Harry Potter have got to be one of my favourite book series to date. I grew up with the characters, laughed and cried in the theatres up until the last installation. Going to the Harry Potter Studios by Warner Bros in Leavesden, London is like a dream come true for a Potterhead like me and I decided to take a quick trip to this famous landmark during my short trip to London this year. Visiting Harry Potter Studios requires a little bit of planning ahead so we have summarised our experience below to help you plan your visit.
Booking a ticket
Tickets must be bought in advanced via their website as they do not sell tickets at the door. During peak seasons, buying ahead could sometimes mean months as they only accept a number of guests each slot in one day. To book, simply go to their website here. You may choose to buy individual, family, group of gift tickets to start with and collect your ticket (with a printed copy of your purchase confirmation email) at the entrance counter of the studio.
The nearest railway station to the studios is Watford Junction and you may reach there via the overground. Please check the nearest overground to your location. We took one from the South Hampstead as we stayed at Alexandra Road near Swiss Cottage and it took us directly to Watford Junction within 40 minutes.
Once you’ve reached the station, there will be a shuttle bus outside that runs back and forth from the station to the studios. You won’t miss the bus as it has Harry Potter artwork plastered all over it, and please present your printed ticket confirmation to board on the bus. The journey will take roughly 10-15 minutes depending on traffic. If you missed the bus (like we did by 10 seconds) don’t worry, they will allow you to take the next bus. It is best to arrive on time according to your booked schedule, although inside they will take first come first serve – only a number of guests are allowed in each slot so if you’re overbooked on the last hours of opening there is a chance you might miss out. Best time to go is after lunch time so you get to spend a few hours (yes, I did spend about 3-4 hours inside) in the studios.
Fun Stuff We Learned from the Harry Potter Studios Tour
1. Tucked under the front stairs of The Dursleys’ at Privet Drive is Harry’s first ‘bedroom’ – a storage cupboard. Many of the assorted props were from the own basement of set decorator, Stephenie McMillan.
2. The Great Hall has no actual ceiling. Camera tricks and CGIs were used in the movie but the actual ceiling is only a small scale model positioned above the camera to make it look as massive as the hall. It could fit 22 double-decker buses in the hall and took over 90 tonnes of plaster to complete.
3 . Most of the costumes in the movies were made to tailor by their head costume designer with a team of dedicated designers. However, some of their casual clothes can also be found at our favourite high street stores such as Gap, Topshop, Uniqlo etc so what you’re wearing might actually be the same outfit as the cast.
4. As one of the charms protecting the Philosopher’s Stone, these wizard chessmen were one of director Chris Columbus’ favorite elements, featured in the first film. These are the original sculptures of the chessmen, many of which were rigged by special effects team to move by radio control or even explode.
5. Hidden deep in the Dungeons of Hogwarts is the Potions classroom, lined with shelves of peculiar jars and bottles of ingredients used by Professor Snape and Slughorn. In the first movie, the classroom was shot on-location at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, England. For subsequent films, the set was built in the Leavesden Harry Potter studios – more than five hundred bottles on the wall of the classroom were filled with all kinds of dried plants, herbs, baked animal bones from a local butcher shop and plastic animal toys from Regents’ Park Zoo gift shop with their own handcrafted and hand-written labels.
6. The walls of Hogwarts were lined with nearly 350 enchanted portraits of centuries-old wizard and witches. As a tribute, the portraits were actually hand paintings of the film crews immortalised on canvas.
7. A number of prosthetics were used for the characters in the movie, some even moved by mechanical help. Some of the characters that used prosthetics were Fenrir Greyback, the Goblins at Gringotts and surprise, Hagrid himself! His prothetics head, an almost real looking one is controlled via remote in scenes where they needed Hagrid to look really tall so the actor was fitted with a tower above him to create the giant Hagrid that we see in the movies.
8. The boxes in Ollivander’s at the studios are labeled with all the cast and crews’ names. Guess whose was it that I was trying to reach for?
9. The animals used in the movie are highly trained by animal experts, and they are mostly rescue animals. There were special appearances by Hedwig, Scabbers, Crookshanks & Fang while we were there and these animals are even more adorable in person than in the movies.
10. Set decorator Stephenie Mc Millan used the same stove (in the middle of the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory) in the film Chocolat back in year 2000. They even personalised the set as the boys grew up with details such as a poster of Ron’s favourite Quidditch team near his bed. Although the cast quickly grew out of the dormitory, they stayed in the same size in the films. Their legs would hang off the ends of the 5′ 9″ beds but the camera was positioned so it would not be seen on-screen.
The film studio in Leavesden where Harry Potter film series were filmed was originally and old aircraft factory. For ten years, it has been home for the famous cast and crews – iconic sets, props and costumes were saved in case if they were ever needed in the later films. Once the last film was wrapped, the production team and Warner Bros. Studio Tour London decided to preserve and showcase these iconic items so fans could experience the magic first hand.
There are plenty other things you’ll learn at the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studios – the construction of special effects, the set design, J.K Rowling’s involvement in the movie and more. I strongly suggest those who are not Harry Potter fans to visit this place too as there are so much to learn, about passion and effort put into movies. Architectural students would enjoy the architecture area where original blueprints and plans of very significant structures were shown. Don’t forget to have a glass of the famous Butterbeer (non-alcoholic) take a visit to their souvenir shop as well. The Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans have been a great party starter souvenir you could get (at least it worked at my house). In case if you’re wondering, yes, the flavor is as per advertised.