The world of Harry Potter has enthralled fans since the release of J.K. Rowling’s first book The Philosophers Stone in 1997. Warner Brothers released the first film by the same name in 2001, bringing the world from our imaginations to the big screen. 21 years later and new generations of Harry Potter fans across the world continue to fall in love with the wizarding world.
Warner Brothers Opened the Studio Tour in March 2012, 2 years after the completion of the final film. Since then, Harry Potter Experiences have opened up across the pond at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood in June 2010 and April 2016 respectively. These 2 Harry Potter experiences are part of the wider Universal Theme Parks however and are more of an immersive interaction with replicas of Diagon Alley and Hogsmede for you to visit.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour in London is a stand-alone Harry Potter Attraction and is literally a tour of where the films were made. Having visited the 2 Universal Attractions previously, we wanted to see the original Harry Potter Attraction right where the books were brought to life.
- Adult £49.95 pp
- Child 39.95 pp
- Family Ticket (2 adults 2 children) £159
- Group Prices from £49.50 pp (based on 10+ visitors)
- Hotel and Attraction Tickets available from Holidays Extra from £65 pp
TIP: Often some dates might be showing as sold out on the Studio’s website but some Tickets may still be available through the Hotel and Attractions offer from Holidays Extra. If you are not local to the area, it may be worth considering the Hotel and Tickets option so you can extend your stay either the night before your Tour or the night after.
Advised Attraction Time: 3.5 Hours.
The Studio Tour offers Free On-Site Parking for the duration of your visit so getting to the Studios by car is easy and adds no additional parking cost to your visit.
Alternatively, there is a free complimentary shuttle bus service from Watford Junction Train Station making train travel a viable option. These carbon-free electric buses run from Watford Junction every 30 minutes every day from 9:20 am and the journey to the Studios takes just 15 minutes.
Additional Attractions to the Tour
Throughout the year, the Studios will add on attractions at no extra cost to the ticket price. The Attraction Theme can vary depending on the Season and specific dates may change year on year but if you plan your visit for any of the following dates, you will get an added feature to your visit for no extra cost:
- Summer: July- September. 2022 Exhibit Mandrakes and Magical Creatures
- Fall: September- November. 2022 Exhibit Dark Arts
- Winter: November- January. 2022 Exhibit Hogwarts in the Snow
If you are interested in any of these seasonal attractions we advise that you plan ahead and book your visit early as these themed attraction dates are very popular!
The Studio has truly created the magical world of Harry Potter whilst still keeping the real-life film elements a focal point of the tour.
After entering through the turnstiles you enter a large empty foyer, well we say empty, it’s empty at floor level apart from the large queues waiting to start the tour, and above is a Giant Model Dragon, the Hungarian Iron belly dragon to be precise. You then enter the main tour and start to pass through the various Exhibits.
Permanent exhibitions include:
The Great Hall
The tour opens with a couple of video presentations, where filming is forbidden, that introduce the characters and what to expect on the tour, it’s all very dramatic and set the scene nicely with some star appearances and live introductions from tour guides.
The doors then open and you are welcomed into the Gret Hall. And let’s be clear, this is THE great hall, where the actual scenes were shot, which is really exciting. Most of the sets you visit on the tour are recreations of the sets, using REAL artifacts, but most sets are put up and pulled down in really quick fashions, only a few were Permanent and kept as they were for posterity, this is one of those sets and this is the exact location and set used for all of the Iconic Great hall scenes. It’s pretty incredible.
It’s also really unlike most Film sets as it is pretty REAL. Wooden tables, stone floors, and real fireplaces, if not real fire! It’s pretty incredible and a great way to kick off the Tour. The only issue is it’s really busy in there. The Tour Guide gives his final speech in the hall and people hang around and linger until the next group enters the room so there is little hope of getting any empty shots and even selfies and family shots are likely to have people in.
But just being in the Great Hall is enough, it’s nowhere near as big as it seems in the films, but then nowhere is after a sprinkling of movie magic, but it’s still plenty big enough to be impressive!
Gryffindor and Set Replicas and Props
The next section is set in a large exhibition space and is a collection of various set locations and recreations. For us Potter fans, this is Nirvana! Each set is a detailed replica of the scenes shot in the movies and comes complete with the real props and costumes used in the scene, these include but are not limited to:
- Gryffindor Common Room
- The Marble Staircase
- The Yule Ball
- Boys Dormitory
- Slytherin Common Room
- Dumbledors Office?
- The Potions Lab
- Hagrid’s Hut
- The Burrow
- Death Eaters Meeting Room
- Ministry of Magic
There are also hundreds of iconic props, such as the Tri-Wizard Cup, The Door to the Chamber of Secrets, Hogwarts Clock, Various trophies, Wands, Memories, and literally hundreds of costumes and props. There is just so much to see and explore.
There are also some Green Screen activities here where you can ride a broomstick over London. Naturally, if you want any digital copies of these there is an extra charge. However, there are several sets here also explaining how green screen tech was used in the making of the films, including the Whomping Willow and Ford Anglia.
The tour guide who welcomes you in has now vanished and you are now on your own to guide yourselves through the Studio, but there are guides at every attraction and they love answering any questions or explaining an exhibit
Most Potter fans could spend hours in this section and really it’s hard to know when to call it a day and move on, in fact, the only thing keeping you away from this section is the tantalizing prospect of what is still to come, this is really just the beginning!
The Forbidden Forest
Things now take a turn to the darker side as you enter the Forbidden Forest. In the first section of the forest, you meet a few of the characters of the forest, such as an animated Buckbeak, the Centaur, and Rons Dog Petronus. This part is very gloomy but overall still really fun, you then have a choice, take the shortcut or enter Aragogs Lair.
As the name suggests the lair is home to the Ginat Aragog and his many children. As you enter the lair all appears fine, it’s dark and creepy we a few ominous webs, but ok. Then amongst flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder, the Giant Spider reveals himself as his children rain down from above.
It’s not really that frightening but for those who do not like spiders and especially children of a nervous disposition, it could invoke nightmares of an epic proportion. If you know your child (or you) does not like dark and scary places where giant hairy spiders fall from the ceiling take the shortcut!
Platform 9 3/4’s – Hogwarts Express
You emerge from the Forbidden forest onto Kings Crosses Platform 9 3/4’s where the Hogwarts Express is stationed. Unlike the full-scale replicas found at the Universal Parks, this is the Actual Hogwarts Express Locomotive used in the films.
It’s a fully functions Steam locomotive that was used o the Great Western Railway for over 25years between 1937 and 1963. The Train was used up and down the UK to get incredible shots of the express steaming through various parts of the English (and Scottish) countryside.
The set here is not quite as Iconic as while it’s a fun recreation, most of the Platform 9 3/4 scenes were actually shot in Kings Cross. But this recreation was used in the final film.
This whole Set is really emotional really as it highlights the journey the film’s characters went on, The Trains carriages are arranged as a walkthrough and feature the carriage sets from each movie as you pass through the train. The final set is the flash forward at the end of the last film showing the grown-up characters in the future.
It’s quite unexpected but one of our favorite parts of the tour. Another emotional fact is the first shot ever captured for the film was in front of the Hogwarts Express, and the last scene filmed for Deathly Hallows part-2 was also (intentionally we think) filmed in front of this very train!
This marks the halfway point of the tour and we now enter The Backlot Cafe, more on this and other dining options below. It’s probably not exactly halfway, in fact, we feel there is more before this break than after but it’s a reasonable break point. If you decide to buy food here there are tables inside and out so you can eat your food overlooking the night bus, Privet Drive, and the Burrow!
The Exterior Filming Lot
The exterior lot showcases some of the outdoor locations from the film. Many of these were shot on location including the original Privet Drive. But the outdoor lot does hold a number of recreational and props from those original filming locations, such as the night bus, the wonky walkway into Hogwarts, and a Model of the Burrow.
The Star attraction is 4 Privet Drive, which was recreated at the studio after filming regionally at 12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell, Berkshire. Filming there became too intrusive and costly so they rebuilt the house on set, and the subsequent films were shot here. You can head into the house and the rooms are set as recreations from the Film with flying letters and an inflating Aunt Marge.
While we were there we also visited the Mandrakes and Magical Creatures exhibit which allowed us to unearth a Mandrake.
Creature Effects Department
The Creature Effects Department falls into the interesting category. rather than incredible. This section shows how some of the film’s most intricate and unbelievable characters actually came to life on the screen.
here you can find out how, Buckbeak Aragog, The Basilisk, Hagrid, and a hundred different goblins came into being.
The Creature effects department devoted unthinkable man-hours and attention to detail to realize the wildest of JK’s imaginations. We all know how incredible these creations played out on the big screen so to see how they went from nothing to reality is fascinating.
Next up we enter Gringotts Bank, this is a 3 tier part of the tour. First up is the actual bank floor. This is pretty impressive but one thing we really noticed is it is nowhere near as impressive as the “fake” recreations in Universal Florida. It just seems smaller and drabber. Why is this? Well, the Sets here are designed to look good on Camera, with that little bit of Hollywood magic, the Sets over in Florida are designed to look good in person.
The next set is an incredible recreation of the Lestrange Vault filled with gold, silver, and glistening jewels.
The final set shows how it all goes wrong as you begin to hear distant rumblings of a Dragon. As you turn a corner you are back on the bank floor only the room is now largely destroyed. And at the far end of the room, you can see something moving.
The back way is a large projection screen and emerging from the smoke is the Dragon, as he approaches he gets nasty and floods the room with fire, light and some effects really pile o the illusion and it really is immersive, feeling like you are in a scene from the Movie.
As you escape from the Dragon you head into the last set of the tour and they have saved one of the best until last.
Digon Ally is one of the most intricate and thoughtfully developed locations in the film series. Designed to represent a medieval English main street, its weird and wonderful shop fronts offer a real glimpse into the world of wizards.
The set here is an amalgamation of the various guises of the alley that have been rebuilt and altered over the years of filming, but the street feels just as magical as you would imagine. This for us was the highlight of the Florida location, and while the London version is less interactive, it feels more authentic and far less crowded.
All the shops are here as you would expect, Olivanders, Gambol and Japes/Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Slugg and Jiggers, and Flourish & Blotts.
Unlike the Florida recreation, these are just storefront facades, you cannot enter the shops or buy the merch like you can in Florida, you get a chance to buy anything you want later, but we loved the way the shops were real at Universal.
The final stop of the tour is the Art Department. This is where much of the work was initially conceived and you can feast your eyes on cardboard models and some stunning concept art.
We were blown away by some of the Concept art, how closely it resembles the actual films, and how these artworks really brought the book pages to life. We wonder how it must have felt being JK seeing these for the first time as her world started to come alive!
Technically this is still part and parcel of the Art Department, but really it deserves a mention all by itself. To finish off the tour you get to visit the REAL Hogwarts Castle. Many people, us included have often wondered where the real Castle actually is, as most of these sorts of things are based on a real-world location, but the truth is, there is no REAL castle*. The exterior shots of the Wizarding School were all shot on a Model.
And this model is here for you to take a look at. For a Castle, it’s really small but for a model, it’s absolutely colossal! It took the team of artists a staggering 74 years’ worth of man hours to create the castle, and it really is stunning.
I am afraid I accidentally became a budding Film maker upon seeing the Castle and spent my time attempting to capture some authentic perspective shots in which the castle looked less modelly and more real. I think they look better than some of my shots of the full-scale recreations from Universal!
*Some exterior shots were filmed at Alnwick Castle, but these were the more intimate and close-up shots
After taking in the castle the next turn takes you into the gift shop and the end of the tour.
The Tour Experience
As you walk through the tour, you really are immersed in the world of Harry Potter but what is most notable, many of the sets, props, costumes, etc are not replicas but genuine film artifacts. This was the outstanding point of this tour compared to the Theme Parks we had previously visited, as we were witnessing true film history in the actual location of the film sets.
That being said, there are plenty of interactive attractions on the tour including where you can fly on a broomstick which adds to the overall experience.
The studio regularly updates, refurbishment, and adds attractions to the tour so fans are treated to something new despite the studio being open for 10 years now. From the Studio’s point of view, this also ensures repeat business! The studio often makes the new additions to the tour permanent which is good news for fans! In 2022, ‘The Burrow’, Hogwarts Castle Bridge, and the inside of Professor Sprout’s greenhouse were all new additions to the tour which they have made permanent fixtures.
Food and Drink
The Studio Tour has 5 Cafes available for snacks, light meals, and drinks in its location.
- The Chocolate Frog Cafe. Located in the Studio Tour Hub (the main entrance to the building before you embark on the tour.) The Chocolate Frog Cafe offers drinks and sweet treats to keep you going for your visit. Opening times are the same as the Tour.
- The Hub Cafe. Also located in the Studio Tour Hub. Offers Starbucks specialty hot and cold drinks as well as sandwiches and bakery items available throughout the day.
- The Food Hall. Located just off the Studio Tour Hub in a truly magical setting, this Cafe is more of a sit-down meal cafe rather than offering snacks and sandwiches. It has an extensive Breakfast and Lunch menu with Harry Potter-themed items on the menu!
- The Backlot Cafe. Situated halfway through the tour, the Backlot Cafe has indoor and outdoor seating with a view of the External lot including the Night Bus and the Burrow! The cafe offers mainly sandwiches, burgers and Hot Dogs. The Backlot cafe is the only cafe in the Tour building where you can buy ButterBeer. This is obviously a popular refilling station for many of the tour fans and can be quite busy at popular times.
- Afternoon Tea. The Studio Tour now offers Afternoon Tea for Two from £60. This has to be booked as an add-on with your admission ticket but you can choose to have your afternoon tea either before you start the tour or at the end. Champagne Afternoon Tea is available for over 18’s only and costs £90. A vegan option is also available.
The Studio Shop
At the end of the Tour, you exit through the Gift Shop (of course!) The Studio Shop is the largest Harry Potter Gift Shop we have ever seen and is a retail dream for Harry Potter fans. There is a wand shop, a mini shop for all 4 of the Hogwarts Houses, a section dedicated to the fantastic beast franchise, and a mini Honeydukes gift shop. Here, you can purchase a bottle of Butterbeer for you to take home if you didn’t manage to get one at the Backlot Cafe (or just enjoyed it so much that you wanted more!) You can even purchase personalized Hogwarts Trunks filled with exclusive Harry Potter souvenirs and collectibles.
Despite having visited previous Harry Potter experiences, we were blown away by our visit to the Studio Tour. The opportunity to visit the 2 soundstages and backlot where the films were made is so unique, that any replica-type experience can not beat it. Experiencing behind-the-scenes film secrets firsthand is, hands down, THE MUST-DO for any worthy Harry Potter fan.
There is so much to see and experience on the Studio Tour, the price point is excellent value for money. The recommended Tour time is 3.5 hours but really, you could spend many more hours there taking in all the artifacts, sets, props, scenes, and little details that the Studio Tour has so carefully put into place to make the tour an unforgettable experience for any Harry Potter fan of all ages.
As mentioned before, the Studio Tour is not part of a Theme Park attraction and is not a replica so can not really be compared to its Universal Park counterparts. But as Harry Potter fans who have now visited both types of Attractions, we will say that The Making Of Harry Potter Studio Tour is the best Harry Potter attraction in the world and a MUST VISIT for all Harry Potter film fans!
This review of The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour is as always, our personal opinion, and what suits some does not suit everybody. It goes without saying that this particular Harry Potter attraction is solely based on the books and films and therefore would not suit people who had not read/seen or be a fan of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. One advantage the Universal Park’s World of Harry Potter has is that it is only a small part of the attractions available there and so can suit different likes more easily.
But being massive Harry Potter fans since the books were released in 1997, we enjoyed our visit to the Warner Brother Studio Tour immensely and could not believe it had taken us so long to visit!
Have Your Say
Have you visited the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London? What did you think of your visit? Do you think it can compare to its Universal park Attractions? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
If you have any questions regarding the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour please ask below in the comments section and we will get back to you.