Admittedly, Alex and I are both big fans of Harry Potter. We’ve both read all the books and seen all the movies. So we were excited to learn that mere muggles like ourselves could actually step into the world of Harry Potter at Warner Brothers in London. They offer a tour of the actual movie sets used during filming. The studio itself is only about 30 minutes outside of London, so we added this to our itinerary. To get there, we took the train out to Watford Junction and hopped on board a Harry Potter themed double-decker bus en route to the studio.
We got there at least an hour and a half before our scheduled tour time. They recommend that you get there 20 minutes beforehand, but we overestimated the time it would take to get there using public transportation. Luckily, there’s plenty to do and see until your tour begins. Inside, there is a cafeteria and a very large retail store where you can buy nearly any type of Harry Potter merchandise you could imagine.
The tour starts with a very long line that leads to an auditorium. It never seems to die down because only a few people are let in at a time. It took about 30 minutes before we reached the end of the line and were led into the auditorium for a short introduction video. After that, we were free to move onto the set. We don’t want to ruin any surprises, but will say that the way you get onto the first set (the Great Hall) is wonderfully unexpected. The Great Hall itself is exactly as pictured, with the house tables pushed to each side of the room. The front of the room is set up with mannequins of the professors and their costumes, just as they appear in the movies.
After leaving the Great Hall, there are a plethora of “mini-sets” including the boys’ dorm, the Gryffindor common room, and the Weasley’s kitchen. There are also various movie props and costumes scattered throughout.
Some of the other small sets included Dumbledore’s office, Hagrid’s hut, and the Potions classroom.
I personally liked the visiting the Ministry of Magic. It was pretty large and therefore felt more “real” than some of the other interior sets.
Outside, we got to visit the Dursley’s home on Privet Drive. We also got to quench our thirst with a cold cup of butterbeer! It tastes like it’s cream soda with some butterscotch and is nonalcoholic.
The next building of the tour focused on behind the scenes production and technology. We learned about the elaborate makeup and various animatronics that were used in these films. It was a pretty interactive part of the tour, and we even got the chance to test out some of the special effects ourselves.
Finally, we walked through Diagon Alley and made our way to Hogwarts Castle. The model of Hogwarts itself is not lifesize by any means, but it was used for the exterior shots of the castle during filming.
We really enjoyed our time here. Any movie fan will appreciate the detail that goes into these sets. We also walked away with a lot of new information and insight about the movies. It was very educational yet extremely interesting at the same time. Watching the movies will certainly never be the same!