The books stole the heart of almost every child and adult who read them, and the films captured those who were left. I’m hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like Harry Potter or who hasn’t seen the films. And this could be the reason that Warner Bros hit a goldmine when they decided to open up parts of the set for fans to visit.
And I am definitely one of those who loves Harry Potter. The books are dog-eared from being read so often, and the complete blu-ray collection sits proudly on my dvd shelf. And so it was with great excitement that I made my way to the Harry Potter Tour at the Warner Bros studios just outside of Watford, England.
We’d booked our time slot online, and arrived a short time beforehand. I’d already started taking pictures before we had gone inside, as there are several statues outside the front. Once we had stepped inside, we joined the queue and made our way into the first part of the tour. I’ll say now, I took so many pictures that my camera actually died, and I had to resort to using my phone. I’m not going to put loads into this post though, because I don’t want to ruin the initial awe for anyone planning on visiting the tour.
The first part of the ‘tour’ is a short film on the comfiest chairs ever. And then the doors to the Great Hall appear, and you step through into the Great Hall itself. The tables were all laid, complete with food (not real food). After a short explanation from the guide, we had a look around and soaked up the whole place. Because we were visiting close to Christmas time, the Great Hall and the rest of the sets and props throughout the tour were decked out in their Christmas finest. If you take the tour during the rest of the year, you just have the normal sets to walk around and admire. Surely that’s a great reason to go twice for hardcore fans?
We moved on from the Great Hall as the next tour were due to come in, and were free to make our way around the rest of the tour at our own pace. Not only do you get to see parts of the set, but you also find out the magical secrets they use to make objects come to life. Not everything is CGI! Again, I won’t go into too much detail, but you get to find out how the floating candles float, how the pots stir themselves, and even how broomsticks fly!
As you move through the tour, you get to see the Potions classroom, Hagrid’s hut, the Gryffindor common room, the Ministry of Magic and Umbridge’s office. Throughout the different parts of the set, there’s loads of background information, like which animals were used in different films and where they came from, which different types of snow are available to give Hogsmeade the authentic wintery look and how they filmed using the invisibility cloak.
Once you’ve passed the main sets, where you also have the opportunity to have a short video taken of you flying a broomstick, you then move outside. Here you have a chance to knock on the door of number 4 Privet Drive, jump on Hagrid’s motorbike, see the giant chess pieces and even try butterbeer! Everyone I have spoken to who has tried butterbeer absolutely loved it, so my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to one each. I can’t describe the taste, as it’s not like anything I’ve tried before. All I can say is I’m probably the only person who doesn’t like it! Lucky for my boyfriend though, who got to finish mine off too!
Onto the last section of the tour, and you get to see how they make and use the props. They’ve got it all, from a lovely little Dobby, the weird Voldemort baby, the textbook Hagrid assigned that tried to eat everything, and even a massive spider! You also get to see a hippogriff, and there are videos along the way explaining different film secrets.
There are two amazing treats in the last section for Harry Potter fans – you get to walk along Diagon Alley, and there’s a great surprise at the end that I won’t ruin! Last but not least, you find yourself in Ollivander’s. Each and every person who worked on the film has a wand with their name on it, and the guy sat in the room was challenging people to give him a name and he could tell you where it was. If you visit, you’ll see why this is so impressive. He found every name that was thrown at him while we were there, and he went straight to them, no stalling.
You could walk the whole studio and quickly glance at everything in about half an hour. Or if you really want to stop and soak everything up, it’ll take 2-3 hours. The tour does end in the shop, where it is beyond tempting to spend a ridiculous amount of money on things like chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts, ‘real’ wands, clothes, books and general fan souvenirs. I was overly tempted to buy a scarf, but I wasn’t sure which house I would be in, so refrained. I can imagine some people need a second mortgage to buy everything they want in that shop.
I had an absolutely amazing time at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Anyone who loved the films or books would really enjoy seeing all the behind-the-scenes stuff they’ve got there, and it’s great for people of all ages.
- Buy your tickets in advance
- Fully charge your camera before you go, and have a phone on backup. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll want to take photos
- The studio itself is quite out of the way, but they offer a shuttle bus (for a small fee) from Watford Junction train station, which takes 10-15 minutes. Watford Junction station itself is about 20 minutes from Euston station in London.
- Have fun!
You can find further information and book tickets at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk