A Magical Guide to the Harry Potter London Studios
Grab your wands and white-spotted owls muggles. It’s time to board the Hogwarts Express to a magical world you thought only existed in the chapters of a book and the big screens of movies.
On this adventure you get to go behind the scenes at Warner Bros Studios on the Harry Potter London tour.
The Making of Harry Potter studio tour is a fascinating insight into the technology and whole team effort that goes into creating blockbuster movies while maintaining the integrity of the story from which they came.
Not only can you visit the film sets and see some of the movie props, but you can also drink butterbeer, interact with some of the magic, and purchase your favorite Harry Potter Merchandise.
Don’t get this place confused with the Harry Potter World in Universal Studios. This one is NOT a theme park with roller coasters, recreated Hogsmeade villages, or Hogwarts express rides. This is a self-guided tour through the real-life working film studios!
In this guide we’ll share everything you need to know about taking a Harry Potter Warner Bros studio tour in London from getting tickets, what you can see and do, and some cool interactive experiences.
Let’s start with a few logistics before sharing the experience.
Where are the Harry Potter London Studios?
The Harry Potter Studios are located in the Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, 20 miles Northwest of Central London. It makes for a fantastic day trip from London (or half day!)
Magic is not the only thing stirred up at these studios. It’s one of the largest studios in the UK and is the location for many films including the Fantastic Beasts series, Paddington, Mission Impossible, and Batman.
What is the Harry Potter Tour London?
The Making of Harry Potter is a self-guided tour that takes you through two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, props, costumes, animatronic creatures, and special effects from the movies.
For more than a decade, talented men and women and childhood stars filled this studio to give life to the magic of the books we all love so much into our real worlds.
Thousands of artifacts were left behind after filming finished in 2010, so in order to preserve and showcase them and bring the filmmaking magic to Harry Potter fans around the world, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter was created.
Doors opened on the 31st of March 2012 to thousands of wannabe wizards and witches from around the world.
There are many Harry Potter film locations all over the UK, but they filmed most of the last movies in the series in the lots at the Warner Bros Studio in London.
All about Warner Bros Studio Tickets!
How much does the Harry Potter Studio Tour Cost?
As of June 2022, The Harry Potter Studio tour costs:
- Adult – £49.95
- Child – £39.95
- Family – £159
- Under 4s: free
We saved a little bit of money by purchasing the family pass. (that covered our 2 adults and 2 kids)
Reserve tickets well in advance. They book out very quickly. We booked about 3 weeks in advance once we had our itinerary set for our trip to London and had little options left. And we traveled off-season and right at the end of the pandemic. If you’re traveling during the summer, I’d book months in advance if you can!
There also may be special exhibitions during your tour.
The tour is accessible, and visitors can bring one carer free of charge.
Ticket prices include the electric bus shuttle from nearby Watford Junction station.
Where do you buy tickets?
You can only buy tickets online – you CANNOT purchase them at the gates!
Note: Tickets are timed entry, which keeps visitor numbers lower. I’d make sure you turn up on time, so you don’t miss your entry. We arrived about an hour early so stopped in at Bake Wise for a coffee at Watford while we waited to get the bus from the station.
They won’t let you into the studios if you are early, so you’ll just be waiting in the car park!
What if there are no tickets available?
Wipe your tears muggles! Wizards don’t cry, they get to work finding a solution. Wave that wand. The luck you seek may be found hidden with a tour group company.
The tour group ticketing system is a little different so you may get lucky with some spare tickets. It’s a good last-minute option. It will mean you’ll be venturing with a group, and it may be slightly more expensive. Some of them may even include transport. (However, it’s easy to get to the studios using public transport. More on that down below). Check tour availability here.
Is the Harry Potter Studio tour in London worth it?
The Harry Potter Studio tour at Warner Bros is expensive. BUT, I think it’s totally worth it, especially if you are visiting London with kids, or love the books and movies yourself.
If I compare it to other attractions I’ve done around the world, the price is good for what you get. There is no price on magic!
It’s one of London’s best attractions for a reason so I would allow room in your budget for it.
All of us LOVED it. Kalyra (our 14 year old) was thrilled when we told the girls we were going to London because it meant she could finally go to the studios – a dream of hers for years. (It made her London for teens list!)
Craig hasn’t seen all of the movies, nor read any of the books, yet he thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
Savannah (10 yrs) has only read a few of the books and is starting to become more of a devoted fan. She decked herself out with Ravenclaw gear after visiting the Studios.
Harry Potter World London (as some call it) is a fantastic way to allow muggle children to feel magic and help them discover what can happen when you dream big. That alone is worth the ticket price.
Next, I’ll share a few Harry Potter World tour extras that may enhance the magic.
The Harry Potter Digital Guide
At Harry Potter World London, you can rent a digital guide, which is a multimedia device with headphones that you wear around your neck.
The device shares fascinating facts about the sets, props, and costumes on the tour via audio, video, and picture galleries. It features behind-the-scenes footage, stories, and interviews with those involved in the production – cast and crew.
I was the only one in our group who purchased the self-guided multi-media digital guide. Craig and the girls were content to wander around looking at all the sets.
The digital guide enhanced the experience for me, and I think it’s a worthy upgrade.
I learned a lot, including how the original director pushed back HARD against the Americanization of the films i.e. making Hermione American or adding in cheerleaders for Quidditch. He was adamant the movies keep the British integrity of the books. And for that we honor him. Hogwarts does not need cheerleaders or Starbucks!
For most of the sets there will be a clip from the relevant movie scene so you can see how that set came to life on the screen while standing in front of it.
You can hire them digital guides for £4.95 upon arrival in the lobby (or you can pre-book).
FOR KIDS: Activity Passport
While our teen did not want the activity passport, Savannah and I had loads of fun filling it out. It’s a fun souvenir to take home and is completely free.
The Activity Passport is a small booklet with a few trivia and puzzles, which we didn’t do as we were too caught up in the set magic. There are several stations set up throughout the tour, for you to stamp your booklet.
After the magical experience on the studio tour, I couldn’t help but purchase the Making of the Harry Potter Souvenir Guidebook. It’s full of fun facts, in-depth information about the films stories and behind the scenes stories and secrets, and beautiful photography.
I think it’s worth it for true Harry Potter fans as a memory evoking souvenir.
You can pre-book your Souvenir Guidebook when you purchase your tickets.
How long do you need for the Harry Potter Studios Tour?
It took us about 3.5 hours to go through the tour. You could easily stay longer, especially if you get the digital guides.
I would say allow for at least four hours. They do allow for that amount of time with their last ticket allocation entry time before closing. Once you enter the studios, you aren’t on a time limit so can stay as long as you like!
The Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour Highlights
Okay, now let’s start the magic! You’ll begin by seeing the tiny cupboard under the stairs and a room full of posters for each of the movies, some life-sized figures of Hagrid and the other other characters, before moving into a small room for a special effects introduction.
In true Harry Potter style, the walls above will have moving figures of people sharing their stories and feelings about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guides will then take you to a theater to watch a small trailer about the movies.
Then the self-guided tour begins when the doors slide open, and the smoke slowly unveils the Great Hall.
The Great Hall
I was expecting to gasp upon first sight of the Great Hall, but for some reason, it didn’t capture my imagination as much.
When we visited, the Great Hall was set up to be in the style of Order of the Phoenix so perhaps its darker version didn’t feel so enchanting. And also, there is no stunning arched ceiling as they created that using visual effects.
But there is a teacher’s table at the tip of the room where the Hogwarts professors sat, two tables on the side set for dinner, and costumes of students from each Hogwarts House.
I gasped more walking into the Great Hall in Christ Church in Oxford, which is said to be what the Hogwarts Great Hall was modeled on. Plus, all the tables were set out in Christ Church which made it feel more real.
As you walk out of the Great Hall and into the interior sets at Harry Potter London studios, you’ll see informational displays of the production team as well as costumes from the Yule Tide Ball and its beautiful ice sculpture.
It’s only walking through the interior sets of the Gryffindor Boys Dormitory, the Common Room, Dumbledore’s office, Hagrid’s Hut, The Burrow, and the Potions Classroom that you realize how much attention to detail there was in the making of these films.
You’ll also be surprised at how small the rooms are!
Give yourself enough time to pay attention to all the props and details of each room that include costumes and display panels with interesting information.
Dumbledore’s office especially had so much to look at with shelves filled with astronomical devices, telescopes, and star charts; the Memory Cabinet filled with more than 800 tiny vials; hundreds of books (actually British telephone books) bound in leather; forty-eight portraits of former headmasters hanging from the walls; and of course, the sorting hat!
My digital guide pointed out things in each room not to miss with a story attached to it.
In between the interior sets, you’ll find displays sharing many of the magical things from the movies like the wands, horcruxes, and the animals of the Wizarding World.
At Hagrid’s Hut you can see the clever tricks filmmakers used to make Hagrid seem much larger than other characters. There’s an interactive area where you can sit in the chairs and test it yourself.
Without a doubt, my favorite Harry Potter movie moment was seeing Quidditch come to life in the first movie. It was exactly how I envisioned it in my mind, only way more exciting!
This Quidditch display will show you how they made it happen.
Younger children will enjoy stepping up to the broomstick at the Quidditch area to command it to rise up to your hand. Now it’s your turn to fly the broomstick!
The Green Screen Experience
Fly on over to the green screen experience. I did not think I’d participate, but once I walked up with Savannah to offer her encouragement, I couldn’t help but jump in for a witchy photo with her!
And because it turned out so cool, I had to purchase it. I tell you; I must have drunk a “buy everything, it’s just too much fun” potion walking into the studios.
Savannah went one step further and rode the broomstick around London. We opted just for the photo package instead of the video one.
You will receive a link to download the digital versions of the photos too which I thought was great.
There weren’t any lines when we arrived at the Green Screen Experience. I wouldn’t line up for a long time to do this. But, since tickets are timed entry, I don’t think the lines will be that long. But then again, some people may linger all day here!
Also, around this area are many displays sharing how the visual and special effects team created the magic and wizardry of this world we love so much including the flying car and the whomping willow tree!
Dark Arts and The Ministry of Magic
The joy of wandering through the sets of the good magic will soon be overshadowed by the darkness.
Starting with the Death Eaters Meeting at Malfoy Manor, you’ll gaze upon the recreated scene of Charity Burbage’s catastrophic end with Nagini the snake.
Use your Digital Guide to see how it all comes to life on the screen.
I loved seeing and learning about the Ministry of Magic in this section as well. The elaborate red and green tiled building was based on a 19th century building in London.
It was one of the largest sets constructed for the films and required hundreds of extras for the films shot there. Many of the actors said it was one of their favorite scenes to film – especially because many of the extras were their crew member friends!
I also found the Professor Umbridge Display fascinating as I learned that as she gained more power at the Ministry of Magic throughout the films, her wardrobe became progressively pinker. All these tiny details I can’t wait to spot when I re-watch the movies.
The Forbidden Forest
Time for a tentative walk through the dark and eerie Forbidden Forest. This was Kalyra’s favorite set at the Harry Potter Studios.
It’s a misty land of nineteen towering trees, twisted roots, and giant spiders. Press a button and they’ll fall from the sky, and life-sized Aragog with its hairy legs spanning 18ft will creep out of the tree roots behind you.
Younger kids may find this scary.
While I found it super cool, it didn’t scare me. Not after our ride on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Studios Orlando. The ride broke down right when we were upside down with those giant spiders dangling over our faces!
In the Forbidden Forest, there is also a full-sized model of Hippogriff Buckbeak, which first appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
While they filmed most of the scenes for Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station in London, the crew recreated part of the platform on a sound stage here for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
The train interior scenes take place inside the train here with blue and green screens for special effects like the hopping chocolate frogs and flying Dementors!
Be sure to get your photo here with the cart running into the wall. The one at Kings Cross station is also very cool (Get there early to avoid the lines!)
Now you’re finished the first sound stage tour and are halfway through the Making of Harry Potter experience. Now for a break.
The Backlot Café
Now it’s time for another magical experience all witches and wizards can’t wait for – Butterbeer.
If you have never tried a butter beer it tastes just like it does in the book – a cross between creaming soda and butterscotch! Your first taste will be exactly as it’s described in the book.
I was slightly disappointed they did not have frozen butterbeer like they do at Universal Resort, Orlando. I could sit and drink that all day long.
Located halfway though the studio Tour is the Backlot Café. The café has standard café food – burgers and hot dogs and chili cheese fries – with plenty of gluten free options!
As I have gluten free requirements, I was impressed with how they managed this at the café. The first question they ask is if anyone has dietary considerations and they take care of that straight away, making sure to cook your food in its own separate place.
The prices are going to hurt for sure, and there is indoor and outdoor seating here and you have views of the Privet Drive and magical vehicles.
The Backlot: Privet Drive and Magical Vehicles
Before you enter Studio 2, you can explore some of the exterior sets from the films, including Number Four Privet Drive, the home of the Dursleys; the iconic Hogwarts Bridge created for Prisoner of Azkaban; and the purple double-decker Knight Bus.
You can jump in the Ford Anglia and Hagrid’s Motorbike for some fun family photos!
If you loved the creatures from the Wizarding World, you will love the Creature Effects room.
Discover how they created Dobby the House-Elf; the many features of the various Goblins, mandrakes, the Basilisk; the animatronic features of Buckbeak and Aragog; and the makeup effects used to create the terrifying face of the Dark Lord.
You can even become Dobby and make him dance!
Gringotts and the Vaults
One of my favorite sections of the Making of the Harry Potter tour was the vaults of Gringotts Bank.
First, you walk through majestic Gringotts Bank, complete with goblin bank tellers. If you’ve done the Gringotts’s ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, you may walk through here quite quickly as they are the same.
Most fascinating in the vaults is learning how they used 38,000 pieces of rubberized treasure to create the scene for the multiplying cups in Lestrange Vault. You can take your photo here in a spot that creates an optical illusion of you lost in the middle of the cups!
Next to here is the set for the Dragon Escape sequence of the final film. Be prepared for a fire breathing dragon to charge at you through the smoke!
I wasn’t as excited about Diagon Alley in Harry Potter World London. I know Diagon Alley at Universal Studios in Orlando is not the real thing, but boy did it feel more magical, especially with all the shops opened and the fire breathing dragon at the end of it.
But Harry Potter movie fans will love how this is the real Diagon Alley used in the latter films complete with quirky shops and slated buildings. Again, you’ll be surprised at how small it is and how dark!
Hogwarts Castle Model Room
There is no better way to finish a tour of the Harry Potter Studios than at the model of Hogwarts Castle.
You’ll learn how they built this 1:24 scale model based on production designer Stuart Craig’s initial concept sketch. They filmed the model with enhanced digital effects to create an unbelievably real Hogwarts Castle that all muggles, witches, and wizards long to attend.
Take your time to walk around and pay attention to the incredible tiny details perfectly hand-sculpted to scale.
On our visit, there was a special lighting exhibit of the Weasley Twins fireworks exploding onto the side of Hogwarts. You can see that in our Reel (+all the other cool things mentioned!).
Seeing Hogwarts Castle was the part of the tour where tears pricked my eyes, just like it did walking into Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
I think it symbolizes the power of magic, belief, imagination, and allowing yourself the grace to create what you see and feel inside of you as a gift for the world.
It blows my mind what J.K Rowling has created with the Harry Potter Realm simply because she chose to scribble a few notes down on a napkin during a time of significant hardship. She followed that trail and looked at what she brought to all of us – a story of magic, friendship, courage, and possibility.
Has there ever been a more popular story? Over twenty years later it’s still drawing in fanatical muggles of all ages from all around the world. We all just want to feel a little of that magic from within the realness of our Muggle Land.
The Studio Shop
You end your tour (of course) in the Studio Shop. You can’t access it without a ticket.
The merchandise store is quite big and organized into sections for each house and other things like Dark Magic! Whatever you want, this store has: jewelry, clothes, posters, trinkets, knick knacks, housewares, books, games and more.
I loved the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio tour so much that I bought the T-Shirt. I couldn’t help but pick up the black singlet top with spells written all over the back. I feel very magical when I wear it.
The girls also picked up something to each remember the experience by and I also purchased a Harry Potter souvenir book, which you can order online when purchasing your tickets.
How to get to Warner Bros Studios London
The nearest railway station to the Studio Tour is Watford Junction. Direct train services arrive there from both London Euston (20-minute journey) and Birmingham New Street (1 hour journey).
Don’t fear if you are not on a direct line. Getting around London is easy. Get the tube to the nearest train line to take you to Watford Junction. Just allow for extra time. You can use Google Maps or the TFL Go app to help you plan your route.
We caught the TFL Rail (Transport for London) out to the Harry Potter Studios from Shepherd’s Bush Station.
You can use your oyster card/contact less card if traveling through London zones 1-9.
As part of your ticket, there is a shuttle bus from Watford Junction to the Studio Tour. It takes about 15 minutes and they run at least every 30 minutes.
Where to stay near the Harry Potter Studios?
I am guessing you are a tourist spending time in London. I don’t recommend you stay in Watford near Warner Bros, there is not much there!
You can easily stay in Central London near the other popular London attractions you intend to visit. As mentioned above, it’s easy to get around London.
We stayed at the fantastic 4-star Hilton Kensington. It was right near Shepherds Bush Station which is on one of the train lines that takes you to Watford Junction. It only took us an hour to get there and involved one easy train change. We stayed here for two nights as guests of the hotel.
The hot buffet breakfast was fantastic and had lots of options and was a perfect start to the day. I loved the kids breakfast section they had – the girls especially with the doughnuts available!
The location of the hotel was excellent. It’s only a two-minute walk to Shepherd’s Bush tube station and five minutes in the other direction to Holland Park Tube, both on the red Central line.
Close by is the stunning Holland Park and Kyoto Gardens ( a London park hidden secret) and Westfields Shopping Center is across the road – this is the largest shopping center in Europe with more than 265 shops and 50 restaurants.
On the Southern terrace closest to the hotel is a cluster of 17 restaurants, which is where we stopped for great Thai one evening.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor
More London Travel Tips