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  • JULIE WHITE

The Visitor Centre today is ... Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Calling all wizards. Take this magical visit, to immerse yourself in the making of the iconic Harry Potter films.

Hogwarts castle on warner bros. studios tour london

JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, and a decade of generation-defining global blockbusters, turned Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson into household names and created magical memories for millions of muggles and would-be wizards all over the world. The original Harry Potter films may have come to a climax over a decade ago, but Warner Bros continue to expand the boy wizard's empire. We visited Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter which offers visitors the chance to step into authentic sets from the Harry Potter movies and more.


Full disclosure time. I fell asleep in the first Harry Potter film, when it was released in the cinema in 2001. I took my children, who were six and four at the time, and I got as far as the Hogwarts Express chugging away across the Glenfinnan viaduct in Scotland, only to drift off and wake up with the final credits rolling. I never watched another film, assuming that if I had fallen asleep in the first installment, then maybe it wasn’t for me and neither of my children were interested in the books either. My son knew every word of the original Star Wars trilogy at the age of three, which as a huge Star Wars fan, made me very proud. My daughter took one look at the thickness of the books and ruled them out completely, finding them just too daunting by the sheer volume of text alone. I read plenty of books to my children, but Harry Potter wasn't one of them.


Fast forward to March 2023, and I have booked the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and I decide that it might be prudent to do some homework. With no time to read any of the books, I manage to cram in the first three films, thanks to Amazon Prime, but run out of time to do more. My daughter is better at the box set binge, and she manages to get to the 6th film. Not bad going considering we only gave it three evenings. I have to say, that by the end of the third film, I was a tad confused, wondered how small children weren't terrified, but had grown enchanted and wanted more. I can certainly appreciate the skill of the filmmakers and actors, let alone the obvious talent of the author to create the magical worlds which the characters inhabit.


We both chose not to do any research on what to expect from the tour. We wanted the full magical experience. I admit to getting a little excited and I bought us some house scarves, after completing an online quiz on what house I would have been in. I am sure the sorting hat is better at that, as I have to admit that I answered most of the questions online like I do any multiple choice test, A, B, C ,D and repeat. My daughter is Hufflepuff and I am Gryffindor it turns out.


Rewind a few weeks and I have to tell you that tickets sell out fast. So fast in fact, that when I tried to book they were available that morning and by the time I had arranged flights, they were gone. After a big panic, I found a hotel company offering a deal on hotel and tour ticket packages. Phew!


We packed our bags and headed for the airport, wrapped in our scarves, like two children on their way to Disney, filled with excitement and expectation.


Brand History

Warner Bros Studios, the mega-brand film and television production company and studio, was founded in 1923 by brothers Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner, and is now a subsidiary of WarnerMedia, owned by AT&T. The studio's roster of productions is legendary, from Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and the Batman and Harry Potter film franchises, plus television production for shows such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Westworld.


Following a merger in April 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (WBD) was created. The business is split into nine distinct businesses, with a portfolio that includes Warner Bros. Studios, HBO, CNN, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and many other popular entertainment and news brands.


In the UK Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, Hertfordshire is not in central London, but a few miles from the M25 and less than twenty miles from studio rivals Pinewood and Elstree.


Once a wartime aerodrome, the site was home to a Rolls Royce aircraft factory until 1994. That same year the production company for the Bond film Goldeneye found Pinewood studios fully booked and looked for an alternative studio. The old aircraft factory, hangars, and acres of runway, turned out to be the perfect plot for a massive studio development.


In 2000 Warner Bros leased the whole site and began shooting the Harry Potter film series, making 8 movies in total, completing filming in 2010. The brand also leases its studios for productions by other film companies.


In November 2010, Warner Bros. purchased Leavesden Studios and invested more than £150 million in renovating and expanding the site, creating state-of-the-art facilities that now include 19 stages, 2 filming tanks, post-production and workshop facilities and offices. It became the only Hollywood film studio with a permanent base in the UK and one of the biggest and best secure filmmaking facilities in the world.


So, is this experience a brand home? Most definitely. Not just because Warner Bros. themselves are a brand, but Harry Potter became a billion-dollar brand worldwide for the studio, one of two flagship franchises, with DC Universe being the other. Films such as The Flash (2023), The Batman (2022) and Wonder Woman (2020 and 2017) have all been made at the studios. The Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films have generated $9.18 billion at the global box office, and the studios want to welcome new and loyal fans to their franchise attraction venues, in order to grow their advocacy for future releases and experiences.


The visitor centre design

In April 2010, Warner Brothers announced their plans to invest in two new sound stages to act as a 14,000 sqm visitor centre specifically for The Making of Harry Potter experience, designed by Thinkwell Group. The experience held its grand opening in March 2012.


In 2015 plans were announced to increase the tour site by a quarter and to include the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and recreation of Platform 9 3/4.


Since then, there has been considerable investment in new experiences to update the tour offering almost on an annual basis.


The entrance

exterior of the entrance to warner bros. studios london the making of  harry potter
entrance walkway to warner brothers studios tour london making of harry potter wall art

Walk through the giant wands and wall of graphics and you arrive at J Stage (J for J.K. Rowling) which was extended in 2019 to include a new entry layout. After a quick bag check, you're ready to start your visit. There's a cloakroom if you need one and a desk where you can buy the audio guide.

two scarves and audio guide warner brothers studios london harry potter tour

I always get an audio guide to see what extra information a visitor can experience, but I'll admit now that I barely used this one. Audio guides are not always user-friendly and they certainly make your experience more of a solitary one. If I had listened to all the content on the audio guide, plus read all the content on the tour, I think I'd have been at the studios for 8 hours plus. There's enough to see and interact with, without doing the audio guide here, so I would suggest you save your money and enjoy the shared experience.

We visited during the Magical Mischief event, that ran until April 18th 2023. Christmas is another popular time, when the sets are dressed for the festive season.


The Foyer

dragon sculpture in ceiling of foyer warner brothers studios tour london making of harry potter

Be prepared to be impressed. You can't miss the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon above you, ridden by Harry, Ron and Hermione through the roof of Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The original dragon was completely digital, and this sculpture was installed in 2019 and has a wingspan of 64 feet. You can watch a video of how it was made online. The massive digital screens create an immersive mural with sound effects.


There were just 4 costumes from films made by the studios that are not Harry Potter related. That was the only non-Potter content we saw on our visit. These are in an alcove that looks like an entrance to something they haven’t built yet, so there could be more exciting things to come.


There are three eateries before you enter the tour. The Hub Café is a small Starbucks and The Chocolate Frog has purple and gold décor and sweet treats. The Food Hall has expanded and is now themed to include a reimagining of the ceiling of the Great Hall, complete with floating candles and serves heartier fayre such as fish and chips and pies.


The tour

We're off to find the magic. The queuing system, being timed, meant that we did not have long to wait. There's always something to look at, as you wend your way through the barriers, from information on poster art, and schematics of buildings, to Harry's under-the-stairs bedroom from the first film.

The new welcome space, also part of the 2019 refurbishment, features a live host interacting with a video shown across screens on three walls, a film that includes fans, actors, and production staff from the films. It was a fun way to get you excited for what was to come, but also to tell you the safety rules. There's no video or photography allowed during the presentation, but this is the only place where this is the case.

start of tour guest video warner brothers studios london making of harry potter

Every tour guide we encountered was a proper Harry Potter nerd. They were all extremely friendly and their knowledge of everything Potter was admirable. They welcomed any questions, however random, with a smile. The guides also run demonstrations around the exhibit halls, on such things as costume design and prop making. They have a genuine passion for their subject and their enthusiasm is infectious. At the end of the film, the screen shoots up to reveal a pair of enormous wooden doors.


The Great Hall

Is it your birthday? If so, you're invited up by the host to the large double doors in front of you. We watched children, and adults alike, come to the front in eager expectation, smiles across their faces, most in full Harry Potter costume, ready to push open the doors to the next magical experience.

tour guide taking guests into the dining hall set at hogwarts at warner brothers studios london making of harry potter

The doors swing open and the impact of the first space is instant. You’re transported into the actual film set of the great dining hall at Hogwarts, with student graffiti on the wooden tables, crackling wood in the fireplace, and the original York stone floor. There are plenty of original costumes and information on the set. This is the only part of the studio tour where time is limited.

tables laid for dinner hogwarts castle dining hall warner brothers studios london

The stage area has different exhibits on it depending on the event theme. As we visited when it was Magical Mischief, we found Professor Umbridge watching over the fifth-year O.W.L. exams from the Order of the Phoenix., complete with a swinging pendulum.

If you hang back a little and wait until the last of your tour group leaves the hall, then you can quickly get a shot of the hall before the next group enters.


In 2023 the venue is adding more than 400 floating candles to the ceiling of the Great Hall, to recreate how it was when filming took place. The set department will use over 3 miles of lighting wire to recreate the flickering effect. Now that really would be something to see.


Interior Sets

Next, you arrive at the self-guided section of the tour. Without time restrictions you can take as long as you need. It will be a long while and the only sit down you will get for a break will be at the café halfway around. It took us over 2 hours to get there, so be warned.

As all the guests on your tour leave the Great Hall at the same time, there's a bit of a bottleneck in front of each exhibit in the initial section, but it does get a little quieter if you are patient. It would have been good to see braille on the panels and as there is little to touch, I would like to hear from those guests with sight loss, to see what engagement they experienced. The audio guide would be essential I would imagine.

Another enthusiastic host was on hand to show us some costumes. She said she could have talked about it all day long. Do check out some of the portraits on show here, used in the film to adorn the walls of Hogwarts. Each was hand-painted and there were over 350 of them used in the films.

Next, we arrive at the Gryffindor dormitory. You can't fail to appreciate the minute details as you look around. The attention to detail, however small, is staggering. Each set has lighting and sound effects, authentic props, furnishings and decorations. The beds were made for the cast for the first film, and as the cast grew up over the years they ended up too big for their beds. You can look, from behind a barrier, but you can't touch.

There can be a bit of pushing and shoving here in front of the exhibits. Everyone wants to see as much as they can. Be patient, as there will be gaps, but you'll have to relax about the costume-clad Instagram influencers getting in the way. We visited on a Friday afternoon and there was a large school trip visiting dressed in high-vis yellow jackets. They were no trouble, and their teacher helped us with our free Potter passport, which you get stamped as you go around the exhibits. Turns out we're not too old to get fun from that.

Next is the Gryffindor common room. Turns out even the cast enjoyed hanging out here during filming. It took 3 months to create.

With so many text displays and interactive panels, there really is no need for the audio guide, which by now is just getting in my way.

There is plenty of space around the exhibits for wheelchair access and many of the displays were at different heights for ease of access.

We're definitely not joining Malfoy in Slytherin's common room, which has been part of the tour since an update in 2020.

A highlight for me had to be Dumbledore’s office, due to the sheer detail.

Ready for a potion class? We were blown away at Professor Snape's potions lab, with magical pots and spells being cast in front of us. There are over 500 hand-labelled bottles and a plethora of moving and graphic elements that create a visual feast.

A quick look at Hagrid's hut and you're on to the next exhibit.

There's plenty of encouragement to connect on social media with the brand as you go through the tour.

Want to fly on a broom? You can for free, but be prepared to pay for the video, which for us was a bit steep considering the entrance price. Visitors with disabilities can ride too but must be able to transfer themselves onto a broomstick. Maybe the brand should come up with something a bit more inclusive here?

A playful set was the Weasley's Burrow, where you use your magic (your hands) to iron clothes, knit or wash pans.

You pass through a few more sets, with just as much detail to admire.


Forbidden Forest

In 2017 the Forbidden Forest exhibit opened, repurposing a part of the studio. Expect dry ice, spooky sounds, massive trees, moving elements like the friendly Buckbeak and finally....giant spiders. You don’t have to walk through it, as there is another route, so any arachnophobes will be happy.


Platform 9 3/4

“All aboard the Hogwarts Express!” Calling all Harry Potter or train geeks. I might be new to the former, but I am a secret train nerd and this section of the tour is visually stunning.

Kings Cross and its Platform 9 3/4 first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and has been a staple of the films ever since. A recreation of Platform 9 3/4, without the train, but including a shop and trolley half embedded in the wall for the obligatory selfie shot, was installed at King’s Cross Station in London and was a big success.


In 2015, following a 20,000ft² expansion of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the 78-year-old red steam engine 5972 Olton Hall, used as the Hogwarts Express in the film franchise, returned home, displayed on tracks adjacent to the new Platform 9 3/4 experience and brimming with sound, lighting, and steam effects. You can watch a video on how this splendid machine was restored and then used in the film.


The majority of the train interior scenes were filmed on a soundstage at the Leavesden studios, with the exterior shots all using the carriage and engine on show. It really is one of the highlights of the whole tour.

A changing selection of props, luggage, and costumes is displayed on the platform. There are three luggage trollies embedded into the wall, so guests can recreate Harry's journey through the wall for the obligatory selfie. When we visited there was an activity going on at a large table where visitors were making origami Howlers, the pesky enchanted letters from the films, which was part of the Magical Mischief event.

Visitors can walk through the authentic carriage. The compartments have been dressed by the set department to represent each of the films.

What did surprise me was that there was little provision for those with mobility issues, especially when the interior shots were filmed in a studio where the windows were green screens. I was disappointed to see several visitors having to wait outside, when something as simple as a ramp running behind the carriage, allowing those guests with mobility issues to at least be able to peer inside each compartment, could have been provided.

There is a train carriage recreation next to the shop where you can go and sit and experience what filming was like and there is an accessible section in that. You can ride for free, though you need to pay for any photos or videos.

At the end of the carriage is another carriage set, which is accessible, showing the costumes worn in the last shot of the final film. Turn around and you can see the snack trolley, the Honeydukes Express.

The Station shop is small but perfectly formed and did include a desk where you could get your House Journal books personalised, which were great quality.


The Backlot Café

You need to be aware that the food options are limited when on the tour. The Backlot café is situated halfway around the tour experience and was busy, mostly due to the fact that we hit it at lunchtime. Though the queue for food was not long, there was limited vacant indoor and outdoor seating. That could have been exacerbated by the fact that there were very few seats provided along the tour, so everyone might have had sore feet like we did. The queue for Butterbeer wasn't very long, but you do get souvenir tankards to keep. Butterbeer is a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it.


The food on offer was standard sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers, so nothing special. As there had been no water fountains as we went around the first half of the tour, we were very thirsty and plumped for juice instead, finding a water fountain in the café area, which was a bit late, to be honest.


There are other food options, which can be accessed before and after the tour itself. The Chocolate Frog Café and The Food Hall were busy after our tour finished at 4 pm. There's also a Hub Café that is more like a coffee shop and that was also very busy.


The Backlot

On the Backlot you find sets and models from the original films. This area provides a cost-effective alternative to all the video and photo experiences on the tour that have to be paid for. Taking photographs here is free and you can step on the back of the Knight bus, walk across Hogwarts Bridge, climb inside the Weasley's flying car or Sirius Black's Motorbike and Sidecar.


2022 saw the expansion of the back lot area to include the fountain from Hogwarts courtyard, the addition of a 1:3 scale model of the Weasley’s burrow and an extension to the inside of No 4 Privet Drive, the Dursleys house, to include the dining room and kitchen and Harry's bedroom with Dobby, the house elf.

We had to laugh at the foreign tourists taking pictures of Privet Drive, considering that the décor was pretty much what I grew up with back in the 1980s. Listening to them describe the exterior of the house as quaint, when it is like thousands of houses on any housing estate up and down the country made me chuckle.

2022 also saw Potters Cottage in Godrics Hollow replaced with Professor Sprout’s greenhouse, complete with mandrakes experience, a set that was built by the original Harry Potter filmmakers. Visitors step inside and pull at the mandrakes in pots all lined up on the potting bench. The mandrakes pop up and scream, and each one makes a different noise.


Creature Effects

The next section takes you behind the scenes of the model-making and special effects team. Warwick Davis, who starred as two characters, and the voice for a third in the films appears in videos telling you all about prosthetics, animatronics and more.


Gringotts

In 2019, the studio tour unveiled its biggest-ever expansion. K Stage was enlarged by 16,500 sqft and now houses the Gringotts Bank set. Flanked by marble pillars, the bank's central hall has been recreated with crystal chandeliers, above the goblin tellers' desks. It certainly took your breath away.

Gringotts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was actually shot on location inside Australia House, London.


The Vaults

Opened in 2019, at the same time as the banking hall, is the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange which you visit next. It's stunning and contains 38,000 pieces of rubberised treasure made by the prop department.

But there's more. Round the corner and you're back in the banking hall, now destroyed, with an added unwelcome guest, a fire breathing dragon. Every couple of minutes the digital reproduction of the dragon roars into action and fires up, literally. It's very impressive.


Diagon Alley

Turn another corner and we're now on the cobblestone paths of Diagon Alley. The magical shopfronts such as Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium are extremely detailed. I have a friend who made some of the prop books that were in the films and can be seen here on the tour.


Art Department

Definitely one of our highlights was the art department section of the tour, where you get to see original card models, graphics and paintings, concept sketches and reference materials. My daughter, who does not work in art and design as I do, found the artwork stunning.


Model room

Be prepared to be awestruck. You round a corner and are met with a 360-degree view of the incredible, hand-sculpted 1:24 original Hogwarts scale model, used in the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. At nearly 50 feet in diameter, it has over 2,500 fibre optic lights that simulate lanterns and torches and even give the illusion of students passing through hallways.

There's a handy rampway, so everyone can look at the model and every four minutes the light show creates a day-to-night cycle so you can see the castle in all its glory. There are numerous interactive displays and plenty of information to take in.


The store

Are you ready to part with some cash? Engaging and beautifully themed, interspersed with props from the films, be warned, the cavernous gift shop might cast a spell on you. The store is vast and operates a one-way system which funnels you through various themed areas, daring you to resist the urge to buy. There is something here for any Potter fan, no matter your budget, from baseball hats to the Nimbus 2001 broom. You might clock some truly eye-watering price tags in here, so be careful. We were extremely strict with ourselves, but even we succumbed, with my daughter shelling out some of her muggle money on a Hermione wand and chocolate frog, and I left with a Hogwarts Express Christmas ornament. You can buy anything here from clothing to Lego, jewellery, homewares, luggage, models, games, candies, soft toys, stationery and more.

It was good to see that some of the gifts could be engraved or embroidered on-site to make them even more personal.


In conclusion

As the original generation of Harry Potter fans might very well now have children themselves, and with the last film released way back in 2011, I wondered if the appeal would still be as strong for this themed brand experience. The Fantastic Beasts spinoff franchise, which was supposed to keep the brand relevant, and the tills ringing for Warner Bros., has been beset with issues and diminishing returns. Rowling's controversial personal views and biases are challenging the appeal of the series for many and I wonder what the effect will be on the Wizarding World brand activations.


I visit brand homes and experiences with people of all ages and interests. That way, I get feedback based on their engagement, not just mine. On this occasion, I took, as my companion, my daughter, now 26, queen of the box set binge and total Disney fanatic. Not having read a single line of a Harry Potter book before her visit, would she find enough to hold her interest? The answer was a resounding yes but with a few ideas for other tours on site.


Both of us would have liked more content on the history of the site and the growth of the Warner Bros. brand itself. We could have met some cast or crew members giving us tours, seen archive materials, learned about stunt coordination, or anything really that wasn't about Harry Potter. My daughter thought it would have been better to have actually been taken on a studio tour, like she has done in other parks, to see what else Warner Bros. makes. The Leavesden site is one of only a few places in the UK where large-scale film productions can be made after all and, with the success of such films as The Batman, The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League franchise, all being filmed there, she felt that with the whole tour purely focused on one franchise, Harry Potter, might have a limited shelf life and appeal. I tend to agree with her, even though it's been an extremely popular visitor attraction since it opened over ten years ago. There are over 55 acres of backlot being used in production at present and it would have been fantastic to see behind the scenes there. There is definitely an opportunity for a spin-off experience. Warner Bros. take note.


I have to say that I found it all a terrific feat of design and engineering, and watching the faces of so many visitors utterly transfixed was heartwarming. If they could address the few places where those with limited mobility were unable to engage fully, then it would be even better. And if there were touchable scale models then even more visitors would be able to engage with the tour. A few extra seats along the tour wouldn't hurt either.


The venue is continuing to add new experiences and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the future and how inventions like the caster wands could be incorporated to make the tour even more interactive and personal.


I cannot ignore one particular negative, the cost of the visit. When it opened in 2012, tickets cost £28 for adults and £21 for children. Now it's a hefty £51.50 for adults and £40 for over 5's. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is a whopping £160. If you add in transport to get there and maybe an overnight stay, then this could easily be the most expensive single day out you have this year. If you buy any of the green screen photo or video packages as you go round, a butter beer souvenir cup, and then anything in the shop, then you'll be over £200 easily. Compare that, for example, with Disneyland Paris, where an adult pre-booked dated ticket costs from £55, you have to ask if the price is just too high. The Studio Tour lasts at least 3 hours, but you'd be at Disney for a lot longer and able to ride things, touch things and see fireworks and parades etc.


However, compare the tour to a few top attractions in the UK and maybe it's not too bad a deal. I really disliked Madame Tussauds and that was over £40 per adult. I was there for less than an hour and found the whole experience shallow. Legoland Windsor is £66 per adult, but they have an online discount that brings that down to under £40 regularly. To be honest, if it hadn't been just me and my daughter, I'm not sure I'd have paid the price. This is not an all-day experience, even though most of the tour is self-guided, and you are not rushed through. There is not enough for little ones to burn off some steam and even my 26-year-old daughter was flagging by the end.


That being said, even if you haven't watched a Harry Potter film, it's still very impressive.


So, what about the engagement levels? Have I watched the other films? Yes, I have. Have I bought more than a scarf since? No, but I am very tempted by the new Hogwarts Legacy open-world video game by Avalanche and Warner Bros. Discovery, the best-selling game of 2023 so far, some feat against the likes of Call of Duty. And I am off to New York in a few weeks and have already looked into visiting Harry Potter™: The Exhibition.


Would I go back to the studios? Maybe, but I would like to first compare the experience to that in Universal Orlando. At present, I feel that the authenticity of the original props and location cannot be beaten, so the Leavesden site wins on that front every time. But I could be convinced otherwise and I am pretty hooked on seeing other brand activations. This muggle might just be converted.


It is hard to ignore the delight we witnessed in all those visiting wizards, big and small, that we encountered on the day of our visit.


It really is magic.


How long was the visit?

We were there for over 5 hours. The brand website recommends 3 hours, so we spent a little longer and this did not include any time in the café for lunch. As it's mostly self-guided, you could be the first one in and the last one out.


Consider buying tickets towards the end of the day, so that you are one of the last to leave, to be in with a chance of having the place almost to yourself. Just make sure you arrive with plenty of time. Consider too booking when it's quieter, on a weekday during term time.


How much are tickets?

Check out their website for up to date prices. You have to book online and months in advance and when the website is busy, you even have to wait in a queue online.


We paid full price and this was not part of any advertising.


Adults: £51.50

Child 5-15: £40.00

Under 4s: Free but they need a ticket


One free carer ticket can be provided for each paying disabled visitor but you need proof of entitlement such as a doctor's letter.


A Paperback Souvenir Guidebook is available for an additional £9.95 online.


I had to book a hotel and ticket package as tickets sold out as I was confirming my flight on another page. Get them in your basket quickly or get someone else to book tickets as you book flights or travel arrangements. You don't want to be stuck with flights and no tour tickets like I was for a time.


Tour options

The audio guide for an additional £5.25 wasn't worth it, as I barely had time to listen to the extra information on it. There is plenty to read and experience as you go around without feeling like you need even more information, so save your money. You'll spend it elsewhere, trust me.


Opening times

It's always worth checking with the venue for their current opening times, as they can vary.

We visited in March when they were open from 9.30 am until 8 pm, with the last tour entry at 4 pm.


Anything else worth mentioning

  • Afternoon Tea for Two is available but is £70. Add Champagne and it's £100.

  • We would recommend taking your own food. Not only does it help keep costs down, but it will also save time if you are in a rush.

  • The tour isn’t really suited for very young children. There's a lot of walking about.

Other Harry Potter experiences

There are multiple Harry Potter experiences around the world and here are just a few that I have found. (Again, I am not paid to advertise any of them)


Announced only a few days ago is the much-rumoured Harry Potter TV show on HBO Max. which made headlines all around the world.


There's a new Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo - The Making of Harry Potter attraction opening in June 2023 in Tokyo, Japan. The 30,000 sqm exhibition will feature replica sets and will open at the former site of the Toshimaen amusement park in Nerima. I've been to DisneySea and witnessed throngs of excited Japanese visitors, who are prepared to dress up impeccably for the occasion, queue for up to nine hours for one ride, and yet are extremely polite at all times. It is interesting to note that they are planning to cap the number of attendees each day, to give everyone more space and time to enjoy the experience. Whilst it won't be original or authentic, there is no doubt that the Asian tourist will appreciate it being so close to home, especially when so many of them seemed to have made the trip to London. Knowing the level of design detail that the Japanese put into DisneySea, I can only imagine how well landscaped and built the experience will be. Their attention to detail is amazing and I am sure it will also be spotlessly clean and maintained, as every attraction appeared to be when I visited Japan in 2019. Two Tokyo train stations are even being given the magical treatment, with Toshimaen Station renovated to resemble the Hogsmeade train station. I'll put it on my bucket list for when I go back to Japan.


Harry Potter can also be found at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida which opened in 2010, though it is spread across two parks Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. This means that you will require a multi-park ticket or annual pass to access both experiences. Universal Islands of Adventure has Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and a Flight of the Hippogriff ride, plus Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle. Universal Studios Florida has Diagon Alley and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. However, here 30,000 passengers per day can travel on board two replicas of the fictional Hogwarts Express, which chugs along between the 2 sites, playing videos along the way. Now that's definitely more immersive than the experience in London and by making it an inter-park ride and requiring a two-park ticket to board it, Universal benefits from the up-sell on ticket prices.


The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is smaller than its Floridian counterpart and based on the Hogsmeade side of Universal Orlando, but has no Diagon alley or train ride, though it does have the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and Flight of the Hippogriff.


Harry Potter rides and experiences are also found at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Japan and Universal Studios Beijing in Beijing, China.


Harry Potter: The Exhibition, by Imagine Exhibitions in partnership with Warner Bros., is a touring, immersive exhibition that first opened in Philadelphia, USA in 2022 and has moved through Atlanta, Georgia, Vienna, Austria and Paris, France, and is set to open in New York City in 2023. So far 750,000 visitors have enjoyed the exhibition featuring costumes and props from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies and the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The experience is made even more personal with RFID wristbands controlling content for each visitor’s profile. That's an experience I'll hopefully be trying out this year.


Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, UK was not only a key filming location for the first two Harry Potter movies but also featured in Downton Abbey and is the location of many historic battles. I have visited it several times and it is an impressive castle. While there are no Harry Potter themed events any longer at the castle, guests can still witness the filming locations and play at being a knight or wizard for the day.


In Scotland, you can climb aboard the Jacobite Steam train, and be whisked along the 84-mile track and over the Glenfinnan Viaduct that features in the movies. Some of the carriages of 'The Jacobite' are those used in the Harry Potter films. This must be booked way in advance as it sells out, as I know, extremely fast. Even non-Harry Potter fans can't help but be dazzled by the fabulous scenery on offer.


And local to me is The Potter Trail walking tour in Edinburgh, exploring the magical locations that inspired characters and scenes in JK Rowling's books. You'll need a wand too, for some spells along the way.


 

Where we stayed:

The Studio Tour partners with several hotels in the Watford area via Holiday Extras. You can find out which hotels via the tour website.

We stayed in the Holiday Inn Hemel Hempstead on Breakspear Way, mainly as it was 15 minutes drive from the Studios and had free parking for our hire car.

The 4-star hotel included complimentary access to the Spirit Health Club, an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym, not that we had time for any of that. We did make use of the very tasty breakfast before our tour and found the hotel wait staff extremely friendly, passing compliments on them to their management.


Getting here:

We were on a 3 day long weekend trip from Scotland, flying in from Edinburgh to London Luton airport with EasyJet. Luton Airport is only 17 miles from the tour.


Getting to the studios by car was easy. It’s about 5 mins off the M25 motorway and very well signposted. There is plenty of parking too and you just need to show your booking confirmation. We were stunned at how close we got at 11 am, literally a few steps from the entrance. No idea why you'd need priority parking at an extra £10. Maybe it gets much busier later in the year.

We did notice that there was a shuttle bus stop right outside the tour entrance, where an electric bus operates from Watford Junction train station to the Studio Tour, taking only 15 minutes. That's great if you're staying in London, or even Birmingham, and can get on the train. Not so great if the trains are on strike, as we have experienced recently in the UK.


There are also bus transfers, but only from central London, with their partner bus company, Golden Tours.


There were plenty of coaches outside, carrying loads of tourists and school-age wizards.


What else is there to see close by:

London is an obvious choice for many varied attractions.


Outside of London, there are a few I have visited and enjoyed that I can recommend.


Bletchley Park, home of the code-breaking teams of the Second World War is just under an hour by car from Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Leavesden. The last time I visited I was there for 6 hours and still didn't finish everything. It is truly fascinating and inspiring.


Why not visit the world-famous Kew Gardens which is about a 40 minute drive from the Studios, on a good day? Home to the world's most diverse plant collection and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can take in the famous Palm House, treetop walkway, pagoda, and much more.


For the youngsters, then Legoland Windsor is worth a day trip and is just over half an hour from the Studios.


And why not visit Windsor Castle too? It is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and has witnessed many royal historic moments, including the wedding of Harry and Meagan and more recently the funeral of Prince Philip and it is where you can visit the Queen’s grave in St George’s Chapel.


Visited: March 2023

Photographs: ©Julie White unless noted otherwise


Disclaimer - The views and opinions expressed are solely my own. I paid for the tours in full and any comments reflect my personal experiences on that day. Please visit and garner your own thoughts and feel free to research the brand and the visitor centre in question.



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