Harry Potter fans around the world converge upon Leavesden, just outside of London, to spend a day at the Harry Potter Studio Tour.
There you can go behind-the-scenes at the original Warner Bros studios where all eight of the Harry Potter films were made.
It’s a unique experience where you can explore two sound stages and a backlot filled with original sets, costumes, props as well as special effects and animatronics that made the films so magical.
You can ‘fly’ a broomstick, taste Butterbeer and climb aboard the original Hogwarts Express at the recreation of Platform 9 ¾.
On my recent trip to the UK I was lucky enough to score a last minute ticket to the Warners Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. Here are my top tips:
Book your tickets early
I didn’t think of booking for the ticket until 2 weeks before departure and only managed to buy one off Gumtree by chance. Tickets sell out for every day, every timeslot, weekday or weekend, so as soon as you have a prospective date start booking!
Tickets are picked up at the ticket office at the studios.
**All tickets must be purchased in advance and cannot be bought on site**
Book your train ticket online
Go to thetrainline.com to book your train from London Euston to Watford Junction in advance. You can then quickly pick up the ticket using your booking code from the many terminals at the station, without having to wait in line.
Sometimes booking in advance will get you a better fare too.
Leavesden is 20 miles north-west of London and the train journey takes about 20 minutes.
Note there is a free carpark on site if you’re driving.
Have cash for the transfer bus
The 15 minute transfer bus from Watford Junction station to the Leavesden studios only takes cash and the fare is 2.50 return per person.
Arrive approx 1 hour before your scheduled time
Announcements will be made as to when you will be allowed to line up to enter the studios. Until that time, you can mosey around the gift shop (look out for the magical/special effects in the wand shop), eat at the cafe and store your gear in the free cloakroom.
Beware that even though your ticket says ‘12pm tour’ you may not actually get to enter the studio later due the number of people in line. I had to wait an hour in line, staring at the Cupboard Under the Stairs.
Allow 3.5 hours for the tour
The recommended time for the tour is 3.5 hours and in my experience that’s an accurate estimate. Though people have been known to stay for 45 minutes and up to 13 hours!
There is a lot to see and I was pretty thorough reading all the plaques. I didn’t bother with any attractions that required lining up eg looking inside the Hogwarts Express or Privet Drive and only stopped to enjoy a Butterbeer and a loo stop halfway through.
The audio guide is nice, not necessary
There is already a lot of information on the plaques as well as visual elements to appreciate (especially at Diagon Alley, where you’re getting fatigued at the end), so I didn’t really find the audio guide necessary. It is only £4.95, though and occasionally it does direct you to look out for features you may not otherwise notice.
Digital Guides can be pre-booked with your tickets or hired upon arrival.
Go to the back if you want a clear photo of the Great Hall
The Great Hall is awe-inspiring and is the entry point to the rest of the tour. If you want to a clear picture of it without a gaggle of tourists then go to the back of your timed entry group, before the next timed entry group is ready to be ushered in.
The staff will try to get you out asap so that the hall is empty by the time the doors open for the next group – but if you’re quick you can sneak in a quick shot!
Suitable for ages 7+ years
The (3.5 hour) tour is all walking and if you add the commute there and back and the queueing up, you will only get to enjoy it if you have kids with enough physical stamina to enjoy it. I am really glad I didn’t take my children!
Also not every display is interactive – there’s a lot of looking but no touching. And there is limited space for prams inside so you may be asked to cloak it.
Get the Children Activity Passport
To help guide kids through the long tour collect a free Activity Passport upon arrival. It includes a fun Golden Snitch hunt and there are six stamping stations are placed throughout the tour.
Buy the toy train and the Butterbeer in a mug
You can buy lots of HP paraphernalia in the studio gift shop, at the gift shop at Kings Cross Station (at Platform 9 ¾ of course) and toy shops such as Hamleys.
However, you will ONLY be able to buy the toy Hogwarts Express train from the Railway shop midway in the tour and the only way to get a Butterbeer mug is to buy it at the Backlot cafe.
Try the Butterbeer – it’s delicious! Basically a sweet non-alcoholic bustterscotch fizzy drink topped with some whipped marshmallow, so kids will love it too. The butterbeer is served in a plastic souvenir tankard or a souvenir stein for £6.95.
Finally, remember your camera! Taking photographs and capturing video footage with handheld cameras and mobile devices is allowed in most areas of the Studio Tour.
Check out my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Click here for my review of the Harry Potter Store in Melbourne
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden United Kingdom WD25 7LR
Adult (16+ years) £35
Child (5-15 years and must be accompanied by an adult) £27
4 and Under (tickets are required for children aged 4 and under) Free
Family (either two adults with two children, or one adult with three children) £107