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Magical Journeys

How to Have an Epic Visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour

If there’s one reason I love traveling, it’s to discover the magic in the world. And personally I find some places that are more magical than others… especially Harry Potter destinations around the world. One of those extra special magical places is The Making of Harry Potter studio tour in Leavesden, England.

Maybe you, like me, love Harry Potter so much that it motivates you to travel. No shame here – I freely admit that my desire to visit London for the first time was in part motivated by a desire to see the place I had read so much about in the series.

I’ve had the chance to visit the Harry Potter studio tour twice: once in 2012 a few months after it opened, and again almost exactly seven years later in 2019. SO MUCH changed between my first and second visits that I had to completely rewrite this guide.

While in London, it’s basically a requirement to visit The Making of Harry Potter studio tour. It’s the most magical yet real Harry Potter experience you can have since it includes all of the props and sets from the movies. As you plan your trip, use this post as the ultimate guide for planning a trip to the Harry Potter studio tour – plus snag the mobile-friendly downloadable of how to do the tour exactly as I’ve laid it out.

Harry Potter Studio Tour Tips & Hacks

Before I go into the rest of the details about how to visit The Making of Harry Potter studio tour and what you’ll experience, here are a couple logistics to keep in mind.

Harry Potter Studio Tour Ticket Prices

  • Standard tickets are £47 for adults and £38 for children.
  • There is a £150 family ticket option for 2 adults and 2 kids or 1 adult and 3 kids.
  • A ‘saver ticket’ option can save you a few pounds on certain days.
  • You can also upgrade to the audio guide ticket for an additional £9.95 per person.

Hours of Operation at the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Hours at the studio tour are based on the transfer buses that take you to and from Watford Junction station (which I cover more below in the ‘How to Travel’ section). Based on the first bus at 8:15am, The Making of Harry Potter studio tour opens at 8:30am; the studio tour closes at 10:00pm which is the same time as the final bus.

How Long the Harry Potter Studio Tour Takes

The WB Studio Tour website advises that the Harry Potter studio tour takes roughly 3.5 hours. On my two visits, I’ve taken 3 hours the first time and 5 hours the second time – so plan for at least 3 hours. If you’re visiting with smaller kids, it may take up to 6 hours to make it all the way through the exhibits.

Below, I’ve put in suggested times for each section of the Harry Potter studio tour. In total, I suggest you take between 4.75 and 6.75 hours. That plus the hour each way makes the tour a whole day experience.

Interactive Elements of the Studio Tour

Like using your magic wand at the Wizarding Worlds in Orlando and Hollywood, there are some interactive pats of The Making of Harry Potter. Be sure to start them at the beginning of the tour or you won’t be able to complete them.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour Passport

As part of your ticket you can grab a paper passport that guides you to specific ‘passport stamp’ spots throughout the tour. Generally you can’t miss these as a crowd will line up to stamp their own passports at each spot.

The Passport is great for families with younger kids since it teaches Harry Potter trivia too. (I’m an adult and I do it every time too, so everyone will love it!)

The Golden Snitch Scavenger Hunt

Another reason to grab a Passport: it also guides you through a scavenger hunt during the Harry Potter studio tour! You’ll need to look for golden snitches everywhere – and there are hints to help you find them.

You can start looking for golden snitches in the Great Hall and the scavenger hunt lasts until the Model Room. This is a great activity to keep older kids (and adults) engaged as some are really hard to find! (The two in Gringotts are the hardest by far!)

How to Avoid Crowds

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Gringotts Vault

The Making of Harry Potter studio tour is one of the most popular Harry Potter experiences in London – it’s busy every day. Here’s how you can try to avoid the crowds:

  • Try to time your tickets for a less busy day, such as school days or days when other events are happening in London which might pull the crowds and school groups away.
  • Arrive early to be among the first ones in the door.
  • Plan an evening tour, if you’re willing to cut your time short. Arriving after 5pm (which still gives you 5 hours) will mean fewer crowds and you can have dinner in the backlot cafe.

How to Travel to the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Unfortunately, getting to The Making of Harry Potter studio tour not as simple as boarding the Hogwarts Express! The studio tour is located in Leavesden, which is well outside of London. It takes a train and a shuttle bus to get to the studios, unless you’re driving your own car. Here are the basic instructions:

  1. Catch a London Midlands train from Euston Station to Watford Junction station. (~£9.90, 33 minutes)
  2. Catch a transfer shuttle bus. (£2.50, 15 minutes)

You should plan it to take an hour to get from London to the Leavesden studios, since the transfer from the train to the bus may take additional time. The WB Studio Tour website has a helpful journey planner here.

What You’ll Experience at the Harry Potter Studio Tour

As I mentioned above, it could take up to six hours to make your way through the Harry Potter studio tour. In my first version of this post, I tried to break it down hour by hour to help you get through the entire thing… but now I’ll just cover what you’ll experience at The Making of Harry Potter studio tour in order. I also provide estimated times for each section – but it may take longer depending on crowds.

The Atrium

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Atrium
  • Suggested time: 5-10 minutes

As you enter the main building that holds the Harry Potter studio tour, you’ll be in a huge atrium. Here you can access the studio souvenir shop and the tour entrance, as well as pose for an epic photo shoot with the dragon that changed the course of Deathly Hallows.

There are also several food options here if you’re feeling peckish. Grab sweets at the Chocolate Frog Café, parents can fuel up on caffeine from the Hub Café, or you can have breakfast (or lunch) in the Food Hall before starting the tour.

⚡️Pro-Tip: Skip the souvenir shop for now – the tour ends there.

Tour Entrance & The Cupboard Under the Stairs

  • Suggested time: 10-15 minutes depending on line

Once you’re ready to start the tour, cross to the opposite end of the atrium from the building entrance and enter the queue. You’ll wander through an exhibit about the history of Harry Potter, and have a chance to see the Cupboard Under the Stairs set – the first of many sets you’ll see on this magical day!

The Opening Cinema

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Cinema
  • Suggested time: 10 minutes

You’ll then file into a small cinema and watch a film that introduces you to the studio tour. I won’t spill the beans but this 10-minute stop puts you in the right state of mind to be awe-struck by the magic ‘beyond the veil.’

⚡️Pro-Tip: Sit near the center aisle for the best view.

The Great Hall

  • Suggested time: 15-20 minutes

The Making of Harry Potter studio tour starts in the Great Hall; this set changes throughout the year based on different exhibits but you’ll see the house tables laden with plates, goblets, and food. You can also admire some of the costumes on display in this room. From costumes to place settings, you’ll start to get a sense for how deeply the production team went to actually create the world of Harry Potter for the films.

⚡️Pro-Tip: There are two exits from the Great Hall. Take the furthest one from the door you entered.

Meet the Crew

  • Suggested time: 5-10 minutes

Once you leave the great hall, you’ll enter a huge area with sets, props, costumes and more. Initially you’ll see displays about the directors and different crews who made the films possible. If you’re a movie nerd on top of being a Harry Potter nerd, this is a cool spot to learn about each of the people who brought the Magical World to life on the silver screen.

Props, Costumes & Sets

  • Suggested time: 60-75 minutes

Continuing on past the crew displays, you’ll start to get a sense of just how much this first section has. Explore and photograph the main sets in this section – but don’t miss the thousands of props and other magical elements on display.

⚡️Pro-Tip: Don’t miss the Mirror of Erised, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Golden Snitches all over this area.

The Gryffindor Common Room

If you’ve always wanted your own common room, you’ll now get a sense of what that might be like. The Gryffindor common room is the only common room set on display, but you can look at both the common room itself and the boys’ dormitory.

Dumbledore’s Office

Though there were several headmasters (and several Dumbledores) in the films, the office stayed the same. This is a prime photo spot, including a chance to gaze into the pensieve.

The Potions Classroom

I am a Slytherin at heart (more specifically a Slytherclaw), so I loved seeing the Potions Classroom set. You can spot the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion Making as well as the crucial bottle of Felix Felices. This set also has some ‘magic’ so be sure to stick around to see it happen.

Hagrid’s Hut

Some of the stories’ pivotal points occurred in and around Hagrid’s Hut, which you can peer through the door to see. Don’t forget to move around and look through the windows to get different perspectives on this set.

Special Effects & Visual Effects

Harry Potter Studio Tour - SFX
  • Suggested time: 15-20 minutes depending on lines

After leaving Hagrid’s hut, you’ll start moving into exhibits about special effects and visual effects. You can spend quite a while in this section if you choose to queue up and make a video of flying on a broomstick with a green screen. You’ll also reveal the magic of practical effects and learning about forced perspective on camera.

Dark Arts: Malfoy Manor, the Ministry of Magic & Umbridge’s Office

  • Suggested time: 10-15 minutes

After the SFX & VFX exhibits, you move into a bit darker section of The Making of Harry Potter studio tour: sets, costumes, and props focused on the Dark Arts. You’ll see parts of Malfoy Manor, the Ministry of Magic, and Umbridge’s office. What I loved about this part was the attention to detail – from the real Black family tapestry to the hand-painted tiles used in many of these sets in later movies to the towering Magic is Might monolith.

The Forbidden Forest

  • Suggested time: 10 minutes

Though students aren’t supposed to enter, a lot of important stuff happens in the Forbidden Forest! This is a new exhibit since my first visit in 2012, and I really enjoyed seeing it during my 2019 visit.

Within the Forbidden Forest, you’ll see centaurs, Buckbeak, and can even wander far enough into Aragog’s hollow to meet him and some of his family.

⚡️Pro-tip: Keep left at all the forks to see everything the Forbidden Forest has to offer.

Platform 9¾ & the Hogwarts Express

  • Suggested time: 30-45 minutes depending on lines

If you successfully survive the Forbidden Forest, you’ll enter a massive room with one of the most iconic prop/sets in the entire Harry Potter universe: the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9¾!

It is super easy to spend ages in this room, so here’s a quick breakdown of what to see and do:

  • Platform 9¾ Signs & Carts – If you haven’t yet visited King’s Cross Station in London to take your photo there (or if you have), here’s another photo opportunity.
  • Hogwarts Express Exterior – You can walk the entire length of the Hogwarts Express in this hall, taking photos from almost every angle.
  • Hogwarts Express Interior – You’ll need to queue up to walk the inside of the train, past compartments styled from different films.
  • The Sorcerer’s Stone Compartment – Once you exit the train, move to the very end (opposite the engine) to ‘step inside’ the compartment with props and costumes from Sorcerer’s Stone, as well as the food trolley.
  • The Souvenir Shop – There’s a cool small souvenir shop in this room if you can’t wait until the end of the tour.
  • ‘Ride’ the Hogwarts Express – Just before leaving the area, you can queue up for another green screen SFX experience. This time, you’ll be seated aboard the Hogwarts Express!

The Backlot Cafe

  • Suggested time: 30-45 minutes

After passing through a small hallway (don’t miss the displays about things like typography/graphic design in the Magical World!), you’ll enter the Backlot Cafe. Based on my time estimations, it may have taken you 3-4 hours to reach this part of The Making of Harry Potter studio tour. You’re hungry, right?!

Join (yet another) queue to order food and Butterbeer. This is my favorite butterbeer recipe of all the places I’ve had it (including all the different kinds at the Wizarding World in Orlando and Harry Potter world in Hollywood) so don’t skip it! It is the creamiest, dreamiest Butterbeer recipe by far.

The rest of the menu includes British and American amusement park faves: hot dogs, hamburgers, and I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of fish and chips option. (I’m a snob about fish and chips so I went with a burger.)

⚡️Pro-Tip: Order your Butterbeer in a souvenir mug you can keep. It’s worth the extra expense (and this is one of the most affordable souvenirs you can get!).

The Backlot

  • Suggested time: 20-30 minutes

At this point, you’re about two-thirds of the way through the Harry Potter studio tour; once you’ve had a chance to rest your feet at the cafe, it’s back to magical adventures!

The Backlot is an open-air area where you can see some of the exterior sets. There’s no set way to work your way through the area, but don’t miss the following.

The Knight Bus

Violently purple and towering three-stories tall, the Knight Bus is pretty impossible to miss. You can also push a few buttons to make the bus come to life.

Number Four Privet Drive

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Backlot - Letters to No One

Enter the front door of Number Four Privet Drive to get a sense for the scale of these sets. You’ll see the Cupboard Under the Stairs again, as well as the Dursley’s sitting room with the Letters From No One. Exit out the back door and around the building. Yes, the crew literally built a house for the movies!

⚡️Pro-Tip: Inside the Dursley’s house, look up! You’ll see inside the ‘guts’ of the set beyond the ‘finished’ sections that appeared on-screen.

The Potter’s House

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Potter's House

You can’t enter the Potter’s House, but it’s worth pausing a moment to see the structure built for that one emotionally pivotal scene in Deathly Hallows.

The Creature Effects Department

  • Suggested time: 15-20 minutes

As you enter into the second studio lot building, you’ll be in an exhibit about prosthetics (masks and other makeup elements that ‘make’ the characters) and animatronics (creatures and other elements that move electronically). This is a super nerdy part of the tour for those die-hard movie nerds out there.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank & Vault

  • Suggested time: 20-30 minutes

Another new exhibit since my first visit in 2012, the Gringotts Wizarding Bank sets are mind-blowingly ornate. You’ll walk through the main bank entrance hall and into the tunnels and vaults ‘underneath.’ It’s easy to spend a lot of time here looking for the Golden Snitch and other treasures. Just keep an eye out for dragons!

⚡️Pro-Tip: The Lestrange Vault is by far the hardest Golden Snitch to find. Children may get really frustrated at this one, so you might want to skip it.

Diagon Alley

  • Suggested time: 10-15 minutes

Diagon Alley is the final set you’ll explore on The Making of Harry Potter studio tour. You can stroll up the street, which seems familiar if you’ve visited Diagon Alley in Orlando… but this feels much more like a movie set than the Universal Studios park exhibit. For me, all of the magic of Harry’s first visit to Diagon Alley came rushing back over me as I entered the moodily-lit street lined with shops of every color.

⚡️Pro-Tip: Keep an eye out for Death Eaters, who occasionally appear at the entrance to Knockturn Alley (near the entrance of this set).

The Art Department

  • Suggested time: 5-10 minutes

It’s easy to breeze through the exhibit about the Art Department, but I find this among the most fascinating parts of the whole Harry Potter studio tour. After all, it’s the artists who took J.K. Rowling’s words and made them into drawings, paintings, and scale models we could see and believe.

You’ll move through one of the artist’s studios, then pass a huge display of concept art and scale models in this area – it’s the penultimate section of the tour before you enter the Model Room!

The Model Room

  • Suggested time: 15-20 minutes

After a ‘warm up’ with the paintings and scale models, enter the Hogwarts Model Room. This is by far the most magical part of the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I honestly get the chills just chinking about the room, with perfectly moody lighting and the iconic Harry Potter soundtrack playing.

In the Model Room, you will have a 360-degree view of Hogwarts… This is the scale-model of Hogwarts they used in many exterior scenes of the castle during the movies. Expect your heart to swell up with Harry Potter magic!

The Studio Shop

  • Suggested time: however long you want!

At the end of the tour, you’ll arrive in the Studio Shop. This is a good chance to buy any Harry Potter themed souvenirs you need. If like me, you already own a ton of Harry Potter stuff, it’s a good chance to buy gifts for others.

After you finish spending all your hard-earned galleons, sickles, and knuts, you’ll exit into the atrium, and the Harry Potter studio tour comes to an end.

Additional Exhibits at the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Throughout the year, The Making of Harry Potter studio tour features extra exhibits and special events. Here are some of them:

  • Dark Arts – During the spooky time of the year, you can see more of the darker props and costumes, and learn about how the films created dark magic.
  • Hogwarts in the Snow – If you visit during the winter months, you’ll see sparkling snow top some sets, props, and other parts of the Harry Potter studio tour.
  • A Celebration of Slytherin – In 2020, parts of the studio tour will feature extra or special Slytherin details. This includes the Great Hall (which will be decked in green and silver banners), the Slytherin common room, and plenty else.
  • Behind the Seams – If costumes are your thing, you can book this add-on behind-the-scenes tour to learn more about the many hand-made costumes from the films.

You can always learn more about other special events and exhibits on the Harry Potter studio tour website.

Ready for an insanely magical day at The Making of Harry Potter studio tour? Book tickets here or let me know your questions in the comments.

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2 Comments

  • Corinna

    I really liked your Harry Potter guide the Studio Tour. Because I’m writing my master thesis about Harry Potter related journeys, I wanted to ask you, if you would perhaps participate in my survey for my master thesis. It takes about 15 minutes and includes questions about the journey, the sights and preparations. Your participation would help me a lot. The levied data is of course handled with care and can’t be traced back to you.
    >> https://survey.aau.at/index.php/293357?lang=en

    Thank you in advance! ?

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