We are huge Harry Potter fans, so the first thing we did when we planned our trip to London was reserve a day to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour (officially known as The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter). Besides seeing the iconic London attractions, visiting the studio was at the very top of our list.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour features costumes, props, and complete movie sets from the Harry Potter movies. What Harry Potter fan hasn’t dreamed of being immersed in J.K. Rowling’s amazing Wizarding World? Visiting the Warner Bros. Studio lets you step into this magical world for a little while. It’s brilliantly done and is a must-see for any Harry Potter fan.
Before we left for London, I made sure to do a bit of research to know where to buy tickets, how to get to the studio, and what to expect. I wanted to make sure our visit went smoothly and we had plenty of time to see everything. I’m glad I did, because you really do need to plan ahead if you want to do this tour. You cannot just show up.
Now that we’ve been there, I thought I should create a guide to share what we’ve learned to help other Potterheads plan their visit. Read on for our tips on what you need to know and do before visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour London.
Tickets for the The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter are not sold at the door. They must be purchased online in advance. This is a very popular attraction and tickets often sell out very quickly, especially for weekends or school breaks. You really need to book your tickets as far in advance of your visit as possible in order to get the date and time that you want. For summer dates and local school breaks, this can mean booking MONTHS ahead of time.
Be sure to check the calendar before you book your tour. If your dates are somewhat flexible, you may be able to find a date where regular admission is discounted (a “Saver” ticket). Children 4 and under get in for free, but you still must get a ticket for them. A family ticket (2 adults/2 children or 1 adult/3 children) is also offered. This will save you a few pounds, leaving more money for butterbeer!
When you book your ticket, you not only pick a date, but an entry time as well. I highly recommend getting an entry time as early as you can. The tour is self-guided, so you can spend as much or as little time there as you want. If you’re like us and you want to read everything and take lots of photos, then you’ll need several hours to see everything.
Once you’ve booked your tickets, be sure to print out your confirmation and bring it with you. This booking confirmation is necessary to pick up your tickets when you arrive at the studio.
What If Tickets Are Sold Out?
If tickets are sold out for any of the dates you are able to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour, you have two options.
First, you can locate a tour company that has a package tour of the studio. These packages generally include a ticket and round-trip transportation from London or other major cities in the United Kingdom. The downside of doing this is that you will pay a lot more and you will have to stick to the tour’s timetable. There are many tour operators who offer these packages. Two of the more popular ones are Viator, Golden Tours and GoVoyager.
Secondly, you can keep checking the Warner Bros. Studio website. Tickets pop up once in awhile due to cancellations. Also, about six to seven days in advance, tour operators may release unsold tickets that they have booked in advance for their package tours.
The Warner Bros. Studio is actually located 20 miles north-west of London in Leavesden, so you’ll need to allow yourself enough time to get there and pick up your tickets.
We used public transportation during our time in London. To get to the studio, we first took the Tube to Euston Station. We transferred to the railway station and took a West Midlands Train to Watford Junction station. There are frequent departures on this route, but you’ll save a lot of time if you take a direct train with no stops. Our direct train took less than 20 minutes. Local trains with stops can take up to an hour, so don’t make this mistake or you may miss your tour time!
Once we exited Watford Junction station, we located the studio’s dedicated shuttle bus. You’ll know it when you see it!
Buses depart every 20 minutes and the trip to the studio takes approximately 15 minutes. To get on the bus, you must have your booking confirmation and CASH to pay for your shuttle tickets. A return ticket is currently £2.50. Again, bring CASH as credit cards are not accepted.
If you are traveling by car, parking is provided free of charge in the studio’s car park. You must have a booking confirmation to enter the car park.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour website has excellent information to help you plan your route, no matter how you plan to get there.
Once You Arrive
Take your booking confirmation to the kiosks outside the studio to print your tickets. The kiosks are really easy to use, so don’t worry. At busy times, there can be a wait here, so be sure to allow plenty of time for this.
Once you’ve got your tickets in hand, you’ll wait in line again to go through the security check before you’re allowed in the lobby of the building.
In the lobby area, there are restrooms, a cloakroom, a cash machine, the Studio Shop (save that for later, you’ll want lots of time in there), Studio Cafe (if you want to eat before or after your tour), and Starbucks.
Coats and bags can be checked for free in the cloakroom. We opted to keep our coats with us since part of the tour is outside (we’re from sunny Florida)!
Just before your tour time, you’ll queue up at the entrance. Just look for the cupboard under the stairs!
Then, you’ll be taken into a theater to watch a short film. After the film ends – Alohamora! The doors will open, you’ll enter The Great Hall at Hogwarts, and your tour has begun!
What to Expect During Your Tour
Once you leave The Great Hall, you’ll be in a huge area full of costumes, props, and interior sets from the Harry Potter movies. There is a lot to see here. Take your time here because there are so many little details.
Towards the back of this large area is a Green Screen Experience. Here you can put on a Hogwarts robe and ride a broomstick over London.
As you fly, you can watch yourself on the video screen. Once your experience is over, you have the option of purchasing a photo, video, or a variety of combination packages. It’s a fantastic souvenir.
Once you leave this section of the tour, you’ll visit Platform 9-3/4 and the Hogwarts Express.
After leaving the station, you’ll arrive at the Backlot Cafe. It’s the perfect place to take a break and try a glass of butterbeer. We had spent so much time in the first section of the tour, that we were already hungry, so we had a bite to eat here. There are hot meals, sandwiches, and snacks on the menu. The food was just average. If you wish, you can bring your own food and eat it here.
Just outside of the Backlot Cafe are the exterior sets.
Then, you’ll step inside the Creature Shop to see how all the magical creatures were brought to life on screen.
Then, take a walk through Diagon Alley on your way to the final room to see the detailed model of Hogwarts Castle.
You’ll exit back in the lobby area, where you can visit the Studio Shop for souvenirs or grab a bite to eat or coffee at the Studio Cafe or Starbucks.
Tips for a Magical Tour
- Watch the Harry Potter movies before your visit. We did a movie marathon a couple of weeks before, which really enhanced our tour experience. All the little details were fresh in our minds.
- Check the Warner Bros. Studio Tour website to see if there are any special events happening during the time you will be in London. You may be able to plan your tour around the event, for a little extra magic in your experience.
- You can pick up a complimentary kid’s Activity Passport from any staff member during your visit. It has puzzles and trivia, and you can collect stamps in your passport at various points in your tour.
- A handheld Digital Guide is available for rent. You can pre-book a guide when you purchase your ticket, or rent one when you arrive in the lobby area. The guide gives you lots of fascinating facts about the props, sets, and costumes shown on the tour.
- If you want to get pictures of The Great Hall without tons of people around, hang back until the end. Most people will head out to the next part of the tour fairly quickly, and you’ll have a couple of minutes without any crowds to get some cool pictures.
- The Harry Potter Studio Tour is completely self-guided once you exit The Great Hall. There is no time limit, so you can move through at your own pace. We spent a lot of time reading everything and taking lots of pictures.
- There are several restrooms throughout the tour, so don’t worry if you or your kids need to go. If the facilities are further on in the tour, you can always backtrack to see what you passed.
- Bring an extra battery and memory card for your camera. If you are a true Potterhead, you will be taking so many photos that you’ll likely need them! We did.
- All the staff members we encountered were very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or have them take a family photo for you.
We had a great day visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I highly recommend that you make the time to visit the Warner Bros. Studios when you are in the London area. Even if you aren’t a huge Harry Potter fan, it’s still a fascinating experience to see how they made J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world come to life in the films. This tour is very kid-friendly and accessible, so it makes a fun family outing for everyone. We can’t wait to go back the next time we visit England.
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Thank you so very much for your tips. I’m like you, I need to plan and like to know as much as I can about these kinds of experiences before I go. You’ve done the hard work for me. Actually, I’m sending my 13 year old son with his Dad to London for a few days and the Harry Potter tour is the highlight. I wish I was going myself!!
Anyway, I’m sitting my husband down to watch the movies this weekend with us! Thanks for that suggestion and for taking the time to share your experience and great tips.