This is a review of the Harry Potter Studio Tour by Warner Bros just outside London. It includes my Video tour, photos and review.
All the Harry Potter films were made at the Leavesden Studios near London, which are owned by Warner Bros. The site used to be a Rolls Royce car assembly plant, and before that an aerodrome during the Second World War.
The huge warehouses were first turned into studios to make the Bond Film “Goldeneye” in 1995 when the usual Bond home (Pinewood Studios) were booked out. For 10 years it was also the host for the filming of each of the Harry Potter films. Now also on the site is the extensive and comprehensive Harry Potter Studio tour that opened at the end of March 2012.
The official name of the experience is “The Making of Harry Potter: Warner Bros Studio Tour“. It is a huge and expansive tour that is spread across 2 huge warehouses and a backlot and, unlike attractions at theme parks, it does not have thrill rides. But unlike Theme Parks, it does have all the original sets, original props, original costumes and the thrill of knowing that the films were made right on these stages, with the most impressive set being The Great Hall that was used in every single film and remains in the exact location.
They recommend you allow about 3 hours to do the tour, and you could easily spend that if you are a fan as there are many things to explore.
The key positives of the Harry Potter Studio Tour:
- It is not a cheap trip, with adult tickets costing £28 and children to age 5 – 15 are £21, but it is (in my view) worth it if you are a Harry Potter fan as it is very comprehensive and detailed with huge amounts of detail.
- They use timed entry tickets and to control crowds you cannot buy tickets at the venue on the day and must book in advance. This means very limited queuing and lots of space within the tour, as you will see in the video and photos I took. You can book an audio tour and brochure at the same time.
- The Great Hall. This is at the start of the tour after the welcome video to the tour and then a short film where the actors playing the 3 main characters of Harry, Hermoine and Ron talk about growing up from ages around 10 to 21 while making the films at the studios. The Grand Hall was used in all the films and it is huge, with stone floor, the long tables and many costumes.
- The original sets, especially Dumbledore’s Office, Grifandor Common Room and Boy’s Dormitory, Potions Classroom, Weasley’s kitchen at The Hollow, Hagrid;s Cabin, Professor Umbridge’s office and sections of the Ministry of Magic.
- Creature Workshop, where there is a great series of films explaining how many of the masks, monsters and Hagrid’s Head was made. Really impressive and interesting.
- Diagon Alley. This is fabulous with many of the shop fronts. The alley changed in the films and this is a collection of some of the shops. Impressive and popular section.
- Models and design. Before you enter Diagon Alley there is a section on how they imagined and designed the buildings, with a lot of paper models. Then after Diagon Alley at the end of the tour is the Hogwarts model. This is amazing. It is massive (about 30 feet high) and was used in the films for long shots of Hogwarts. This is really quite something.
- The Gift Shop. I did not buy anything, but real fans will like it as full of all sorts of things from school costumes, wands, and replicas of all sorts of props. It is large – and also expensive.
Things I felt less positive (Not many!)
- Although there are all the original sets, it does lack some authenticity as clear when filming sets are dismantled, destroyed and moved about and so there is (of course) reassembled and laid out for visitors. The Great Hall is the most impressive as not only is it – but also knowing it is where it was and how it was used.
- The Backlot is disappointing – although you do get to see a section of Privet Drive, the Night Bus, Hogwarts Bridge and Potters House.
Overall very recommended if you are a fan. The studios are near Watford and will take a full morning or afternoon to travel from London and to see it.
Video I made of the Harry Potter Studio Tour that walks you through all areas:
See all the 85 photos I took of the Harry Potter tour in my Flickr Set
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