Confession time: my name is Liz, and I’m a Harry Potter fan. It started with the movies; after watching the second film, I got into reading the books, and by the time I finished The Prisoner of Azkaban, I was hooked.
And so it should come as no big surprise that for my 30th birthday a couple of years ago, my best friend took me to Warner Bros. Studios the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. She’s also a fan, so the two of us were ridiculously excited, and I'm happy to say we weren't disappointed (unless you count the butterbeer, which we did not enjoy).
I’m now planning my next visit, because I hear there’s a new attraction: the Hogwarts Express and Platform 9 3/4. But if I’m honest, that’s just an excuse to go back and do it all over again. If you haven’t been yet, here are a few of the highlights to look forward to:
We were a bit early arriving, so we had a bit of time to explore the shop, which has the magical power to make you spend money. You can buy Harry Potter themed sweets, different characters’ wands, even Hogwarts robes (if you happen to have a vault full of gold). If you make it out of there without buying anything, you’ve got more willpower than I do.
The main focus of the tour is the movie sets, which are just as cool as you’d imagine. The Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the Burrow, the Ministry of Magic… they’re all there, not to mention thousands of props and costumes, all housed in two huge soundstages and a backlot. Whichever film, scene or character is your favourite, you’ll find it there somewhere.
Okay, not just Dobby the House-Elf, who’s my personal favourite, but in the Creature Shop you can find all the other magical creatures too, including Aragog the giant spider hanging from the ceiling (shudder), a basilisk head and Buckbeak the hippogriff.
We didn’t do this bit, because there was a huge queue, but if you want to, you can have your photo taken on a broom playing Quidditch. (Well, okay, actually it’s in front of a green screen, but you know what I mean.)
Diagon Alley and the Great Hall
Whereas with most of the sets, you can only peer in from the outside, these two allow you to go in and explore. Admire the stunning Great Hall at Hogwarts, with its long tables laid ready for a feast, and Dumbledore’s magnificent gold podium on the platform. Then take a walk down Diagon Alley and do a bit of window shopping, whether you’re in the market for a broom, an owl or a wand. Or if you just want a bit of fun, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is there too.
An incredible scale model of Hogwarts, which was used together with visual effects to create exterior shots of the castle, awaits as you reach the end of the tour. The guidebook describes the model as ‘a jewel in the crown of the Art Department’, and they’re not wrong; the detail is amazing.
And then it’s back to the shop…
There’s no arguing that the Harry Potter Studio Tour is a must for anyone who loves Harry Potter. But it’s also a really interesting insight into how movies are made, so even if you’re not a massive Potter geek like me, it’s still well worth a visit. Maybe I’ll see you there!
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