For my birthday in August, Luke surprised me with tickets to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London! We ended up booking a tour in December, just before we left for Colorado, so we could see everything done up for the holidays. We had such a lovely day and it absolutely made me want to rewatch all the movies and reread all the books. (For Christmas, Luke got me the LEGO Harry Potter video games and it was so cool to see how detailed the LEGO sets were after having just stood in the real sets!)
If you’re planning on visiting the studio, there are a few things to keep in mind as a muggle.
Luke gave me the tickets in early August, but didn’t book a time slot so we could plan a day to go together. When we got online to book a tour, every weekend for the rest of the year was completely booked out. This may be due to the fact that in October they make some changes for Halloween and in December they make some changes for Christmas. (They overlap in November.) So it really is a special—and popular time—to go. We were determined to see Hogwarts at Christmastime and we were lucky there was a date available during the week before we left for the holidays.
Sometimes the studio has different exhibits on, so it’s important to plan ahead if there’s something you really want to see, like Hogwarts at Halloween or in the snow. Times for those special events go a lot more quickly, but there are only a limited number of time slots available any day.
BOOK AN EARLY TIME SLOT
A lot of what I read said to book as early as possible and I would definitely recommend it as well. Our tour was at 12:30, which was perfect for us, and probably the latest I would recommend if you can help it. The first part of the tour is guided, but after you leave The Great Hall, you’re on your own and can take as much time as possible.
Keep in mind that because everyone can stay as long as they want, it will get increasingly more crowded as the day goes on.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It’s a different experience than going to the theme park because it’s almost like a museum. You’re able to walk through some of the larger sets, like the Great Hall, the Forbidden Forest, Diagon Alley, and Platform 9 3/4. They have smaller sets on display that you can see as well, like The Burrow, The Gryffindor Common Room and Dormitory, Hagrid’s Hut, Malfoy Manor, and Professor Umbridge’s Office. There are a few interactive things available like a flight simulator. You’ll learn about the visual effects, like the cart in Gringott’s, Quidditch, and more.
It’s incredible to see all the props and costumes from the films and walking through the sets makes it all feel so real. Every part of it was amazing. Except the ceiling in the Great Hall because it’s not actually enchanted.
YOU CAN PACK A LUNCH IF YOU WANT
There is a restaurant, The Backlot Cafe between the two sections of the tour. You can purchase pre-made sandwiches or salads, as well as hot options like burgers. However, you’re allowed to bring your own food through to the cafe, you’re just not allowed to eat in the tour whatsoever.
You can also purchase butterbeer at The Backlot Cafe, the only place it’s available in the UK. I’ve heard that it’s not as good as it is at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it’s still worth trying! We opted for the non-souvenir cup because I have the same mug from Orlando, but for the full experience, you gotta do it. You can also get butterbeer ice cream!
STOCK UP ON SOUVENIRS
There is a fantastic store at the end of the tour with so many amazing souvenirs. You can get some sweets from Honeydukes, but you can also stock up on official Harry Potter merch. Just make sure you know your Hogwarts house so you can rep your colours because they have something for everyone!
We were there shortly after the second film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise came out. While there weren’t any sets from those films, there were costumes, wands, and other things from the movies available in the store. (They also had a small costume exhibit at the entrance to the studio.)
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest train station is Watford Junction and they have a cash-only shuttle available for just £2.50. You can also drive there and take advantage of their free parking.
Find out more about getting there on their site.
I’ve now visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, though it was in 2011 shortly after they opened, and the Studios in London. For the biggest Harry Potter fans, both are fun and exciting, but I’m not entirely sure you would need to do the Studios more than once. The studios offer incredible insight into the making of the films, but it’s kind of like being at the world’s biggest Harry Potter museum. The Wizarding World theme park seems to be continuously growing and changing, always offering new experiences. (And a lot more drinks and treats you’d find at Hogwarts, in Hogsmeade, or the Leaky Cauldron.)
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