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Harry Potter Studio Tour London – our full guide, review and must-read tips

Harry Potter Studio Tour London – our full guide, review and must-read tips

We take our children on a family trip to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

What is it:

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a magical long look behind the scenes of the famous wizarding films.

It is at the actual Warner Bros. studios near London where a lot of the filming for the eight Harry Potter movies took place.

This is nothing at all like a theme park – there are no rides.

Instead, fans can explore the sets, see the thousands of props and costumes and have their pictures taken with iconic memorabilia and backdrops.

It has won lots of travel awards hailing it the best UK attraction and best family day out.

What did we think?

Harry Potter fans will adore this attraction. There’s absolutely LOADS to see. It’s a four-hour (or so) look at how the films were made.

It makes you appreciate how much work, talent and creativity goes into making films like these.

It’s a really memorable day out – our oldest child is a fan but our youngest – who is too young for the books or film yet – also enjoyed it.

Our highlights

*When you first enter the main lobby before the tour, a huge dragon hanging from the ceiling gives the wow factor. (Apparently it’s Ironbelly from Deathly Hallows Part One, but we haven’t watched that far yet)!

*The tour starts in a room where people in ‘pictures’ on the the walls are talking to you – fans, actors such as James and Oliver Phelps (who play Fred and George Weasley) and Harry Potter writer JK Rowling. Then you go into a small cinema and watch a short film with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson talking about making the movies. At the end, the screen lifts up revealing the door to the Great Hall.

*The Great Hall – the iconic heart of Hogwarts Castle is the perfect area in which to start the experience. The space in the middle is clear for visitors but tables are laid for dinner along the sides. Sadly we didn’t get to enjoy a great feast!

The Great Hall at Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

The Great Hall

Models of the characters wear some of the costumes. It’s great to see the size of Hagrid at the front, next to the other teachers. The ceiling is arched but not enchanted (this was created afterwards with special effects). A guide comes in to the hall with you, pointing out areas of interest, you are free to explore on your own from then on.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank at Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Gringotts

*Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Although this part is a reproduction of the actual set, this room takes your breath away as you walk in – it’s vast. And sparkly! With marble columns, huge chandeliers and goblin bankers sitting at their desks.

A goblin banker at Gringotts at Harry Potter Studios in London

*Diagon Alley – you don’t get to go in the shops, but can peep in at the famous store fronts like Flourish and Blotts, Mr Mulpepper’s Apothecary and Ollivanders wand shop. One shop even has a broomstick floating in the window.

Diagon Alley at the Harry Potter Studios in London

Diagon Alley

*The Hogwarts Express. You see the train at platform 9¾ and can climb on board, walking along the narrow corridor but not going in any of the small carriages. This train was the one used on location for exterior shots only.

A boy pushes his trolley through the wall on platform 9 3/4 at Harry Potter Studios in London

But you do get the chance to sit with your family in a carriage nearby with a green screen for a window. You have your picture taken (to buy if you want afterwards) and are given emotions to act, which is great fun. A video then plays on the screen/window to simulate the train moving through different landscapes, but be warned – Dementors appear at the ‘window’ at one point which can be scary so sit younger children nearer the camera.

*Wand training – our children loved being taught how to use a wand. Participants stand in front of mirrors and follow a demonstration video, learning wand moves, with help from a guide.

*The guides – they are fabulous. They are spaced around the attraction, are friendly, approachable and very knowledgable. They know loads of fascinating facts so make sure to talk to them.

*Green screen photo areas. You are put in Hogwarts robes, in the house of your choice, unless you have your own. You can pose for a ‘Have you seen this Wizard’ poster picture, ride a broomstick over London and buy the resulting pictures and video.

*Dobby the house elf interactive motion capture experience – stand in front of three different stages of the CGI process and watch Dobby reflect your movements – my daughter loved this bit and didn’t want to leave.

A girl uses the Dobby interactive motion screen at Harry Potter Studio in London

*Seeing the animatronic versions of creatures like Buckbeak the Hippogridd and how they were made.

*The props – there are so, so many amazing with such attention to details. For example in Snape’s Potions Classroom there are more than 950 potion jars with weird and wonderful props inside.

*The tour ends with a stunning model of Hogwarts Castle. There are interactive screens here showing how it was built (in 40 days) and how it was used in the films.

*The shop at the end is huge with lots of quality (expensive) merchandise.

Top tips:

*DO NOT turn up to the Harry Potter Studio Tour without pre-booking a ticket. Buy one in advance from the website.

*Book tickets as far ahead as you can as, even though 6,000 people a day take the tour, they sell out quickly.

*Tickets are timed entry, to control the amount of visitors entering. You can take as long as you want going round so it can get busier throughout the day. We booked our tickets for the first time slot of the day (9-9.30am the day we went) and didn’t have any crowds or queues to face – even half an hour behind us, people were queuing for things we hadn’t.

*Opt to have your tickets posted then you can go straight in on arrival, otherwise you have to collect them from a ticket window and there might be a queue.

*Arrive at least 20 minutes early to park and get through the security checks – bags are checked and people are scanned with metal detector wands.

*After the security checks you enter a room where you can collect a handheld digital guide for £4.95. These enhance the tour for adults and some children, they give extra details and facts for visitors as they walk around.

*Also in this first room you can collect a free children’s ‘passport’. They can be stamped around the tour and make for a nice memento. They also give clues for spotting the golden snitch.

*When leaving the door with the talking pictures to enter the cinema, go through the door on the left and then you can sit on the front row of the theatre and be first into the Great Hall. If it’s your birthday you may even get to open the doors.

*A couple of parts can be frightening –

The Forbidden Forest – it’s only a short walk through, but it is dark, there is fake mist rising and eerie sounds and movements.

Buckbeak in the Forbidden Forest at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Buckbeak in the Forbidden Forest

If your children would be scared by big spiders – take the first turning on the right inside the forest to miss a part complete with a big Aragog and family.

If you have children who don’t want to enter the forest at all, ask a member of staff and they will take you another way round. Once through the forest, you come out at Platform 9¾ and see the Hogwarts Express – if you tell them this it might get them through!

The other frightening part for some children is at the end of the fabulous Gringotts section where a dragon appears to run at you breathing fire.

You can hear the roar from the room before, which causes the walls to ‘shake’. When you look in, it’s a set of a destroyed Gringotts made to look deeper than it is with a clever screen. A digital but very realistic Ukrainian Ironbelly moves towards you, setting the bank on fire. It’s a short sequence on repeat and anyone who doesn’t want to see it has about 10 seconds to run through this room before it starts again. Our children were worried so a heroic member of staff brandishing a sword to ‘defend them’, led them through.

Wands for sale at the shop at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Wands for sale at the shop

*Be prepared to spend money once inside – we are normally careful but here we ended up paying for two green screen pictures and two green screen videos (£50), food in the café as we were away so couldn’t make a packed lunch, plus a little gift in the shop at the end, totaling £90 on top of already expensive tickets.

*For more tips and answers to all your Harry Potter Studios questions, go to Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter information

Food

There are a couple of cafes at the entrance/exit (Chocolate Frog Cafe and Hub Cafe) along with a food hall.

Half way around the tour is the Backlot Café with seating inside and out. Staff will supply hot water for heating up bottles here. This is also where to buy butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream. You can queue separately for this.

You can take a picnic, but you must eat it at the Backlot Café half way round.

Opening hours: vary throughout the year, check here.

Cost:

2019: Adult £45, child aged 5-15 £37, family (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) £148,

2020: Adult £47, child aged 5-15 £38, family (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) £150.

Children aged 0 to 4 are free but still need a ticket. Carers are also free.

You can also buy a complete studio tour package which includes a studio tour ticket, digital guide and souvenir guidebook. An adult package costs £54.95 for 2019 and £56.95 for 2020. A child package costs £46.95 for 2019 and £47.95 for 2020. These give a saving of £4.95.

There are also deluxe tickets including studio tour entry with a two-hour guided tour, reserve parking, a souvenir guidebook, a butterbeer, four free photographs and a video at one of the photo opportunities and a hot meal and drink.

The Deluxe ticket includes entry to the Studio Tour with a complimentary two hour guided tour, reserved parking, a souvenir guidebook, a Butterbeer, four free photographs and a video at one of our photo opportunities and a choice of hot meal and drink. They cost £225.

Best for: Harry Potter fans aged eight and above and equally interesting for adults!

Time needed: Around four hours but you can stay as long as you like.

Access and restrictions: Most of the studio tour is suitable for wheelchairs but some areas are difficult including the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley. It is also suitable for buggies/pushchairs/prams or these can be left in the cloakroom.

Address: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR

NOW READ: Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

RELATED CONTENT: When visiting the Harry Potter Studios, we stayed at a beautiful hotel in nearby St Albans, read our article here: Review: St Michael’s Manor Hotel in St Albans

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Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

Harry Potter Studio Tour London – EVERYTHING you need to know

We answer ALL your questions about Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

The Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden near London were home to the hugely popular Harry Potter films for over 10 years.

And now fans can go ‘backstage’ at the Harry Potter studios where the magic was made.

Here we answer all your questions about Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

Also, don’t miss our full review and all our top tips here and watch our exclusive video of our day out at the studio tour below:

Is there a Harry Potter World or theme park in England?

No, there is the Harry Potter Studio Tour – a multi-award winning UK attraction near London.

What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?

It’s a huge self-led back stage tour at the studio where a lot of the filming for the Harry Potter movies took place. You can see real sets from the films, costumes, props and creatures, plus take part in some interactive green screen fun.

Is this one of the best Harry Potter experiences?

Yes, the Harry Potter Studio Tour is great for adults and children because it is authentic. Many of the sets, costumes, props and creatures you see here were used in the Harry Potter films. They show the work and craftsmanship that went into the films.

Where is it?

It’s at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, where much of the film series was shot, home to the movies for over 10 years. Leavesden is 20 miles from London, near Watford, England. The full address is: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR.

How to get there

You can drive by car and park in the car park directly outside or take a return bus tour from London or other parts of the country. You can also get a train to Watford Junction and then a shuttle bus, run by the attraction.

When did Harry Potter Studios open?

The studio tour opened on March 31, 2012. Unusually, the crew had saved a lot of the sets, props, animatronic creatures and costumes in case they were needed again for future films. They are now on show for the attraction, next to the working film studios where all eight films were made in Leavesden.

What can you see on the tour?

There’s far too much to mention but it includes The Great Hall, The Forbidden Forest, Gringotts banking hall, the Griffindor common room and boys’ dormitory, Snape’s Potions Classroom, Dumbledore’s Tower, the Weasleys’ Burrow, Hagrid’s Hut, the portrait of the Fat Lady, the Mirror of Erised, and the giant clock pendulum.

Dumbledore's office at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Dumbledore’s office

There is also Malfoy’s Manor, Dolores Umbridge’s pink office, the Hogwarts Express, The Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the Hogwarts Bridge, Godric’s Hollow House, the Ford Anglia, Diagon Alley, Buckbeak, Aragog, the scaled model of Hogwarts Castle used in the films. Plus thousands more animatronics, props and costumes.

Children get on the Knight Bus at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Trying out the Knight Bus

A London hotel great for children and budding James Bonds

A London hotel great for children and budding James Bonds

St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster proved a hit with this family on a break to London

What is it?

St Ermin’s Hotel is a grand and classic London hotel which balances its history with a relaxed attitude to children.

Where is it?

This hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Westminster, between Parliament and Buckingham Palace, right opposite New Scotland Yard. The area feels very safe and quiet in the evenings so there’s no noise to wake the little ones.

Is it family friendly?

Yes, the staff enjoy children being around, breakfast is relaxed, the outside entrance has a little green space and the Budding Bonds themed package offering a treasure hunt for youngsters is a nice touch (see more under highlights).

Top Secret files

The hotel’s budding Bond’s package

The rooms

We stayed in a lovely family suite at St Ermin’s which boasted two big beds and the added bonus of two bathrooms. It was nicely decorated and a good size for London where hotel rooms are usually on the small side.

It had a large TV and sofa for relaxing on.

Food and drink

Breakfast is very tasty but the real treat was an afternoon tea. The sandwiches and cakes are beautifully presented and our children loved the experience. There is champagne for the adults and on a warm day you can eat outside on the balcony overlooking the wonderful entrance to the hotel.

The Caxton Grill is the restaurant for evening meals, it is quite formal but lighter bites (perhaps better suited to children) can be eaten at the Caxton Bar next door.

The bartender will even mix a child’s cocktail which certainly impressed our son.

Nearby

It is walking distance to Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Southbank. There are plenty of restaurants on the main road towards Victoria, about a five minute walk from the hotel.

Our highlights

*The Bond theme. This hotel is where MI6 were based during World War Two and the 007 package is a perk for budding James Bonds. Staff handed our son a sheet with clues to solve around the hotel. It’s a great way to explore – the staff really embrace it, pretending to be security officers if you ask them for help – and when you’ve finished you get a couple of special prizes.

The interior of St Ermin's Hotel

The hotel interior

*The entrance. It gives a real wow factor for children and adults thanks to the tree lined entrance and grand staircase next to reception.

*The history lesson. St Ermin’s housed MI6 during World War Two and more recently it was the venue where Boris Johnson amazed the country by pulling out of the race to become Prime Minister.

*Exploring. The hotel is large with plenty of nooks and crannies, an old library and corridors to venture into. Our children enjoyed exploring such an historic building.

Address

St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 0QW.

How to book

This is a brilliantly-located and child-friendly hotel in the heart of London. For more information and room rates visit their website St Ermin’s

We stayed as guests of St Ermin’s for this review. All views are our own.

 

Child-friendly London – how to keep little ones happy in England’s capital city with our guide to the best activities

Child-friendly London – how to keep little ones happy in England’s capital city with our guide to the best activities

Our five top activities for children on a family trip to London

London Eye

This enormous big wheel is a great place to start any visit as it helps children get their bearings in the capital.

The queues can be long but you can book a timed entrance which is recommended in peak season. The ride takes half an hour. Tickets and information are available via the London Eye website

Some pods on the London Eye on a sunny day

The London Eye

South Bank

The south bank of the River Thames is popular for a family day out.

A child-friendly route along the Embankment between Westminster Bridge and Jubilee Bridge has carousels, mime artists, stalls and indoor attractions galore.

We went to the Sea Life Centre London which is a good rainy day option or, in our case, a welcome escape from the heat outside. The penguins and sharks were particular favourites.

The parks

A dose of green space is welcome on a visit to London. Our favourite city centre option was St James’s Park, a small but charming park near Buckingham Palace.

Our children also had lots of fun cooling off in Hyde Park, paddling through the Diana Memorial Fountain stream.

There are rowing boats and pedal boats to hire on the Serpentine Lido or you can take a ride on the UK’s first Solarshuttle, powered only by the sun (check opening months and times for all these activities first). The Lido Cafe Bar has tables outside by the water.

A sunny day at St James Park in London with daffodils and people relaxing

St James’s Park is one of London’s best green spaces

Museums

The famous exhibits at the Natural History Museum – or the Dinosaur Museum as our children call it –  are eye-opening for children and interesting for adults too.

You can combine a visit with a trip to the more interactive Science Museum next door and entrance is free – although be prepared for long queues in peak season. For tickets and information go to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum websites.

Outside the Natural History Museum in London next to the road and tube stop

The Natural History Museum is free to enter

Boat trip on the River Thames

For a more daredevil adventure, try the Thames Rib Experience. Speed boats take you along the river on various routes, we tried one to Canary Wharf and back.

It all starts gently enough, with guided commentary, but when the James Bond music comes on, prepare for a thrilling, high speed ride. A great way to see London from a different perspective. The minimum weight is 15kg or three stone.

A speedboat on the River Thames with the Thames RIB Experience

The Thames RIB Experience

RELATED CONTENT: How to do London on a budget with children & our top tips for a cheaper break

RELATED CONTENT: We review a top secret family break in London and share our tips for seeing all the best attractions with children

What are your favourite activities for children in London? Please comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Note: Some pictures in this article are courtesy of VisitLondon.com

 

We review a top secret family break in London and share our tips for seeing all the best attractions with children

We review a top secret family break in London and share our tips for seeing all the best attractions with children

We plan a three-day itinerary for children in London and become secret agents at St Ermin’s Hotel

“Sir. We’ve been expecting you.” The receptionist slips an envelope marked Top Secret into my son’s hands. He becomes the latest ‘spy’ to take up residence in St Ermin’s Hotel, opposite Scotland Yard and next to St James’s Park, just a few hundred yards from the heart of Westminster.

Top Secret files

The hotel’s budding Bond’s package

This hotel was once home to MI6 and was where the famous Communist double agents Burgess and McClean met their Russian handlers. 

The spy theme is being continued by the budding Bond package for families which encourages little ones to scour the hotel for clues as part of their trip. 

And this elegant Victorian hotel is a joy to explore. 

The exterior of St Ermin's Hotel

St Ermin’s Hotel

It might have some of London’s top attractions on its doorstep, but as you walk down the tree-lined entrance, it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of the city.

And following a £30 million refurbishment a few years ago, the interior is stunning.

The interior of St Ermin's Hotel

The hotel interior

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast here every day and one fabulous afternoon tea with sandwiches and cakes, beautifully presented, but soon demolished by us. 

Our lovely family suite boasted two big beds and the added luxury of two bathrooms.  

But we were not there much as there was so much to fit in. 

So, what is the secret to a successful trip family break to London?

With our two young children in tow, we decided the answer was to keep it short and simple. We broke it up into three manageable days. Each one in a specific part of the capital:

Day one

London Eye – this big wheel and a half is a great way to see the capital from above. An iconic way to start a visit to London and get your bearings. 

The London Eye

The London Eye

Sea Life Centre – the aquarium is a good rainy day option or in our case, a welcome escape from the heat outside. The penguins and sharks were particular favourites.  

Big Ben – children won’t want to miss seeing and hearing this famous landmark.

St James’s Park –a lovely oasis near to our hotel. We ambled through this Royal park to Buckingham Palace to watch Changing of the Guard. 

Day two 

Natural History Museum (or the Dinosaur Museum to our children) and the neighbouring Science Museum followed by fun in Hyde Park, paddling in the man-made stream.

Three fabulous and free activities in one corner of the capital.

Day three

A great history lesson at the Tower of London, touring the cobbled streets and towers and viewing the Crown Jewels.  

From here we had a great view of Tower Bridge which my son and I were hurtling under a couple of hours later on a river tour with a difference. 

The Thames RIB Experience took in all the sites with great commentary but became less ordinary once the James Bond music kicked in and our boat sped  and bounced along the Thames in an adrenaline-filled trip. 

A boat full of people enjoy the Thames RIB Experience

An adrenaline-filled trip with the Thames RIB Experience

In conclusion

Back at the hotel and our own 007 son had completed his mission and collected his prize. 

He’d uncovered the secrets of St Ermin’s and we’d all discovered the secret to a fabulous family break in London. 

*For more ideas see the official visitor guide www.visitlondon.com. 

RELATED CONTENT: Child-friendly London – how to keep little ones happy in England’s capital city with our guide to the best activities

RELATED CONTENT: How to do London on a budget with children & our top tips for a cheaper break

Accommodation: We stayed as guests at St Ermin’s Hotel in London for the purpose of this review. All views are our own.

How to do London on a budget with children – our top tips for a cheaper break

How to do London on a budget with children – our top tips for a cheaper break

A family trip to London does not need to be as expensive as you think – read our tricks to save money

Find the free attractions

There are plenty of museums in London which don’t charge an entry fee. The dinosaurs and whales of the Natural History Museum and the next door rockets in the Science Museum are great for children.

There are also the historical artefacts in the British Museum and there’s the chance to walk the streets of Victorian London at the Museum of London.

If you want to take a step back into your own younger days, the V&A Museum of Childhood has toys, teddy bears and dolls through the decades as well as hands-on fun.

One area per day

Be sensible and tackle one part of London at a time where you can walk between attractions and save money on transport.

Try to do one section a day otherwise costs rise and children’s feet start to hurt.

This was our recent three day itinerary:

Day 1 – Westminster, London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace.

Day 2 – Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Hyde Park.

Day 3 – Tower Bridge, Tower of London.

The Tower of London and boats on the river Thames

The area around the Tower of London is one to explore

Mix your transport

It is expensive to get around in London.

If you stay centrally you can walk to lots of attractions, so pick a well-located hotel.

The Tube is the quickest option for longer trips but can be expensive, although an Oyster card makes it cheaper and children up to aged 10 are free with paying adults. You can also use contactless credit or debit cards now to pay as you go on London’s public transport, which makes life much easier, see the Transport for London website for more.

However, the London Underground can be difficult with a pram or buggy as most don’t have lifts. The wheelchair symbol on the Tube map shows stair-free stations.

If you have to go further, then the bus is the cheapest option and you can see the sights from the top deck, which can be great fun for children.

A taxi or Uber can work out relatively cheap too if you’re a large family but children’s car seats are not readily available. 

Some taxi companies have children’s car seats, but they have to be booked in advance. It is legal for babies and children to travel in a taxi in London without a child safety restraint if one isn’t available. But a proper car seat is by far the safest option for your little ones.

Eat for less

It can be very expensive to eat out in London.

If you are on a budget and staying in a hotel, enjoy a big breakfast allowing you a smaller lunch.

Then think about making a picnic, we often buy a loaf of bread and cheese and make up our sandwiches to take out.

If you want to eat out, check for voucher codes and offers in advance. Read through the small print though because some chain restaurants exclude prime locations from voucher offers.

Don’t forget, London has amazing street food. We love the street food market at Camden for delicious lunches.

The Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is a great free show but can be a long and busy wait. One tip with toddlers is watch the band warm up at Wellington Barracks instead of battling the crowds outside Buckingham Palace.

Then you can go into St James’s Park when the soldiers are at the palace and watch them marching away afterwards.

Fewer crowds and less waiting around. Check the dates of the event here Changing the Guard.

Buckingham Palace on a sunny day

Buckingham Palace hosts Changing the Guard but we watch elsewhere

For a full list of free child friendly attractions see this link Visit London with kids.

RELATED CONTENT: Child-friendly London – how to keep little ones happy in England’s capital city with our guide to the best activities

RELATED CONTENT: We review a top secret family break in London and share our tips for seeing all the best attractions with children

Do you have any tips to share for doing London on a budget?

(Pictures in this article are courtesy of VisitLondon.com)