Back in 2001 I, like most of the world was introduced to the magical world of Harry Potter, I was 16 when I watched the first of the films, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and to be honest came across it totally by accident. From that first moment I was hooked, almost immediately after watching the film I headed out and bought the next book and since then I have been a die hard fan of the books (and to an extent the films), reading each new book within hours of it being released.
Living in the UK, London is only ever a few hours away and when Warner Brothers opened up their studios in London where the majority of the films were filmed I had to visit. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour twice so far, the first was with my sister at the end of November 2015 and I visited again with my Floridian friend Zahra in August 2016.
Firstly, I want to make clear that it is a Studio Tour – unlike at Universal Orlando there are no rides! What you do have though are all the original props, costumes, scenery and sets from the movies and the opportunity to make your own way around the various sound stages and learn about some of the behind the scenes magic that brought the wizarding world to life.
After a short wait to enter, you’ll go through into a small theatre with an introductory presentation from JK Rowling and some of the actors you’re presented with the entrance doors to the Great Hall which swing open before you, admitting you through into the Great Hall.
When I visited with my sister in November, the hall had been decorated for Christmas with many of the other sets setup as they would have been in winter, whereas when I visited in August the theme of the tour was the Philosophers Stone and everything was setup as it was in the first film. Throughout the year the tour changes slightly as the sets are decorated based on how they were in the various movies as well as for different events such as Christmas and Halloween so if you want to see what Hogwarts was like in the snow, make sure you visit at the right time of the year!
The Great Hall is the only part of the tour that you are guided (or I should say discreetly ushered) by a guide as they tell you plenty of details about the hall itself and the houses as you move forward towards the teachers’ tables. Having said that you do still have plenty of time to take photos and see the amazing detail of the set, but as it’s the entrance section you’re ushered through to the next area after about 15 minutes, from where you’re left to your own devices to make your way around the rest of the studio at your own pace.
So here are some photos from the tour;
Some tips from me!
The studio tour is not actually in London but located at Leavesden about 18 miles north west of the city. While I drove to the studios on both occasions (they’re easy to find with plenty of parking) it is however also easy enough to reach via public transport. Have a look at the official website for details on how to get there but if you take the train to Watford station there is a transfer bus operating between the station and the studios. There are also numerous tour operators who run trips to the studios throughout the day from the centre of London.
It’s busy! It goes without saying that due to the popularity of the films and the books the tour is pretty much always busy and during school holiday periods and weekends it is often sold out weeks in advance, so do book early!
There’s a Starbucks and Restaurant before you enter the tour, about half way through the tour is a cafe where you can purchase Butterbeer and a selection of other snacks, there is also a gift shop located at the end of the tour where you will easily spend a small fortune on gifts.
If you can – aim for the first tour of the day! The first time I visited with my sister we were in the first group to enter the studios in the morning meaning that the place was pretty empty and we were some of the first to enter each area as they slowly opened up. When I visited with my friend we were on a 5 pm tour and it was a lot busier inside the sound stages. Once you’re through the Great Hall you can take as long as you want to explore the rest of the studio, it took me around 3 hours on the first occasion and a little over 2 on the second occasion so I’d also recommend not going for the later tours on the day as you might feel rushed.