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The Harry Potter books and movies might be long finished, but the fascination with all things Harry Potter is not. The Harry Potter Studio Tour in London is a great way to relive the wonder of Harry Potter. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
Even though the Harry Potter book and film series have finished, they remain perennial favorites with children and adults alike. So when my sister and her family visited me from America last year (her three children, my two), we all decided to pay a visit to Harry Potter World, to have a look behind the scenes of the mega-popular move franchise. It’s only about half an hour from my house, but amazingly I had never been before.
Do you have a Harry Potter film fan (or two) in your family? If you want to visit the London studios where the Harry Potter movies were filmed, here are a few things you need to know about visiting the wizarding world.
1. Buy Tickets Before You Go
It’s officially known as the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London and all the information you need can be found at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance, so don’t expect to show up and buy a ticket on the day.
TravelingMom Tip: It’s booked for months in advance, so plan ahead.
2. It’s not in London.
Yes that’s right, it is actually about 20 miles northwest of central London, in Leavesden, near Watford. So you can’t walk or take the Tube there. To get to the studio tour from central London, you can either:
- Take a train from London’s Euston station to Watford Junction, then take a 15-minute shuttle bus to the attraction, or
- Buy a ticket package through Warner Bros.’ preferred partner, Golden Tours, and take one of their coaches from London’s Victoria Station or Kings Cross Station. This option is more expensive but less hassle than taking the train and shuttle. Package tickets can be bought on the website above (under Getting Here), or directly from Golden Tours.
TravelingMom Tip: If you go by train from Euston station, be sure to have a look at Platform 9 3/4 in the station, home of the Hogwarts Express, which was constructed due to interest from Harry Potter fans. There is often a queue (line) for it, so plan accordingly.
3. It’s an All Day Activity
The average visit lasts approximately 3 ½ hours so if you include your journey time–it’s an all-day activity. It is a self-guided walking tour, so you can go at your own pace.
4. It’s not a Cheap Day Out
While I gave this attraction 5/5 stars on TripAdvisor (and I’m not even a HP fan, particularly), it’s not a cheap day out. A standard family ticket for a family of four costs £132, then you have to factor in transportation, food (expensive but quite good), and the dreaded gift shop (beautifully presented and hard to resist). Under 4s are free.
5. Beware the Hidden Costs
Once you are in, there are various green-screen photo opportunities that PhotoShop you into Harry Potter movie scenes, and an incredibly expensive gift shop that you have to pass through on the way out. My sister and I steered our kids (pre-teens and young teens at the time) toward the cheaper items, but due to “pester power” still ended up buying them wizard wands for £40 each (never to be touched again, of course).
6. Disabled access is very good, and carers go free.
One of my nephews had a broken ankle at the time of the visit. A wheelchair was provided and staff could not have been more accommodating.
7. It’s a Self-Guided Tour
There is a short introductory film in an auditorium, then you are set loose to explore J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world on your own. There are sets from the most popular Harry Potter films, including Privet Drive, the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, models of Hagrid and Professor Snape, and of course the Weasley family car. There’s lots of detailed info on the website, and lots of photos of every part of the tour, so have a look under “Explore the Tour” to get the gist of it all. Photos are allowed everywhere except for the green screen photo booths, where you have to line up to have your photo taken, and then buy it if you like it.
8. Refreshments Are Available
There are two cafes and a Starbucks on the tour, with surprisingly good food (although not cheap), including butter beer (in a souvenir cup). You are welcome to bring your own food, which must be eaten in the Backlot Cafe or the picnic area.
9. Even Muggles Can Have Fun
I haven’t read any of the books (oh the shame), and have only seen a couple of the movies. I only know the barest details of the whole saga. But I was bowled over by the quality of the sets, costumes, models, and the interactive exhibits and the special effects and models. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and of course the kids did too. For me, the best bits were Diagon Alley (amazing for taking photos), and the huge model of Hogwarts used in the movies, which is the last exhibit on the tour. It’s a very comprehensive attraction, covering every aspect of the making of the films.
Bottom Line the Harry Potter Studio Tour
- DO go; everyone will enjoy themselves.
- DO set aside an entire day to do it.
- DO have a discussion before going with the kids about their budget for the gift shop. They’re not going to be using that wand if they are 10+.
- DON’T buy more than one green screen photo; they are brilliant but pricey, and I ended up taking lots of great photos of the kids with just my iPhone. If you run out of charge, you can borrow portable phone chargers from the Information Desk for a £20 deposit.
This post was written by Susan Marris, who lives in London.
Get More Harry Potter Experiences
- 5 Must-Dos for Harry Potter Fans in London
- Secrets of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando
- 8 Tips for Harry Potter Fans Visiting Hogsmeade