Harry Potter Studio Tour London
Is it worth going?
(Spoiler: My answer is YES YES YES!)
When my friend, Nicole, asked me what I wanted to do when visiting her on a recent trip to London... she suggested going to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London--the Making of Harry Potter and I thought...hmmmm....do I care?
Amusement Parks and the like are not really my kind of excitement when traveling.
I do, however, believe that when you are someone's guest, you go do the things they wish to show you.
I've read all the Harry Potter books to my children and have seen all the movies.I have enjoyed them thoroughly
As my friend said of herself, she's only a casual fan and has ended up doing the studio tour three times because she loves it so much. It turns out this isn't really an amusement park.
We took the train from London Euston Station to Watford Junction (she has a house in King's Langley nearby, so we had a driver meet us at the station and take us to pick up her car at home). There are regular coaches that run between Watford Junction and the studio every 20 mins and the cost is only £3.
Adults £47 (ages 16+)
Child £38 (ages 5-15)
Family of 4 £150
Under 5 FREE
And you have to purchase tickets online in advance...Arrive first opening and avoid the crowds.
Plan for 3.5 hours at least. You'll want more, I promise.
Caveat: They are no longer selling tickets for 2020 until the unpredictability of the pandemic subsides.
THE most amazing scene.
You literally walk yourself into a sound stage. The tour is set next-door to Leavesden Studio where for 8 years, the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Apparently because the movies began production while JK Rowling was still releasing books, the crew saved stage props that would have normally been discarded from a film set, on the chance they might be required for future films in the series. At the end, they found their hands full of some very interesting treasures.
From the light-filled atrium where the dragon hovers overhead, you find your way into a line that leads you in to the tour, all of which is a little dark, and very moody--just like the films! Due to this (as well as the ever-constant throngs of other tour goers) it is difficult to get good photos.
From here you are invited to sit momentarily in a small auditorium for a welcome speak. If it's your birthday you are invited to help open the grand doors that lead you into the great hall.
The hall feels real (minus the missing ceiling for cameras and lights! Oh ya and so birds can fly in with messages for students). Real flagstone laid for floor, those familiar long wooden tables, an enormous fireplace. Lining the walls are original costumes worn by Hagrid, Harry, Hermione and all your favorite characters.
This is the real deal--the actual clothes they wore.
Exiting the Great Hall you find yourself free to roam myriad exhibits at your free will.
The boys dormitory and the bed with Harry's name on it is so charming. This is the one set here that actually seemed smaller than on screen and is in fact much smaller than all the other sets here.
The tour has this wonderful display of all the wands of each character. If you wander the studio store at the end there is an equally magnificent table laid out which all these wands that you can pick up and handle, examining them more closely...and then buying a replica if you like. Prices are roughly £40 each. Before entering the store, you get to pass through Olivander's Wand Shop
Throughout the exhibits they give you a behind-the-scenes peak at how things are done. Take for example the self-knitting blanket of Molly Weasley's seen here. Or this where you get to see how they filmed the Patronis. Take a walk through Diagon Alley here.
At the Platform 9 3/4 you can grab a cart bolted to the wall and pretend you are heading to Hogwarts too! (Where's my Hedwig?). On the tour, this is located in the same set as the actual Hogwarts Express train. (I forgot to take a pic). It's a stunning piece of red ironwork and you are allowed to walk on board.
Dumbledore's office is a hideaway we all dream of for ourselves.
This is the place you will find the sorting hat and the Sword of Gryffindor
Fun Fact: The books lining his shelves are in reality a bunch of old phone books covered in leather and dust!
The interactive features of the exhibits are myriad. They offer green screens galore where you insert yourself into the scene and with a little bit of movie magic, they take your photo and insert the secret sauce so you can come home with something that will make your friends think you were riding a broom playing Quiddich. These will often have long lines, and even though there were not on the day I went, it just didn't light my fire. Possibly because I am an actress too and have been on set with green screens, so nothing new for me here.
Want to see a bit of magic I did learn?
The Dursley's house at number 4 Privet Drive...have a walk through...its teeny.
Maybe if you stand there long enough you'll see the envelope with your invitation to attend Hogwarts Wizarding School too 😉
At the end of this bridge, just inside the building, is the Backlot Cafe where you can get a taste of Butterbeer. I didn't try it...it looked a bit too sweet for my taste, but it's a fun addition to the experience.
Props, sets, costumes are all unveiled on the tour. The Creature Shop shows you step by step how creatures are crafted by the artisans behind them. Nearby you can learn how goblin heads are made. In the Art Department you see white card models and drawings of things familiar to you from the films.
Something really beautiful is the unlocking vault door of Gringotts Bank (click to watch)
The life-sized set of Gringots Bank is a spectacular demonstration of movie magic. Walk into the grand scale of the bank and watch this video to see what happens.
The end of the tour drops you into a large room filled with a field of 1/24th miniature sets of Hogwarts Castle. They actually used these to film and then used visual affects for things like Harry running in the snow by Hogwarts. It's mesmerizing. It's mind blowing...this is as big as Hogwarts ever gets. Watch these videos for a feel of the mood lighting and such (video 1, video 2, video 3).
You walk out the door into the light of day, feeling as if the curtain was pulled back, secrets revealed and like you were an intimate part of the filming of the Harry Potter films. I highly recommend this tour for people of all ages.