What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour
As the name says, you’ll visit the studios where the 8 Harry Potter movies were filmed. You’ll see most of the props used in the movie, some of the great sets like the Great Hall, and Gringotts Banks and some of the smaller sets (see the detailed walkthrough below). You’ll learn about some of the techniques used during the production for make-up, technical gadgets and props and some of the computer-generated magic.
How to get last-minute tickets to Harry Potter Studio Tour
Buy tickets in advance. But if you didn’t, don’t worry, there is still hope, even last-minute.
You can buy the tickets directly from the website. You can even book an afternoon tea in the Great Hall if you have the time. It is quite pricey. There are prices for adults, children and families. However, they sell out fast. Several tour operators also sell tickets at double the price or even more and include transportation with a Harry Potter theme bus from several spots in London. They seem to be available even last-minute sometimes.
However, if you want to take advantage of the easy and cheaper ways to get there listed below and just want to buy tickets for the tour, try this method below.
Tickets are being cancelled by people and new tickets get released all the time. Check often and check early in the morning, 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM. If you have a large group you may not find a group of 4,6 or 8 tickets. But, you can buy 1 or 2 tickets with a time of entry that is close together. For example, for us, a family of 4, we found 2 sets of tickets with entry times at 2:00 PM and 2:30 PM. When we got there, we were allowed to enter together at 1:45 PM. They will tell you that if it is busy, you have to wait for your scheduled time. Worst-case scenario you enter and wait in the big lobby under the dragon, or at the cafe inside for your group.
How to get to the Harry Potter Studio Tour
The Studio is located North of London, outside the city, in the city of Watford. There are several ways to get there. The cheapest two ways that we found are these:
- Train: take a train to Watford Junction. At the train station, there are shuttle buses that will take you to the studios. They are free if you can show a ticket for the tour. The ride is about 10-15 minutes. You can return the same way.
- Tube: You can take the underground to Watford Tube station. From there, you can take an Uber to the studios. The Uber ride will cost you about 10£ one way. You can return the same way.
These 2 methods are similarly priced but it depends on where is your starting point and who is in your group. For example, it might be easier to get to a tube station than a train station, or you may have kids who travel free or at a reduced rate. The Uber ride is the same no matter how many in your group (up to 4 of course) so take that into account. The best way is to price it all using the CityMapper app. You can type your destination and get all the options possible.
The ride can be up to 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the method you choose, so make sure you plan a day depending on the time you have on your Tour Tickets.
Other ways to get there are taxis or Uber directly to the Studio from your home or hotel. You can price an Uber on the Uber website or in your Uber app to have an idea of the cost.
How long does the Harry Potter Tour take
It depends on how much you want to focus on details. There are tons of details. You can take from 2.5 hours to 6 hours to do the entire tour and depending on the special events scheduled at the time of your visit, participate in all the activities. It also depends on how busy it is and how fast you can move through the crowds.
What do you see – full walkthrough
When you enter the studio, you’ll go into a big hall. You’ll notice the huge dragon hanging from the ceiling. There’s also a small cafe where you can take a break or wait for the other members of your group.
You enter the Tour on the side of the big hall into a waiting area. In this area, you are introduced to some facts about the movies, some props and some visual effects. This area is meant to gather a group of people that will all do the tour together, at least the first part.
Once a group is formed, or if not crowded every 15-20 minutes, a movie is projected on the walls of the waiting area. You’ll recognize characters from the movie and Studio team members welcoming you to the experience. It’s a short 3-5 minute movie and it is quite entertaining.
The group is moved then into a small theatre. Here, you’ll get to sit down and watch a small introduction to the studio and the entire Harry Potter world. This is also a short movie and it is followed by a grand entrance to the Great Hall waiting right behind the screen. If it’s your birthday, (they ask), you may be invited to open the massive doors to the Great Hall.
Inside the Great Hall, you get a short introduction to the Great Hall and the movie characters. You’ll see areas dedicated to each house and a group of mannequins wearing the original costumes from the movie.
You get a fair amount of time in the Great Hall but it could seem short for some fans that want to soak it all in. I think it probably took about 15 minutes until we were all moved through a door on the left to the next section of the tour. The reason for that is to get the next group of people into an empty Great Hall. However, once the next group is in, the door on the left is open again and you can sneak back in to take additional photos.
Once you are out of the Great Hall, you are on your own. You can take your time in all the subsequent rooms.
The next room, called Interior Sets, contains some of the props from the movie and some of the smaller sets. Some examples are:
- the Leaky Cauldron
- Professor Snape’s classroom
- Weasley’s house interior
- The moving stairs
- Dumbledore’s Office
- The table set with the big snake
- and much more that you can discover yourself (I don’t want to ruin the surprises)
There is also a photo/video opportunity with the magic broom and some green screen interactive experiences in this room. The room is connected to the Dark Arts area where you’ll see some of the Dark Arts sets.
This is probably the biggest area of the tour and you’ll probably spend a good amount of time here. It all depends on how many pictures you want to take, how many details you want to observe and how big of a fan you are. It might also depend on how patient your group is.
The next area is the Forbidden Forest. When you enter here, there is a bypass on the right side as some interactive sets might be scary for some small children. The scary area is deeper in the forest and consists of a few giant spiders falling from the ceiling. It is not that scary but you know your child.
Next, you move out of the Forbidden Forest and land straight on the Platform 9 3/4 area where you’ll see the Hogwarts Express. You can enter the train and see all the small sets where they filmed the train scenes. Outside, there is a small gift shop and a good selection of sweets. But, if you don’t buy anything here, don’t worry, the Cafe is next and a much bigger Gift Shop is waiting at the end of the tour.
You can also do some green screen videos here that will cost extra. And of course, the famous picture of walking through the wall.
Once you are done here, you head out to the Backlot Cafe. You can have some food or, if you’re not hungry, just sit down and enjoy a butter beer or a butterbeer ice cream. Here’s a list of prices published right on the website. Make sure you collect the glass and/or the cup as they are collectibles and you get to keep them. There is a washing station just outside in the backlot.
Don’t feel obligated to buy the food or any of the treats. If you have food from home or if you just want to rest, have a sit and rest your legs. At this point, you’re halfway through the tour.
Once you got a bit of rest, head out into the back lot. You can see the house on Privet road, the triple-decker bus, the courtyard fountain, the miniature of the Wesley House, the wobbly bridge and the mandrake greenhouse. More photo opportunities of course.
Head back inside the Creature Effects room to learn more about the special effects used in the movie and the makeup techniques to create special characters like the Gringotts.
In the next rooms, you’ll learn more about the Gringotts and the Vault and see some of the sets and props used in the movie, like the vault trolley or the vault door. Press the buttons to see the locks engage. Also here you’ll see two versions of the Gringotts bank, one in the exact way you remember from the movie and one destroyed with a great dragon interactive that will blow virtual flames on the visitors.
Once you are out of the Gringotts area, you are right in the middle of Diagon Alley. Take your time to look at the storefronts and take pictures of this iconic place. You can’t enter any of the stores as the interior sets were filmed somewhere else. But, if you visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida, you can explore a replica of Diagon Alley and of course, each store is a gift shop.
You are now almost at the end of the tour.
You’ll walk through the Arts department to see some of the models used in the movie for buildings and some of the art created for the sets.
And for the grand finale, you’ll enter a huge model room where you get to see a massive model of Hogwarts Castle. This model was used for all the exterior shots.
The tour concludes with a beautiful room full of wand boxes with the name of all the cast members that participated in making the Harry Potter Series. If you look carefully, you’ll spot some familiar names.
When you are out of this room, you’ll enter the Gift shop where you can really spend some money or just browse some of the memorabilia.
Can I bring food to the Harry Potter Studio Tour?
There is a cafe in the main hallway with some snacks and drinks and a full restaurant in the backlot. The food is not cheap, so if you are on a budget, you can bring your own food and snacks. You are allowed to take them in. See prices on the website before your visit so you can plan your budget accordingly.
What should I know? Tips and tricks about the Harry Potter Studio Tour
- Take a portable charger for your phone (external battery) as there are so many photo opportunities. I took over 300 pictures and my phone died about 70% into the tour but luckily I had my wife’s phone to take photos for the rest of the tour.
- You’ll have the chance to have a butterbeer or butterbeer ice cream. Both come with souvenir cups that you can keep. There is a wash station right outside where you can wash them and put them in your bag.
- There are 2 gift shops, a smaller one next to the Hogwarts Express and a big one at the end. There might be different items in each one, although the second one is quite big and we might have missed some of the items we saw in the first one.
- Ask the staff questions they love telling you facts and how things are made. I asked one staff member about the snake head door since it seemed to have a working mechanism but was disabled. She told me how the son of the maker broke it one day and the maker locked it so that he is the only one to operate it.
- Be prepared to spend quite a bit of money on the pro photos/videos but they are worth it, especially the video of you flying on a broom through London, or the one riding the train.
- Enter the mandrake greenhouse. You’ll get to pick mandrakes and hear them squeal.
- Dress up if you want. About 25% of the people came dressed up in their favourite costumes. It doesn’t make a difference to anyone but yourself and how will you feel during the visit. Keep in mind that there is an outdoor section so dress up for the weather of the day too.
- Pick up a passport at the front desk and you will collect the stamps as you go around.
- If it’s your birthday, (or if you want to lie about it, nobody checks), you can ask for a birthday badge and you’ll get to open the door to the Great Hall.
- Watch the movies before you go, maybe watch them again if you watched them a long time ago. This is essentially a collection of movie props so if you don’t know the movies you literally won’t know what you’re looking at.
- If you have someone who doesn’t like spiders or your children are very young take the safe/short path in the forbidden forest.
Green Screen Experience Prices
Broomstick Ride Souvenirs
- 1 photo £14
- 2 photos for £20,
- Video for £20
- “wanted” poster for £20
- get them all for £50
- Hogwarts express video £30