I am a daughter of the 90's and a child of books. I spent much of my formative years with a voracious appetite for the written word, nose buried in a book and a head full of universes that I yearned to be a part of. Like many kids my age one such universe that was all consuming was the wizarding world of Harry Potter - I daydreamed about the arrival of my Hogwarts acceptance letter and felt genuine sadness when it hit me that it may never arrive. I am still partially convinced my owl ended up getting lost or shot by some over enthusiastic farmer.
Every Christmas I still retreat back into this world with a block of chocolate, a handful of sherbert lemons and a cup of tea. I derive such comfort from it all so it was no one's surprise when I took myself off to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London on my recent trip to the UK. As a Harry Potter fan there are few things on Earth more amazing and immersive than a day spent exploring the filming site for all 8 movies in the Harry Potter franchise.
There are sets and props, costumes, broomstick rides, a chance to sample a glass or five of butterbeer and an insane gift shop which will empty out your bank account faster than you can say "take my monies!!". Read on for tips and important information to know about the tour and a shit ton of photos - spoilers abound!
BASIC STUFF ABOUT the Warner Bros Studio Tour
- Book Your Tickets In Advance & Check for Special Deals
To get into the tour you generally need to purchase your tickets online via the website as you need to nominate a specific available time and date. Only a certain number of visitors are permitted during each time slot (essential when you consider the millions of Harry Potter fans out there and wanting to avoid a build up of tourists) which means not all times and dates are available. So plan ahead and book! It is worth checking deal websites like Viator because they often have details that can include transport which work out cheaper than buying direct from the website.
- Ticket Pricing
Adult (Aged 16 years and above) £39
Child (Aged 5 to 15 years) £31
Child (Aged 4 and under) Free (but you still need to select, buy and print a ticket on the website for them)
There are also group tickets available and family tickets available.
- Getting There
The studios are actually located in Watford, which is an hour drive from central London. The website has a journey tool which can help you plan your trip via rail, car or shuttle. If getting the train it will take about an hour to get to Watford Junction railway station then you need to grab the studio shuttle (about £2.50 each way). If you take the train leave a lot of time to get there. I opted for a stress free tour that included return transport on a double decker bus that played the first film to help get you in the mood - it cost a little more but I didn't have to negotiate trains and busses.
When you arrive you wait in line for your tour time. The queue moves quite quickly and you pass Harry's bedroom under the stairs. Iconic! The urge to jump the rope and go and sit on his wee bed is overwhelming but restrain yourself so you don't get thrown out. You begin by walking into a cinema and watching a quick film. As it finishes the screen lifts up and reveals the impressive doors to the Great Hall.
The Great Hall
It is just like the movies, down to the plates and cutlery, although minus the bewitched ceiling and thousands of floating candles. You can also spy the sorting hat, the house points hourglass and mannequins dressed in students outfits and teachers costumes. This is the only part of the tour where your time is restricted so snap your photos while you can.
The Big Room
The Great Hall leads onto the Big Room which houses so may sets, props and costumes, you have all the time you like to explore and photograph. It is amazing. Hagrid's hut, the Weasley's kitchen, Dumbledores office, the Gryffindor common room and Umbridge's office are all housed here. My favourite spot was the potions classroom, a prop handler even let me look at the potions book from the sixth film - I wonder if I could successfully brew a draught of living death now... In here you can also ride a broom on the green screen (prepare to queue for a looooong time) and practice your wand casting technique.
All Aboard The Hogwarts Express
After the Big Room you turn a corner and step onto platform 9 3/4 and see the gleaming red Hogwarts Express. You can even walk through it and peer into the compartments, you can pose for the obligatory "running through the barrier" photo or peruse the station shop.
It is here you can drink a flagon of butterbeer and get your foamy moustache on. Or wander across the Hogwarts Bridge, or peek inside Privet Drive, wander onto the Knight bus and pay your respects at Godric's Hollow. Opinions on butterbeer are split, personally I love the stuff and could drink it over and over. You can buy it in a souvenir cup if you like, just be sure to wash it out before you pop it in your handbag (or things get gross). You can grab a bite to eat here too and refuel for more photo taking, I and a lot of others opted for a packed lunch. The food at the studio is fast food with a hefty price tag attached - No thanks.
The Art Department
Once you are finished with the backlot you can venture back inside to the incredible treasures in the creature effects and art department. It is here you comprehend the intense amount of work that goes into creating magical creatures. This is where the magical creatures are housed. Dragons, owls, goblins and hippogriffs and a giant spider that made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. Anyone considering a career in special effects or with an interest in myth and lore will adore this part of the tour.
It took all my self control not to jump the barriers and knock on all the doors or run off with all the gorgeous props. Again the detail here is so elaborate and exciting.
This is the final part of the tour before the giftshop and holy crap is it incredible. You can walk around it and view it from all angles taking in all the incredible detail - it will leave you feeling gob smacked that people built this! I wanted to shrink down to a tiny size and explore it for real.
And that is the tour. An over whelming day where I was able to immerse myself in the creative world of JK Rowling and the films that have turned her universe into a reality of sorts. A whole day to geek out. Definatley a London highlight for me.
SOME Tips for visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour
I have covered the basics but here are some tips you should keep in mind when planning your visit:
- Set. Yourself. A. Budget. For. The. Gift shop.
Do this. Or like me you will have emptied your bank account in the blink of an eye. If you are a Harry Potter fan setting foot in the gift shop will have you surrender all self control. I got Luna's spectrespecs, Sirius's wand, a replica time turner, tom riddle's journal and more candy than I could eat in a year. I almost forked out a couple of hundred pounds for a replica diadem and one of the hogs head jugs (what a great prop!) but thankfully i only took my travel card which had a spending limit for the day.
- Grab a free passport
Do this at in the lobby, technically they are for kids but I flashed a geeky flirty smile at the guy behind the register and walked away passport in hand. There are stamping stations at all the major sections of the tour that you can stamp in - they make a great souvenir.
- Allow extra time for travel
If you are attempting to reach Watford on public transport allow yourself some extra time for travel so you don't miss your tour time.
- Check the website for special events
The studio tour sometimes has special events - this march will have the forbidden forest opening! A good tip if you are booking your tickets well in advance.
- Photo on a broomstick
If you absolutely need a photo of you riding a broom you will have to pay a whole bunch and wait forever in line. But if you head straight for the photo queue once through the Great Hall you can bypass your tour group queue and then backtrack and see everything. You will still have to queue but it will be significantly quicker. Get it out of the way first.
- Take a packed lunch or some snackables
Seriously you will be ravenous after all the excitement and oohing and aahhing and aggresive photo taking. The food available (besides the butterbeer) is expensive and not delicious. Fast food with a hefty price tag, if you are a budget backpacker like me and expect to blow all your coins on souvenirs then take stuff to snack on. And a bottle of water - that butter beer is delicious but boy is it sweet and will make you thirsty.
Warner Bros Studio Tour London
Studio Tour Drive
This is not a paid or sponsored post, all opinions expressed within are my own.