I love Harry Potter. So my number one must see on our trip to London was the Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making Of Harry Potter. This is not a theme park attraction. It’s not Universal Studios. This is where they filmed all eight Harry Potter movies, and it features original sets, props and costumes from the films. This is mecca for a Harry Potter fan.
The Warner Bros Studio Tour is located in Watford in London, which isn’t exactly around the corner from Big Ben. You can’t just pop in for a quick visit, because you need to book your tickets in advance and then plan how you’re going to get there. There is plenty of parking so we drove, but you can also catch public transport.
We were greeted by a giant Christmas tree, because there was a special Hogwarts In The Snow theme in place for winter. After an explanatory talk and short video, we went into a cinema style room for another talk and video – this one featured Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson and some weirdly awkward interaction between the trio. I spent most of my time trying to work out if they filmed it together or separately. Finally, the lights came up and we were welcomed into the Great Hall.
This set was used throughout all the films, and it was dressed for Christmas dinner. A guide talked about different sections of the set, pointing out costumes and props and explaining a bit more about it. This is the only guided section of the tour, and then you are let loose to explore the rest of the studio on your own.
There is an overwhelming amount of things to look at. All the sets are roped off, so you can’t actually take photos of yourself sitting at Dumbledore’s desk or enjoying lunch with the Weasleys. But there are videos and signs explaining more about each section, and you can also film yourself flying a broomstick. After you finish up in the vast indoor studio, you enter an outdoor section with the Dursley’s house, the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts bridge. Then you walk through Diagon Alley where you’ll find all the shops you remember from the series. Finally you come to a 360 degree model of Hogwarts. All up we spent about two hours there, but some people definitely spend a lot more time looking at everything.
There’s an audio tour but I wouldn’t bother with it, as it’s actually kind of distracting. It’s done on a smartphone type device and there are a lot of videos to watch, but it’s so crowded around all the sets that you end up not really taking anything in properly. I abandoned mine within about ten minutes.
How does it compare to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios? I’ve been to both, and they are really different. This is more like a museum exhibition, while the Wizarding World is full of rides and people dressed in robes. This is a lot more informative, but if you were expecting to be able to touch things and interact you might be a little disappointed. I don’t think one is necessarily better, and since they are separated by an ocean it’s unlikely you’ll be choosing one over the other!
You must book your tickets and choose your entrance time and date before you go. For all information visit wbstudiotour.co.uk.