Updated: Jul 12, 2018
I remember when the first Harry Potter book was released back in 1997. I was 9 and really into reading. There was something about the book that transported you to this other world. I found myself (with everyone else) anticipating JK Rowling's next Harry Potter book release.
When I first started planning my Europe trip 6 months ago, I decided this might be my one and only chance to be able to see actual sets and props from all of the movies! Although as time would have it, we only had 4 days in London but I knew I wanted to visit the studios so much that I gave up half a day to go!
How to Get There
Keep in mind that the studios are not located right in London. It is actually in a town called Leavesden.
There are several ways you can get to the studios:
Take the tube from London Euston on the London Midland line and get off at Milton Keynes Central, transfer to the Watford Junction Railway Station and get off at Ashfields then talk 1/2 mile
Drive - keeping in mind that you have to deal with traffic..and driving on the other side of the road (if you are from the States, like me)
OR you can take the bus with Warner Studios.
As I didn't want to hassle with renting a car, driving on the other side or having to navigate public transportation, I took the much more relaxing route and bought tickets on the Warner Studios bus. There are buses departing about every hour until 1:30pm. We opted to get out there early and took the first bus at 8:15am. There are many sites you can book through, but my favorite is Viator (https://www.viator.com/tours/London/Harry-Potter-Tour-of-Warner-Bros-Studio-in-London/d737-2452POTTER). The trip out to the studios takes about 50 minutes depending on London traffic.
What time should you go
As I would typically recommend doing, go early! We were the first group there. We arrived around 9:15, went through a small security check, and there were let in to the lobby / café / gift shop area around 9:30. The actual studio doesn't open until 10, so you have time to grab coffee and wander the gift shop to scout all the things you want to buy after the tour is done.
Studio Tip: Once the que opens, get in line! We were the 6th and 7th people in line which meant we were next to go into the next two rooms.
The Making of Harry Potter London
The Great Hall
Once you are invited into the doors of Hogwarts, the guide will tell you all about the Great Hall! Throughout the studios you will see mannequins wearing the actual clothes from the film. Some are created to actually resemble the character as you will see in some of my photos. Wander and take as many photos as you can here as you only have about 5 minutes before you are hustled out for the next group.
You are then free to explore as quickly or as slow as you would like. People warned us that it would take about 3 hours to go through, however, I don't travel slowly. I was in awe of being right in front of all the props. You will enjoy being the first group heading through. There aren't as many crowds in your way (to ruin your pictures).
Warner Brothers does a great job at providing information about each of the sets you are looking at. There are often mannequins in each set as well! There are opportunities to do a simulated broom ride, learn some spells with wands, sit in on the forced perspective lens. This is pretty cool. It is partially how they were able to make Hagrid look as giant as he was. I also learned how many different Mrs. Norris, Fang, Hedwig and other animals there were during filming. One of the newest attractions is the Dark Forest.
Studio Tip: If you are the first ones to the studio, take your time getting through the first room. You aren't allowed into the Dark Forest until 11AM.
The Dark Forest
The dark forest is pretty cool. It's hard to take photos of but you walk through fog, a giant Aragog, and Buckbeak. There are special effects you can try out, like a wind storm, lightening, and illuminating the winged horse.
Next, you think you are done, but YOU AREN'T!
You walk to the Hogwarts Express! There are several stations you can line up and get your photo running through platform 9 3/4 (again, it’s a bonus that you got there early). This is a pretty cool setup. You can walk through the train and they have cars set up and labeled with the props that were used in the different movies over the years.
Take a Break
After you visit Hogwarts Express, you have made it half way through the tour! This is a great place to stop and grab something to eat, or try BUTTERBEER! This is one of only 3 locations you can try the authentic butterbeer. Keep in mind, it is pretty much butterscotch cream soda. I opted to get butterbeer in a keepsake stein and that ended up being my souvenir from the studio tour. Whatever the bubbles are that they add to the top are pretty cool! My drink sat for a few minutes while I took photos and the bubbles just kept growing!
Nightbus and Privet Drive
After you take a small break, you will get to check out the Nightbus and the actual Privet Drive. You get to walk inside the house. Look to the left and you will see flying letters! The house really isn't even a house..just 2 rooms. There is a bridge back outside of Privet Drive that is the bridge at Hogwarts!
This place is crazy. You walk in and there are heads and figures everywhere. One of the first heads I picked out was of "Nearly Headless Nick." There are also a lot of creates including the Gringotts Bank elves and even a giant replica spider!
I sound like a broken record, but again, being first has its advantages including being the only ones at Diagon Alley. It's pretty cool to walk down this street.
I actually thought this part of the tour was pretty interesting. This really shows you how the books came to movie life. I didn’t realize how much planning went in to these sets. There are a ton of Harry Potter set models on display. If you went to architecture school, I am sure you made a ton of these models!
The grand finale and last room on the tour is the Hogwarts replica! This is a 12:1 scale of the school. Make sure to take a few minutes in this room to watch the video on how they used this set. They filmed different angles of this model then with special effects added in layers of the movie! It is pretty fascinating to watch.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at The Making of Harry Potter London. I learned a lot about how the movies were made and am amazed at the years of filming that these actors went through. It took a small army to make the movies come to life!