How is that for a headline straight out of The Quibbler?
I fully intended to do plenty of London-y things on our recent trip to London (and we did do just that), but I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to head outside the city proper to visit Leavesden. Why Leavesden you ask? To visit The Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, of course!
First things first, I’ll mention right now that if you’re planning to tour the studio, try to purchase your tickets well in advance. So if you’re about to visit and you haven’t booked your tickets yet, do it now! I hopped onto the website to buy tickets a month ahead of our trip, and I just narrowly squeezed into a date and time that worked for our schedule.
Tickets are issued with a specific time slot, which works well to control the flow of the crowd. We ended up with tickets for a Friday at 3:30pm, though I would have preferred a little earlier in the day. More on that below.
We arrived on an absolutely gorgeous day which might have been better to swap with other things outdoors on our short trip to London, but I was (of course) utterly happy either way. On that note, the studio tour is a perfect rainy day activity as there is only one short portion of the tour that takes place outside.
There was plenty to look at while waiting in line before we even entered the tour, including photos of the actors, and a peek into where we first get to know The Boy Who Lived, in the cupboard under the stairs.
Spoiler alert! If you don’t want to see photos from throughout the entire tour, please stop scrolling now! Know Before You Go info is at the bottom of the post.
Before we knew it, we were herded into The Cinema for an introduction before the tour. After a short film about the making of the movies, I could hardly contain my excitement as I stood before the massive doors to the Great Hall. Our group was ushered in, and the geeking out began. I’m thankful I didn’t pass out from over-excitement, but my photography skills did take a hit. You might notice a few of my selfies are quite blurry!
I purposely didn’t read anything about the tour ahead of time because I wanted to be completely surprised. I didn’t realize we’d get to stand in the actual Great Hall used in the movies. I didn’t know we’d get to see the costumes and props used in the movies. (Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure what I thought we’d see.)
From the Great Hall we entered into The Big Room. Despite having a desperate feeling of I-don’t-know-what-to-look-at-first-or-next-because-everything-is-amazing, the tour is incredibly well-planned and organized. A natural line of progression took us through all of the main lot’s offerings.
Here we are in the Mirror of Erised! And I was so overwhelmed that I cut off the top of the mirror in the photo. Oops.
I probably could have spent days pouring over every little detail. And they do provide you with the opportunity to see every little detail! The rooms at Hogwarts, the portraits, the props, and even details you might not notice even if you watched the movies 100 times. (If Mrs. Weasley’s owl dish in the kitchen is ever missing it might be because I found a way to get my hands on it. I WANT IT.)
I loved staring into the potions classroom and imagining myself attending Professor Snape’s lectures. “Turn to page 394.”
No worries if you don’t have time to find Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross railway station. There is a perfect photo op at the studio tour, complete with cart!
The Backlot part of the tour is where I experienced just the slightest of disappointments – there was no frozen Butterbeer option in the Backlot Café! I suppose it makes sense that the frozen version of the drink, found at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in hot-as-you-know-where Florida, wouldn’t be as appealing in England. But it was fun to try the Butterbeer ice cream that my lactose-intolerance and I opted to skip during our last visit to Universal Studios.
That minor disappointment quickly vanished when I found out that the Backlot Café was situated only half-way through the tour! I was so jazzed with everything that was in The Big Room, I missed seeing any kind of studio map and didn’t even know there was a Backlot or another half of the tour with tons more magic ahead!
We had spent so much time in The Big Room that it was dark outside when we arrived to the Backlot. (Note: If it’s important to you to see Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow in the daylight, keep sunset times in mind when you book your tickets.)
After Creature Effects and Diagon Alley, we reached my two favorite parts of the tour: the Art Department (I actually asked if it’s possible to purchase copies of the blueprints shown below. It’s not.) and the Model Room, where we circumnavigated around the model of Hogwarts with my jaw dropped the entire time.
The tour ends on a sweet note in Ollivanders, where each and every person involved in the production of the Harry Potter movies has their name inscribed on their very own wand box.
Know Before You Go:
- PRICE: Tickets are £35.00 for adults without any of the add-ons like the Digital Guide or Paperback Souvenir Guidebook. We didn’t opt for the digital guide because I wanted to go at a literal snail’s pace and stare at every little detail, but in hindsight I suppose I could have just paused the guide.
- ARRIVAL: Your ticket is set for a specific time slot. The website states: “Plan to arrive 20 minutes before your allocated time slot. If you miss your time slot we cannot guarantee entry.” We arrived about 15 minutes ahead of time and it worked out fine, although I felt a little anxious about printing our tickets from the machines, getting through bag-check, and queuing up in time. So if you’d rather have a relaxed entry, earlier is better.
- OPTIONS: You can also pre-purchase Butterbeer along with your tickets, but I’m not sure if we really saw a difference between purchasing it in advance vs. on-the-spot. The line seemed to be the same. (Note: There is no frozen Butterbeer, but you can try the regular version of the drink and also Butterbeer ice cream!)
- CROWDS: The time slots control the flow of the crowd so you probably don’t have to worry too much about when is the best time to go. There were lines for the green screens (you can have your photo taken riding a broomstick!) and in the Backlot Café, but other than that we didn’t feel crowded on a Friday afternoon/early evening in November.
- TIMING: Chris and I spent about 3.5 hours on the tour including a short Butterbeer break in the café. Chris is a casual fan of the movies. If my mega-fan friend Casey and I had toured, we could have entered at opening hour with a need to be manually kicked out at closing hour. So I would say the tour takes anywhere from three to thirteen hours (which would be the max if you arrive at 9am on a day that closes at 10pm).
- DIRECTIONS: Group tours from London are available including transportation, but it’s easy enough to get to and from the studio from London if you want to be on your own schedule. There is a Journey Tool on the studio website for assistance with directions. Most routes from London will involve taking the tube to the train station, and then taking the train to Watford Junction. When you get to the Watford Junction station, go outside and look for a “The Making of Harry Potter” bus. That bus takes you straight to the studio via a 15-minute journey.
- TRANSPORTATION: We actually ended up taking an Uber to get to the studio because we were running behind schedule and I was anxious about arriving at our time slot! The Uber cost £41.74 from the Seven Dials area and it took a little over an hour to get there. We used the studio bus + train + tube to get back to London which also took about an hour and it was super easy. If you plan ahead and leave yourself a little buffer, you’ll be perfectly fine taking public transportation to get there.
- WEATHER: There is a portion of the tour outdoors called the Backlot. If it is raining on the day of your tour, you may wish to be wearing a hooded jacket or bring an umbrella. Also, if it is late in the year when the sun sets early, you may reach the Backlot after dark like we did.
- PHOTOS: Photography is allowed almost everywhere (yay!), just not in the Cinema or at the green screens, and they do not allow the use of a tripod or drones.