Our experience spending a day on the Harry Potter Studio Warner Brothers Tour. Tips for your Harry Potter studio visit; how to make the most of your day.
Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour
We signed up for a tour of the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio because my oldest daughter has adored the Harry Potter series for years. Last year we celebrated her 11th birthday Hogwarts style, and this past weekend she moved into our cupboard under the stairs. We have fun memories of making (inauthentic) DIY monster book of monsters as well as (slightly more authentic) DIY wizard wands.
We live in California most of the time, but after doing some research we decided that it would be a better use of our money to tour the studio while we were in London last summer than to go to Harry Potter World in Southern California – although we probably will make it there eventually!
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Getting to the Harry Potter Studio Warner Brothers Tour
Getting to the studio tour if you don’t have a car is a bit of a project. It’s really a shame we can’t just take the night bus. You can take a very expensive bus from the middle of London, but with six people traveling the cost of that felt prohibitive. So we took the Tube to King’s Cross Station. From there, we caught a train to Watford Junction. From Watford Junction we used our pre-purchased tickets to board a shuttle bus that took us to and from the actual studio tour. Complicated, but kids do love trains, and it wasn’t as bad as it sounds!
What Is the Harry Potter Studio Warner Brothers Tour Like?
What is the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio tour like? Pure magic – even for my husband, who hasn’t read the books OR seen all the movies. It helped that we were greeted by gigantic wizard chess men (Mike loves chess, and has played it with the kids since they were tiny). The Warner Brothers tour is incredible for nerds and movie buffs as well as Harry Potter fans!
They studio lot exhibits change frequently. My kids would have picked their favorite book in the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban, but they had to make do with The Goblet of Fire due to the timing of our trip. All four kids still thoroughly enjoyed the trip. There’s also the bonus that, if we do manage to make it back someday, there is likely to be a bunch of stuff we haven’t seen to peruse!
A tour guide showed us a film and then spoke for a few moments while we toured the Great Hall (it has real stone floors!). After that we were left on our own. My family actually would have been quite happy to spend more time in the Great Hall, but they shoo you out to make way for the next group.
Once you’re out of the Great Hall you can go through the studio tour as quickly or as slowly as you like. There is a place for food and restrooms in between the set and costumes portion of the tour and the special effects section.
How Much Time Should You Plan for Your Tour?
We spent five hours at the studio lot. We might have stayed even longer if our kids were more interested in the art of film making. The special effects and set design sections of the studio tour are both interesting and educational. We also skipped all of the photo opportunities where you pay to get your photo taken against a green screen. You may want to allow more time for waiting in line if you want the photos. Be aware that the photos are quite pricey!
Food at the Harry Potter Studio Warner Brothers Tour
There are two places to eat during the studio tour: right before you enter the tour and at the roughly halfway point (between all the sets and costumes and the special effects section. We were happy to find that there were plenty of gluten free options, although this was not obvious at first. Be sure to talk to the staff if you have dietary limitations, as once we asked they produced an entire menu!
Are There Crowds at the Harry Potter Studio Warner Brothers Tour?
My kids share my dislike of crowds, so it was wonderful to see that this is not an issue on the studio tour! Tickets are given out with timed entries to prevent overcrowding. There were quite a few other people there, but the studio lot is huge and there was plenty of room for everyone.
Note that we were allowed to enter quite a while before our timed entry, so if you get there before the time on your ticket and there isn’t an entry line it’s probably worth asking if you can go in early!
What Is the Tour Actually Like?
The first half of the tour focuses on sets and costumes. The second half is very focused on the actual film making process, from the planning and design of sets and costumes and makeup to special effects. Here are some of our favorite parts of the tour. While they do change a lot of the things frequently, I suspect that most of our favorites are present most of the time.
The kids loved these casts of Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe’s hands at the entrance. Emma is a big fan of Emma Watson, and loved that her hands fit into those prints perfectly.
We had already ridden on the Jacobite Steam Train that follows the route filmed in the movie during our weeks in Scotland, so touring the actual train used in the films was extra fun for my kids.
You can’t sit in the compartments (there is a green screen option for that elsewhere that we skipped), but you can see different props laid out in the each compartment. I’m guessing this is a permanent exhibit, as the different cars of the train featured scenes from different books in the series.
As s side note, I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was about taking photos and waiting for others to take photos like the two above.
Quidditch gear was fun to see in person. What an intense sport!
Monster Book of Monsters
The monster book of monsters was impressive, and the robotic version was a bit scary!
The Letter Scene
This scene was set up inside the Privet Drive house. It’s one of my favorite scenes from the film, so it was fun to see. You can’t go upstairs in the house at all, but there are some fun details to see on the walls of the front entryway.
The walkway leading in and out of the studio tour is covered with signs featuring quotes from the books. It’s a great way to set the scene for the tour and also provides some fun photo opportunities.
Giant wizard chess men greet you at the entrance to the studio. Last weekend we watched the first Harry Potter movie with some friends, and that wizard chess scene was all the more real for seeing these chess men.
The Hogwarts Bridge
My kids would love to attend Hogwarts in real life. Walking along this bridge made the dream feel a bit more real.
The Gryffindor Boy’s Dormitory
The boy’s dormitory captures the magic of the books beautifully. The kids did wish they could walk around this section, but it’s roped off. I’m sure that’s necessary to prevent wear and tear with all the people coming and going all day every day.
You can walk up and down Diagon Alley, although you can’t go in any of the shops. We’d seen several streets in London and one in Edinburgh that are purported to have influenced the design of Diagon Alley. We could definitely see how that might be the case, touring the set street!
Robotic Buckbeak is incredible! He looks like a real animal, and my kids enjoy taking turns greeting him. You’ll find this version of him in the Forbidden Forest set, which you are allowed to walk through.
More Warner Brothers Studio Tour Highlights
I don’t normally include this many photos in a post, but this experience is such a visual one that I couldn’t resist. I turned several of our other photos and a few videos into a slideshow. We aren’t film buffs, so I didn’t feature those aspects of the tour above, but you’ll get a glimpse of them in this slideshow!