free. There are activities you can pay for, and you will need to pay for snacks, but overall this event is really not expensive. We took the train and decided to stay overnight in a hotel, but realistically you could drive there for the day and keep your costs even lower.
- There is a Quidditch tournament, complete with bleacher seats, an announcer, and magical sponsor signs along the field. The kids can also take a Quidditch training, which is pretty much the funniest thing you’ll see all day, as some of the kids are super into it.
Care and Keeping of Magical Creatures:
- You can hold an owl – this looked so, so cool, but the lines were very long. I’d recommend heading here first thing if you don’t want to wait around.
- You can tour the Forbidden Forest and see a dragon and Hagrid’s Hut – the set design here was awesome.
- You can transfer your mandrakes, all the while wearing earmuffs to protect yourself from their screams, in Herbology. This was so cute and the woman playing Professor Sprout was incredible.
- You can head to the medical tent for a magical treatment for whatever ails you.
Defense Against the Dark Arts:
- You can do some art, including making your own painting of your patronus – my girls insisted we go back to the art room to pick theirs up and take them home.
- You can find horcruxes on your journey. If you get them all, you win a prize.
- You can have your future read by Fawkes, as he sits on your head. My seven year old couldn’t figure out how he talked and moved, and boy did she want to know.
There’s so much more, including the things you pay for, such as an orchestral concert and a show by the young ladies from Beauxbatons.
At the end of the festival, there is a huge battle between Harry and his friends, and Voldemort and the Death Eaters. The place is packed, all the kids have their wands out and are fighting alongside their teams. It is epic.
The actors dressed as characters are fantastic, and you can tell the whole city is enjoying the fun. Diagon Alley is decorated and creepy, and you can spy Dobbie peeking out of a window down that dark street. My kids went to sleep that night with the excitement of the day still pulsing through them. They still talk about it. I’m sure it won’t be long before they begin planning our magical visit next year.
Odense – Its Very Own Fairy Tale
We spent our second morning in Odense doing all things H.C.A. That’s Hans Christian Anderson for you non-fairy tale expert laypeople. This city celebrates their hometown author well; the stoplights even depict a debonair Hans strolling with his hat and cane when the walk signal switches.
There are sculptures throughout the downtown commemorating Anderson, a museum at his childhood home, and the playhouse next door, The Tinderbox, is a replication of one of his stories, The Steadfast Tin Soldier. It is getting a revamp in 2018 and the theme will then change to Elverhøj (The Elfmound). This playhouse is where we spent our morning. It is the epitome of a fantasy-land, costumes and face painting and little rooms and nooks and crannies designed as different parts of H.C.A. stories. I was worried our girls would be a little too old for these activities, but they weren’t at all.
They had a blast, everything was magic.