Love Harry Potter? The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is an absolutely magical day out for children and adults alike. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Harry Potter. You may have noticed that I’m low-level obsessed with both the films and the books. The story that captured our imaginations 20 years ago is no less magical today.
London is filled with Harry Potter spots – whether that’s filming locations, cool graphics stores or Potter-inspired bars, there’s plenty to keep your wands busy. Even so, the Harry Potter Studio Tour is phenomenal.
I’ll admit that I put visiting the tour off for a while because I never quite got round to booking my ticket. Mistake. Now that I’ve been I can say hand on heart that it is a must for anyone who loves Harry Potter.
I’ve written this step-by-step guide to help you understand what to expect, how to book your tickets, plan your journey and have a brilliant time. No pressure then…
OK, So the Big Question is… Are the Harry Potter Studios Worth the Money?
In short – yes. The Harry Potter Studios are worth the money.
It’s pretty much impossible to talk about why you should go on the Harry Potter Studio Tour without confronting the fact that tickets are hella expensive.
£43 for adults and £35 for children over 5 is no laughing matter – particularly when you add transport and (if necessary) accommodation to that too.
Even though the tickets are expensive, I’d say that the experience is absolutely worth it – it’s been brilliantly done – so much so that I know people who’ve been back a couple of times over the years.
Exploring the Magical World of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London: What to Expect
All eight of the films were filmed in the Leavesden Studios over a period spanning more than a decade.
There’s nowhere else that you can visit where you can see so many of the places, costumes and details that made the iconic films the biggest movie series in history.
How to Get Your Hands on Harry Potter London Tickets
Buy Tickets on the Website
Now, I’m not going to lie – trying to get your hands on the Harry Potter studio tickets is like trying to conjure a genuine smile from Professor Umbrige. As in, it will take all of your wits and whiles to make it happen. Unlike trying to coax a smile from Umbridge though, it will be totally worth the effort.
First of all, let me be clear. You have to buy tickets in advance – there will be no turning up on the day and hoping to strike lucky.
That shizz just doesn’t fly (as in they don’t even sell tickets on the door, so you’ll have schlepped out to Leavesden for no reason – and I’ll warn you, apart from the studio tour, Leavesden isn’t the kind of place where you go to have a lot of fun).
So, you need to plan your trip in advance. Preferably as far in advance as you possibly can.
Tickets for the Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour sell like hotcakes – and months ahead.
Don’t be all blasé like me, hopping onto the website and thinking you’ll pick one up for the next day. I was totally sucker punched when I saw that tickets were pretty much booked out for two months in advance. That’s not a typo and yes you’re reading it right. Two months.
Now, there are a couple of workarounds, which I am going to go into more detail below but that is the standard position.
So if you’re thinking about taking a trip to London and you want to get a ticket, do it the moment you book your flights. I only wish I were joking.
Sneaky Trick Number One For Getting Your Hands on Harry Potter Studio Tickets
You’ll have better luck if you can visit on a weekday outside of school holidays, but as you’re likely to be grown-ass adults with actual jobs, whether you can do that depends on exactly how much magic you’re willing to practice to get yourself a spot.
Sneaky Trick Number Two for Nabbing Those Tickets
Now I know that I said that you have next to zero chance for nabbing tickets to Harry Potter land in London without booking them at least a couple of months in advance but guess what… I lied.
Well, kind of.
You can get last-minute tickets on the website if you’re willing to be flexible and just take whatever day and time is available. I booked my tickets on Tuesday to go on the Sunday of the same week – and was pretty lucky that the tour started at 2pm so I had loads of time to make my way around.
There were only a couple of tickets for the Sunday available – and a few more for the following Monday and Tuesday… after which the earliest I could book was for 2.5 months later.
It’s a big gamble – definitely not one I’d recommend taking if you’re only in the country for a short period but it is always worth checking.
Sneaky Trick Number Three for Getting a Ticket to the Warner Bros Studio Tour
Book a tour – or transport inclusive ticket from a tour operator.
I have to be honest – I am prettyyyyyy disorganised a lot of the time and I’ve often found that hunting around for a tour can mean that you can nab a last minute spot when all other hope is lost.
Have a look on Get Your Guide and simply work your way through the different operators until you can find one with a ticket for the date that you want. Simple and oh so crafty *cackles uncontrollably in the manner of Bellatrix Lestrange*.
PS – I talk more about tours and transport inclusive options in the How to Get to the Harry Potter Studios Section Below.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Time in the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour
If you’re more of an adult than me and actually book your tickets far enough in advance that you get a choice about which slot to choose rather than having to take whichever one’s available because you’re trying to find a ticket for this weekend, I have a tip.
Go as early in the day as possible – and try and avoid the last slot or two.
Much as I’d love to pretend that these are sage words I winkled out of prophecy buried in that creepy vault in the Ministry of Magic, the boring truth is there are very good reasons for this advice.
One is that the tour is untimed. Once you’re in, you’re in for however long it takes you to make your way around.
Considering that some people (ME) literally won’t rest until they’ve read / played with / googled at / photographed / posed with every tiny little bit on every single set, you can understand how later slots can get pretty busy.
The second reason I say to go as early as possible is kind of the same – you want to make sure that you have all the sweet sweet time that you need to make your way around that tour.
They suggest three to four hours but who knows, you may end up taking more (particularly if you kick back with a butterbeer in Hogsmeade).
Someone once spent over thirteen hours in the tour, which seems a liiiitttttle excessive – what were they doing? Reenacting the films? Actually, that’s a brilliant idea.
Either way, with the earlier slots you pretty much have all the time you want. It would be a real shame to have to rush any of the experience – you paid enough to justify squeezing every last second of pleasure from your well-spent galleons.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Did you see that bit above where I said that the average person takes three to four hours walking around the studios?
Now imagine doing that in some flimsy-ass high heels that make you want to cast a spell and set your own feet on fire after half an hour and I think you’ll get my point about comfortable shoes.
Unless you have your own flying broomstick that is, in which case you can wear those heels as you zip around the tour with your cape billowing in the breeze behind you.
Dress Up (If You Want, but Why Wouldn’t You Want to…)
I have one regret about my trip to the making of Harry Potter and that is that I didn’t dress up. There were so many kids (and adults!) rocking cool Harry Potter attire that the moment I saw them, I knew that I a) wanted to be them and b) would feel so sad about it for the whole time I was there.
So dust off your capes, your house scarf, your Potter-style glasses etc with free abandon – ain’t no one going to judge you for it.
Swot Up on the Films (and the Books for Extra House Points)
This will only apply if you haven’t watched the film in a little while (in which case, who even are you?).
There are so many cool spots here but there’s no point if you can only dimly remember the films from some time a few years ago when you watched it as you did your knitting.
No. That is not good enough. You want to make sure that you’ve watched the films recently, that they’re fresh in your mind, that you recall every detail – and preferably you can do some short reenactments as you go around…
And, if you want to get extra mega-nerdy house points, breeze through the books so you can say sage things comparing the books to the films and the sets and totally blowing everyone’s minds with your crazy levels of knowledge.
Don’t Whizz Through the Great Hall too Fast – In Fact, Don’t Whizz Through Any of the Tour too Fast
The tour starts with a couple of short intros – one in a small room where you can see the cast on small screens above you and marvel at how much older they look. Then start thinking about how much older you must be too and actually get so wrapped up in this that you actually end up missing everything they say.
The second intro film is a much grander affair and in an actual cinema. Now, once you finish that second film, the doors beyond open and you’re let into the Hogwarts Dining Hall.
What do you get when you take lots and lots of very keen Harry Potter fans, lock them in a dark room and then let them loose onto one of the film’s most exciting sets?
I think mayhem is the word that you’re looking for. I had a whole family push into my photo, pretty much stampeding over me to nab a picture with a statue of Dumbledore.
No worries though, jokes on them because I just waited behind until almost all of the people had trampled their way through to the next room and quietly (and rather smugly, channeling my best Hermione knows it all face) took my pictures and had a nose around the now empty hall.
Don’t take too long though – you only have a certain period of time until the next group of people are released from the cinema room and into the frenzy.
That advice applies to all of the tour actually – unless you’re in one of the later slots you have all the time that you need to make your way around, take millions of pictures and absolutely live your best Harry Potter life.
There’s no need to rush that – if you do, you won’t have anything good to put into your pensieve.
Pick the Guides’ Brains
No, not literally. The guides in the Warner Bros studios take Harry Potter fandom to. another. level. You will bow in the face of their superior and all out geeky knowledge of the things on the set.
I totally encourage you to sidle up to one and ask a really niche question about a tiny piece of the set buried in the back of a scene, then watch as *poof* all their magical knowledge comes out. It’s BEAUTIFUL.
Do Fill in Your Making of Harry Potter Passport
You’re handed a Harry Potter Passport with your tickets. I tried to be all cool and dismissive about it – what do they think we are? Children who are going to run around getting stamps and filling in the questions in our magical books? Damned right we are.
Now is not the time to pretend that you’re in any way not excited about finding the 13 golden snitches that are hidden throughout the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour.
Finding those snitches and getting those stamps is better than that moment when everyone thinks that Harry’s dead and he bursts out of Hagrid’s arms to turn Voldemort into tiny pieces of ash. I shizz you not.
Highlights of the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London
Now that you’ve booked your tickets and are incredibly excited, I thought I’d help fuel the fire with a few sneak peeks at some of my favourite spots from the set 😀
The Great Hall
Feasts, howlers, ominous speeches – Hogwarts’ Great Hall has seen it all. It’s pretty cool to see the hall in real life (though if you’ve ever visited Christ Church in Oxford – another city with many Harry Potter filming locations, you’ll notice the strong resemblance).
I won’t let you in on all of the little secrets but you get to peek behind the scenes to find out how they created the floating candles and enchanted ceiling effects, plus there’s a cool display of the house uniforms and details on how they changed throughout the films.
The Gryffindor Dormitory
Lush velvet, wooden four poster beds – welcome to the Gryffindor Dorm. Biggest surprise? The beds are absolutely tiny as they were designed for the kids for The Philosopher’s Stone but ended up being used in all the films.
So much wisdom, so little time.
The calm retreat in which many of the films’ most memorable scenes took place – Dumbledore’s Office is adorned with rows and rows of books and many portraits of former Hogwarts headmasters.
Though it brought up all the feels from that awful moment when Snape kills Dumbledore and you feel like your soul has been split in two.
The Potions Room
Press it, don’t squeeze it Hermoine. The potions room is lined with all manner of tinctures and strange ingredients – ready to be made into love potions or poisons… let’s hope it’s the first of the two!
The Forbidden Forest
The Forbidden Forest is a real eye opener – dark, ominous and more realistic than I’d like to admit, it’s crazy walking through the forest as giant spiders descend from the ceiling, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning.
The ominous tone of Malfoy Manor is set by a dummy of Charity Burbage hanging over the long table at which the death eaters sit. Who can forget the poor teacher’s death – brutally attacked by Nagini while the whole table watched.
The Ministry of Magic
Glimpses of the Ministry of Magic peep out from the giant sets – one of the largest ever created for a film. The larger-than-life Magic is Might statue stands to remind Muggles of their rightful place. Creepy.
Platform 9 ¾
It’s real! All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Many of the scenes on Platform 9 ¾ were actually shot in King’s Cross (one of the filming locations in London) but part of the station was reconstructed in the studio – complete with a Hogwarts Express that you can jump aboard and trolleys buried in the walls for that iconic shot of you running through to the secret platform.
Hop into Ollivanders and get your wand at the ridiculously lifelike set for Diagon Alley. The set changed significantly throughout the progress of the films – the final version is a cross between a Victorian shopping street and a weird, wacky emporium.
The last stop on the Harry Potter studio tour is IMHO the best – the scale model of Hogwarts Castle. Each of the films directors changed bits on the castle to suit the mood of their film – the result? An incredible sprawling model, complete with intricately-designed details. When can we move in?
What’s The Best Way to Get to the Harry Potter Studios from London?
Getting to the Harry Potter studios isn’t difficult if you have a car. It’s about a 45 minute drive from Central London and parking is free.
Like many places outside of the city, Sat Nav does tend to lose its way a little when you put in the postcode, so you’re better off entering in Warner Bros Studios Leavesden to make sure that it takes you to the right place. We don’t want any Diagonelly / Diagon Alley mix ups here.
Make sure that you have your booking confirmation to hand as you go into the car park as they need to check it before you go in.
By Bus from London
Did I mention that the studios are kind of in the middle of nowhere? Upshot is that your options for getting to them are far more limited than for places in central London.
If you’re not driving, the easiest thing to do is to buy a Bus and Entrance Package. The package covers your bus from a central London location and your ticket for the tour. Mischief managed!
There are a few different operators offering buses from different London locations – this one does them from Victoria coach station, this one from King’s Cross or you can browse here for other options. Most bus and tour packages cost around £85 for adults.
On a Guided Tour
This is different (and a lot more expensive) to the Bus and Ticket Combos. I’m talking fully guided tours for those who want that next-level Harry Potter knowledge and aren’t afraid to make it rain pounds and pennies in order to get it.
This guided tour includes transport from Euston Station, a fully-guided tour around the studios plus re-entry to the studios so that you can go back and explore them at your own leisure before heading with your guide back to London again.
Book your spot for a mere £135 pounds – and no, you can’t rob Gringotts to fund the cost of the tickets.
By Train (and Bus)
In my opinion, getting to the studios by train is the most awkward option, though it isn’t too bad. You need to hop on a train from London Euston to Watford Junction (this takes about 20 minutes) and then catch a bus (£2.50 extra – cash only) from Watford Junction to the Studios (this takes about 15 minutes).
In theory, you could do the trip in 35 minutes but everyone I’ve spoken to says it takes a bit longer and there’s the hassle of having to change at Watford Junction.
I’d rather hop on one bus to do the full journey but that’s just me. You don’t need to book ahead but check train times to make sure you’re not waiting around in Euston for the next one.
Hotels Near Harry Potter Studios London
Premier Inn Watford North (Budget)
I tend to prefer Premier Inns over Travelodges but it’s the same deal – a comfortable budget option that’s only a short distance from the studios. Check availability.
Hemel Hempstead Travelodge (Budget)
The Hemel Hempstead Travelodge is everything that you’d expect from a Travelodge (as in basic but clean and comfortable). The real draw is that it’s less than a ten-minute drive (seven minutes to be exact) away from the Studios – particularly perfect if you’ve got an early morning start. Check availability.
The Grove (High End)
The Grove is hella pricey but what else do you expect when you opt to stay in a gorgeous country manor house? Stylish interiors, ridiculously snuggly beds and a fabulous in-house restaurant. Totally your pick if you really want to push the boat out. Check prices and availability.
Other Hotels in Watford
I should point out that there are quite a few hotels in and around Watford Junction, where it totally makes sense to stay if you are getting the train to the station but don’t want to hurry there and back the same day.
Harry Potter Studio Tour London Map
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Looking for more Harry Potter guides? Check these out…
- Exploring Harry Potter’s London – Attractions, Tips and a Self-Guided Tour
- Leadenhall Market – A Harry Potter Filming Location in the Heart of the City
- Finding Harry Potter in Oxford – What to See + a DIY Tour
- The House of Minalima – The Cool Harry Potter Shop in Soho
- What’s The Harry Potter-Themed Cocktail Bar in London Really Like?