A trip to London isn’t complete without trekking out to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden (a 30-minute express train ride from the city). We purchased our tickets online (£33 or ~$50 for adults, £25.50 or ~$39 for kids) about a month in advance to secure our date/time, but I recommend doing it sooner if you have a trip in the works. Tickets are NOT sold at the door and time slots film up extremely quickly – and for good reason.
Before I get into the amazingness of our afternoon at WB Studios, I’d just like to pass on some learnt-the-hard-way knowledge. When you’re at Euston Station (where the train departs, sadly, it’s not Kings Cross), make sure you find out which Midland train is the EXPRESS to Watford Junction and don’t make the terrible mistake we did of hopping on a local train, which stopped every 2 minutes and took double+ the time to get there. I about had a panic attack thinking we wouldn’t make it to our tour in time. But alas, we did. Phew.
So now on to the exciting stuff.. our arrival at (as I’ve named it) HP Headquarters! The location where the entire film series (with the exception of some off-site locations) was filmed!
Our visit took place on a Monday afternoon (2:30 tour) in December, which meant we were able to experience Hogwarts in the Snow! I was surprised to find it so hoppin’ on a Monday afternoon, but we saw a ton of school groups on a field trip (how lucky are these kids?!), college-aged kids, and some other tourists. A few of the Brits were asking if we came all the way from “The States” for the tour. Pretty funny.
My mom isn’t too knowledgeable about HP, but knows I’ve been obsessed for well over a decade (gah, I’m old!), so she was a trooper for coming along. Even though she didn’t really have a choice :) But guess what? Even with knowing little about my beloved HP, my mom LOVED it! The tour gives you a behind-the-scenes look at sets, costumes, special effects, and more – so it’s an awesome place for any film fan to visit!
To kick off the tour, we stood in the queue (that’s British for line) and awaited entry next to where it all began, the Cupboard Under the Stairs. AMAZING.
A group of us were ushered into a room to watch a brief video on the history of HP, and then into a small theater to watch another clip. From there, the screen lifted in front of us, unveiling the doors to The Great Hall!
Next up was the costume area. Racks of clothing and wigs for the actors to get into character were sprinkled throughout the area. It was so weird to see them just sitting there. We get so invested in the characters, it’s hard to believe it’s not actually them in real life!
There was one rack in particular I found pretty interesting. Harry’s of course. In the final 2 movies (book 7), he sports a green jacket and a pair of jeans. This rack held a few different versions of the outfit, each becoming dirtier and more tattered than the next. Movie magic!
Stopped by the gates of Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Peeked into the Gryffindor Common Room, which was decked out beautifully for Christmas. It’s also SO much smaller than it looks when watching the films!
Can you guess whose bed this is in the Gryffindor boy’s dormitory?!
The props department is truly phenomenal. We caught a glimpse of a huge storage area, which housed hundreds of props made just for the films. It kind of reminded me of an antique store in a way – everything looked extremely legit! Here’s a closeup of some TriWizard Tournament props.
The door to the Chamber of Secrets, which I would go nowhere near, because, snakes!
Another cool thing (besides all of the things of course), was this piece of art featuring the wands of all of the main characters, ranging from Harry to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to Dumbledore and Snape. We even got to read a little history behind each of the wizards’ wands.
Hagrid’s Hut (also super tiny compared to how it looks in the films) with an adorable Fang chilling at the entrance.
Speaking of animals, there were a whole slew of them brought to the set to be animal actors (I’d love to get my dog into that business)! There was a wall dedicated to giving us some insight on who the animals were and a few fun facts about them.
The Potions classroom was really neat! Although we couldn’t get up close to see everything, the bottles around the room were each labeled appropriately. A testimony to the awesomeness of the graphical design team, who designed everything carefully, as if each would be zoomed in on individually.
Dumbledore’s office – looks identical to the one they built at Universal Orlando!
Seeing how the special effects worked was one of my favorite things on the tour. I got to put my hand in “fire” – it looked so real!
Some of the portraits we saw on the wall were standstill, and the moving ones were created using green screen technology (see example on right). Green screen use was HUGE in the movies. In fact, just after this, we were able to give it a try ourselves by flying the famous blue car and also flying on a broomstick. It was the most fun EVER!
Traveling by Floo at the Ministry of Magic! Here, we ended Part One of the Tour (the first soundstage) and headed outside for a Butterbeer break.
We thought this would just be a place to grab a drink/snack, but turns out there was MORE fun outside! At this point it was dark outside and also freezing, so we snapped a few pictures on the Hogwarts bridge, in front of 3 Privet Drive, and my favorite picture of the whole Tour, in Hagrid’s sidecar motorcycle!
There didn’t seem to be nearly as much to see in the second soundstage, but what we see was pretty incredible. First up, the Creature Shop. This is where all of the heads, moldings, and animatronics were visible to us. Again, the detail was phenomenal!
There was also a huge model of Hogwarts in one room. It took up almost just as much room as The Great Hall! Several of the fly-over shots we see around Hogwarts were actually created using this model. SO cool!
We also had a chance to see Diagon Alley, which is just as narrow as it looks!
Last but not least, we were dropped into Ollivanders. HOLY WANDS! Each box was marked with the name of a cast or crew member from all the years the Harry Potter films were being worked on.
Of course these aren’t all of the pictures from the WB Tour, but if I shared them all, you’d probably be scrolling for hours. And also, I don’t want to ruin all of the excitement, for when you visit the location yourself! It’s definitely something everyone needs to add to their list, Harry Potter fan or not.
Needless to say, I LOVED spending a few hours wandering aimlessly in awe at Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour!