I know there are tonnes of other Harry Potter Studios guides on the internet. But not wanting to be outdone by the casual Harry Potter fan, I’ve tried to make my Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour guide the most extensive and detailed guide in existence. PLUS I know of a secret Harry Potter filming location a mere one minute walk from The Making of Harry Potter in London which no one else seems to know about! More on that later…
Visiting the Harry Potter Studios just north of London is a bucket-list item for any Harry Potter fan. There is nowhere else on earth that offers true Potterheads the chance to see the sets and props behind the magic of the Harry Potter film franchise on such a huge scale. And The Making of Harry Potter only gets better and better! I first went to the Studios in November 2012 and most recently in June this year and WOW. So much has changed. So many sets and props have been added and the experience has heightened tenfold. There is always a reason to go back again and again.
So if you’re planning your first trip to the Harry Potter Studios or if you’ve just not visited in years and you’d like to return, my extensive guide will tell you about EVERYTHING you need to know. This detailed guide covers how to get to Leavesden Studios from London, where to eat, book tickets and what you can expect to see once your there.
If you have any questions, just comment at the end of this blog post and I’m happy to help. Please note, I don’t have children so I can’t provide a lot of advice on that subject. But let’s get cracking…
Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios Extensive Guide
Travel from London to Harry Potter Studio Tour
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London isn’t actually in London, so you will need to plan your travel to get there. Luckily, they’ve made it as easy as possible. Leavesden Studios is unsurprisingly in a town called Leavesden in Hertfordshire near Watford, just north of London.
Travel by Public Transport (train and bus)
I travelled to the Studio Tour by train from London and it was really, really easy.
I booked train tickets on Trainline from London Euston to Watford Junction, the closest and most convenient train station to the Harry Potter Studios. Trains leave so frequently, basically every 10 minutes, so you’ll have no problem booking a train that’s convenient for your tour time. Return tickets, without a railcard, cost around £12.20 so fairly affordable.
Then, once you arrive at Watford Junction, follow the signs (because there are lots of signs!) to the Harry Potter Studios shuttle bus stop at the front of the train station. They depart every 20 minutes and take about 15 minutes to travel to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. I’d head to the bus stop ASAP because so many people who are going to the tour catch this bus and you might have to wait for the next one.
The shuttle bus costs £3 for a return journey which you pay to the bus driver. They now take contactless card payments as well as cash. I’d try and have the correct change because it can get a bit manic. And the buses run as long as the tours do, so you don’t have to worry about missing the last bus or train.
Top tip: When researching trains from London Euston to Watford Junction, some are only 15/20 minute journeys. Others have about 15 different stops in between London and Watford Junction and take 50 minutes. So watch you don’t book on one of those!
Travel by Car
Alternatively, you might want to travel to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour by car, which I did the first time I visited the studios in 2012. But I don’t drive so my help here is basically buy a sat nav, use the postcode ‘WD25 7LR’ and hope you make it.
Parking is completely free and easy. There are always attendants telling you where to go and the car park never gets too full. You will need your booking confirmation ready to show the attendants, though. I don’t think it matters how early you turn up before your tour time, just as long as you actually have a booking. We turned up super early.
The Making of Harry Potter Tickets & Visitor Information
Tickets to the Harry Potter Studios must be booked in advance and I’d book them as early as physically possible. Tour times and dates get booked up months and months in advance, especially weekends and school holidays. Start looking to book your tour no less than six months before if you have a firm date in mind. Three months before is doable if you’re flexible.
Tickets for adults cost £47 which I’m not going to pretend is in any way inexpensive but it’s not bad for what you get. You can also get a ‘complete studio tour package’ for £56.95 which isn’t a lot more money, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me. You just get some souvenir guides from the looks of it. Spend what you save in the gift shop instead!
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The ideal tour start time for The Making of Harry Potter: Start times seem to be between 9:00-18:30 on weekends and 10:00-16:00 on weekdays. I would plan to be at the studios for a maximum of five hours including gift shop time, eating, etc. So 10:30 in the morning would be good because you can eat lunch halfway through the tour. 9:00 is way too early because you need to allow one hour to get there and some gift shop time. 14:00 is also ideal, and for me, 17:00 onwards is a bit late because you’ll be shattered by the end of the day. My tour time was at 15:30 and it was a little later than I’d like but still okay.
What to eat and drink at Warner Bros. Studio Tour
There are four restaurants/cafés where you can purchase food at The Making of Harry Potter tour: The Chocolate Frog Café, The Hub Café (basically Starbucks), The Food Hall and The Backlot Café. The first three are situated in the ‘hub’ before you enter the tour itself, and the Backlot Café is situated just over halfway through the tour.
The Chocolate Frog Café is for sweet treats and hot chocolates, fancy snacks really. The Hub Café is essentially a Starbucks so it’s for quick sandwiches and a huge black coffee to get you through the busy day. And The Food Hall is perfect if you’ve just rocked up at the Harry Potter Studios after a six-hour drive and you need a decent meal before tackling a 3-4 hour tour.
The Backlot Café is similar to The Food Hall in that it provides meals but in a fast-food type of way. This is also where you can sample the butterbeer you see everyone drinking on social media. And they also serve butterbeer ice cream now! Just so you’re aware, butterbeer tastes gross but I have it on good authority that the butterbeer ice cream is substantially better. But you gotta get that ‘gram pic, so I suffered through the butterbeer.
Please note: Butterbeer is typically served in a disposable, plastic cup that doesn’t look great on photos. So, I sucked it up and bought a nicer cup that I could keep. Just so you’re aware you’ll have to pay extra (around £2-3) for a nicer-looking cup but you can keep it!
Gift Shop at Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Whenever I talk about visiting the Harry Potter Studios, I think I get a little too excited about the gift shop. I think I give off the impression I loved it more than the tour. But it’s SUCH an amazing gift shop! I wanted ALL of the things!
The ‘Studio Shop’ as they call it is open from 10:00 (so you early birds on 9:00 tours won’t get to visit beforehand) is just this absolutely massive, massive shop inside the studios full of every kind of Harry Potter goodie imaginable. I’m talking robes, jewellery, all kinds of mugs, toys, sweets, wands, just everything!
Personally, I would give yourself at least one hour before the tour to look around the gift shop. You need to be at the studios 20 minutes before your tour regardless. And this way, you’ll still have enough energy to work your way around and pick out what you might want to buy when you exit through the gift shop after the tour. Or, there might be something you want to buy beforehand! I bought my house scarf (Hufflepuff) before my tour to wear on photos as I made my way through the Harry Potter Studios.
Top tip: So you don’t overwhelm yourself with the sheer amount on offer in the Studio Shop and so you’re aware of how pricey everything is, check out the Warner Bros. online shop first. It might be a good idea to write a list of what you’d like to buy too so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Harry Potter Studios Exhibition: Detailed Breakdown & Map
1. Main Exhibition: The Great Hall, Dorms, Ministry of Magic & MORE!
Now, I’m going to walk you through everything at the Harry Potter Studios exhibitions so you know exactly what to expect! The main bulk of the studio tour is this first section. You can line up at the tour start point in the hub around your start time (don’t worry if you’re slightly early) and you’re taken to another room filled with international posters. After an introduction and short video in a cinema, you can begin the tour in The Great Hall soundstage! The tour is self-paced, except you are only allowed a small amount of time in The Great Hall.
Everything in the list below is in chronological order. Of course, there are one or two smaller exhibits as well, but they can be a surprise!
- The Great Hall Soundstage – The first bit of the set you walk into is the soundstage used for The Great Hall! Top tip: Don’t follow the tour guide around the set, take the opportunity to take photographs without people in them. You don’t have long in The Great Hall before you’re moved on.
- The Yule Ball Costumes/props – The next part of the exhibition is in one, huge room that snakes around. The first props you see are from the yule ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
- Gryffindor Dorm and Common room – Next, you’ll see exactly what the Boys’ dorm and the Gryffindor common room look like up close and personal.
- Wands – Check out what all your favourite characters’ wands look like compared with each other!
- The Mirror of Erised – The famous mirror from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001).
- Dumbledore’s Office – Complete with the revolving door, costumes and the Pensieve.
- Potions Classroom – With costumes from both Potions Masters, Professor Snape and Professor Slughorn.
- Hagrid’s Hut – Check out where Hagrid lived and take the opportunity to take a FREE perspective-altering photograph.
- Interactive Quidditch Photos – Fancy flying a broom on green screen? Have your photo taken here flying a broom and purchase it later in the Studio Shop.
- Weasley’s Kitchen – Check out the Weasley’s magical kitchen where you can help them chop carrots and knit Christmas jumpers.
- Voldemort’s table – Where the Death Eaters gathered to torture a Hogwarts’ Professors and plan evil, erm, plans.
- The Ministry of Magic – Props, set pieces and costumes from inside the MOM.
- Umbridge’s Office – One of my favourite parts of the Harry Potter Studios, Umbridge’s uber-pink office.
- The Dark Forest – Head inside the Dark Forest with creepy animatronics like Aragorn the Acromantula and Buckbeak the Hippogriff.
- Hogwarts Express – Finally, the inside exhibition ends at the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4! Don’t forget to take a photo pushing a trolley through the Platform entrance.
2. Outside Exhibition: Backlot Café, Hogwarts Bridge, Privet Drive, the Knight Bus & MORE!
You’re over halfway through the Harry Potter tour in London! This part of the exhibition is all outside, so take that into account if it’s forecast to rain during your visit.
- Backlot Café and drink butterbeer – You can’t go to Harry Potter Studios and not taste butterbeer!
- Bridge – The bridge that first featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
- Knight Bus – Another amazing set piece from Prisoner of Azkaban, the Knight Bus.
- 4 Privet Drive – The Dursley’s house was actually filmed on location, but a stand-in features on the backlot and you can even walk inside.
- Godric’s Hollow – Again, Harry’s parents’ house was largely filmed on location but a replica is on the backlot. You can’t walk inside this one though, unfortunately.
- Flying Ford Anglia car – Hop inside the Weasley family’s flying car and see if someone will take your photo for you!
3. Special Effects Exhibition: Masks, Dummies & Other Practical Effects!
After the backlot, there is a huge, in-depth exhibition on the practical and special effects that help bring the magic of Harry Potter to life. The exhibition features mermaids, Dobby, Voldemort, dementors, Aunt Marge, there are too many to list! Just have a look through my photos and you’ll get the idea…
4. BRAND NEW Exhibition: Gringotts Bank, Goblins & MORE!
I was really excited about visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour in May because the brand new Gringott’s Exhibition opened only a month before. They’ve done such a good job bringing Gringotts bank to life, the detail is incredible!
- Masks and costumes – Part of the exhibition focuses on the masks, make-up and costumes of the goblins working at Gringotts bank.
- Gringotts bank set – The most exciting part of the new exhibition, just check out that chandelier!
- Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault – Remember when Griphook helps Harry, Ron and Hermione break into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault in Gringotts? You can have a look at the vault and costumes as seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011).
- Gringotts being destroyed by the dragon – Another cool part of the Gringotts bank exhibition is a theatrical experience where you can watch the dragon destroy the bank.
5. Final Exhibition: Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Model & MORE!
The final part of the exhibition is the cherry on top of the whole day. By this point, you’re probably a bit tired and maybe even Harry Potter-ed out (surely not!) but the best is yet to come.
- Diagon Alley – Seeing Diagon Alley is pretty special. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was definitely a highlight for me.
- Concept art and paper models – Seeing all the concept art and tiny paper models of sets and locations will always fascinate me. There are some amazing artists out there!
- Hogwarts model – Finally, the pièce de résistance of The Making of Harry Potter studio tour: the ‘miniature’ Hogwarts model. This model would be used for those sweeping shots around the castle and it’s so impressive. Movie magic has never been so magical.
BONUS: Secret Harry Potter Filming Location!
So, you’ve not forgotten about the Harry Potter filming location I promised you, eh? Make the most out of your trip to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and head just across the road for a secret location that no one realises is there!
Dowding Way, a mere minutes walk from the studio, is where Harry is picked up by the Knight Bus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Yup, that’s it! I’m sure the production team were thankful not to travel too far to shoot this scene. And of course, as a filming locations nerd, I had fun reenacting the scene myself…
And that’s my ultimate, extensive guide to everything you need to know about the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour/The Making of Harry Potter in London! Are you planning a trip to the Harry Potter Studios? Or have you already visited? Let me know in the comments below!