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Some days I wish I had a magic wand. Or that I also had received a letter on my eleventh birthday saying I was accepted into the Hogwarts School of Wizarding and Witchcraft. Of course the Sorting Hat would put me in the Gryffindor house and I also would have a beautiful white owl as my companion. For one day, I was able to be part of this magical world during my Wizarding World of Harry Potter London experience.
On my recent December visit to London, I finally had the time to take a trip to the Warner Brothers Studios where the Harry Potter movie franchise was produced and filmed. Unfortunately, I didn’t start planning my London itinerary till November and at that point in time, all the individual direct sales tickets were completely sold out.
Eventually I was able to find tour tickets through Viator.com with Premium Tours which also included round trip coach transportation from Victoria Station in London. Getting to the Warner Brothers Studios in Leavesden can be easily done using public transportation, but it was nice to be chauffeured for a change.
Our bus left the Victoria Coach Station on time and after a comfortable 45 minute drive we reached the Warner Bros. Studios just in time for the 9:30 AM opening. We picked up audio guides and then started exploring the lobby as we waited to get in.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter London Experience
(This post with its many photos is especially for my son who is a huge Harry Potter fan).
Warner Brothers built two new sound stages at these film studios with the specific intent of developing and displaying exhibits from the making of the Harry Potter movies.
Exploring the lobby in the first building, there was no doubt that we were now in a different magical world as we were greeted by a huge dragon flying overhead.
A display in the lobby showed some of the “muggle” clothing worn by the magical folks.
The coffee shop in the lobby had displays of ingredients that looked like they came out of Snape’s classroom for making potions.
As we waited to enter the great hall, we could peruse a display of the posters from each of the movies.
We also got to peek into the set for Harry’s room in the cupboard under the stairs at number four Privet Drive.
We waited our turn to be allowed into the Great Hall at Hogwarts.
The Great Hall was decked out for a huge Christmas Feast. This was the only space where we were limited on the amount of time we could spend here. Throughout the rest of the exhibits, we could take our time and stay as long as we wanted.
One end of the Great Hall was decorated for the Yule Ball as it would have been in the movie. For the Yule Ball in the movie, every inch of the Great Hall was covered in silver fabric and additionally decorated with Christmas trees and mistletoe. The long tables were replaced by small round tables, each of which was decorated with an ice sculpture inspired by the architecture of the Brighton Pavilion.
Some of the Yule Ball costumes.
From the Great Hall, we entered a large space that displayed many of the other sets from the movies.
The moving stairs and portraits. Many of the film ‘s crew were immortalized in these portraits.
Looking into the Gryffindor common room. Each of the portraits on the wall depict the Gryffindor heads of house.
Harry and Ron’s room in the Gryffindor boy’s dormitory.
Dumbledore’s Study in the tower was really cool. The attention to detail was incredible. It turns out this same tower set was also used as Professor Lupine’s classroom in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
The curio cabinet displayed Dumbledore’s many magical tools.
The collection of horcruxes.
Professor Snape’s Potions classroom in the dungeons. The level of detail here was also astounding. Hundreds of dusty bottles with their own handcrafted labels lined the shelves.
Peeking into the inside of Hagrid’s hut.
Also, Hagrid’s motorcycle.
We also got to see how the Whomping Willow attacked the Weasley car.
The comfy, cozy Weasley’s family home, The Burrow, was designed to look like every off-kilter wall was built by Mr. Weasley himself. The set also includes the special Weasley clock.
There is also a view of the Malfoy’s home, complete with Nagini the snake.
The set for the Ministry of Magic was especially impressive. It was fascinating to read about the labor intensive process used to make wood look like ceramic tiles.
A visit to the Ministry of Magic would not be complete without a look into the cloyingly pink office of the most despised Headmistress, Dolores Umbridge.
Next up was a stroll through the dark and scary Forbidden Forest where we discovered giant spiders, centaurs and a nodding hippogryph. The size and realistic look of the trees was amazing, with some of the trees as big as 14 feet around.
The final stop in this building was Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express. The train carriage here was the actual one used in the movies and the various compartments were dressed to represent scenes from the each of the films.
You’ll also find a shop in the train platform area selling all sorts of Harry Potter movie merchandise. (There was also a much bigger shop at the end of the tour).
In the Back Lot
From the first studio building we continued to a backlot outdoor area which had some other iconic movie sets.
Number 4 Privet Drive where Harry and the Dursley’s lived.
The living room inside number 4 Privet Drive – overrun by letters trying to be delivered.
The very, very tall Knight Bus to be taken only at night.
This covered wooden walkway was featured in many of the later Harry Potter movies.
Lilly and James’ Potter house in Gordric’s Hollow where Voldemort killed Harry’s Parents and where Harry got his scar as a baby.
This area also had a large food counter here where you could take a break for a snack, a meal, or just a glass of butterbeer.
In the Second Warner Bros. Studio Building
The tour continued into the second studio building with displays showing how the “creature effects” were accomplished. The amount of work, the intricacy of the detail and the level of technology that went into producing each “live” creature and making it move was fascinating.
Entertaining videos provide information at each step of the process used in making the many creatures for the movies.
Actor Warwick Davis played many roles in the Harry Potter movies.
Next, a room has scale models of the Gringotts’s bank before we moved into the full sized set of the bank lobby with all the tellers. Again, the level of detail here and the size was amazing.
To understand the scale, the chandeliers are 12 feet wide and 16 feet tall.
And where there is a bank, there is also a vault with a lot of treasure. It took six months to make the 38,000 pieces of plastic “treasure”, including 7000 Hufflepuff cups, that were used in the Lestrange vault scene.
From the bank atrium, we moved into another big set that again reproduced the bank, but this time, it showed the devastating effects that an angry dragon had on the bank, complete with fire, smoke and lots of dust.
Our next stop was a stroll through Diagon Alley where wizards do their shopping (muggles have a chance to shop at the end of the tour).
We also had the opportunity to peek into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes -presumably the magic joke shop run by the Weasley twins.
Up next was a display of white cardboard models of the various sets and structures, also made with incredible detail.
The final display saved the best for last. As I rounded the corner into the huge space my initial reaction was WOW! – Hogwarts Castle filled the room. The impressive 1:24 scale model has a diameter of about 50 feet! We could walk around it and see it from all angles and also under different lighting as the scene changed from day to night.
And because we were there in December, we were also seeing Hogwarts under the snow.
But we weren’t completely done yet. There was still the large Harry Potter shop to walk through where you could get your own wand at Olivander’s extensive display or a box of Every flavor Beans at the Honeydukes display.
We had a little over four hours to tour the studio which allowed us to see it all at a pretty leisurely pace.
Tips for visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Studio Tour
- If you want to visit the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden on your own, purchase the tickets as far in advance as possible. Booking tours from London makes it easy, but it will also be more expensive.
- Plan to get there first thing in the morning. Our tour got us there just as the studios opened and it was not very busy yet. This allowed us to see the various exhibits without too many crowds. When we left around 1:30 the lobby was significantly more crowded.
- Our tour gave us a little over four hours to tour the two studio buildings at our own pace. This was enough time to see everything at a leisurely pace and to take lots of photos. I don’t feel like I missed anything, however, had I been there on my own, I know I would have stayed much longer.
- The sights here are not like the ones at the Universal Studios theme parks. There are no rides or attractions here. This is a working studio with exhibits that show how the movies were made and it is very well presented.
- Definitely make use of the audio guides as they add so much more to the background of what you are seeing.
- If I have a chance, next time I am in London I would consider going again. There was so much to see, it was hard to take it all in on the first go around. The studio has different themes and exhibits throughout the year, including occasional behind the scenes tours. When we were there, the theme was Hogwarts in the Snow which was on from mid Nov. to mid Jan.
- You can find instructions on how to use public transportation to get to the Warner Brothers Studios on their website at https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/getting-here/ .
Once you do get your wand, remember, it’s Umgardium Leviooooosa, not Umgardium Leviosaaaaa.
Thanks for visiting.